Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On Murder at the Library

RO: I met Jane Murphy, JR's guest blogger today at Malice Domestic last year, as it happens I was putting out seed packets for Pushing Up Daisies and she asked if I was the author becaause she'd been hoping to meet me! As if that wasn't enough to make me love her, she's a librarian at he Westport, CT Public Library and one of the founders of Murder 203, a new crime fiction event to be held in Easton and Westport, CT on April 18-19, 2009.
Late breaking News..Murder 203's just confirmed Guest of Honor is NYTimes Bestselling author Linda Fairstein.

JR: Hi Jane - lots of our readers are also writers. Tell us a little bit about how you choose titles for your library.
JM: Hello, Jungle Red readers!
Every author’s fondest wish is to find her book on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. Assuming you do not expect this to happen for you in the foreseeable future, where else can you expect librarians to find out about your book? Besides the NYTBR, most libraries rely heavily on the reviews in Publishers Weekly, a general trade publication, along with Booklist, Library Journal and Kirkus which are read mainly by librarians. Many libraries distribute free copies of a monthly called BookPage and I always look there for new titles as well. I do the mystery ordering for my library, so I also check Mystery Scene and Mystery News. I understand from talking to authors over the years that the review slots are hard to come by, but I urge you to check with your sources (SinC, writing support groups, how-to books) about how to submit your book to these key media.
You know, sometimes even a not-so-good review might have just the right punch words to grab my attention. Librarians pride themselves on what are called subject strengths, and, for example, if your book is set anywhere in the state of Connecticut I will buy it because this is a key strength of my collection. I also buy a lot of international mysteries because there is a big demand for them in my community. Each library is different and you never know who will be looking for just what you have to offer. This brings me to another point. When you provide a summary or book description to any source make sure to be as specific as you can about where the book is set and exactly what genre you feel it belongs to. You do not want the reviewer to decide the latter for you, nor do you want to confuse or mislead the book buyer. Let’s have no disappointed readers.
I often find out about books from promo items when I attend mystery conferences such as Malice Domestic and CrimeBake. I regularly check for bookmarks and flyers on the display tables and often come away with titles that I would have missed otherwise. In fact, that is how I found out about Roberta’s Advice Column series.
I get many e-mails from enthusiastic new authors offering to come speak at my library or offering their title for discussion by my Usual Suspects reading group. The competition for the meeting rooms at my library, as with many others, is fierce, and we generally book high profile authors to keep our attendance numbers high. And I don’t think my reading group is unique in their desire to read mostly classics and first titles of long-lived series. That’s just the way it is. (However, I once had a fledgling author show up at one of my book discussions and introduce himself to the group and I have since become one of his most ardent fans. You could try that.)
Also, I generally will add any books that are sent to me, although not all libraries accept donations. You could clarify that with a simple phone call or e-mail.
By the way, even librarians judge a book by its cover, but that’s another story for another day.
Jane Murphy is a librarian at the Westport Public Library in Connecticut, where she has her own readers’ advisory blog. Jane has been working with the librarians at nearby Easton Public Library (with some invaluable assistance from Rosemary Harris) to launch Murder 203: Connecticut’s Mystery Festival scheduled for April 18th and 19th. Attendees will enjoy panel discussions, book signings, writing tips from the professionals, and a unique opportunity to mingle with authors and fellow crime fiction enthusiasts at the "Cocktails and Crime" reception on Saturday evening.
Linda Fairstein will be the Guest of Honor for our inaugural event. Visit our official website for details or e-mail


  1. Hey Jane!

    So great to see you here!

    And you can see from our last post, we're all devoted to our libraries, and have been for years. (JRW is basically the library fan club.)
    And yours is particularly beautiful--I had a great time at the event. Can't wait to come back.

    ANYWAY! For authors who might think a book borrowed from a library means a book not purchased..can you talk about that bit?

  2. Hi Jane, thanks for visiting Jungle Red! Can't wait for Murder 203--sounds like it will be a wonderful weekend!

  3. Any smart author will soon realize that libraries are her bread and butter. I'm always amazed when someone apologizes that they read library copies of my books and not buy them. Heck, I do the same all the time. We can't afford to buy every book we want to read and libraries are a great way to give our books constant exposure. And a great way to meet fans too!

    Good luck with your inaugural event! I wish it weren't so far away from me, and so close to Malice.

  4. Ooh. A crime get together close to home. How can I resist?? :-D Will have to go just to get away from writing about ice age America - okay, the woolly mammoths are cute. However, I have to now MAKE TIME to write my mystery novel or my beta readers will kill me. Do I sound a bit frantic? Urk.

    Great to see you here Jane! I will love to come down and see your library! What a wonderful community mystery/crime fiction program you have there. :-D


  5. Great insights on how to get an in with librarians.

    Morgan Mandel