guest post by librarian/writer/ALA Committee member Julie Dietzel-Glair
It’s obvious from the name of the conference – American Library Association – that these twice-yearly gatherings are for librarians. Public, academic, school, and special librarians attend to learn about new developments in the field, purchase equipment for their libraries, hear about new books, and volunteer their time on association committees. The American Library Association (ALA) is the most prominent professional organization for librarians in the United States.
So what do you, an aspiring, soon-to-be published, or published author, need to know?
Publishers attend ALA to promote upcoming books. They’ll have Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) available for people to pick up and read before the book comes out. (Hint: pack an empty bag to bring all those FREE books home.) Publishers want people to review the books and share their excitement about a storyline. Be sure to talk with the publisher reps about books on their list. It may help you decide if the market is already saturated with other books like the one you are currently trying to sell to agents or editors. It will also help you get a feel for the types of books particular publishers like.
Nothing is more inspirational than hearing authors speak about their craft and their current books. Go to a Book Buzz or Author Talk to find your muse. Find out when authors are signing books at their publishers’ booths and bring home exciting souvenirs.
The Newbery, Caldecott, and other prestigious awards are announced Monday morning of the Midwinter meeting. The energy in the ballroom press conference is electric. Less than two dozen people know the results before they are announced (that’s including the committee members). Everyone is invited to hear the results, so stick around until Monday morning if you can. (Hint: get in line early to get a good seat.) The celebration of the award winners happens during the Annual Conference in the summer. The Newbery/Caldecott Banquet is held Sunday evening during Annual. Banquet tickets are pricey, but you have the opportunity to hear the winning authors speak. The celebration of the younger awards happens during the Association for Library Service to Children Meeting on Monday morning of the Annual Conference and it is free for conference attendees.
The difference between the Midwinter Meeting and the Annual Conference
The size and scope of the exhibits are similar for both conferences, and for both you can get an exhibits-only pass relatively inexpensively. Midwinter, which typically takes place in January, is the business meeting for the association. Annual, which typically takes place in June, has more educational programs to attend.
You are a rock star
Thought librarians were a stodgy bunch? Think again! That’s the Oak Park Library Warrior Librarians, who took first place in the 2009 Book Cart Drill Team World Championship at ALA’s Annual Conference. Yes, this is a thing.
No, seriously. Librarians love authors because they write the books we love to read and share. Authors love librarians because they share books with other readers. It’s a mutual admiration society at its best. Go to a program and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Put down your phone and talk with your seatmate on the conference shuttles. You may find a lunch companion and a new friend.
Don’t bring your manuscript with you
Unlike at Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and other writing conferences, most publishers aren’t attending ALA to look for new authors. They are there to promote books and authors they already have. You may get lucky and strike up a conversation with an editor or agent. If so, ask for their card and mention that you would like to query them in the future.
Do you have a book coming out in the next year? Ask your publisher how you can help promote it at ALA. Perhaps you can do a book signing or participate in a book preview event. Librarians are going to head home with a lot of books to read and promote. You want them to put your book near the top of their list. You want them to generate energy around that book by talking with readers that they know will love your book. The book that goes with me on the flight home is typically one written by an author I have met. So get out there and promote your baby to the people who can make her fly!
About the author:
Julie Dietzel-Glair is a freelance writer and library consultant. A frequent ALA Conference attendee, she is active in the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of ALA) and has served on many committees, including the Newbery Award Selection Committee and Nominating Committee. She is a member of SCBWI and Capitol Choices. Julie is the author of Books in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Books through Art, Games, Movement, Music, Playacting, and Props (ALA-Neal Schuman, 2013) Her second book, Get Real with Storytime: 52 weeks of Early Literacy Programming with Nonfiction and Poetry, will be published by Libraries Unlimited in December 2015. You can find out more at her website or follow her on Twitter.