Summer Scares, Libraries, and YOU!
Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary
This past year, the HWA launched Summer Scares in partnership with United for Libraries (a division of the American Library Assn.), Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal. At its heart, Summer Scares is a reading program that provides libraries and schools with a list of recommended horror titles all year long. The “Summer” part of the Summer Scares program was added intentionally to latch on to the increase in leisure-reading patrons during the summer months and to tie our program to the existing infrastructure around “Summer Reading” programs at public libraries all over the country.
The idea for Summer Scares came about from a casual conversation between HWA Trustee and Library Program Director J.G. Faherty, author Grady Hendrix, and me after a panel we did at StokerCon™ 2018 in Providence about how authors can work with libraries. After the panel, the three of us were discussing how we really needed to get more libraries on board to suggest horror all year long, and not just in the Fall. As the librarian in the group, I mentioned that there are a lot of people interested in reading horror, but library workers and patrons have trouble finding titles on their own as library workers, as a group, are not huge horror readers and do not always suggest it. There is also the problem that library workers who help children and teens are always worried about parents questioning horror as a “safe” option. We came up with the loose idea of creating a list of vetted titles. We wanted the list to say, “Hey, we are horror experts and library professionals, and these are good books. Here’s a ‘safe’ place to start.”
And so, from a conversation after a StokerCon panel, the entire program was born. We created a team of experts, including the three of us and three respected library professionals, set up marketing partnerships with major library publications, and picked three titles for each age level—middle grade, YA, and adult. You can go to the Summer Scares Resource and FAQ page for a much more detailed explanation of the program, the process, the committee members, and more: https://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html
However, we did not only present a list of titles; we also created a Web site for library workers to use, filled with readalikes, author interviews, podcasts about the program, and, most important to you, the HWA member, a way for libraries to connect with all of our authors because the goal of this program goes beyond getting the nine vetted titles into libraries, it is about promoting the genre and all of its authors in general.
Buy in from libraries all over the country has exceeded our expectations. We have had libraries contact us to get in touch with the horror authors in their area who are willing to come in and provide programming for their patrons, and we have had authors go into their local libraries on their own, info about Summer Scares in hand, and offer their services. We are currently collecting stories from libraries that hosted author events, put out displays, and used the reading lists to host book discussions at all age levels. We even had a library worker in Missouri appear on local TV to discuss Summer Scares. The common thread we are hearing from both authors and libraries is that these horror-themed events have been more popular than either side imagined, drawing patrons of all ages.
With our first year winding down, we are excited to parlay our momentum into an even more successful year two. Again we will launch on Halloween with a press release announcing our committee and timetable for 2020. Since StokerCon will be held in the UK this year, we are also looking into having a stateside HWA Librarians’ Day in the Chicago area in May in order to keep pushing for horror to be included in every library’s summer reading plans. All HWA members will be notified about the details of this one-day gathering of library workers, authors, and publishers very soon. We’d love to see as many of you there as possible.
We are also encouraging you, as an HWA member at any level, to get in on the Summer Scares excitement. When libraries contact us, we need to know who is in to join us. So here is your homework to help us promote horror and you!
- Make sure your information in the HWA’s contact list is up-to-date. Many of our members only have their names listed. When libraries contact us to see what authors live in their area, we use that list. Don’t be left out!
- Let J.G. Faherty and me know that you are ready and willing to work with libraries on presentations, events, classes, guest appearances, etc. Not to shill books, but to help the library spread the word that horror is a good tool for building literacy and attracting readers. (Of course, if you are there, you can also mention your books.)
- Do the opposite of waiting—take initiative. Ask us for a list of libraries in your area and then contact them about promoting the HWA, Summer Scares, and various reading/writing/themed programming.
- Get information on our programs—Summer Scares, Teen Writing, etc.—and use it to open the door to a library. Start at the HWA Librarians Page: http://horror.org/libraries/.
- Get involved with local library conferences. Every state has a library association that is under the American Library Assn.’s umbrella and they all host annual conferences. They are always looking for local authors and publishers to be a part of their events. Google your state name and “library association” to get started.
We cannot promise that every library will work with you, but the authors we have helped to pair with interested libraries in their area have had great results. And the more horror authors we get into more public libraries, the more readers we can lure over to the dark side.
Reach out to J.G. Faherty or me anytime by E-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And look for Summer Scares 2020’s timeline to be announced on October 31, 2019 and the second year of vetted titles to go live in February.