by dona weisman
NTRLS Continuing Education and Programming Consultant

When you’re planning a program, what result are you working toward? What result do you think the audience wants … and the presenter? All three parties are looking for a program that’s delivered effectively and leaves the audience with such positive thoughts about the experience that they’re willing to repeat it and even r ecommend it to others.

To achieve success, then, it’s necessary for the program coordinator to consider the presenter as part of the programming team rather than as an outsider. You’re both working toward the same result, so communicate and negotiate as partners in the project. Rather than seeing one another as separate entities, consider together what you can offer one another to assure that all three parties will achieve the desired result.

The issue I’ve discussed most frequently with both library program coordinators and library program presenters probably is that of the presenter’s fee.

Without stopping to think, program coordinators may assume that presenters’ fees are set arbitrarily. Approaching the issue from the presenters’ viewpoint, however, they can come to understand the fallacy of that assumption. Similarly presenters may assume that a client’s budget is generous – until that presenter looks into the client’s funding source or develops an understanding of a particular client’s budget situation.

Obviously, both parties need to be fair. Explain to presenters that you’re trying to do the most you can with the budget you have, and keep in mind the fact that presenters consider various things when setting their fees.

Presenters fees may include any or all of the following:

  • Talent, skill or knowledge and the training or practice it involves
  • Time spent doing research, developing, producing, reviewing, updating and rehearsing that presentation
  • Equipment and supplies required to prepare and present the program
  • Marketing, billing and communication expenses
  • Reputation, fan base and ability to draw an audience
  • Mailing costs for promoting the presentation itself and for notifying fan base of upcoming bookings
  • Expertise and experience in the field
  • Travel time to and from the event (for which there rarely is a stated fee)

Fees for those who make a living entirely from presentations and related sales often include, also:

  • Insurance (vehicle, life, health, disability and liability)
  • Self-employment taxes and social security
  • Production and/or distribution costs related to books, recordings and other products

On top of all of that, full-time performers are trying to make a living and therefore, must make a profit.

Don’t let fees put you off, though. Just because your library can’t afford expensive presentations doesn’t mean you can’t get the right presentations for your community.

If a presenter quotes a fee you can’t afford, think about how important it is to have that presenter. If it’s not important, either ask for a recommendation of someone in a lower price range or simply state your situation. If the presenter offers to negotiate or if it’s very important to have that presenter, explain what you can offer, not only in dollars but in services such as promotion, specific people who’ll be invited and might become clients for that presenter, etc.

If your library allows presenters to distribute flyers, business cards and/or product order forms, you have yet another service to offer.

Allowing presenters to sell product before or after the event can provide you with not only another service to mention but also another potential negotiating point. Some presenters are willing to share a percentage of product sales with the client. Others will do so only if the client will provide someone to keep track of sales and handle the transactions while he/she is autographing and schmoozing with shoppers. Those presenters are aware that clients who will share in the sales will work harder in advance and during the event to see that lots of product gets sold.

Remember, too, that libraries circulate product. When scheduling programs, check first to see if your library owns the presenter’s books or recordings. If so, and if those materials in good condition, be sure to mention that fact during negotiations, and explain how you plan to encourage circulation of those items before and after the event.

If the library doesn’t have all of the presenter’s library-appropriate products (t-shirts, magnets and such don’t count), consider purchasing those from the presenter. Sometimes, starting with a call to order product is a great way to set the tone for discussions, negotiations and scheduling.

If your library is in a situation to buy multiple copies of product (for other branches or as Friends-sponsored incentives for reading or donations), ask how that would affect the presentation price. Some presenters are willing to do a free program in exchange for the purchase of a set number of products. Others will reduce the fee, relative to the amount of product sold the day of the presentation or, possibly, during a predetermined number of days or weeks preceding and following the presentation. Like you, the presenter knows the value of sales promotions to attendance at the event.

Similarly, it’s important to share with the presenter your plans to promote the program, and ask if he/she has additional suggestions or contacts.

Ask if the presenter has a mailing list or email list and offer to provide a postcard, flyer or PDF file promoting the program that the presenter can broadcast to those folks. Those are the potential audience members who are already fans and very likely to attend.

Ask the presenter for a list of places and mailing addresses where he/she has performed recently, and see that promotion is sent to those places. Even if the recipient is prohibited from posting the information, that person might pass the information on to someone who would be interested. If the location is a public place, ESPECIALLY another library, find out if they’ll allow you to provide a stack of flyers or if they will at least post one on their community bulletin board. Remember that many people are willing to drive quite a ways for someone or something that they value.

The other issue that often concerns library program presenters is that of communication and official paperwork.

Because of scheduling variances of both presenters and library program coordinators, there’s usually no “best time” for verbal communication between the two parties. Try email first. Many presenters check their email frequently during the day, often remotely. If you don’t hear from the presenter within a day or two, make a phone call. Presenters may be performing out of town. Finding both an email and a voice mail message when they return will convey a sense of urgency without your having to sound like you’re nagging.

There are presenters who have email addresses but don’t check their mail as frequently as program coordinators would expect. You’ll find out who those presenters are because they’ll respond more quickly to your call than they did to your email message.

There are a few presenters who do not use email at all, so don’t be surprised when you don’t find an email address for a presenter.

The amount of hardcopy communication or official paperwork that is needed for programming success depends on elements such as the requirements of the governing entity and/or library director and the personalities of both the program coordinator and the program presenter. As a result, NTRLS offers full-day workshops and one-on-one consulting to address paperwork and planning. For more information about the workshops and consulting – or for answers to other questions you may have about working with program presenters, contact

For those who like checklists, a “Checklist for Being a Good Host to Your Library Program Presenter”accompanies this article. If you don’t use checklists, I hope you’ll look it over for additional ways that you might work with presenters.

Just remember that you, the presenter and the audience all want the same thing – a program that’s delivered effectively and leaves the audience with such positive thoughts about the experience that they’re willing to repeat it and even recommend it to others.

How do you involve the audience in this three-party team project? That’s the subject of another article!


Original Publication Date: 
November 1, 2007
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