To the zillions of bits of advice for new authors, add one more: Make friends with librarians. These people are amazing despite the somewhat stuffy reputation they have.

First, they love to help you find things. Tell a librarian you want to know when a certain bridge was built, and he takes it as a challenge. I heard two of them discussing it only yesterday, and one guy said to the other, "I referred her to the Chamber of Commerce, but I want to find out now too, just so I know." Just try to get your spouse to care that much about your research questions!

Second, they love to hear about your book. In the general population, announcement of having a book published brings questions like, "So will I see you on Oprah pretty soon?" Librarians, having a clue about publishing, say, "So tell me what your book is about." What author doesn't love that one?

And finally, they arrange things that bring you into the public eye. Librarians hold book talks, discussion groups, and author fairs that allow you to become real to those who buy books, borrow books, and read books. They do a huge part of the work; you show up and act the celebrity.

Why do they do all this? Because librarians love the written word as much as writers do, and they love to share their expertise with others. Besides, where else are you going to meet so many people who actually know the meaning of and can correctly pronounce the word "genre"?

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