Even in the best of circumstances, author events can be a challenge. For independent authors and for traditional authors who are putting in a lot of the footwork themselves, however, these events can be mind boggling. I want to share a few tips and tricks that can help to ensure that your author events are successful. In this case, I’m focusing strictly on author readings, book signings, and meet and greets though many of the suggestions could be more widely applied.
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1.) Go to other author events.
I know that might sound like a waste of time. If you don’t go to author signings or readings already, why would you start now? But going to events for other authors allows you to do reconnaissance. You can see how other authors set up their tables. What do those authors bring with them? Do they have posters? Signed copies of their books? You can also discover what you like and dislike about various events. Maybe you would love to do a reading but discover that your favorite local bookstore lacks a layout that allows people to stay in once place and listen to a speaker for very long. This is important information to know.
2.) Take care when booking your event.
Bookstores don’t allow every interested author to hold an event. Readings and other events take time and money, so if you want bookstores to host your book launch, you need to give them some very good reasons to do so. In some ways, you need to think about making these requests as carefully as you might craft query letters to editors. It can be helpful to let bookstores know if there is a local network of people already interested in your book. You should also tell them what kind of marketing you already do, where they can purchase your book, and if you have been to an author event in the store already, how your event might compare to previous events.
Of course you should choose a location that suits you as well. It helps if the area is located where you have support or a fanbase. Some people like to book spaces in their local libraries, but I’ve found that places full of shoppers tend to have more successful author events. If at all possible, you should also try to book a time when people will likely be free to go to your event. In most instances, an author event scheduled on a Tuesday at 2:00pm will be much less successful than one on Saturday afternoon or Friday evening.
3.) Publicize. Publicize. Publicize.
It is heartbreaking to host an author event and then have no one attend it. In order to decrease the likelihood of that happening, you need to market your event. I know that most authors detest this part, but it really is vital to the success of an event and of a book more generally. You can’t skip it. Reach out to everyone that you can. Nearby friends from college or high school? Call them. People at work? Call them too. Friends of friends? You guessed it; let them know about it. Family, people you volunteer with, anyone you know? Extend an invitation. Success is a spiral, and the more of it you have the easier it is to get more. Seeding your audience with people you know helps jumpstart that process.
Then there is more official marketing. In addition to contacting acquaintances, you should alert local media sources. Local newspapers and town magazines are particularly receptive to events about neighborhood authors. You can also try contacting some of your regional radio stations. The bookstore you work with may have a list of press contacts that you can use, or you can simply think about what nearby media exists. Again, these media professionals typically like easy to process information, so send them an event pitch that contains the what, when, where, and why of the event. It will make them more likely to respond to you.
4.) Prep for your event.
Make sure that you have prepared whatever you need for your event. Different venues have different standards for events like these, so make sure that you stick to whatever policies apply. Let’s pretend that you are doing a standard reading and book signing. Most author events like this run between 30 and 60 minutes. For your reading, time yourself to make sure that your selection is appropriate. (Also be aware that some people read more quickly when they are nervous than when they are relaxed. That won’t be a disaster if it happens to you, but it is something to keep in mind.) If you are holding a question and answer portion, it can also be a good idea to have some general idea of what you want to say. Many writers are nervous speakers, and it can help to do a bit of thinking about questions readers might ask.
On the day of your event, relax as much as possible. Keep a positive energy. After all, you are surrounded by people who support you and who are interested in your work, and now you have the exciting opportunity to introduce new readers to whatever story you have created. As writers, we often write for ourselves, but we also write for other people. There is something magical about the moments when authors and readers meet. Try to enjoy them.
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I hope that these hints are helpful as you go about planning your author events. Speaking about your writing is a wonderful opportunity, and I wish you all the best as you do it. For those of you who have held events like this in the past, I’m eager to hear how they went. Did you enjoy yourself? Are there things that you plan to do differently in the future? (Did you bring snacks?)