How to Throw an Author Event

Traditionally Challenged: Navigating the Publishing Labyrinth grit

by Greta Boris

Shed your June gloom and get out into the sunshine.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled post to bring you a word from Greta. I just happen to have a short story on my website with the same name as this month’s blog theme. You can download a free copy of June Gloom at the bottom of this post.

Now back to our story.

The weather is warming up. It’s the perfect time to get out from behind your computer and throw an author event. But many writers have a love/hate relationship with them—for good reason.

It’s wonderful to meet new fans and share your work with people who love what you do. However, there’s almost nothing worse than preparing for weeks, putting on your best duds, and showing up to an empty bookstore.

I helped put on The Wine, Women, and Words Festival last month. Consequently, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.

Decide on Your Theme

Step 1: Define your perfect reader by considering these specifics.

  1. Sex
  2. Age
  3. Education Level
  4. Vocation
  5. Family position
  6. Income level

Think about how to market to the people most likely to enjoy your books. Where can you send invites, press releases, post fliers or online information? Before creating your marketing materials, make a list.

Step 2: Where does your perfect reader like to hang out? Consider how your work relates to those venues.

  1. Related life outlook
  2. A connection to your work
  3. People likely to enjoy your genre

A related life outlook—some way in which your ideal reader might relate to your protagonist or the themes in your story. For instance, if your book delves into political topics you might want to target socially minded groups. Perhaps approach a library or your local civic center to house the event.

A connection to your work—Riff off anything your characters use, discuss, like, and don’t like. For instance, if you write cozy mysteries set in a knitting shop, knitting is a connection point. If your characters are always shooting people, guns could be a connection.

My books take place in Southern California, which is famous for its wine. A lot of my characters like wine, wine tasting, and vineyards. Wine is a connection point for my stories. My perfect reader is someone who would relish the idea of hanging out at a winery on a sunny day sipping wine. I had the book launch for A Margin of Lust, book one in my Seven Deadly Sins series, at a winery.

A friend, Eric Peterson, wrote a book called The Dining Car. The story is about a food critic who travels the country in a private antique train car writing about fine dining and beverages. Eric knows people who enjoy fine dining, high-end alcohol, and trains are likely to enjoy his story. He holds author events in craft whiskey distilleries and train museums.

People likely to enjoy your genre can be found by contacting organizations that feature it. If you write crime, contact your local chapter of Sisters in Crime, Mystery or Thriller Writers of America, or call your local mystery bookstore.

Partnerships

Step 1: Create a win/win situation

The reason bookstores have book events is because they know they’ll sell books. But what about other venues? They want to sell their product, whatever it is. How can you help them do that?

  1. Assure them you’ll bring in new customers, and do it.
  2. Extol the benefits of cross-promotion. You’ll provide entertainment and give them a reason to get in touch with their customers.
  3. Add value. What would their customers enjoy? Design swag, raffle baskets, and talks to please the crowd.

Because I held the book launch for A Margin of Lust at a winery, my publisher created custom wine glasses with my book title on one side and the vineyard’s logo on the other. Anybody who bought a book got a glass.

One of my author friends, Claudia Whitsitt, writes kids’ books that deal with subjects like racial tension and bullying. She takes her positive message into schools, provides a terrific assembly, and sells lots of books in the process.

Step 2: Expand the event

The larger the event, the more the draw. Here are a few ways to make it bigger and better.

  1. Invite other people who have a similar target market.
  2. Create a multi-author event.
  3. Create perks for book clubs or other groups.
  4. Get the word out. Create marketing materials that everyone involved can use. Send out press releases to all local media channels.

Oz Monroe, an author of dark science fiction, applied principal one very successfully. The book launch for his debut novel, Soil-Man, was set in a coffee shop that catered to the kind of crowd who would most likely enjoy his work. He invited other creatives who shared a similar audience to showcase their work. All of those presenting a product or performance marketed the event. Together they drew a crowd, and Oz sold books.

The Wine, Women, and Words event was an example of principal two. Although not everything went as well as it could have, we drew a larger audience through cross-promotion than any of us would have drawn alone.

Think about luring book clubs to your event with a special discount or gift.

At the Author Event

Step 1: Get organized

There’s nothing that deters fans faster than a mismanaged event. Try to think through as many of the details that could go wrong as possible, and know you’ll still make a few mistakes.

  1. Ensure marketing materials clearly explain how to sign up, when and where to show up, whether there is a cost to attend, and what they can expect from the day.
  2. Create an itinerary and post it where attendees and participants can view it. Stick to the posted times if at all possible.
  3. Have your sales table well organized. If possible, bring help so you can sign books while someone else handles sales.
  4. Create a travel box. Here’s a list of what’s in mine:
  • Tablecloth
  • Book stands
  • A sign-up sheet for my email list
  • Bookmarks, postcards, business cards
  • A Square credit card reader
  • Cash bag with ones and fives
  • Swag
  • Favorite pen
  • Poster and stand

Step 2: Make it enjoyable.

The hope is that your event is the first of many, that people will want to do it again. How do you make that happen?

  1. Be entertaining.
  2. Make it comfortable. Consider weather (if the venue is outside), seating, acoustics, and friendly faces to direct traffic.
  3. Don’t run late and always leave them hungry for more.

Non-writers often don’t enjoy listening to an author read from their book unless the author is famous, an actor, or the book is very funny. Not famous, not an actor, not a comedic writer? No problem, just think about what you’d like to know if you were attending an author event. What you would find interesting. Interviews are generally more engaging—just make sure the questions are tailored to your listeners. If they’re writers, ask writing questions. If they’re not, things like, How do you get your ideas? are generally more successful.

End your panel discussions, interviews, or readings on time. Sometimes this means curtailing an overly chatty author. There’s nothing more discouraging than watching people slip out the door before your event is over. Remember, the audience remembers most what happened last. Create a memorable ending.

Step 3: Sell, sell, sell

Nobody wants to seem like a used car salesman, but most authors fall into the ditch on the other side of that road. They sit at their tables, arms folded, not making eye contact. Author events require the introverted author to step outside of their comfort zone and connect.

  1. Use appropriate body language. Stand, don’t sit. Make eye contact. Smile. Look friendly and approachable.
  2. Have a script ready when buyers walk by. Begin with a question like: “Do you like thrillers?”

For more about this section see Megan’s stellar article on this topic. Check it out here. 

Have you participated in, or thrown your own author event? How did it go? Please share your tips, tricks, or disasters below!

For a free (you heard it right) copy of June Gloom – A Deadly Short click here. (This will sign you up for my reader community. If you don’t want to be a part of that, email me and I’ll send you the link to the story.)

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Greta Boris, DirectorGreta Boris is the author of the 2017 releases, A Margin of Lust andThe Scent of Wrath, the first two books in her 7 Deadly Sins domestic suspense series. Her nonfiction work includes the Amazon Bestseller The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Sip, Savor, and Strengthen for a Healthier Life and Aspiring to Author – A Guide for Your Publishing Career. She’s also the Director of O.C. Writers, a community of over 1,000 published and aspiring authors in Orange County, California.

You can visit her at http://gretaboris.com. She describes her work (and her life) as an O.C. housewife meets Dante’s Inferno.

 

 

2 thoughts on “How to Throw an Author Event

  1. Another stellar post Greta!

    Your suggestion about a “script” is a great idea. I also like how you encourage authors to reach deeper into their audience perspective and draw them out.

    I recently attended an event where the author took the time to engage each person in attendance. Her generosity of spirit was something to behold and quite a beautiful thing to witness. The author’s “hospitality” can make a huge difference.

    Diane

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