Congratulations! Your book baby is in the world! Now that you have something you hope people will want to read, how do you get it into readers hands? Well, one piece of the promotional puzzle is to attend book events. These can range from signings at your local bookstore to bigger conferences and Cons, and many opportunities in between.
Your goal with these live book events is to interact with your readers and hopefully sell books. So, how do decide which events are worthwhile and which don’t hold much value for you? Buckle up, kids, this is a two-parter!
Experiment, and find your audience.
With my first book, I attended every signing opportunity offered by area libraries and bookstores, and those hosted by my local writers’ organization. I soon recognized that I needed to be a bit more economical with my time, and focused my attention on select events.
If you are a YA or Middle Grade writer, think about networking with local schools and the children’s librarian. If you write women’s fiction, make yourself available for book club events. As a science fiction writer, I thought my people might hang out at Comic Cons so I bought a table at a few and had excellent success. Find out where your audience is likely to be and focus your time and energy there.
Make it more than a signing.
If you have an opportunity to do a reading or a Q&A, do so. People are there because they’re interested in you and your work. Give them that little extra if you’re able.
I don’t always read from my first chapter. Often, I like to give the audience a little insight into my writing process, so I might talk a about a few tricks to writing intense action scenes, and then read them one.
Share the spotlight and create small group book events.
I hang with a small group of local author friends who also write speculative fiction. We organize and attend several local events throughout the year. Because there are three of us, we all promote the events on our individual social media sites and our mailing lists, so we have triple the signal boost.
We also each have connections to local bookstores, breweries, pubs, etc., and we’re able to pitch our readings and signings as quirky Science-Fiction/Fantasy events, like “Books and Beers and Dragons.” It’s fun and productive to consider joint events with authors who write in a similar genre.
Get the word out.
Coordinate with the venue to see what they’re doing to promote your event. Use your own social media platform to boost the signal. A comprehensive author platform will be of great value when you’re trying to promote yourself. Don’t wait until after your book is released to start working on your platform! Here are a few great articles on building an effective platform and using social media for marketing and promo: Building a 21st Century Author Platform and 8 Social Media Tips for Writers.
Okay, so you’ve got some events booked over the next couple of months. Now, how do you maximize your time while you’re there? Let’s start with smaller events like bookstore signings, release parties, and library events.
At smaller book events:
- Be prepared with bookmarks, postcards, or business cards. Check out Jaclyn’s post on why this is a good idea: Book Postcards 101.
- Be personable and generous with your time. At smaller events, once you’ve finished with whatever reading or presentation you are doing, you’ll likely be behind a table signing books. People may even be waiting in a long line to have their book signed! Take a moment to ask for names, thank them for coming, and try to have at least a brief, personal interaction with them.
- Use the opportunity to build your mailing list. Have a clipboard with a sign-up sheet for people to leave their names and email addresses. Mailing lists are a powerful tool for an author. I find that because I’ve met and spoken to these people, they are less likely to unsubscribe, and often will respond to my mailings with personal notes.
- Be ready to make sales. Have a cash box with change, and make sure your credit card reader is functioning. Keep a supply of extra pens or markers easily accessible for signing your books.
Some final thoughts…
Sometimes no one shows up. Yup, we’ve all been there. Like rejection letters, think of the nearly empty room as a rite of passage! It may be that this event isn’t a good fit for you, or it may just be bad luck or poor publicity. Use the experience as part of your learning curve.
Meeting people and making in person connections can be invaluable, and they can create career-long relationships with readers, so put yourself out there. Think about where to find your audience and focus your energy. It may take a bit of trial and error, but meeting readers who love your work is one of the most rewarding parts of the writer’s life, and the boost in sales isn’t too shabby either!
Next week, we’ll talk about attending large events like Cons and conferences. Stay tuned!