Planning a Successful Author Event

How does one create a successful author event–you know, the book launch, the coming out party, the please buy my book fair?

Back in 2011, I drove to Chateau LaMair in Granite Bay to find out.

author eventFormer senior editor at Random House and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, Jennifer Basye Sander, and certified special event professional, Ingrid Lundquist, were “sharing the secrets writers need to know about how to best move books, get publicity, and enjoy face-to-face success with readers.”

Jennifer started with a pronouncement.  “No one cares about your book.”

No surprise there.  After fifteen years of writing and revising four novels and five years of inducting myself into the world of social media, I’d pretty much figured that one out on my own. My books are about as useful as lemons until they’re made into lemonade and served on a scorching hot day.

“Great,” Jennifer said, “you wrote a book. Wow, now you’ve published it. Next step is to have a book signing, right?”

Well, yeah, isn’t that how things work?

“Wrong,” she said.  “Announcing to your friends and the rest of the world that you are having an author signing to sell your book is the worst way to create excitement and produce sales.”

Author Event

by Kimberly Mahr

There goes the lemonade stand.

The hard reality is that after publication, and even before, the difficult job of book marketing begins. It’s time to MOVE the treasure that demanded so much of your hard work, time, and love.

Fortunately, the class was limited to eight, because, as I soon discovered, one size does not fit all when it comes to an author event.

Setting Goals for An Author Event

For starters, authors must be clear about their event goal, which could include such things as:

  • Book sales
  • Author recognition
  • Regional or national exposure
  • Family approval
  • A speaking career

Also, as Jennifer reminded us,  the event is about the members in the audience and  their needs, not the needs of the author.

Why should anyone attend your event anyway?  What can you offer that they can’t get someplace–anyplace–else?

Ouch.

And why should they buy your book in particular?  What’s in it for them?

“A great story,” you might say.

Not good enough.  There are zillions of great stories out there, many selling at deep discounts.  What makes your book any better than the ones already crowding people’s nightstands?

Maybe you write nonfiction and give some really good advice.  Sorry.  Everybody and anybody gives out advice these days.  What makes yours different?  What makes you the authority?

Jennifer worked with the class members, one at a time, to give them specific ideas about how to build a crowd and create a program that reflected their uniqueness as authors.

Whom to Invite to an Author Event

Okay, so people may not care about you or your book, but they do care about things. So it’s your job as a writer to connect to one of these things and then connect yourself to your book.

What kind of things you may ask. Well, if you happen to be writing about something like cats, the first step of your job is an easy one. Make your niche audience people who love cats, or better yet, people who love pets.

Or maybe you write about your experience as a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Again, finding your niche is easy: veterans, specifically Vietnam helicopter pilots, and family and friends of veterans, who might want to know what their loved ones experienced while they served their country and why they may be having a difficult time reintegrating into civilian life after deployment.

In my case, the “thing” I write about is more complicated and therefore not as easy to pin down. I write visionary fiction, a genre that includes the supernatural as part of tangible reality and involves a spiritual movement toward actualization. So my goal is to reach out to people interested in such things as quantum physics, metaphysics, the supernatural, and the spiritual, plus those interested in raising the genre of visionary fiction into the mainstream.

Yes, that means I won’t appeal to everyone and neither will you, but if we do our job right, we will appeal to enough readers to sell many books.

Author Event

by mswine

So, no sitting behind the lemonade stand, selling a watered down beverage in plastic cups and aloofly collecting money as the line moves on.

Instead, you need to add some variety to the menu and the scene.

Maybe some pink lemonade and lemonade tea.  Or sugar-free.  Oh, and how about adding some raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries on bamboo skewers, or a scoop of fruit sherbet for a lemonade float, or a sprig of mint, or frozen blueberries instead of ice cubes?

And then there could be lemonade cocktails for an extra dollar or two.  And maybe some background music and tables with umbrellas. Get the picture?

Planning for an Author Event

I came away from the class knowing that I had a lot of planning to do, and that it’s never too early to consider such things as:

  • my goals as a writer
  • what I can offer readers
  • the identity of my audience
  • whom to invite to my author event and how to get their contact information
  • invitation style
  • date, time
  • location to match my audience and theme
  • RSVP method
  • type of event and venue
  • how to get people there, yes, how to hook them
  • what information I want my audience to know and how to provide that information
  • what my audience will gain from attending
  • how to wrap up my event with a call for action

And the list goes on.

Am I discouraged to know that it is my responsibility to convince people to care about what I do?

Yes and no.

Although I believe in the message and passion of my stories and I’m looking forward to the day my journey as a writer reaches the marketing stage, part of me says, “Yikes, where will I find the time?  Where will I get the energy?”

Another part of me says, “Bring it on!”

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About Margaret Duarte

Although warned by agents and publishers that labeling her work Visionary Fiction was the “kiss of death,” Margaret Duarte refused to concede. “In a world riddled with fear, misunderstanding, and lost hope,” she says, “I believe there are people prepared to transcend the boundaries of their five senses and open to new thoughts and ideas. The audience is ready for fiction that heals, empowers, and bridges differences.” Margaret joined forces with other visionary fiction writers to create the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a website dedicated to bringing visionary fiction into the mainstream and providing visionary fiction writers with a place to call home. In December 2015, Margaret launched BETWEEN WILL AND SURRENDER, book one of her "Enter the Between" visionary fiction series. Through her novels, which synthesize heart and mind, science and spirituality, Margaret encourages readers to activate their gifts, retire their excuses, and stand in their own authority. Margaret is a former middle school teacher and lives on a California dairy farm with her family and a herd of "happy cows," a constant reminder that the greenest pastures are closest to home.
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16 Responses to Planning a Successful Author Event

  1. reanolanmartin says:

    So good, Margaret! We are one-armes paper hangers and somehow need to embrace it.

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  2. reanolanmartin says:

    one-armed that is!

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  3. Bob Edward Fahey says:

    Fine article, Margaret. Thank you.

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  4. libredux says:

    I love the lemonade stand analogy Margaret! You are so right about the need to reach out to readers who fit the subject you have written about. It's one of those things that sounds so obvious, but in practice – particularly with fiction – many authors make the mistake of throwing out too wide a net. With non-fiction it's a little easier to see that you must reach a specific audience. I speak from personal experience. 🙂

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    • It's hard to face the fact that we must form a connection with our readers — other than through our writing — to whom they are and to what they like, BEFORE we can expect them to be interested in our work. The authors who "get it" and manage to define and reach out to their niche audience (narrow the net) stand a chance of selling many books. Our job as visionary fiction writers makes defining our niche audience a bit harder, but especially important. Another reason for the existence of VFA.

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  5. Dana Taylor says:

    Good article. Love the lemonade stand. I used to feel like Eliza Doolittle selling her flowers, "Buy a book from a poor girl?" If I do an author event now, it's usually as a speaker on a subject for a local group. Much better results!

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    • I agree, Dana. As a speaker, you're giving something of value to your audience, which, regardless of sales, is a good thing. Plus, when people get to know you and what you're about, the possibility of sales increases. Dare I say ten-fold?

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      • Also agree, Dana. Last April when I gave a presentation about VF and my novel on reincarnation here in Tucson, was so pleasantly surprised to draw an audience of 150 by doing the lecture through a very successful branch of the Institute of Noetic Science (consciousness studies) that already had a base crowd of attendees at their monthly event. No way I would have rounded that # up from scratch solo. They also did a lot of the planning, so I did not need to bring my own lemonade stand. Of course, the trick is to get on their schedule of speakers, which is another topic.

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  6. Thank you, Margaret. Another confirmation that we need to wear a variety of hats as authors in today's world. We no longer simply write stories, we need to educate ourselves on how to get our creations out there in the most thought filled, focused, and effective way if we want to give ourselves the most time to actually write our novels. Helpful advice and nice analogy!

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  7. So true, Jodine. Another reason for the importance of the Visionary Fiction Alliance. I noticed a comment on our "Steering Committee" page from Tahlia Newland, saying, "I’d like to see more book reviews here. I expected reviewing to be a major function of a site promoting visionary fiction, and have been disappointed at the lack. …It would be good to have some trustworthy reviews." Maybe we can think about including a review page of excellent examples of VF sometime the future, if we get some volunteers to help out, of course.

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  8. Great information, Margaret. One of my best fans was here last weekend and told me what she wanted. It was great–but I'd have to learn Tibetan Buddhism and Mayan spiritual practice, which takes this thing called time. Then write the novels. All these suggestions take time. I guess we pick what we can do and the universe will flow energy to us (and readers).

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    • Exactly, Theresa, we all need to build a following and create a program that reflects our uniqueness as authors. .As Jennifer told us, one size does not fit all when it comes to an author event. I like your idea of doing what we can and then allowing the universe to flow energy to us.

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  9. Beautiful article, Margaret. And really helpful. That checklist for Planning for an Author's event would help any writer clarify their vision! I can't remember who said it, but I love the idea that the audience at a good writer's event will take away an "experience" and not just a book. Thank you!

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