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.
Former 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.”
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?
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.
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!”