A Great Author Event

Josie Leavitt - November 9, 2009

We had a great author event on Saturday with Grace Lin, whose latest book is When the Mountain Meets the Moon. The event drew a diverse crowd of happy children and parents. (One child had actually made a card for Grace, which was awfully sweet.) Three things contributed to the success of this event.

The first was our promotion. The event was listed on our website, our entire email list got an invitation to the event on Thursday morning, and we had our event posters up all over town. I saw some new faces at the event and asked how they heard of it. This leads to item number two: author websites.

Grace’s website is fabulous. It’s chock full of information without being overwhelming, and it’s very easy to navigate. Sometimes authors get really cutesy with their websites and it can be infuriating. As much as I loved the Harry Potter books, I grew to hate J.K. Rowling’s website because I could never figure out what to do in what order. Grace’s site is visually pleasing and she helps promote getting autographed books for folks who can’t make it to the event by including the store phone number — very smart.

As booksellers we can never underestimate the power of the author website. Kids, and parents, check their favorite author websites, a lot. When there’s new info or local events listed, they pay attention and often try to make the event, as this one family did. So, I had a great win-win Saturday. Four people who checked Grace’s website, came to the event and then fell in love with my store and signed up for my email list.

Lastly, what makes a great event is the author. Grace had a presentation that was engaging for all. First, she read a very lively part of the book. The reading took about six minutes, which is the right amount of time for a crowd that skewed younger. Then we had a craft activity. If you look closely at the photo on the left, you can see the number 5. All the kids, parents and one bookseller had a sheet of paper and a pen and we learned how Grace drew the dog (the same dog she’s been drawing since she was 8) for The Year of the Dog. This was simple and do-able for everyone in the room.  See the finished dog on the right. Grace explained this process easily and patiently. And I must say I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at how well their dogs came out, except me. My dog wound up with too many eyes.

There is a fourth thing that can help an event and that’s the social networking sites. I didn’t have a chance to ask anyone if they saw our tweet or Facebook status for the event, but it can’t hurt you to do this. If your store is on the net with a website, you might want to think about creating a "fan of…" for your store. It’s amazing how many of your customers will find you and become fans. Grace and I were talking after the event about promotion and she said it’s the general rule that people need to see things three times for it to sink and be remembered, or acted upon, so between the store and author, if a promotion’s done well, you can reach that number very easily and increase your chances of a successful event.

I’m going to practice my dog now and get the eye in the right place.

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