Author Event Tips

Josie Leavitt - April 28, 2011

I blogged about how to have an author event over a year ago. I wanted to do it again because I feel like some things have so fundamentally changed, that I needed to update things.
– Work with your rep. I cannot stress this enough. Reps are your friend, whether you have a phone rep or are lucky enough to see one in person. If your rep says, “Fill out the author tour grid,” fill out the grid. Some publishers use the grid as a starting place, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not doing it.
– When you book an author, make sure you get a confirmation letter from the author’s publicist. Double check the date and time early on in the event process, while you can change things, because if you notice three weeks later that something’s amiss, it may be too late to change things.
– The moment that event is confirmed you need to do several things right away. The first thing to do is place your order, both for the book that the author is touring for and for the author’s backlist (even if the backlist is from a different publisher). The second thing to do is ask the publicist to email you a high resolution book cover, author photo and any press material they might have. This makes life so much easier when it’s time to create your promotional material.
– Once you’ve placed your order, immediately contact your rep and find out how much co-op money you have, and ask what the publisher’s event co-op is. Often publishers will give you 5% of your supporting order to help you out with promotion, wine and cheese or cookie platters, or anything you can dream up. You must get permission before you do anything. Without permission beforehand, you risk losing the money that’s rightfully yours. The beauty of event co-op is your book order then counts for the following year’s co-op pool. In a sense, it’s sanctioned double-dipping.
– Okay, so now you’ve confirmed the event, ordered the books, secured your co-op, now the promotion begins. The moment the event’s confirmed it should go on your website, even if the event is months away. Your website should be a place where customers, new and old, can go see how vibrant your store’s events are. Once the events are your website, make your life easy and cut and paste the descriptions to all the calendar listings in your area.  Calendar listings are an easy, and free, way to get the word about your events.
– Press releases still need to get done, even though some larger city papers don’t use them. Smaller cities with local papers who are often looking ready to use content. Be sure to attach photos in the email. Do not embed them in the press release because then they can’t be used separately, and often papers use the photos in different ways. Send them at least six weeks ahead, especially for papers that come out monthly.
– At least three weeks before the event, set up your event table with the books and a sign that says when the event is. Set up some books at the register and make sure your staff knows the details of the event and can talk about the author’s work with animation and knowledge.
– Now to the social media components. If your store doesn’t have a Twitter and Facebook account, get them. Twitter is a quick, and short way, to let your followers know what’s happening at your store.  Once you book an event, it’s a good idea to send a quick tweet about it. Same thing with Facebook. It’s your job as a bookseller to build momentum for every event your store hosts. You should also set up a Facebook invitation for all your events. You can send this to all the people who have clicked the “like” button on your page. If used well, Facebook and Twitter can really drive people to your events. Also, the power of Twitter and Facebook is enormous, as publicists often follow bookstores. If they like what they see in terms of promotions and how books are discussed, it can help make your store stand out from others, and this can help you get more authors.
– Don’t forget the power of e-mail. If your store collects e-mail addresses, put that info to good use by sending these interested customer news about your store’s events. E-mail blasts are a great way to reach everyone on your list, and this can be thousands of people. The beauty of this is you know that people who are interested in your store are reading information about your store. It’s a much more targeted way to reach customers than a print ad, and it’s a lot less expensive. And, if you’re savvy with your co-op, the monthly fee for your e-mail company is free. Don’t inundate your customers with e-mail. Be selective, be thoughtful and make sure your e-mails are professional looking, engaging and have links that lead back to your website for more information or for book purchasing.
– Events are fun. Yes, they are a lot of work, but when I look at my bestsellers for the year, the lion’s share of them are event books. Remember, the sales possibilities for events do not end with the event. Set up an autographed section in the store and the books will sell long after the author has gone back home. And community goodwill goes a long way when there’s a great event that’s well run.
– Lastly, like your mother always said, send a thank-you note with an event recap to the publicist.

4 thoughts on “Author Event Tips

  1. Carolyn Clink

    Wow! If bookstores did all this, I’d be out of a job. 😉
    Seriously, as the wife of an author, I’ve set up facebook events for store signings, driven around with car stock, updated the events list (which automatically updates his Author Central page), phoned stores to see if they need those book cover and/or author photo jpegs. Because I have them.
    I’ve even set up the signings (with the publicist’s blessing) — even though my husband’s books are published by a big NY publisher. I give the store the publicist contact information so they can ask for the co-op money.
    The publicists (a new one each year 😉 seem happy to turn their job over to me. They are overworked and underpaid.

  2. Kay

    Hi Josie, Very helpful for the publicists to have a look at what you guys do from your end! A great post, as always.
    In addition to asking the publicists for cover image and author photo, they probably already have a press release written too. Even if you don’t use it verbatim, it could save you some time creating your materials if you can lift some already-existing lauguage about the book or the author.
    Thanks for all the great posts!

  3. Jason Matthews

    Hi, Josie. Do you have any tips specifically for Indie authors who are interested in setting up book events and don’t have much experience or know how to make the most of them? Of course, most of these people are representing themselves, so contacting bookstores and getting the word out will be in their own hands. Thanks.

  4. Carol B. Chittenden

    Good medicine, Josie: now I see why your events are boffo, and mine have been, ahem, too often flat on one side, scrambled together between the million other pieces of bookstore management. I’ve printed out your tips and timeline, and by golly we’re gonna do it Your Way this year.
    And as for Indie authors looking for exposure, I’d say: have a shtick, a program. Free entertainment for customers really does help sell books, and it takes a huge load OFF the bookseller when there’s a package ready to promote.


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