Book Talk Checklist

Nancy J. Cohen

Do you give talks at libraries, bookstores, or community groups? If so, here’s a handy checklist so you don’t forget your essential items.


Autographed by Author Stickers Optional; not all readers want a sticker on their signed book.

Book Cover of Upcoming Release

Bookmarks: Yes, readers still like them. And even if your books are only available in ebook format, a bookmark or postcard is a reminder the guest can take home.

Books to Donate: Optional; This works for a library donation or door prizes if you’re a guest speaker at a community group.

Box of Books: Always bring a box or two for when you sell your own; otherwise keep some in your car trunk in case the bookseller doesn’t come through.

Bottle of Water: This isn’t necessary if you’re in a conference hotel that provides water for speakers or if the talk takes place at a restaurant.

Business Cards: Be sure to include your website, blog, and social media URLs.

Calculator: This might be needed if you are selling your own books, or else bring a pad of notepaper to add the cost of multiple copies. Or use your cell phone for this purpose.

Camera: Bring a camera or use your cell phone to take pictures of your event.

Cash: Bring an envelope with small bills for change if you are selling your own books. Consider if you want a credit card app on your cell phone or if you will accept personal checks.

Computer Thumb Drive or Laptop: If you are doing a PowerPoint presentation.

Conference Brochures and Flyers: For your local writers’ group for recruitment purposes.

Handouts: If you are doing a lecture, bring a handout people can take home. It’s always appreciated and stays with them longer than a PowerPoint presentation.

Mailing List Sign-up Sheet: This is the most important item to bring. If you are speaking to a writers group, offer to send new sign-ups a file via email of a related handout of interest to them.

Notices of Upcoming Appearances: If you have a slate of appearances, give it to attendees. They might tell a friend who’ll want to hear you speak.

Printed Promotional Material: i.e. postcards, bookmarks, and brochures for your series.

Sharpie fine point black ink permanent markers: Bring plenty of pens, but not expensive ones in case you lose them.

Wheels: You’ll need to haul boxes of books if you bring your own. Look in luggage stores for folding wheels or put the books in a carry-on size suitcase.

With this handy checklist, you won’t forget anything important. What else would you add?


18 thoughts on “Book Talk Checklist

  1. Promo items (I have pens, lip balm, post-it-notes, notepads). Even if people don’t buy books, they’ll have your name in front of them in a less ‘traditional’ way than bookmarks (which I have, too) or business cards.

    And chocolate! Never forget to bring chocolate, or some kind of treat. If things are slow, you won’t get hungry, either.

  2. Nancy, I think you’ve covered it. To clarify, getting someone’s name on your email list now requires a “double-signup” of their requesting it, then clicking a link sent to that email to confirm. I use bitly or a similar site to shorten the URL for signing up for my newsletter and getting on my list, then ask them to click that one to get the simple process started–but it’s a great idea to offer something if they sign up.

  3. Richard, I use your method for my online opt-in forms, but when people sign up for my newsletter at an event, they do so willingly and in person with their name and email address. Then I manually enter their names on my Vertical Response mailing lists.

  4. I particularly like the idea of the handout, Nancy. When people make the effort to attend and listen to a presentation, it’s nice for them to have a takeaway for later review.

  5. It helps if there’s a drunk. My partner and I did a reading at a bookstore we had to drive an hour to get to. The store’s idea of advance publicity had been to put a flyer on their door the day before. Four people showed up. Two bought books. But just as we were finishing, a guy who was visiting the town from Florida came in from the restaurant next door, where he had consumed two bottles of wine. He was very excited to see us and ended up buying 24 copies of our book, which had had us sign for virtually everyone he knew.
    I also learned from that to always call the paper and a couple of radio stations in advance myself, because you never know what the store will decide is adequate. At our next reading in a different town, the store had to move the event to an adjacent building to accommodate the crowd.

  6. Thanks for the suggestions. Jenny Milchman and I will be signing books in Albany tomorrow at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza. This is all new for me but old hat for Jenny. I might surprise her by actually showing up with an idea of what to do. Thanks. Dan Barrett

  7. Thanks, Nancy. I’m having my first Booksigning this Saturday. These suggestions are timely! I must remember my note pad! I had bookmarks made. I hope I’m otherwise all set.

  8. If you are doing a PowerPoint, always have at least one other way to access the file – including e-mailing it ahead to the host – and that goes for your speaker notes also if you have them. I’ve forgotten a flash drive myself but was saved by a great librarian who helped me pull it off a cloud drive…I was hosting another speaker who did remember his flash drive…the wrong one (!)…he got on the phone with his wife, who e-mailed the file to me (I had brought my own computer, just in case), and we saved the day. Most of my writing is history-related: I also like to bring along (non-precious) artifacts to help bring the story alive. Lots of other great advice above in the other comments!

  9. Artifacts or research photos are a good idea. As for backups, you are absolutely right. I remember one library talk where they were supposed to have printed my handouts and no one followed through. When I got there, I had a backup thumb drive in my purse that we used to make copies. Great suggestions.

Comments are closed.