In my last post, I mentioned that I was offering a seminar on book events at a writing conference. A few people requested that I post excerpts from what was, if I do say so myself, a brilliant PowerPoint presentation (At least no one fell asleep. Well, the one guy who did wasn’t actually snoring until the very end).
So here are my tips, in a somewhat random order:
Timing is everything, in life and especially in book tours. When planning yours, a few things to bear in mind…
3-6 months before your release date:
- Contact stores and libraries to set up your tour. There’s a strikingly long lead time for events at some venues, and it’s important to get on their calendar early
- Partner up (more on this later)
- Pitch a “theme” event (also, please see below)
- Convince the booksellers that you’ll be able to draw a crowd, then do your best to fill those seats. Get in touch with the local MWA and SinC chapters of whatever region you’re visiting, and ask nicely if they’d mind posting an announcement about your event. Work those social networks to make sure your followers know that you’ll be coming to their hometown. Call long lost relatives and demand that they show up and buy ten books to make up for that incident in 1992. Whatever it takes.
The week before your book hits shelves:
- Call a week before to check details. I learned this one the hard way, when my publicist gave me the wrong date for one event, and the wrong time for another. Hell hath no wrath like a bookseller who promoted an event that an author showed up to an hour late. Trust me, checking the details personally in advance can save everyone a lot of tears.
- Arrive at the venue at least fifteen minutes early to doublecheck the set-up, and (more importantly), to introduce yourself to every bookseller in the store
- ALWAYS bring extra books. The only times I haven’t also coincided with the times when I packed the place, the bookseller had only stocked a handful of copies, and they rapidly sold out. Times like that, most sellers are happy to buy the books from you on consignment.
- Remember to bring promotional materials (bookmarks, magnets, pens, etc.) I always tend to remember this one as I’m sitting on a plane, picturing the stack of bookmarks still sitting in a bag by my front door.
I loathe doing a book event by myself, I truly do. Whenever possible, I prefer to share the burden with at least one other author, which has led to some fascinating experiences with a cast of characters ranging from teddy bear aficionados to reformed bank robbers.
Offering an event with one or more other authors has some key benefits:
- You can interview each other, do a Q & A, or just talk up each others’ books, which tends to be much easier than lauding your own
- It’s easier to secure a book signing, since booksellers believe (rightly) that two authors are a better draw than one
- Cross-promotion; your fellow author’s fans learn about your books, and vice versa (and hopefully, they buy copies of both)
- Worst case scenario, if no one shows up, you have someone to play cards with
Another option to consider: set up an event with more “unconventional” partners. To date, one of my most successful events in terms of sales was at a cocktail party hosted by a friend. She invited me to sell books, a jewelry designer to sell jewelry, and a rep from a kid’s educational toy company to sell toys. And all of us sold out–people came prepared to spend money, and after a few glasses of wine they shopped like mad.
Booksellers and readers both love novel experiences (no pun intended). If the subject matter of your book naturally lends itself to a theme, fantastic. If not, get creative. Here are some examples:
- Rhys Bowen hosted “Royal Tea Parties” at bookstores for the release of “Her Royal Spyness.”
- Kelli Stanley held the release party for her 1930’s era novel “City of Dragons” at a modern day Speakeasy.
- Heather Graham hosted a séance for “The Séance” release in Salem, Massachusetts.
So if your book involves classic cars, I’d recommend hitting at least as many car shows as bookstores. Same with any craft-related novels–get thee to quilting bees, scrapbooking parties, the works. The teddy bear guy (and no, I’m not making this up, there is a teddy bear guy, and he’s lovely), told me about teddy bear conferences where he’ll set up a table and sell a few thousand books in a single day.
My books don’t tend to have themes, outside of dirty bombs, kidnappings, and terrorists (and those terms don’t naturally lend themselves to mass attendance). At Thrillerfest one year, a group of us were discussing how tough it can be to land events in New York City bookstores.
The following year, we found a way around it– during Tfest, we organized a mass reading at a local Borders with the theme, “Quick Thrills from Out-of-Towners,” asked the extraordinarily gracious Lee Child to serve as our MC, and we managed to pack the place. Creativity can pay off.
In a nutshell, those are my top recommendations. But I’d be curious to hear from both authors and readers: what’s the best book event you ever attended, and what made it so great?