Author Event Update!

I had an author event February 21st at an independent bookstore in the city where I live. In my last post, I talked about my plans for it and this is my follow-up to let you all know how it went!

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Who was there?

There were about 20 people who attended. I knew all but one guy who introduced himself to me at the beginning. They were family members, coworkers, friends, writing partners, and acquaintances. Many of these people found out about it through my Facebook event, or from me telling them personally about it. Many were people who knew I was a writer and had heard about my books, but never had a chance to read them or see them in person.

There was one group that showed up a little late, mainly comprised of people I didn’t know. They were brought by a writer friend of mine, and they came ready to buy books! So, if you have reader friends and are ever going to an author event, spread the word! You can really make an author’s night.

I put flyers around town, and the local bookstore advertised in the nearby newspapers, but no newcomers came by. I think this is hard for an unknown author — I’ve been to maybe five, at the most, author events for authors I knew nothing about, and one of them was just last week since I wanted to support someone after planning for my own! So, it’s understandable that there was only one person who I could point to and say, ‘I have no idea who you are or why you decided to come.’ You need to engage people as an author and convince them your book is worth their time. Many of the people at my event were there to support me and my writing as a friend or a family member, and I was so grateful!

What did I do?

I showed up about 30 minutes early with cookies. I thought they’d be a good draw to the table, and they’d make the night more casual. The bookstore already had everything set up — the table with my books, the chairs, etc. If you are bringing your books that night, you might want to show up earlier to help set up. I brought the books in about a week early so that they were in the system and then on display at the store all week.
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I bought a $10 gift certificate to raffle off — the entry was their email for my newsletter. I made jokes about spamming them, but also made it clear that I wouldn’t. I said I would only send a couple emails out a year when I had new releases. About 15 people signed up, and I drew the winner while I was signing books.

I opened up the event (a few minutes late to accommodate stragglers) with a short intro about myself and the book I was selling that night. I told them what I’d do for the night: read, take questions, then sign. So, I did just that! I read a short scene — when printed out on paper, so that it would be easier to read — it was only a page and a half with Times New Roman 12 pt double-spaced formatting. I didn’t want to drag it on — I get tired of my own voice!

I stood for the reading, then sat down for questions. People had great questions! I was honest — sometimes I had to say, “Well, I don’t know” but for the most part, I had answers. I tried to make jokes, and carry on with a thought if I thought they might think something was interesting. We had about 20 minutes of questions and answers, then we did the signing. The events coordinator had them come up by row, and people started to mingle as I signed and sold books.

The numbers:

  • I had 15 copies of Promising Light, which is the first in the Protectors series, and the one I read from.
  • 5 copies of Promising Hope, the sequel.
  • 3 copies of Love, Me (an anthology).
  • My other books, I only had 1 copy each of Finding Fiona, Connection, Momentum, and Gaslight.
  • In the end, I sold all but three books! Gaslight and 2 of Love, Me were the only ones left — so I sold every book that was personally mine!

Each book (except for the anthologies, since I don’t have access to them) also included a coupon for a free ebook. The easiest way to do this is through Smashwords. I didn’t, but it is easiest for you. Instead, I set up a contact form with Contact Form 7 Plugin for WordPress on my website with quiz answers. If they didn’t have the right answer (the coupon code I gave them) then they weren’t directed to the page that had download links. It took me a while to figure this out, but if you can figure it out, I think it’s easier for the reader since on Smashwords, you have to sign up for an account.
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I stayed basically until closing time (at 9pm) and was glad I did, because I sold my last 7 books to people who were late. I had a fun time talking with people about what each book was about, or what the short story in the anthologies were about. I had some witty things to say for buyers: “To my biggest fans” for my sister and my mom, “Homeschoolers unite” to a coworker who shared the same schooling as I did, and, one of my favorites, “Enjoy the magic” for the last six buyers. But for others, I just wrote “Enjoy the book!”

Follow-up

That night, I facebooked about the event on the event page and on my author page, thanking everyone, saying it was a great night, etc.

I added the new subscribers to my mailing list the following Monday and sent them a link to a free short story. I find if I don’t automatically remind people they signed up for a mailing list, they might forget about it, and the next thing you send out, they might hit unsubscribe right away. This way, I remind them, “Hey, you did this Friday night” and also gave them a chance to try some more of my writing.

I have friends who took pictures, so as soon as I get those uploaded, I will post some. It will be good buzz for those who missed it but thought about coming. Next time, if they have the chance, they might come because they saw what a good time they missed! I might tag people in the pictures, too, to get more profiles involved.

The bookstore paid me 60% of the sold price, keeping %40, and they bought more copies of my books — two each of the five titles I have out! (Full disclosure: I also work at this bookstore, so it’s easier for me to make this kind of a deal since the manager knows me and sees me pretty often.)

My Advice

For other authors organizing author events, here are my top tips:

  • Invite everyone you know. People think it’s awesome that you wrote a book, trust me. Even if they may not read your genre, or if they don’t read at all, they find it baffling that your brain came up with that many words. And if they don’t go, they might tell someone else.
  • Be easy to work with. Drop your books by early, or give the bookstore more than enough time to set up. You could have your author event somewhere completely different than a bookstore — either way, don’t be that author that everyone hates!
  • Make it fun. Be casual, make people laugh if you can, bring refreshments, have a raffle for a free book or a gift certificate to the place you’re having the event. Don’t sweat it! It’s a chance for you to sell your books, yes, but it’s also a change for you to connect with the people that showed up.

All in all, my first author event went great! If you have any tips for future ones, let me know in the comments!

Emily Ann Ward is the author of Finding Fiona, Le Garde series, and The Protectors series. One of her first stories featured a young girl whose doll came to life. The rest is history. Aside from writing, she loves traveling and she’s the managing editor of the Rush line for Entranced Publishing. Currently, she lives in Oregon with her husband Chris and their cats. Visit her website at http://emilyannward.com

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