Truth be told, real-world (i.e., not online) book events are not the most efficient way to spread the word about your book or generate sales.
They’re hard to schedule, turn-outs can be paltry, and it’s a lot of time and energy for the likely small return on investment.
But many authors like to do them, and they can be fun, so let’s cover a few things to make your next book event the best it can be.
1. Schedule it toward the end of the month
Whether your event is at a store, community center, library, or somewhere else, you will benefit by booking a date in the final week of the month. Despite the modern, instant, online news cycle, a lot of traditional publicity outlets work on a monthly cycle—newsletters, local magazines, bookstore event calendars, etc. So, the later in the month your event is, the more time people will have to discover and plan for it.
2. Don’t just stand and talk
Unless you’re a truly engaging speaker. Nor should you just sit behind a table signing books. Notice that I’ve used the word event so far? That’s because no one cares about a book signing, unless you’re a celebrity or notable figure. Make your event an EVENT. Do a cooking demonstration, recruit a local theater or college acting troupe to perform a scene from your novel, do a magic show, hold a panel debate, do your event fully in Einstein’s character, whatever (as long as it’s relevant to your book) — engage the audience somehow beyond just talking about your book. Make it memorable.
3. Don’t talk about your book
I’m not saying at all, but don’t make it the focus of the event. Really, what you are seeking to do is gain fans of you, not your book. If people “buy” you, they’ll buy your book (and next books). This is why #2 is so important. You want people to walk away talking about that great book event they attended, and still be talking about it weeks or months from now. That’s how they’ll remember you. This also means making a personal connection with your attendees. Walk around before the start of your event, meeting each and every one. Don’t let one or two monopolize your time with chit-chat or questions, at least until you’ve personally greeted each guest. Think of how political candidates meet and greet — that’s the idea, though maybe not quite to that extreme and, of course, it should reflect your natural personality. Lastly, for each person you collect an email address from, via business cards or a sign-up list or whatever, follow up with a quick thank-you email expressing your appreciation for their time and attention. But don’t try to sell your book in the email! You’re not a used-car salesperson; you’re fostering a relationship.
4. Put a copy of your book on each seat before the event
If they arrive at their seats and a copy of your book is in the way of their butts, what do you think they’ll do? No, they won’t sit on your book; they’ll pick it up. Studies have shown once your book is in their hands, your chances of a sale go up — what an easy way to get it in their hands! And the introverts among the audience will be happy, because now they have something with which to busy themselves so they don’t have to mingle or just sit there. But mostly, you’re encouraging an interaction with and sampling of your book. It makes things a lot smoother than people having to come up to a desk to get your book. Many simply won’t, and it avoids a cluster-cluck of people around your “stage.”
5. Think outside the bookstore
Bookstores, while an obvious choice, are not necessarily the best places for book events. I’m not saying don’t do any there, just don’t limit yourself to them. Think of it this way: if you wrote a non-fiction book about pet care or a novel with a pet protagonist, where do you think you’d have a better audience — PetSmart or Barnes & Noble? So, don’t think of where books are sold, think of where your target audience goes. Of course, in some cases, you’ll choose a place because it’s a good venue, but ideally it will be a place with a built-in audience that you are just plugging in to. Just make sure to take into consideration whether it can host an event comfortably; you don’t want people to have to stand around the whole time, be crammed into a poor layout, or strain to hear you over music or ambient noise.
As I wrote, book events are not the best way to build an audience, but they can be fun. And due to the high level of personal interaction, the fans you gain will usually be more devoted than most you gain through online events and interaction. Some will be fans for life, often attending (and even promoting) your future events.
Of course, the tips above are not meant to be all inclusive, so I look forward to any tips you can share here that you’ve learned from your own events.
What did you do to make your best book event a success?