Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up: The Future of Author Events

by | Jul 13, 2011 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

Reading Time: ( Word Count: )

We had a great show with host Penny Sansevieri and our special guest Amy Collins, who discussed how author events are as relevant as ever.

About our guest: Amy Collins is the owner of The Cadence Group, a sales and marketing service provider for the publishing industry. In 2008, The Cadence Group launched New Shelves Distribution, a full-scale book warehousing, sales and fulfillment company selling publisher’s books directly to the national chains and independent bookstores in North America.

Events are vital to an author’s success:

With publishing going digital, are author events a thing of the past? No, they are just as valid, says Amy. They are changing just as fast as everything else, but events are extremely valid. They are different from 10 or 12 years ago – and they are an absolute necessity. It’s what authors need to do to get out there.

Events can really help to save a book or put it on the map. For instance, The Kennedy Detail, published last November, was Author Marketing Expert’s 11th bestseller. Penny told the authors that they needed to do some events. They sold 500 books at one San Diego event alone. People were so drawn to these events. The authors were very personable, fabulous storytellers, with former Secret Service Agent Clint Hill talking about “the day” President Kennedy was shot. The local marketing for the events helped the book hit the bestseller list.

When an author can really entertain with stories, events can be phenomenal. The Kennedy Detail authors loved it. It was not only a great experience; it was very cathartic for both of them after losing the president on their watch.

But there are cases where authors expect huge numbers and people lined up around the block for their event – and then seven people show up.

Advice for authors doing an event for the first time:

Bookstore in Denver

Image by Mal Booth via Flickr

Amy says one event is not enough. Schedule a series of events that will allow you to set up a regional area with a lot of books on the shelf. If you can get five bookstores in a 150-mile radius to agree to signings over a three- to five-week period, then there are bookstores in the area that will stock your book. Those books will be on display a week or so before your event and on the shelves a week or more after your event. Scheduling events is a wonderful way to get your book stocked.

The purpose for the events is not for the three books you’ll sell at the time, but for all the marketing and display opportunities before and after the event. And, this gives authors a fabulous opportunity to go after local press, tell them you have an event and create a story around your book. It’s an opportunity for press you wouldn’t have normally.

Tips for working with a bookstore manager:

Authors envision a line of customers outside the store waiting for the signing, for which the store has ordered 200 copies of the book. They imagine a signing held at a table adorned with flowers located by the front door and snacks created for the event … and the event ending with them leaving exhilarated but exhausted.

Jane Fonda at a book signing, 2005

Image via Wikipedia

But the reality is there have been many changes. For one, bookstores don’t have employees necessary to staff a book signing. If you want an event, tell the manager you will have people to help you with the event, you won’t need the staff, says Amy.

Second, inform the manager that you have a list of people you will invite to the event. You will give the manager an estimate of how many will attend.

Be prepared to do the work yourself, draw your own audience and do your own press – or get people to help you with this. The bookstore manager will say no until you tell him or her you will do your own work, press, invitations, etc.

Bookmarks made of strings. Spin.

Image via Wikipedia

Penny suggests offering posters and bag stuffers. Get some custom bookmarks done with the date of the event (they are inexpensive to print); although bookmarks are commonplace everybody loves them.

Even if you’ve had no response from local TV stations, pitch them the day of the event. Pitch the assignment desk. They often have last-minute cancellations and airtime to fill.

Distribution issues:

Is it true that if you’ve been self-published – via Infinity, AuthorHouse, Lulu or another self-publishing company – you can’t get onto bookshelves? That’s not necessarily true, notes Amy.

Usually the rule is if the bookstore’s own distribution network can’t order the book the store can’t carry it. Many managers do overlook that rule, especially if your book is available through Ingram. Make sure that your book is available via Ingram or another wholesaler before talking to a store manager.

The Contest - Book Signing

Image by oddsock via Flickr

If your book isn’t on Ingram or another wholesaler they can order from, and they seem sympathetic to you, see if they’ll take your books on consignment. You’ll only get paid for the books that you sell and the rest will be returned to you.

Also schedule events around the calendar: Dating topics around Valentine’s Day, for instance. Think about planning your events far enough out for these tie-ins.

Penny also recommends trying to get books carried in specialty stores. An author who self-published a book similar to Computers for Dummies found success that way. Penny took a copy of his book to the specialty store Frye’s Electronics. Although they had no experience with signings, they let the author bring the books in on consignment and the author got a signing there that did really well. Hallmark, Blockbuster, restaurants and coffee shops are event options, too – just don’t go through the corporate office (if there is one, because it will delay things indefinitely).

Non-bookstore event ideas:

Amy sees growth in events held at “lifestyle stores” such as Michael’s and Jo-Ann’s. There are so many stores like this. Not every event needs to be in a bookstore. Libraries are desperate for attention and funding right now so they are still one of the best places to have events.

You can still bring a couple of cases of books, do a reading and signing and sell books after. In a downturned economy, libraries also get a lot of traffic.

What to know when doing a non-bookstore event:

Front door of former Tom Peterson's store in P...

Image via Wikipedia

Authors must remember that people are not walking into these Hallmarks, lifestyle stores, museums etc. expecting a book signing.

Amy suggests working out a plan with the store in which it regularly announces a new topic (about every 15 to 20 minutes). Instead of one topic and signing, why not have five mini-topics and signings? Or do five or six readings from your book. This works in bookstores as well, but this strategy will really help you capture the browsers in non-bookstore venues.

Can an unknown author get a signing at Costco? Yes! Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s are all options – but do NOT walk into one of those stores without a membership. The first thing the manager will ask you is if you are a member.

Call ahead, and ask for the name of the store manager, says Amy. Ask if you can drop off a copy of the book at a good time for him or her. Managers at those stores have the power to book events on their own; they don’t have to go through corporate.

Calendar from Tupjakow, (Perpetual calendar wi...

Image via Wikipedia

Drop off your book, then call the manager back, explain you’re a member and ask about doing an event. A well-written, professionally edited book that is family friendly may get you a signing. They’ll order a few copies of your book via Ingram. If you do well with that signing, they will stock your book – and they’ll keep it on their shelves if it meets their sales standards. At that point, you can ask the local store manager to recommend it to the regional manager.

Event timing issues:

Right now in July, we’re booking for September, Amy says. You should be asking for 90 days out when you’re scheduling an event.

The majority of bookstores will not hold an event during November or December. They are not allowed to because there are too many customers. There are exceptions: if you wrote a book titled The Santa Chronicles, for instance, or if you wrote scary spider story for Halloween – then request a holiday-themed event.

Children's Storytime

Image via Wikipedia

Pay attention to the calendar and events already underway. For children’s authors – storytime tours are great for exposure but the audience is not appropriate for buying your book: harried moms, teen babysitters, etc. That means you need to find your own potential audience and invite them to the storytime. Or do a second event at a library, inviting the local Boy’s or Girl’s Club. Or do storytime at a school.

Successful author events are possible. You can set up the events yourself, but you should probably hire a professional to promote them. You’ll likely have more success that way, and you won’t be sorry. Keep in mind the bookstore’s needs when you contact them. Remember the reason you do these events – it’s not for the number of sales during the event – it’s the pre- and post-event arc.

You never know where events will take you!

Download the full show at:


Upcoming Episode:

Please join us July 26, 2011 for our next show, with guest Shelley Hitz, topic TBA!

Enhanced by Zemanta


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *