Hosting local author events in non-traditional venues is a really strategic way to get out in front of your community and build some buzz with your local media. But where do you start? In this post I’ll dig into some venue ideas, as well as how to get your own non-bookstore event!
As the holidays approach, this is also a great way for stores to pull in shoppers, too. The value of the collaboration is much higher this time of year as well – use this to your advantage!
If you’re hungry for an event and getting discouraged by the lack of bookstore opportunities in today’s current market, a non-traditional venue may be the perfect place for your next (or first!) author event.
The Right Venue for YOUR Local Author Events
I accentuated YOUR on purpose, because when you’re looking to set up local author events you really need a clear understanding of who your target buyer market is. We have a free worksheet on this listed at the end of these tips. But let’s say that you have a book with no obvious connections, or no stores that tie into your book – what do you do? Well, a lot actually and we’ll go over that shortly.
But any topic or theme of your book may also drive some of this brainstorming, if your book lends itself to a particular type of venue, whether it’s a buzzing coffee shop where budding entrepreneurs hang out or a chic wine bar where women go to catch up with friends, these details matter. If your book has an international aspect to it perhaps a local restaurant that specializes in food from the locales in your book would be willing to collaborate on a special happy hour event.
Creative Places to Hold Your Author Event
First let’s start with this: even national chains can host local author events without having to go through a lengthy corporate approval process. Most local managers at places like Starbucks, Hallmark and others have the ability to do a certain number of yearly local events. Corporations do this as a form of local goodwill. Even Costco has been known to open their doors to a local author – ask the manager and see what he says! You might be surprised.
I’ve done book events at restaurants on slow nights (Dinner with the Author!) or in coffee shops like local coffee hangouts – even craft stores, and especially this time of year when crafting is at a yearly high, craft stores can be a really great venue. Wineries is another good one, along with souvenier shops and gift shops. The only limitations are your imagination. And don’t forget about farmer’s markets and local craft fairs. Most of these venues don’t need a lot of notice either which makes it a really great opportunity if you’re starting this now and wanting to target holiday-centric events and venues.
Selling the Idea to the Venue
This needs to be done strategically because if we’re being honest, a lot of the places you’ll want to approach likely haven’t done a local author event before – but that’s okay! Because at the end of the day, everyone is trying to do more business and keep their customers happy, and if you can contribute to that end, there’s no reason you can’t collaborate.
You’ll need to make sure they are clear on the WIIFM (what’s in it for me): Tell them you’ll be promoting the event to your network and marketing it to local media.
Make sure they know that you’ll bring books. Yes, there is a little more legwork involved for these events, but the payoff is huge. And the best part, you’re not asking a bookstore to carry your book for the event – which many of you know is an entirely different ask and animal and just one more hurdle and less red tape to deal with. Keep in mind, you may have to offer the books on consignment which again, is fine – and most venues would love to work this way.
Selling Your Books at Local Author Events
If you’re not on board with mobile payments most places like PayPal and Venmo make it super easy. But whether or not you do mobile payments will depend a bit on your audience. I find that older audiences like to pay by check or cash, so be ready to make change if you’re hand-selling your books. But the majority of consumers are super familiar with Venmo and that’s a pretty easy way to take payment without the hassle of carrying cash to an event.
You can also look into having custom cards made, which is very cool anyway and lets you sell on the go – even outside of a scheduled event – because you can sell digital copies! You can have a QR code printed right on the card that the consumer can scan with their phone and takes them to the order page on your website – you could also send them to the eBook page on Amazon, too!
Marketing the Event
This is the easy part, believe it or not!
Local media loves local authors and while that’s a good foot in the door — the unique venue will virtually seal the deal.
Market yourself to media well in advance of the event and then again in the couple days leading up to the event. I’d even encourage you to be ready to send some day of emails because you never know when someone may need a last minute spot filled.
Don’t forget event calendars either. Facebook Local, your local paper and local lifestyle publications all typically have event calendars online that can be populated by the public. So be sure to get your event added to these platforms as soon as you have all the details confirmed.
Don’t forget to give the venue some love too, whether it’s tagging them in social or including their website on the calendar event. Once people get there, you can start sharing everything you have to offer, so making the venue appealing is step one.
Also ask the venue if you can create a poster that includes your book cover and the event information and set it up outside, somewhere even more people might see it and convince them to come in and join in the fun.
Ask if you can get a placement on the venue website and in their social too, and perhaps a notification sent to their mailing list if they have one. Unlike bookstores that crank out author events all the time, a unique venue that doesn’t see author events all that much will be much more receptive to promotional ideas.
More Venue Ideas
Once you take your eye off of the bookstore focus, the opportunities for book events are endless.
Consider the following: holiday-centric shopping events, street fairs, gyms, yoga studios, breweries, art stores, and local boutiques.
There are no doubt venues that are super popular and unique to your community as well, so if they make sense for your market, there’s nothing better than two local businesses coming together to offer something fun and different!
Other Benefits of Doing Local Author Events
The benefits of these types of events are pretty significant, especially if speaking and events are part of your long-term marketing and sales tool kit.
Book events held in these exclusive markets will not only take you off the track of competing for space in a bookstore, but because they are unique they will draw much more attention both from the media and readers.
Being unique will not only help you gain more attention, but it will help to keep you out of the rejection funnel that often comes from competing in a high-traffic market like bookstores. Also, events outside of bookstores are a fun way to build an audience and get your feet wet doing events and speaking if that’s totally new to you.
Don’t delay, start looking into holiday-centric opportunities soon – or plot out what you’ll do in the new year! Create a short list of opportunities that might work for you, and contact them to find out more. The rest of it is easy to work out and you have plenty of time to create the swag and get prepared to sell books.
If you need some help brainstorming ideas for unique venues, swag, and crafting the perfect marketing outline to share with the potential venues, contact me for some coaching!
Resources and Free Downloads
Definitely do a new reader profile brainstorm if you haven’t done one this year. Ours is free to download!
7 of the best local event apps for finding (and creating!) local events near you.