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.
This is an especially valuable strategy as the holidays approach, because anyone serving your local market is trying to come up with unique opportunities to entertain and pull in shoppers, so 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.
Understanding your reader, your buyer, should drive the brainstorming you do about what kind of venue would be a good fit. What does your reader like to do? Does it need to be kid friendly? What is most likely to pique their interest?
The 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.
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.
Selling Your Books at Local Author Events
If you’re not on board with mobile payments yet, check out companies like Square or Apple Pay, it’s super easy, you can write it off, and it makes sales very simple.
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! Dropcards is a great site for this and it’s surprisingly affordable in the big scheme of things. If you opt for this option I encourage you to use the email collection aspect to follow up with buyers and send them a personal thank you and review reminder. BONUS.
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, farmers markets, gyms, yoga studios, wineries & breweries, art stores, coffee shops, restaurants, 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 this weekend, 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.