Ask them what In a world of virtual connections, email and lots of online events, there’s still nothing like in-person book events, talks and signings as part of your book marketing repertoire. And while they’re harder to come by, thanks to the ever-shrinking bookstore market, they can still be a valuable part of any author’s ongoing marketing plan.
Book events can be a great way to generate local media as well. This is often the number one reason I’ll suggest this to authors. With local media on the rise, book events can be a great way to pull in more attention and generate lots of good, local buzz.
They’re also a fantastic way to find new readers and as you’re looking to build your reader base, local is often a great place to start. You should feel comfortable, and shine.
First, let’s take a look at different types of venues for book events:
Bookstores: Chains & Indie
There’s often a big difference between chain stores and independent bookstores. Most chain stores schedules are far more competitive as they tend to be more popular among trade publishers. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead, you don’t want your book to age too much before you get a chance to do its big, local debut.
These are always great venues and sometimes easier to get into than bookstores. Participate in various events that your library may hold. Ask if there is a local author program. There are also showcase events that usually happen annually. Contact your local library. Reach out on the state level, or at your capitol, where many additional events can take place.
In a separate blog post, I’m going to talk about non-bookstore markets like coffee shops, Costco, gift shops, restaurants, and other creative book event venues. We’ll cover how to prep for pitching these venues and how to make them successful.
For now, just compile a list of places that are popular with your target buyer market. Once you finally compiled your list of places to hold a book event, be sure to do these simple things.
Check the Schedule
Go online first and see what events they have coming up. That way you’ll know a) how far out you may need to request a date and b) what events you may be able to participate in. Ask if you can jump on an upcoming event already planned. Two authors is better than one, and three authors is better than two. Increase the likelihood of catching their patrons’ attention. Start by speaking to their events manager. If you’re pitching a Barnes & Noble, this would be the CRM (community relations manager). Make a couple phone calls or just stop in. Often times the face-to-face request gets you a lot farther.
Prepare Your Pitch
You should have some information ready to go before you start pitching. A one-page author sheet (often referred to as a sell-sheet) is a great thing to have on hand to share with the bookstore or library. Author sheets are brag sheets, which have information about the book, any reviews you’ve gotten, endorsements, and etc. Tell them if you’ve done other author events or are a regular on the speaker circuit. Find samples on LinkedIn! Make this your most used tool when book marketing. Consider having a local graphic designer help you with this.
Prep what you can do to help promote the event. Keep blog/social media following numbers handy. Look to add your author event on your city’s online event calendars. This could be through their local newspaper’s website. Pitch your confirmed author event to popular bloggers. Prepare to do some promotion, and spell out what leg work you’re willing to do – you’ll be a better sell.
When you’re ready to pitch start by calling the events manager and get right to the point. Most bookstores and libraries are working with far less staff than they used to so most are probably doing several jobs. Ask what their process is if you’re a local author interested in events. Most will probably have you email them. If you’re nearby, dropping off a copy of your book and sell sheet is a great idea.
The Optimal Time for your Book Event
There is no “best time” per se, but I would suggest not going after super popular dates that everyone is clamoring for. Targeting events around Thanksgiving and Christmas is not generally a good idea. Some bookstores simply don’t do events around that time because of how busy they get. If they do, they book up early. Stores want a “sure thing” around major holidays so getting a ‘yes’, as a new author, may be difficult.
Looking at small details like pay periods when scheduling events. Around the first and the fifteenth, when paychecks come in, people are inclined to spend more.
Sometimes bookstores will offer you dates that they’re normally “dark”, which tends to be the slowest for any kind of event. Should you take it? Say yes because if you’re going to get local media interested in your event, what better way to do it than on a day that’s normally slow for events and news in general?
Additional Things to Consider when Planning
Here’s a list of literary events and holidays you can play off of, but you don’t have to stick to just literary holidays. If your story line or title can tie into something else people easily connect with get even more creative! Here’s a list that includes everything from Chocolate Cake Day to Letter Writing Day. Position yourself on fun literary holidays, April 2 is Children’s Book Day, so getting something during that week even would be a fantastic promotion angle if you have a children’s book. Make your event more interesting, even if it’s tying into an obscure holiday. The media will key into these pitches and really enjoy the fun tie-in!
I did a series of events for a gal with a book on getting organized and I pitched her around fire prevention week. The tie-in was the book’s title, which was How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson.
Don’t do too many events in bookstores in the same town. Spread them out over a few months if you plan to do that as to not dilute your audience. Bookstores hate this.
Author Events and the Buddy System
Pitch yourselves as a group to your local bookstores. Boost your visibility in numerous ways by teaming up with a two, three or more authors.
The media might be more inclined to do an interview or story when there is a group of authors involved.
Pitch yourselves, if you are in the same genre, as a theme. Gather all of the romance authors together for a night around Valentine’s Day, or local mystery authors around Halloween.
Combine the all powerful buddy system with a solid seasonal tie-in. Make yourselves strong contenders by understanding the power of a seasonal sale!
But Remember, Book Signings are Boring
Sitting at a table with a stack of books and a full pen is generally a terrible way to conduct a book signing. Unless you’re a mega-bestselling author, this is usually a pretty bad idea. You’ll draw far more people to you if you offer to do a talk and a reading. Consider whether you can create a unique hashtag to use on signage to peak interest when people walk by.
If you write non-fiction present those strolling by with a common problem you can address. If you write fiction and aren’t sure what to talk about, 83% of Americans want to write a book so you could always talk about how you got published, too.
Do something other than sitting at a table. Hand out candy or chocolates to break the ice and get people over to the table.
So you’ve secured your event date (congratulations!) Now what?
Follow through on the promotion promises you made with the event manager.
In addition to our previous ideas, see what’s possible in terms of promoting the event within the bookstore or library now that you’ve confirmed.
- Leave small fliers in advance as long as the bookstore doesn’t mind.
- Get some inexpensive bookmarks printed at GotPrint.net or VistaPrint.com. These bookmarks should have your book cover on one side and event date, time and location on the other side. Remind them what will make the event unique as well, whether you’ll be signing book or handing out goodies.
- See if the bookstore will let you drop off posters that announce the book signing. If you have a book poster, you can easily get your local copy shop to make an addition to the sign to make writing the date/time of your event easy to update.
- Get your event added to the bookstore’s newsletter.
- Do your own outreach to local media, including A&E journalists!
- Submit your event to local event calendars online, local bloggers, local groups on social media like mom-centric and singles-centric pages.
Show up early and be ready to sign a ton of books.
Your local broadcasts media may have 30 second or 1-2 min holes to fill in their newscast. This happens when stories fall through, which happens more than you think. Be sure and pitch them on event day, too, early in the morning before they go to publication or broadcast. Don’t be surprised when the media shows up to cover your event!
Reaping the Benefits
Doing events can be a great addition to your book marketing repertoire. It is one of the best ways to build a solid super fan group that will continue to buy each new book you publish.
Be smart about your research. Leave no opportunity uncovered. A unique, multi-faceted promotion can turn a no-name author event into a fun, win-win event for venues that they just can’t say no to!
Share in the comments if you have any additional tips for what helped you secure a local bookstore or library event.
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