Anatomy of a Book Event: 8 Do’s and Don’ts of Success

Book expo

It was with great delight that I participated in Indie Author Day at one of our local libraries. It was to be a wonderful day of readers, authors and librarians merging together. The day was well planned and the participants showed up with lots of resources for visitors.

The array of authors ranged from recently published by a few weeks, to long-standing authors of more than 20 years. There were children’s authors, historians, novelists, poets and everything in between. There were workshops, panels and lots of conversations. And it was an opportunity to see what other authors in the area had created.

It was surprised to see how many authors did not know how to prepare for this event. Most of them had tables filled with books and were ramped for sales. One person stacked up five boxes of books on a handcart to bring into the venue. Most authors left disappointed about the sales. Many of then left ahead of schedule once they realized that selling books among so  many authors wasn’t going to happen.

With a little planning on the authors’ part, this could have been a very rewarding day. Author events are most often about visibility and connectivity, with sales being the icing on the cake. If you have an event planned in the near future, try to avoid these disasters:

  1. DO NOT expect your host to have set -up resources for you. You should create an event kit to include tablecloths, display racks, etc. Be sure to get clarity on these details prior to committing to the event.
  2. DO have some literature for visitors to take away. This could be a business card, a bookmark, a button or a chapter reprint. If you don’t have any of these, at least have a sign up sheet so you can capture their information. It doesn’t take long to send a “Thank You For Stopping By” e-mail and jumpstart a writer-reader relationship.
  3. DO NOT invest in swag that does not support your book topic or genre. When a western book author offers lip gloss, I miss the point. If they can tie the book’s title or main characters to the use of the gloss, well done. Otherwise, it could be money down the drain.
  4. DO have a giveaway to capture email addresses of visitors. You could offer a signed book, a small gift bag with book and other goodies, a consultation (especially if you are in the health genre) or other great prizes. One author in attendance at my last event offered a bundle of all three of her books as a prize.
  5. DO NOT overstuff your table. Your display should be inviting without people knocking over books every time they pick up a bookmark. Don’t use large printed displays that block other people’s displays. Stand back from your table and observe it objectively. If you still aren’t sure of your display, ask a fellow author to assist you.
  6. DO have an “elevator speech” ready to describe your book. Visitors don’t expect a dissertation when they stop by your table. They want a quick story with lots of excitement. Also, try to include a compelling call-to-action to get your book into their hands during that visit, but don’t be pushy.
  7. DO NOT glue yourself to your table and fail to mingle with the other participants. As authors we share in the same highs and lows somewhere in our careers. Get to know your fellow author. Besides, you never know where a connection might lead you.
  8. DO pack a snack for quick energy. Most venues that offer food are carb-loaded. Pack some fruit or fruit juice and some nuts to give you a quick lift, especially if it’s a long day.

Reframing your mind for these events can go a long way towards the success of your day. Every person who approaches you is a potential reader (book buyer) who is worthy of your time. You need just the right combination of visual and verbal to get them on board.

Remember, even if a visitor walks away without a book in hand, it doesn’t mean you didn’t make a sale. It might just mean you didn’t make one at that time. Send them away with something in their hands and a warm smile and hope they follow up to make a purchase later.

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