Monday, 12 September 2016

10 Tips for Planning an Author Event

Well, that was a fun summer run of events for my new title, Carter and the Curious Maze.

In the past 6 weeks, I've read at Fort York (twice), the CNE, Bloor/Gladstone Library, and this weekend, I held a signing event at Indigo Yorkdale in Toronto (thank you to the wonderful staff for all their help). It's been really fun, lots of exposure for the book, and lots of opportunities for my illustrator, Shawna Daigle, and I to meet our young readers.
Setting up the table at Yorkdale

This weekend, as I was handing out bookmarks and colouring sheets to families at Yorkdale (and signing copies), a woman approached me with a book in hand. She introduced herself as a first-time author, and she said she was doing a launch for her book the next weekend.

She asked if I could share any tips on how to hold an event? As we got talking, I realized that there was actually a lot to share with her.
So, here, after seven years of doing events, launches, readings, workshops and presentations to young readers, are a few things I've learned ...

1. Invest in a portable stand and a large cover of your book: when I'm promoting a new book, I always make a large foam core image of it (about 18 in x 2 feet), and put it up on a stand near the display. Cost of foam core book cover: @$20 at any printer    One time purchase of reusable folding stand: @$30

2. Bring bookstands. Most bookstores will have bookstands for you, but not always. I bought mine at a dollar store seven years ago, and have used them ever since. I take 10 bookstands, which means I can fill the table with propped books, images, information sheets etc.

3. Have an information sheet about you and about your book. Not everyone wants to buy a book on the spot, but people often contact me days, weeks, even months afterward, from the information sheet I had on the table. Put a blurb about the book, a short bio, any awards or other books you've published, and your contact info (and your publisher, if you have one). I usually take about 15 copies, they almost always get used up.

4. Hand out bookmarks, or something free. My publisher, Dundurn Press, provides me with bookmarks for my events. I've found if you're giving out something free, about 1 in 3 people will stop to chat, 1 in 10 (or so) might buy your book (on a good day). My new book has 6 fab illustrations from Shawna, and we used two of them for colouring pages. I set a colourful ground sheet near the display, put the colouring pages and crayons down. Kids loved it.

5. Have a spiel. No one wants to sound like a used car salesman obviously, but if you're sincere, excited about your book, have interesting things to say about it, people will stop and chat. I find it best to have at least something short and interesting in mind to say beforehand (but I try not to make it sound rehearsed).

Library Reading. Photo by Karen Devine, TD Summer Reading Club
6. To read or not to read? The first-time author then asked me specifically if she should read from her book or not. I said, you know, you're here to shine a light on your book. A reading is always useful, a bit nerve-wracking the first few times you do it maybe, but I've never regretted doing one. She pointed out I wasn't doing one there, and I said I've done five readings from the book in other places this summer, including the CNE, plus if anyone asked for one, I'd be happy to read a little, I'm big on pop-up readings!

 She also asked... 

7. How long should I read? My advice is to keep it short, 5-10 minutes tops.

8. Should I read the first few pages, start at the beginning? Not necessarily. Read the part you found the most interesting to write.

9. Should there be chairs? Yes, ask for 3 rows of 5 chairs. If a few people sit down in each row, it'll look full. Others can stand. Invite your family and friends, insist they be there. Note: This only works for the first few books, but take advantage of their goodwill while you can!

10. Do I need a microphone? Yes, in a bookstore with people walking by, a mic is always better (I've done with and without, with a microphone wins, hands-down). Sometimes a bookstore or library (or school etc) will have a clip-on or head-set mic for you. I have my own hand-held mic with a portable box amplifier that I've used as well.

Plus ... if you want to do a book trailer for your book, take a computer (or use a projector if the event space allows) and start your trailer at the beginning of your reading. I've done a reading where I had the trailer running continuously in the background, and another one when I had 20 or so images about the book (gargoyles in this case) run in a loop. Some people hire actors or friends to do their readings, which is fun (but I like to hear the author's own voice, personally). Some people do plays (a group of grade 4 and 5 students once asked to do a play they wrote based on my books at one of my launches, it was fabulous), hire bands, offer food and drink...

...whatever you choose to do at your event, my last piece of advice for her was the most important: have fun. Every book launch is memorable, but the first one is pretty special. You've done something most people can only dream about: you've published a book! Go forth and share it with the world.

For more "How to" writing advice on this blog:

10 Tips for Runnings a Children's Writing Workshop (2015)
10 Author Tips for A Happy Bookstore Event (More thoughts from 2012)
A Few Thoughts about Making a Living as a Writer (2014)
 11 Tips for a SKYPE Author Visit (2014)

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