There’s a lot that can be said about events and a lot of questions that authors ponder when considering attending events so let’s start at the beginning with a word of advice.
Go ahead, read it again.
Be professional. Yep, that’s the best advice I can give you. Why? Because this is your business. You want to represent yourself, your books and your brand in the best light. I’m not saying you can’t have fun or be yourself. Please… do both of those things. Just within reason.
This also applies to how you handle canceling an event. Life happens. Event organizers understand that. Readers understand. We sign up for these events months, sometimes years, in advance. We try to plan our lives around them but sometimes there are things in our life that will take precident over attending an event. Everyone will understand as long as you handle it properly.
So, if you are going to be unabel to make it to an event, contact the organizer as soon as you know. There is a grace period where you may be able to receive a return but even if that time has passed, let them know. Hell, I had people cancel two days before my event, but I was happy they told me. Why? So I could adjust my plan.
Your readers, the ones who are traveling hours to meet you for the first or fifth time, they deserve to know as well. Make a post on social media or personally message them. Give them a heads up. They’ll wander aroudn looking for you at the event and when they finally learn you aren’t there, they’ll be disappointed and potentially upset with you, the author.
So, in everything you do (not just related to events of course), please be professional in how you handle yourself.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, the first common question… what events should you attend?
Well, that’s a question only you can answer. My first event was Utopia 2015 (also known as UtopYA). It was a larger event compared to some. If I remember correctly, over 700 readers attended and probably over 100 authors. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement.
Why did I choose this event? Because I knew someone else going. Someone who I could stick to like glue so I wouldn’t feel out of place, even though most of the time my introverted self still stood quietly while the big kids talked. It was still an amazing experience and one that I’ll always cherish.
When you decide you’re ready to attend your first event, I do recommend taking a few things into consideration.
- Do you know anyone else going or are you putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation? If you’re an extrovert, you’re probably going to be fine with or without a friend by your side.
- How many books do you have published? Are you prepared/comfortable talking about them? (more on the ‘elevator’ speech later on)
- Can you afford the event? This is huge because you need to keep in mind that events are not going to be profitable in the beginning. In most cases, they are an investment in your business, a networking opportunity for you. So, you need to be able to afford the cost of hotel, travel, meals and your table fee on top of purchasing paperbacks of your books to sell.
If you’re still considering an event, let’s talk about how they work a little…
Every event is going to be slightly different but many are scheduled the same. Here’s an example of the event I went to this past weekend.
Friday – Panels/Info sessions & (if there is one) a social gathering or party, often with book awards
These are usually led by authors attending the event that are often considered experts in the industry because they’ve had great success with the topic being discussed. Last weekend we had three panels: Audio Books, Branding and an overview of publishing basics for newer authors. I moderated the panels and even though I’ve been self-publishing for almost 5 years, I learned quite a bit.
Saturday – the actual signing, generally from 9 or 10 am until 3 or 4 pm
A lot of signing are now two days, Friday and Saturday. I personally prefer one-day signings for multiple reasons, mostly because they are physically exhausting. Every event I’ve attended has two ticket levels for attendees/readers, offering a VIP ticket for a little extra for those that want to be the first through the doors when they open.
*** DISCLAIMER: there have been a few organizers that have taken the money and run but that is not the norm. If you don’t have a good feeling about an event or want more information, ask questions. Protect yourself, your investment and your brand always. ***
Alright, so you’ve chosen an event. What next? Here are the Top Three things on my list.
First things first… tell your followers. Encourage them to purchase a ticket. Share the event on social media, in your newsletter and on your blog. Anywhere and everywhere you can. As the event day gets closer, remind them it’s coming up. Share your excitement with them and they’ll get excited too. If someone says they’re coming to meet you, make sure you stalk their profile for a good picture so you can recognize them.
No, that’s not weird. They’re doing the same thing to you and all the other attending author so make sure you update your profile picture so it’s easier for them.
Next, you need to order books. I can’t stress enough that you need to order as early as possible. You’ll want them to arrive to your house at least four weeks before the event so you can check for quality. Not to mention there are shipping errors all the time that are beyond your control.
Lastly, practice your table set up. I’m going to include a list of things you’ll need for the event in this post. You can decide what you want to purchase and what you don’t, but you need to see what your table will look like before the event. Personally, I set everything up on my dining room table because it’s 8 ft long and event tables tend to come in one of two sizes – 6 ft (3 ft for a half table) or 8 ft (4 ft for a half table).
I move things around until I’m satisfied with the appearance. It may take me five or six tries to get it right but it’s worth the effort. Now that I’ve done multiple events, I generally have the same set up from event to event. Keep in mind that as your backlist grows, your table set up will need to change, especially if you bring all your titles with you to the events. I use to bring a copy of every book, at least one or two, you know, just in case. I’ve stopped doing that and now I focus on my latest releases only. They are the best books I have to offer.
You’ve chosen an event. You’ve told all your readers, books are ordered and your table is going to look fabulous. What else do you need to know?
How about a list of things you’ll need? How about tips for signing day? What to include in your ‘elevator’ speech? How to sell your book?
This post could go on and on so I’ll try and keep it short and sweet.
What do you need on signing day?
- A way to display your books – books stands or shelves are great, but if you’re not interested in investing in something like that yet, you can always stack your books and lean one against the front of the stack. The most important thing is to make sure it’s not laying flat, give it dimension. You want readers to see your cover from a distance and draw them in.
- EVERYTHING needs to have your name and branding on it. Business cards, a banner if you purchase one, swag. If a reader is going to walk away from your table with it, it should have your name on it. The only exception to this rule is candy, and even then, if you want to invest the money, you can have it made with your logo on the wrappers.
- Tablecloth – most of the time they are provided by the event venue, but there are rare occasions they’re not. I carry one just in case and often use it even if a cloth is provided. Why? Because it helps my table to stand out. If everyone has a black tablecloth and I have a neon green one, readers take notice. If you bring one, make sure the color closely matches your branding.
- Pens and sharpies – I know this could go without saying but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve loaned a pen or marker to someone. Buy a pack of your favorites and keep them set aside just for signings. Test them before you leave to make sure they haven’t dried out. Oh! Make sure you have either silver or gold (or both) as well. Readers will often have you sign something other than a book and you’ll need a metallic color to stand out.
- Cash and credit – You will need change. Depending on how much you’re selling your books for, you’ll need at least 5’s and 1’s. I always start with about $50. It’s more than I usually need as most people pay with credit now but I’d rather have too much than lose a sale because I can’t give them change. When it comes to credit cards, there are a few common ways to accept them. PayPal or Square are the two I’ve encountered. Both offer card readers and can connect to the associated accounts.
- Books – again, it sounds silly to have this on the list but a lot of people aren’t sure how many to bring. There isn’t a golden rule and no matter how many you bring, you’ll be wrong. Either too many or not enough. If you write a series, I recommend bringing more of book 1 than the others. People will either purchase the entire series or just the first book to see if they like your writing style.
There are so many other things I could tell you to bring with you, but those are the basics. When it comes to swag, I recommend saving your money on anything paper except bookmarks. Most paper products end up in the trash. If you’re considering more expensive swag, such as logo glasses or trading cards, make sure they either match your brand or the theme of your book.
If you write a football based sports romance, having custom trading cards made would be unique and readers would keep them.
Here is my personal checklist for signings.
My last piece of information and advice for you revolves around your ‘elevator’pitch. If you have no idea what that is, you don’t have one but you need to.
An elevator pitch is your sales pitch for your book. You should have one for each book/series you bring with you. It should be short and sweet, highlighting the key points of the book without giving away the plot completely.
Sounds hard, right? It is, but once you nail it, you’ll see exactly how helpful it is. Not just for you, but for readers, too. It helps them decide right away if they want to purchase your book or not.
Here’s where I started with my elevator pitch.
“Rumors is an office romance. It’s six books and each book focuses on a different set of main characters and the rumors start are spread about them.”
Not awful but what’s missing? I’ve given them an overview of the plot for the series, but nothing stands out about the books I just described.
“This series is about six couples are the rumors that are spread in an attempt to ruin their relationships. It’s fun and twisted and in the last book, you find out which one of them is behind all the gossip.”
Better, but I’m still not completely happy with it. It’s a work in progress and yours will be too until it clicks. It may take ten tries but once you love it, it’ll easily roll off your tongue and the more comfortable you are talking about your books, the easier they’ll be to sell.
Once your comfy with talking about your books to total strangers, let’s get you out from behind the table.
Yes, you will be sitting behind a table. They give you a chair but I recommend kneeling on it or keeping it tucked in. If you sit, you’re more likely to appear tired or uninterested. Not always, but your non-verbals say a lot to people who are considering comign over to your table.
So, a few tips I’ve learned over the years…
- Never sit. Once you’re comfy and confident, stand in front of your table. This make life easier to take pics with readers as well but it give you a chance to draw them in too. Hand them the book you think they might enjoy. Give them your elevator pitch.
- NEVER EVER EVER be on your phone. There’s a time and place to scroll Facebook, this just isn’t it. Sure, before the event starts, post a pic of your table and invite people to come see you. After that, put it down. The only thing you’ll need it for will be credit card sales.
- Don’t be too pushy. There is a fine line, believe it or not. I saw it first hand last weekend. A gentleman next to me was in front of his table (kudos to him), with a book in his hand (still okay) and when people would walk by he’d say hello (doing fine here) and then shove his book in their hands while giving his elevator pitch. Wrong, so very wrong. It doesn’t sound that bad, I know, but he also pulled a few people over to his table by the arm (NEVER touch anyone) and a few more he stepped in front of when they tried to walk away. It was too much. I get wanting to sell your book, but not everyone is going to want to buy it. If you write YA Romance and they only like the kinky, hot and steamy kind of romance, you won’t make that sale no matter how much you push. If you push too much, you’ll make a name for yourself, and it won’t be a good one.
I know there are dozens of other things I could share with you. Experiences I’ve had or hear about. What I really want you to take away from this post is to Be Professional at all times when attending an event and to be prepared as much as possible.
That’s all I have for now. I’ll update and add to this post so make sure you check back before your next event. If you have any tips or tricks when it comes to events, please leave them in the comments below.
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