10 Winning Strategies For Your Author Event

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your humble host

A few pics from the Indie Book Fest book signing I did in Orlando yesterday, plus a few priceless tips on working an event.

HOW do you make your author event a WINNER?

Easy.

I’ll tell you.

As an indie author OR a trad author, you’ll hear about events where you can sell books. Readings at book stores. Writer conferences. Craft shows. Book fairs.

Whether you have done them before or never done one ever, here are a few tips – in no particular order – to make your experience successful.

  1. Signing autographs is fun!

And awkward. After a while it’s like signing your credit card receipt for dinner at Golden Corral – you just do it and don’t think much about it. But the first few times, yeah, it’s weird.

Have a Sharpie and a regular pen and ACT LIKE YOU SIGN AUTOGRAPHS ALL THE TIME. Try to act that way, anyway. You are a real life author – and fans want that ambiance. BTW, if you are signing a book and they want it made out to  their sister, have a notepad handy and get the correct spelling of her name – or you may end up doing it twice – and they aren’t buying the misspelled one.

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me and a new fan – who loves her autographed book
  1. Selling books is fun, too. You’ll be nervous – will my phone thingy charge their credit card properly???

Test it ahead of time and when you get there.  I mainly do cash (which means I have enough singles on me to look like I’m headed to a stripper bar or just finished my shift at one), plus pennies and about a hundred bucks in $10s. (Hit the bank the day before. If you forget, the hotel or event forum won’t have small bills you can buy but the local grocery store will.)

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this stuff doesn’t set itself up – and books are heavy!
  1. What about the setup and tear down? I get hot. I sweat.They may not turn on the A/C until the event starts (that’s just brutal here in Florida).

I bring a change of clothes. I wear shorts and a T-shirt to set up my booth, go to my room and change, and then go back to the event looking like a respectable citizen. Didn’t get a room? Hotels have big restrooms with BIG handicapped stalls, perfect for changing, as do most venues. Have a change of clothes in the car and change in the bathroom. No big deal.

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me, in my sweaty gear

I change back when it’s time to tear everything down. No need to look respectable then. That’s me. Others do other stuff. Like fuss at whoever is with them.

 

  1. STRESS!!! STRESSSSSSSSSS!!! I get it. Events are challenging. You’re nervous. Don’t take it out on whoever is with you, especially if that person is your spouse or child. Or the event planner.

Go early and plan an extra hour to set up your booth. Even if it only takes five minutes, plan an hour. Better safe than sorry. Things go wrong. Extra time = less stress. You’ll be amazed at how much less stressed you are. And if you’re still stressed, you’ll have time for a cocktail. Just sayin’.

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dress the part of “author” – but wear comfortable shoes whenever possible
  1. Comfortable shoes, knowing where the bathroom is so that you can go quickly and return to your booth, and something to drink so you can manage the three-hour signing without your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth…

Why comfortable shoes? I’ll be sitting.

Well… You can sit. I don’t.

If you sit you are less likely to engage with the people meandering around known as prospective readers – and more likely to reach for your iPhone. If you stand – and if your iPhone is under the table where you can’t get to it – you’ll be more likely to engage with those prospective readers (known as people who buy books). That’s why you’re there, so engage.  Stand. And stay off your phone. And:

 

  1. It’s not the Miss America pageant, but you need to have a face that says you are happy. Smile.

Yes, consciously remind yourself to remain smiling no matter what. For three hours. Nonstop. Even when nobody’s at your table. You can do it, and you can take Advil afterwards for those aching cheek muscles.

That also means NOT reading your iPhone! Being on your phone says This Event Sucks or I’m Not Selling Any Books – which to a prospective reader says MY BOOK SUCKS. That’s bad.

Most people tend to get a restful face or a semi-frown when they are reading on their iPhone. Their head is down and their body language says “don’t bother me.” That’s bad for sales, too! Instead, you want your appearance to say, “Hey, I am a happy/ friendly/ approachable person – coincidentally I would like to tell you about this awesome book/sell you its sequel. Let’s be friends. Come talk to me. There may be cookies over here.” But there ARE no cookies because

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  1. Swag. This is a bone of contention for me. You are there to sell books, not give away as much stuff as you possibly can.

You need a reason for people to stop at your booth. But wait – aren’t YOU the reason? You and your books?

Yes. And no. In a room filled with 100 other authors, what’s the reason for them to stop at your table? Well, maybe your cool-looking banner or your nice display of your books. Maybe your big smiling face. But maybe something like some swag. Maybe.

People like to give tons of crap away. I don’t. The money spent on bookmarks and cute little toys and letter openers and all that other stuff, that’s neat but that’s costing you money and not necessarily getting you customers. Instead, a simple thing that says sign up for my newsletter/ mailing list and you’ll go into a drawing for an Amazon gift card (or a signed paperback, whatever), that’s better because they’re investing in you.

Indie Book Fest 2016 -  (9).JPGNow, there are people who swear by swag. I’m not putting them down, I’m just telling you what works for me. You have to do what works for you. Some of the authors spent days making stuff to give away. I can’t do that. If you have a ton of people at your booth and nobody buys a book, I’m not sure the swag works. If you can’t talk, swag may be your bridge to readers.

If I try swag at one event and no swag at another, I can judge the results.

If you have a drawing, they need to write their name and email address – legibly – on your sign up sheet, which says they’ll be added to your email list. Now you have an email list. Congratulations. Oh, and start the event with a few friends’ names and emails, or fake ones,  already on your signup sheet. See Jenny and Allison’s names in that picture? In my handwriting? Nobody likes to go first, but everybody will do whatever everyone else is doing.  If you are putting the names on paper and putting them in a jar, fold a dozen up and put them in the jar before the event so it looks “busy” already.

But while they are writing, you are talking. “What sort of books do you like to read?” They’ll say they like everything. You’ll say, “My new novel is about…” and you’re off. It takes time to write your name and email. Use that time to pitch your book. Or start a conversation and work your book in. The more time they spend at your table, the more likely they are to buy a book from you.

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  1. Analyze the benefit of event.

Will you make money? MOST AUTHORS DON’T. Let’s avoid that by being smart.

If you add up the cost of the booth and the cost of the books you had to buy to be able to have books to sell, and a banner or whatever swag, and your gas to the event, odds are you’re not gonna make a profit the first time. But you are going to gain customers and sometimes events are an investment. You will learn and you will network. That’s a benefit.  Other times you will make a profit.  How will you know which events will do what? You have to do them. Just like you have to figure out which paid advertising works, some events are better than others, and some methods of working a booth are better than others. You have to try different things to see what works for you. Observe what’s working at the busy tables. After you do three or four, you will know what works for you – but you’re going to have to do three or four figure that out.

 

When I worked as a sales manager, we did lots and lots of home shows with sales reps in a booth, and because of that experience I don’t do a lot of swag and I do a lot more of smiling and talking. Swag may be better for you if you’re not a talker. Try to talk, though, because

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a placard like this helps talk about your book even if you don’t
  1. Sell the experience they’ll have in the book.

I’m not anti swag. I’m pro talking. When people read your book, they are going on a journey. If they meet you first and you tell them about the journey they’re going to take, that’s interesting. They may spend $8 or $10 or more on your book just because they liked talking with you and because you were friendly and nice. Not because you had cool letter openers that you were giving away while you were on your iPhone. Something to think about.

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Here’s a bonus tip. I have 17 published titles. I don’t display 17 because then people don’t know what I’m selling – but I HAVE a few copies of all 17 there, so when they buy one and I mention how good the sequel is, I can do an add on sale.
  1. Doing an event forces you to work on your elevator pitch.

You are going to tell 100 people about your book. You need to be able to do it quickly. Even if you can’t do it quickly when you start the event, you’ll be able to by the time it’s finished because you’ll have done it 100 times in between. So work on it a little bit before you go, but work on it while you’re there. Look at the peoples faces while you’re telling them your pitch and you’ll start to figure out what works. Use that feedback. It may help you with your blurb and it may help you when you have to pitch to an agent.

Remember, your event is good if you win (sell lots of books) or if you learn (networking with others). Selling lots of books is awesome, but so is meeting people who know what you’re going through and who can help you get to the next step. They advertised in X and can tell you what not to do. They know a great editor. They blogged about a topic and got more followers. They thought a different event was better than this one because that event was geared more for your genre. Whatever. They know stuff. SO DO YOU. Share.

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this applies more to the event than you. not every event is for every author or genre

So? What events have YOU done and what did you learn from them?

Share your tips below!

.

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your humble host

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited! Also now available in paperback.

63 thoughts on “10 Winning Strategies For Your Author Event

  1. Dan these are great tips for conducting an event. What do you mean you didn’t know what to do. You handled it like a Pro! It can be awkward but I agree with you on the don’t sit part. It is so critical to engage those people passing by your table and you want to give them something to remember you by so I think some type of SWAG is important. I’m going to reblog this Awesome post. Thanks for all the great tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the idea of a gift card draw, brilliant! I’ve done a couple of events with other authors (we shared the same table) and it helped with me nerves, but also allowed me to stay in the background-my comfort zone, lol.
    I’ll have to get brave and give your tips a try 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Staying in the background and learning how to be event works is not a bad idea your first time out, but obviously it’s better if you are out front and talking. That’s not necessarily for everyone, but you have to go with what works and also what works for you.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I very much appreciated this post. At my last author event, I shared a table with a friend whose books are radically different from mine. Neither of went with swag but we DID have displays of varying heights,, business cards and our sign up sheets. She writes cookbooks and I do poetry and what we found was that when someone bought one of my books, they’ take a step to the right and buy one of hers as well. It was pretty successful for all.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. All great advice, Dan. I put a bowl of candy on my table to draw people over (not chocolate as it gets on the books). Then I go right for their interests…books they like, what they’re reading, their recommendations to me. You are so right that what sells is the author’s interest in the reader 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Perfect, Dan, loved this article. I worked in retail for too long lol and part of that was selling the products. I`m good at it, my boss used to say “she could sell sand to the desert that one.” but then my Dad was a car salesman but it is still nerve racking and I`ve never done a book con, yet. So brilliant article thank you. p.s. Do people really go on their i phones when trying to sell their books? If they do that’s totally weird.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What happens is, everybody’s really excited before the event starts and you envision lots and lots of people coming up to your booth and what you’re going to say to them. And that happens, but it happens in waves. So you might be talking to one person for five minutes and then not have anybody there for five minutes and then have 10 people around your booth for five minutes. After a while you may get to a point where you’re tired of standing or sitting and you’re a little bit bored because there’s what seems like a 10 or 15 minute lag, and what do we do? We all check our phones all the time and if there’s anything interesting happening on Facebook or Twitter, it’s very easy to get lost in it for a half hour. Meanwhile, you have your face down your body language is bad and you look uninterested or bored or worse, and there are people who you could be smiling at and inviting over to your booth. It’s a simple matter of not realizing they’re making mistake, that’s all. And that’s just my perspective but that’s the type of things I trained people to do, to engage and not to read their phone. They can catch up on Facebook after the event.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Dan. Excellent share for authors to get a handle on how to prepare for book signings. I’ve left an earlier comment here and see, as usual WP has wiped it out, or possibly you will find me in spam. Please check and fish me out, thanks. I’ll be reblogging this next week. 🙂 I’m used to WP sending me to spam so I’ve learned to copy and paste and recomment having the only option to sign in with FB until bloggers remove me from spam and allow me to comment 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I had a book signing on Oct 1st at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix. Sold five autographed copies of Shadow of the Fox (every copy sold got personalized, autographed, and a cute little fox doodle) and gave away a ton of bookmarks. Met some friendly people too. The highlight of the day was this one couple who bought a copy: they sat on a bench and the wife was reading the book aloud to her husband. Made my day right there.

    Later that week I was at a vietnamese restaurant with friends, telling them about another book I’ve been working on. An hour later, while our drinks are being refreshed, the lady at the next booth leans over and says, “What book are you talking about? Yours? Is it out yet? It sounds really cool!”

    I also became the secretary for the GCCAZ creative writing club, and we started using writing prompts at the last meeting (Wednesday), where I shared a link to your blog. So it might be time for a new writing prompt post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I would love to share a table with you, Dan – we have a similar approach to table events, and I have no doubt that you’d be fun to be around. That’s why people have show up – they are hoping to have fun as well as meet some cool authors. If ALL they wanted was a new book to read they’d go to the library. The tables where people are laughing are always the ones that attract the people – as long as the “table hosts” are immediately inclusive. Book buyers want a story to tell their friends – besides what the book they are reading is about.

    This is a super post – and I second your thoughts about sitting. People aren’t really comfortable looking down on an “expert” they really want to look up to. Learned this the hard way at a couple of conferences. Paradoxically, it’s hard to keep your energy UP when you’re sitting down.

    WOMEN – wear something with pockets and put your purse under the table or somewhere totally out of sight. Unattended purses make people nervous, and part of their attention will always be watching that darned purse if they can see it!
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

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