When you finally get up the courage to do an author event in person, you want it to be successful.
That’s a pretty big leap, I know. Most of you like the idea of an event but don’t necessarily want to do one yourself. You would much rather stay in your happy place and not stick your head out of your burrow.
But here’s the thing you don’t know…
When you have an event, you are kind of the master of ceremonies. You are the main event. The show.
And as authors – many of whom are introverts – the idea of being the main event of the show is pretty much the opposite of anything good you ever want in life. When you look at a list of how authors describe Hell, that would probably be among the first things on the list.
So when you finally work up the nerve to do it, you are happy to sit there quietly at your table and let your fans approach you. Or not approach – just as good. Right, introvert?
When the customers at the bookstore or whoever happens to wander in and accidentally walk up to the table, you’ll do your best to not be invisible. Which, for most of you, is still pretty much being invisible.
Okay. We get that. Stay with me. I’m picking on you for a reason.
We’ve talked about this before, that
you have to stand up and you have to smile and you have to look approachable and friendly as if there were cookies at your table and you wanted to share them with everyone.
In fact, some of you might be well served in baking some cookies and taking them to the event. Just saying.
But there is an element that I didn’t really get into previously and was kind of semi-oblivious to until my last author event.
This is potentially going to insult a few readers but it’s not meant to.
I’m going to describe a caricature of a reader in the hopes I can properly convey something to our author friends
– so you who are just happy little readers, please ignore the following comments. You’ll benefit, too, ultimately.
Authors: Imagine the reader as a prototypical bookworm type. A complete introvert. The kid in sixth grade who never talked. Shy, quiet… the kind of person who absolutely positively would never ever ever EVER go out to meet an author.
They are happy buying the books online and not venturing out of their house.
And now, if you will, imagine the introvert author who has finally worked up the courage to do an event, and the introvert reader who has worked up the courage to attend the event.
That’s kind of a miracle on its own that they’re even in the same room together, but the odds of either one of them talking to the other is close to the social equivalent of absolute zero.
At the last signing I did it, the other author who was there had some kind of manager type person with her. That guy stood off to the side so he was not in the way of anybody who approached the table, but he was blocking one of the aisles of the bookstore. And I happened to notice one very nice young lady make the rounds a few times. Up and down the aisle, and then around him. In fact, I asked him to move once so she could get through.
What I did not realize until later in the event was, she was acting somewhat shy. This is not unexpected but hear me out.
She made eye contact with me and as she went down the aisle the second or third time
it dawned on me that she might be there to see me – and she might be too afraid to approach the table.
Like, say, a shy introvert bookworm type. Who probably reads upwards of 50 books a year and would make a great fan.
Here’s the thing. If you go see Stephen King, odds are you’re going to be in a long line and you can have quite a while to work up your nerve to have him autograph your book. But you probably won’t have him smiling at you and waving you over and chatting with you. I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy at all, but something about having security guards and a long line allows you to get your book signed, smile and move on without meaningful conversation or interaction.
Perfect for introverted bookworm types.
So the idea of being in a relatively quiet bookstore with just the author and no one else, that kinda means all that focus is back on the reader – and remember, the reader is a lot like you. They don’t want the focus on them.
So as the author, you have to do a little more than you thought. You have to smile and wave and invite them over for a cookie that you don’t have, but you also have to be aware of your surroundings.
You have to notice the lady who makes two or three passes past the table. You have to invite her over.
You’re not going to be rude.
When a person walks into The Gap, the clerks says say hi. It’s called acknowledging the customer. When you come out of the dressing room, they tell you how good the jeans look on you. That’s just customer service and training.
At a bookstore, potential customers are buying your book as much as they are buying you. You better have a thirty second spiel ready to roll off the tip of your tongue about how amazing your story is, but you also better have a few ways to engage that potential customer – as in, ways to engage that reader and future fan of your amazing novel.
I didn’t say it was easy. I trained salespeople for a living so I know what to do. And occasionally I forget a lot of you didn’t do that and don’t know what to do.
Maybe two things.
Make eye contact and smile and invite them over. All you have to do is say, “Hi! What kind of books do you like to read?”
Most people will take that as their invitation to come over and engage with you. If they run screaming in the other direction, you have miscalculated. Try not to worry about it. Probably that won’t happen.
But when they say science fiction or romance or whatever, if you have written a good story you will probably have some sort of element in it that they like. And let’s face it, suspense and romance are the two biggest genres so most of the time if you have any owner of suspense for romance in your story, you can talk about that.
You can say, “My sci-fi thriller has a great romantic sub story.” – then go on with your spiel. They either want to interact with you or they don’t. If they don’t, they will smile and thank you and move on.
If they DO want to engage, they will stand there and not make eye contact and stare at your book. Maybe they will pick it up. But don’t expect conversation. That’s your job, not theirs. And it’s OK if you say the same two or three lines to every single person you meet at the event because nobody’s really writing them down or keeping track.
In fact, you should hand your book to them while you talk – and try to talk.
If you hand them the book, most people will take it.
If they take it, most people will buy it.
Most people who buy your book will want it autographed, so tell them, “Here, let me autograph that for you.”
And viola you have sold a book!
You do that a few times during your event, and all of a sudden the other person at the event is scribbling down notes about what they need to be doing.
And at the end of the day you will tell them to subscribe to my blog so they know.