What I Learned About Author Events: Part 1

Many of you will remember that Blood in the Past was originally available in ebook only. Then something strange happened. Friends and family and acquaintances and random people on Twitter (okay, that was only one person) were asking for a print version. I started to realize that even though my own Kindle is never more than seven inches from me and much of the population has embraced digital reading, there’s still a substantial chunk of readers that prefer holding actual dead trees in their hands. And I was neglecting them. And that wasn’t all. I belong to two local writing groups and they often organize signings and author panels. Not having a print version of my books to sell at those events put me at a disadvantage.

So in September I made Blood in the Past available in paperback and in October I had three, count ’em THREE, author events. Today I’ll discuss the first event, how I handled myself, and what I learned from it. (This will be a three-part series as I share my experiences regarding each event.)

The first event was my town’s Book Festival. My town is small and cute and quaint and they often shut down the main street for fairs and stuff. From what I’m told, the Book Festival started off as a very pitiful affair and has grown to be the big deal that it’s been in recent years, so I was excited to take part. The South Jersey Writers Group bought a space to recruit new members as well as promote their anthology, Small Tales and Short Stories (written by members), and they were generous enough to open up their space up to members who had their own works to promote. Here’s the run down:

  • I got there a few minutes before the festival started, thinking I was early. All I had to do was put a sign and a stack of books on a table, right? Wrong. Everyone was already there and all the good seats under the tent were taken. Bummer.
  • I sat in the sun, not under the tent. I wasn’t prepared for the unseasonably hot autumn day. I should have brought a hat, worn sunblock, had sunglasses, etc. I even had to borrow a scrunchie from my Hubby-pants (he has long, flowing hair now) because I wore my stupid, curly hair down. I had been so busy worrying about my books and my business cards before I left the house, that I forgot to take care of myself. I can’t let that happen again.
  • The SJWG had two tables. The one under the tent was where their anthology and the members’ books were displayed. The other table was where the sign-up sheet for new members was laid out. I spent most of my time there, as those were the seats that were most frequently rotated. I suppose this is advice for the group, but I think the anthology would have been more useful on the table with the sign-ups, as a recruiting tool. At least a few of them. Also, SJWG had a couple of members out in front of the tables to try to flag people down and draw them to the tables. My husband was out across the way and he said that those members were actually blocking the tables from view and when passersby couldn’t see what the table was about (be it ours or the ones on either side of us), they kept it moving. The “hype man” concept may have seemed like a good idea (it certainly did to me from behind the table), but it actually ended up hurting us. I’ll remember that for next year when I have my own table.
  • This was the event where I learned just how terrified I am of talking to strangers about my book. I eventually worked up the nerve to talk to people about joining the group (and I got very good at that), but when a spot opened up to sit behind MY OWN BOOKS at the other table, I balked. Pathetic, I know. But I did watch as one author in particular would engage people when they picked up his book. All he would say was, “It’s a political thriller.” Not much. Simple, did the trick. I made a note of it.
  • I sold fifteen books at this event (some were after the fact, after we’d broken the tables down, on my way home), but only three to strangers. A lot of my friends and a few of Hubby-pants’ coworkers purchased books which was awesome, but one of the other authors, a professor at Rutgers University, outsold me (he was the only one to do so). Granted a lot of his students visited, but he stood up, he interacted, and he was generally a likable character. (He also had an affable British accent that I couldn’t compete with.) Who knows how many strangers he sold to.
  • So what did I learn? I need to get there early if I’m sharing a table. To prepare not only my box of wares, but to prepare myself for the day ahead. I learned a little about how to set up the display and how to run the table. And most importantly, I learned that interaction with the customer is key.

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the series!