Which Author Events Should You Do? How Do You Decide?

I love meeting readers and writers at book and writing events, and I'm fortunate to have quite a few near me. But as a writer, how do you decide which ones to participate in -- especially when your primary job is to write your next work? Traveling and marketing are an investment of your time and money.

1. ROI (Return on Investment) should be a consideration. Selling books is important. But I've done events at indie book stores where we didn't have a great turnout, but the store ended up selling a case of books during the week when there was more foot traffic. I've also made some invaluable contacts at events. Sometimes, building relationships is worth more than selling tons of books. If there is a cost for a table or an event, you need to consider whether or not it is worth the effort and value. If you've never attended the event, ask around to see what other authors have experienced.

2. I try a lot of events (at least once). We've done several over the years where the readers weren't my target audience (mystery). I attended and had fun, but I probably won't go back.

3. I believe in helping other authors, so I do a lot of writing workshops. Again, you may not sell hundreds of books, but you do make contacts, build email lists, and pick up fans and followers.  

4. I am also fortunate to be a part of several writing groups, and we plan events and signings together. There is nothing worse than sitting alone at an author's table. When we band together, our social media and fan reach grows exponentially. Plus, we often carpool, and that saves some money.

5. We've done some signings at some unconventional places for mystery authors (e.g. a Hallmark/gift store, a gas/restaurant/gift store complex on the way to North Carolina's Outer Banks, a winery, several museums, and several farmers markets). You would be surprised. We've sold more books at places like this than traditional book stores. Be creative when you book signings.

6. Be prepared -- no matter what the event. Make sure you have business cards, bookmarks, or postcards. Sometimes, folks don't buy a book at the event, but if you have something to give them, you may make a sale or referral later. I even take bookmarks on vacation. We stop at a lot of little gift shops that sell books.

7. I appreciate the events that do a lot of publicity, and I always make sure to share, tweet, and post. I want to be a part of groups that are organized and interested in building their audience. (I've attended several events, where there was little to no publicity. Surprise, surprise, the attendance wasn't that great either.) 

Best wishes for the marketing of your book. It's a lot of work. I logged over 2,000 miles this year for book events.

Book Signings: The Weird, The Wacky, and The Wonderful

I love book signings and panel presentations. I enjoy meeting and talking to readers and other writers. Though my writer friends warmed me when I started that I'd be asked numerous times where the bathroom was. Their other sage advice was for me to bring candy - lots of chocolate candy. 

I am part of an anthology series, and we did over fifty-four events in a year and a half to promote Virginia is for Mysteries. I learned early in my writing career that book signings are always more fun with other authors. It's a party with the anthology authors get together. But we did have some wonderful and unusual experiences...

At my very first book signing, I pocketed my pen and phone and left my purse in my car. I signed one book, and the pen died. Thankfully, mom was there to rescue me with a spare. I now pack a bag with all kinds of supplies and giveaways.

I had the great pleasure to sign a book for Dr. Hal Poe (descendant of the Father of the Mystery) at the Poe Museum in Richmond, VA. I also had the opportunity to meet Dashiell Hammett's granddaughter at an event in Raleigh, NC. Two fan girl moments for me!

At one of our signings in North Carolina, a man asked the authors at my end of the table if the book had any stories about aliens in it. When we told him no, he proceeded to tell us about how he had been abducted from a farmhouse and the time he spent on a spaceship. He went into great detail about bright lights and probes.

We did a mystery panel in Charlottesville one year, and we were seated on a small stage in a large lecture hall. Afterwards during the signing, a woman told me that I needed more lipstick. I wasn't quite sure how to respond. I thought she was selling cosmetics or drumming up clients for a makeup business. After a long pause, she said, "Your lips disappear in the back of the room." I guess, she just wanted me to wear darker lipstick.

And on more than one occasion, people have asked me to read and critique their manuscript (which they happened to have in their car). My answer is always to talk about my critique group and my writing group. And how they are wonderful resources for constructive feedback.

We are in the process of scheduling events for our second anthology, and my debut novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes comes out on June 20.  I look forward to all the fun and the great stories.  Do you have any wacky or wonderful signing experiences?

Yvonne Saxon and Me in Virginia Beach, VA

Yvonne Saxon and Me in Virginia Beach, VA

Meredith Cole, Me, and Jayne Ormerod at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, VA

Meredith Cole, Me, and Jayne Ormerod at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, VA

Rosie Shomaker, Teresa Inge, Vivian Lawry, Me, Maggie King, and Yvonne Saxon at the Poe Museum in Richmond, VA

Rosie Shomaker, Teresa Inge, Vivian Lawry, Me, Maggie King, and Yvonne Saxon at the Poe Museum in Richmond, VA

Finding and Scheduling Book Signings

I am part of the team marketing the anthology, Virginia is for Mysteries. Since January 2014, we have had over 43 signings and events and more are scheduled for this summer and fall. We are fortunate that there are 14 authors involved in the project (and 19 for the next version), so we can have lots of signings in lots of places.

Here are some tips for finding and booking signings...

1. Always ask about the logistics when planning an event. I scheduled one in January and didn't think to ask about where we would be sitting. It was outside under a tent. Brrrrrrrr!

2. Many book stores will only order books that can be returned. If yours do not come through a distributor, you may have to ask if the seller will accept books on consignment. It is also a good practice to call the book store a week or so before the event to confirm all details.

3. Have a book signing bag for the event. Bring everything you'll need: pens, book stands, tape, scissors, and bookmarks.

4. Always have candy at your table. Chocolate is a hit.

5. Don't sign by yourself. It can be lonely. Partner with several other authors. With 14 of us, it's a party wherever we go.

6. Always keep a box or two of books in the car. We have sold out at several events.

7. Don't depend on the venue to market the event. If they do, make sure you tweet, share, and post it. You need to send invitations to your fans, friends, and family.

8. Be creative with locations. We have had signings at art galleries, museums, gift shops, libraries, and restaurants. We have also hosted countless panels and workshops for the opportunity to sell books.

9.  Take lots of pictures and post them after the event.

10. Always send a thank you note or email to the host.

11. Every book signing is good. Don't be disappointed if you didn't sell as many books as you wanted. You get to meet people and share what you love to do. (But you do need to be practical. Try venues once. If they don't work, avoid scheduling any follow up events there.)