By Katie Orphan, manager of the Last Bookstore
One of the best aspects of working in a bookstore is making author events happen. We want them to be great for the author as well as the audience, and I’ve got some tips to help.
Before the event happens, there’s a lot to do. If you’re an illustrator, partnering with your author for the event, or vice versa, can help a lot. You each bring a special part of the creative process to the table, and being able to use your individual talents during the event makes it extra special. If you’re flying solo, don’t despair, there’s still plenty more you can do. Mobilizing your following is especially important. People who are fans of your work will want the opportunity to see you in person, so post on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, your blog, send out an email to your email list, whatever you need to do to get those who already like your work to come see you. The bookstore hosting you will do their best to get word to those who like their store, but often you will have a following that’s more interested in you specifically than in the bookstore that’s hosting, so you want to reach out beyond that audience overlap.
For the event itself, make it interactive. Even if you have a small crowd, or especially if you do, that can make the event extremely memorable and spur kids to ask their parents to buy your book. It can be as simple as doing a story time, if you’re a picture book author, or as fun as doing live drawing of audience members or their fantastical creations, if you’re an illustrator. For older audiences, swag giveaways can lead to a greater sense of connection as well as social media posts about the cool tote bag or pins they got at an event. Our favorite events are ones that combine reading time with some background on the creative process and an audience Q&A.
One of the hard things about bookstore events, and I believe this to be universal to all bookstores, is that you can’t guarantee a big audience. You might do your best, and the bookstore might do the same, but maybe you’ll have a small turnout. It’s so easy to be discouraged by that, but I’d urge you to make the best of a small crowd and make the event really special and personal. A smaller audience gives you an opportunity to connect with each attendee individually, and that can make a lifelong fan. Of course, you can do your best to connect with a large crowd too, and I hope that you get impressive audiences at every event, but if that doesn’t happen, you can see the silver lining in that grey cloud.
There are a lot of logistics behind any book event, but more likely than not, your publicist will take care of most of that, as will the staff at the bookstore. If you’re arranging an event on your own, the bookstore’s event director should walk you through the process. The biggest issues from the logistical side are making sure you know when to be there, and making sure there are books for the event. In my experience, it’s the last one that will wake me up in the middle of the night, trying to make sure that everything is going to plan. Booksellers never want an author event to fall flat, and will do our best to help you succeed.
Good luck in your events, and have fun!
Thanks Katie! And thanks to The Last Bookstore for partnering with us to offer prizes for #KT250. Be sure to check out our contest info to learn more!
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Katie Orphan started reading at three years old and has never stopped. Her love of reading led to literature degrees from Whitworth University & the University of Sheffield. Her past positions at her hometown library and Borders eventually led her to the Last Bookstore, where she has worked since before the first store opened. She manages the store, and is always happy to help a customer find a book.
Images provided by Katie Orphan and The Last Bookstore.