Quick and Dirty Events—Ask an Event Coordinator!

by Allison Pottern Hoch

ABOUT A MONTH BEFORE AN EVENT with a debut author, I’d get a call from them. They would be bursting with enthusiasm—and terror. They were about to get up and do…what? For how long? Would anyone be there? We would take some deep breaths together and I would answer their questions. Here are some of the most common queries:

Do people even come to book events?

YES!

How do I get people to come?

People will only come to your event if they know about it. So make sure to pick a venue/date/time that will appeal to your audience and then get the word out. Send out invites to the people you know and post flyers and promote through co-sponsors and social media to the ones you don’t.

Should I dress-up?

Wear something you feel good and comfortable in, with an eye towards looking professional–unless you’re dressing to match your book. I’ve worked with authors dressed as pirates, lighthouses, you name it. That works too!

Do I have to read from my book? For how long?

You don’t have to read from your book, though a short excerpt is generally expected. Read for 5 – 10 minutes max and pick something engaging…or with a cliff-hanger!

Do I need to have a presentation prepared?

I highly recommend being prepared but what you prepare is up to you. Do you thrive on spontaneity? Then a list of talking points, passages to read, etc. might be enough. Need to have more structure? Creating a PowerPoint or having show-and-tell items, for example, can help you stay focused and confident. But keep your audience in mind!

Will people ask questions?

Yes! A Q&A portion is generally expected so leave time for that as well. As a coordinator I tried to have a few questions ready to grease the wheels. You can have “plants” in the audience to help with that, too, or have a few prepped yourself: “A question I always get asked is…”

What do people ask?

Where do you get your ideas? How long did it take you to write your book? Was it harder or easier than doing X? What advice would you give to new writers? Who designed your cover? What was your publishing journey? What was the hardest part of your book to write? What is your favorite book/author/ice cream flavor?

Should I bring food? Are drinks allowed?

Check with your venue first, but if they give the okay, then YES, DEFINITELY. Nothing brings people together like free food and beverages. Again, consider your audience and the vibe you’re trying to create. Is this a cookies and lemonade event? Or wine and cheese?

Do I need to bring any supplies?

  • Anything you need for your presentation (computer, power cords, adapters, etc.)
  • Any props, swag, giveaways, show-and-tell items you’ll show off during your talk
  • A copy of the book you plan to read from
  • Any refreshments you’re contributing
  • A bottle of water and some mints (don’t chew gum during your presentation!)
  • Several of your preferred pens/markers and a pad of Post-It notes for names in the signing line (bookstores should have these on hand but just in case)
  • If you’re not holding your event in a bookstore, you’ll also need copies of your books and a point-of-sale system. Don’t forget change!

How should I sign my book?

With a pen! In all seriousness, the standard implement is a Sharpie Fine Point marker, and they come in a variety of colors. They do go dull quickly so not everyone loves them. Experiment first at home: make sure the pen/marker you like works on the stock your book is printed on and doesn’t smear easily (this is especially true for picture books). As for what to write, “To: [Name]” and a signature is always safe. I’ve had authors come up with pithy sayings or just write “Happy Reading” or “Enjoy!”

Anything you’re dying to know that wasn’t covered here? Ask it in the comments!

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Allison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She organized, hosted, and promoted over 150 events during her tenure, ranging in size from intimate workshops and lunches to multi-media events with over 700 attendees. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and book event coach. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea. http://events.pottern.com. To learn more about engaging with your community bookstore or develop your own successful event and marketing plan, check out the talks and workshops Allison is leading this fall.

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