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I’m Published! Now What? An Author’s Guide to Creating Successful Book Events, Readings, and Promotions

By Jeffrey Copeland

Reprinted from the Summer 2016 issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin

One of the greatest milestones of a writer’s life is when word comes that a piece long worked on—often with blood, sweat, and tears thoroughly mixed together—will be published. It does not matter if the work is published by a mainstream publisher or self-published through one of the many e-publishers/e-retailers. What matters most is the creative effort has found a home and will be available for others to read and enjoy—a culmination of all the background research, composing, revising, editing, and formatting. The pure joy and overwhelming euphoria, the satisfaction of accomplishment (add drum roll and fireworks here) all come together to make the experience one never to be forgotten. This period of practically floating on air all too soon gives way as hard reality sets in, typically in the form of the question: “I’m published! Now what?”

The “Now what?” that follows is often the most important consideration of all. The “Now what?” is the long road to achieving successful book readings, events, and promotions. These are the lifeblood of any new publication, and without these, your hard-earned work can quickly wither and die on the bookshelves. Basically, this is the age-old question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”

In fact, there is a lot an author can do to make sure the work “makes a sound.”

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The full article INCLUDES:

How to Set Up a Book Event

Unless a book has incredible advance sales or the author is very well known (and many times not even then) bookstores are not going to contact an author to do a book event. How then, do you get yourself into the stores?

What Makes a Bookstore Event Successful?

From the initial planning stages through the book events themselves, perhaps no other group has the range of insight into what authors do to create successful appearances than bookstore event coordinators. What follows are voices of experience, offered by event coordinators from independent bookstores around the country.


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Photo credit: Books by fotologic licensed CC by 2.0

bookstore event_authors guild

I’m Published! Now What? An Author’s Guide to Creating Successful Book Events, Readings, and Promotions

By Jeffrey Copeland

Reprinted from the Summer 2016 issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin

One of the greatest milestones of a writer’s life is when word comes that a piece long worked on—often with blood, sweat, and tears thoroughly mixed together—will be published. It does not matter if the work is published by a mainstream publisher or self-published through one of the many e-publishers/e-retailers. What matters most is the creative effort has found a home and will be available for others to read and enjoy—a culmination of all the background research, composing, revising, editing, and formatting. The pure joy and overwhelming euphoria, the satisfaction of accomplishment (add drum roll and fireworks here) all come together to make the experience one never to be forgotten. This period of practically floating on air all too soon gives way as hard reality sets in, typically in the form of the question: “I’m published! Now what?”

The “Now what?” that follows is often the most important consideration of all. The “Now what?” is the long road to achieving successful book readings, events, and promotions. These are the lifeblood of any new publication, and without these, your hard-earned work can quickly wither and die on the bookshelves. Basically, this is the age-old question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”

In fact, there is a lot an author can do to make sure the work “makes a sound,” starting with a healthy dose of self-promotion and the sage advice of bookstore event coordinators with years of experience.

Self-Promotion 101

Unless a book has incredible advance sales or the author is very well known (and many times not even then) bookstores are not going to contact an author to do a book event.

How then, do you get yourself into the stores? The answer is self-promotion. You must take the initiative by contacting bookstores directly and inquiring about the possibility of doing an event.

  • First, send a short query letter or email to the Event Coordinator.
  • Express your interest in doing an event.
  • Be specific about what kind of an event you have in mind: a reading, a signing, or a special presentation.
  • Explain why the event would be beneficial to the store and/or the local community.
  • Ask the event coordinator to contact you to discuss the possibility of an event and provide your full contact information.
  • If you don’t hear back within a few weeks, I recommend a follow-up call. You can remind the coordinator of your earlier correspondence to break the ice and move to a conversation about doing an event.

This method won’t always result in an invitation but it will let the bookstore know that you and your book are out there, and the coordinator might have suggestions about other venues/groups in the area that you might approach.

A Word from Our Sponsors: Advice from Bookstore Event Coordinators

From the initial planning stages through the events themselves, perhaps no other group has the range of insight into what authors do to create successful appearances than bookstore event coordinators. What follows are voices of experience, offered by event coordinators from independent bookstores around the country.

Suzy Takas, The Book Cellar, Chicago:

From my experience, authors who have the best success at readings talk about their book and writing process but do not spend a ton of time reading the actual books. The conversation should intrigue us to read the book. A peppy, vibrant speaker always helps.

Candy Purdom, Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL:

The authors who conduct successful events share a taste of their books, but do not tell everything. The best ones give information about how the book came to mind and how they approached writing it. Also give some teasers to spark interest, not unlike what movies do with trailers or what TV shows do to entice viewers to tune in. If a reading is to be done from the book, it can’t be too long. Maybe two short passages. And they are willing to engage with the fans and take questions for a period too. The author/program can take 30–40 minutes, with questions. It should be wrapped up in an hour and then the book-signing line begins.

Jeremy Garber, Powell’s Books, Seattle, WA:

The #1 thing authors can do prior to an event or a reading is to focus their energies on securing an audience. While bookstores often do their own promotion of upcoming events, social media is an invaluable tool for authors to reach both established fans and new ones... While traditional media remains important (review coverage, event listings, etc.) the role of social media cannot be overstated.

Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO:

Authors who have successful events contact their local friends and family in ample time with an event invitation and encourage their friends and family to support the event by purchasing their book at the hosting store.

The most successful authors don’t have a party first with all those named above at someone’s house or restaurant and give everyone the book.

The most successful also tweet, post on Facebook, and provide information about the event on their own website. They also link to the bookstore’s e-commerce website on their own site so that people can purchase the book online They DO NOT steer people to an Amazon page.

Pam Grange, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA:

My number one piece of advice: Don’t give away the ending (fiction) or your conclusions (nonfiction). I’ve seen this done way too many times. Authors must, first and foremost, entice listeners to buy the book.

Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, San Diego, CA:

First, not all authors read well. Author, know thyself.

Shorter readings are better 95 percent of the time. Authors should practice the introductory material to the piece they are selecting to read, not improvise, which often includes rambling and hesitation.

Stephanie Schindhelm, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO:

I would recommend reading a little from the book, so people can hear your words in your own voice, but I would discourage most authors from reading for longer than five minutes. The only author I’ve seen who could do this was Neil Gaiman.

We have found . . . that the best time-frame for a presentation is a 30-minute presentation and a 15-minute Q&A, followed by a signing. It’s shocking how dramatically sales of the author’s book will drop if the event lasts longer than 45 minutes.

Gretchen Treu, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore, Madison, WI:

Show up early and be patient and friendly with the staff! Many would simply not believe how poorly authors treat those who work at bookstores.

Plan ahead! Contact potential bookstores at least two or three months before your book is released. . . . Be prepared to handle book sales on a consignment basis if you are from a tiny publisher or are self-published.

 

 

Jeffrey S. Copeland is the author of Inman’s War, Olivia’s Story, Shell Games, and Ain’t No Harm to Kill the Devil. Mr. Copeland has conducted national and international book readings, events, and promotions for over thirty years. He lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and has been a member of the Authors Guild since 2011. This piece is adapted from I’m Published! Now What?, Paragon House, 2016.

 

Photo credit: Books by fotologic licensed CC by 2.0