Saturday, October 8, 2016

On Author Events

Today I took part in the first ever Indie Author Day hosted by the Lorain Public Library System in Lorain, Ohio. The event held great promise, but I have to admit that there were certain elements that left me a bit disappointed. Now, the library did the best they could for their first author event. However, as I have taken part in various author events over the years, both live appearances as well as online events, I do have some suggestions to make such live events flow more easily. And thus today's post will have tips and suggestions for helping event runners run their author events more smoothly. Now keep in mind that these are just suggestions of how I've seen things done that have worked out very well.

Your Authors:
What kind of authors are you looking for: indie (independently published), traditional, or both? You don't want a traditionally published author without a single indie published book at an event labeled as Indie authors. Having an event dedicated to indie authors, and then having traditionally published authors there can be seen as a bit of an insult to the indie authors. Traditional authors have completely different experiences in the publishing world than indies. If you wish to have both, consider calling the event a local author event instead.

Be sure you have space for the authors your invite, be it a dedicated room, or spread out throughout the location, as many libraries like to do. Decide on how many authors you can fit comfortably in your space. You don't want to invite too many and have them squished together and bumping into one another. You want your authors and readers to be comfortable and able to move around with ease.

There are a two points of time that are important: set-up time and length of the event. Authors need plenty of time to arrive and set up their tables. Unforeseen circumstances such as road closures, accidents, and construction, can unexpectedly delay an authors arrival. Many events allow up to an hour for authors to arrive and set up their tables, thus reducing the stress of determining their table layout and less chances of authors getting in each others way. Table sizes tend to vary depending on the venue hosting the event, so authors need to adjust their displays accordingly. As for the length of the event, if you want your authors to talk to new potential readers and gain a sale or two, having the signing portion of the event run from three to four hours tends to be the standard length of time. You don't want to rush them with only an hour or so, especially when some of these authors might have driven over an hour just to get there.

Tables and Table Set Up:
This is one is high on importance. Will you be providing tables and chairs, or will your authors need to bring their own? Make sure to let the authors you invite know so they don't show up only to discover they have no place to display their books. When it comes to table set up, be sure to let authors know before hand what is and is not permitted. Many authors have tall floor banners they like to set up at their tables. Be sure to let them know if those are permitted or not.

Many event runners, such as libraries, like to keep similar genre authors located together. That way you don't have a children's author sitting next to erotica authors. Potential readers might be leery of approaching the author in such a case. Having assigned tables or sections will make it easier for readers find the authors and genres they want.

Fees and Costs:
Fees and donations are not entirely uncommon. Some libraries require a donation of 10% if the sales an author receives is over $100. Others venues have a table fee or even require a certain percentage of every sale made. If you will have any such fee, make sure to let the authors know from the beginning. There was one event that initially stated it was completely free, but then a few weeks before the start of the event, they sent out an email suddenly stating they would be taking 35% of every sale made. Unfortunately, that also led to some of the authors dropping out. So, as common courtesy, please state all fees and costs to the author up front.

You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on advertising your event, but something to let potential readers about it is a must. Many authors will help by doing their own advertising, but they can't do it alone. A simple flyer with the event information is a good start. These can be posted in your venue or even left at local coffee shops. Also, social media is your friend. Post details on Facebook and Twitter. Such posts are easily shared and can spread information about the event fast, helping get the word out and draw more people in! Also, if you're brave, tumblr can be good too, especially if you tag the city and state the event will be held it as it will draw in the right people. If funds are available, run an ad in the local newspaper about the event, anything to draw those readers in! Don't forget to let people know if it's FREE, open to the public, if there is a VIP option, or if the purchase of tickets are require to attend. 

Author Panels and Webinars:
Some author events like to also host author panels and YouTube webinars. My only suggestion for this would be to make it optional and to state who the intended audience is. Not all authors want to sit through hours of listening to other authors talk about their experiences when the main thing they want is to meet with potential readers, and readers don't want to show up to it when they think they'll be meeting authors and purchasing their books. Also, if your event will only consist of panels and webinars, please state such as some authors will then decline the invitation. Having an author panel and webinar be separate from a signing event, be it before or after, is highly encouraged. Don't force your authors to sit through something they have no interest it.

I hope you find these tips and suggestions helpful in planning your own author event. And, as I said, these are what I found work the best for all the events that I've taken part in. If you have any questions about events that I didn't cover, or would like to invite me to on, feel free to contact me at here.

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