I’ve done three author events in the past couple months: The Iowa City Book Festival in October, a local author book fair at a nearby mall Thanksgiving weekend, and a reading/book fair event at a local library the first weekend in December. Here are my thoughts:
- The success of these events depends entirely on how you define success. I didn’t sell many books, but I did a lot of networking. I represented my publisher, Evolved Publishing, for the first event, and we gave out a lot of information about them to people either looking to get published or not satisfied with their current publishing situation. For the other two events, I chatted with a bunch of local authors.
- Being prepared matters… For each event, I had a ton of books (both mine and other EP authors’), bookmarks, and business cards. For the publisher events, I also made signs with cover images by genre, so readers could more easily find what they were interested in. Conversely, I had a couple people wanting a print copy of The Futility of Loving a Soldier at the mall event, but I didn’t have any yet (poor planning on my part). Fortunately they came back for the library event, but that’s not something I can always count on.
- …but not as much as human interaction… Some of the tables at the events were pretty empty and the books weren’t great, but the authors chatted up passersby to make some sales. As an introvert, I’m not very good at this, but it seemed effective.
- …or location. The IC festival was outdoors and COLD. We were tucked away, off the main pedestrian walkway, and a lot of people didn’t know we were there. Same with the mall book fair; although indoors, we still didn’t have a great location – nowhere near the mall’s bookstore, for example. Like with all sales, if your customers don’t know you’re there, you won’t sell anything.
- Plants make you feel better. After sitting ignored or not having any sales, it’s always nice to see a familiar face. My grandma, for example, comes to all my local events, and someone from my in-person writing group usually stops by too. Having people you know drop by (and hopefully buy a book) will make the event more bearable.
Overall, even using a fluid definition of success, the events I did weren’t successful. I came out ahead financially (barely), but it was still a sizable chunk of time to do each event. I may still do events next year, but it’ll be ones that are close and don’t require a fee. When your time is limited, even exposure and networking can be expensive.
What are your thoughts on multi-author events? As a reader, do you attend? As a writer, are they worth your time?