My first novel came out in March. With excellent trade reviews and a timely “hook” (immigration) it was easier for me to book appearances than it is for the average new author. So book I did. I did twenty or so appearances in the span of less than three months. This is what I learned:
1. Not all appearances are created equal. At first, when I heard a “yes” in response to an inquiry to appear, I thrilled at the chance. But then I began to do the appearances. And I learned that it’s better to tap in to existing events (a regular book club, for example) rather than try to drum up interest in a stand-alone appearance. If people don’t know your name, they’re far less likely to come out to see you. But if they’re in the habit of coming out for the Tuesday night author series, you’re more likely to get a crowd. Don’t be afraid to ask the organizer what kind of promotion they’re planning to do and what kind of turn-out they usually get. If you’re told you’ll be expected to get most of the crowd, be honest with yourself if you think you can. Read your invitation objectively. Is it the kind of event you’d go to, if it wasn’t yours? If not, spruce it up until it is. Or don’t do it.
2. It’s not only about getting a huge turn-out at the event. I did one event at a public library where three people showed up. (Boy, did that sting). But one of those three people was a local high school librarian with connections to booking other events. She was also a fellow writer, so we had a great chat after the event. A loss? Not in the least.
3. That said, market your heart out. Don’t rely on the venue to promote the event alone.
4. Particularly at the start, joint events are your friends. Do as many of your book promotion events with other authors who write in the same genre as you can. More heads to come up with the ideas, more hands to do the work. Fellow writers are your peers and understand this crazy process better than even your family. If you’re serious about being in this business, they’re going to be your peers for a long time. Take every opportunity to get to know them. Plus, you’re more likely to draw a bigger crowd when everyone is marketing the event.
5. Schools are awesome places to do events. At the start, I was not ashamed to do events for free just to learn how to do them. Later in the process I was delighted to start finding schools that pay for author visits. Schools can be a great source of book sales and, of course, they are where your readers hang out all day. Kids and teenagers LOVE authors.
6. Bring swag. Everybody loves a present and it helps kids remember you and your book.
7. Be creative. I heard that one of my fellow 2014 debut authors actually brought a steer to her launch party (which was totally appropriate to her book). If you’re having fun, your guests will too and the good feelings will translate into good buzz.
8. That said, don’t break the bank. It doesn’t take a lot of money to have a great book promotion event. It takes a little imagination and calling in some favors. Think fun, not expensive.
Being out in the world promoting your events is one of the best feelings a new author can have. Don’t stress them and go out and enjoy them. Good luck!