In a recent podcast, I mentioned attending an author event. And it got me thinking about why some authors are good at hosting these (like the author above Pablo Cartaya), and others are not. Look, I understand, some people are outgoing and social, while others are quiet and crave solitude. But if you want to make your mark with potential readers, you have to put yourself out there. Let’s see if I can help.
Your first question should be, Luis, what book have you published. Good question, none. So what qualifies me? A few things. One, I’ve been in broadcasting for a quarter century. I’m comfortable talking with people, especially to audiences. Two, I’ve spent years performing in theater, so again, I understand what it’s like being in front of a bunch of people. Third, I also worked in bookstores (Barnes, Borders, and Waldenbooks) and I helped organize author events. Does that suffice? If not, hear me out anyway because I want to help.
Today I’ll touch on a couple of items, then hit the rest in future podcasts.
1.) Please don’t just set up a table with a stack of your books and wait for people to come to you. Stop and think about it. You’re a customer who’s walked into a store. Sitting at a table is this person, usually with a nervous smile, and a bunch of books that might as well be a doorstop. You don’t want to go up to them because then you’ll feel guilty for leaving without buying a copy. And you, as the author, will only sink deeper into your desperation. Make a note of this — don’t sit behind a table unless you’re a well-known author. You have to do a lot more work than that.
2.) Don’t just read a bunch of pages from your book. Most people can’t sit still long enough to listen to an unknown or even semi-known author. Yeah, we’ll sit for an hour attentively for someone like Stephen King or James Patterson or JK Rowling or Gillian Flynn, but you’re not those people. Find a couple of SHORT passages to read and make sure it pertains to the presentation you’re giving. Let me get back to this in more detail later. What you have to do is host an event that allows readers to engage with you.
I keep saying event because you have to give people a reason to want to come to see you and possibly buy your book. Say you wrote a mystery novel. OK, so what if you created a game with the audience and got them to try and solve a mini-mystery at the store? What if you wrote a romance novel and you got people to share (anonymously) a romantic secret on your Facebook page, and at the event you got people to read some of them out loud. Since they’re not reading out loud their darkest and deepest fantasies (keep it PG13) people should get a kick out of it. What if you wrote a horror story? I remember once sitting in an event with R. L. Stine, and he had a room of a couple of hundred kids so enthralled by getting all of them to take part in writing a short story, right there at the event. He asked different kids things like: describe a scary creature; now where will this thing live; and who is our hero; and how will they defeat this terrifying monster? Now let’s put it all together.
Even consider giving something away. Once while working at a Barnes&Nobles, I organized a Dr. Seuss event. I went to an elementary school with a sizeable Seuss hat and read a book in a couple of classrooms. I then gave the teachers some pamphlets and told them to share with other classes. I enticed the kids to have their parents bring them that night for a chance at a prize. How many people showed up? Parents and their children packed the room to the back. CREATE AN EVENT THAT ENTICES US TO AT LEAST HEAR YOUR PITCH!
OK, in the next podcast I’ll go deeper into ideas for activities and how to convince a few dozen people to show up by using social media. Have fun writing!