Are author events worth the time?

My booth at Indie Author Day 2017My novel Amiga will be published by Black Rose Writing on November 27, 2019. I will describe my publishing journey in a series of posts. This is the fifth of the series.

I have a couple of events coming up at the end of this month. I always enjoy the opportunity to speak to groups, no matter the size. But other authors find these events frustrating. The facility might not adequately promote the event, no one shows up, and not a single book is sold. Are author events really worth the time?

It depends on how you measure their effectiveness. If I measured success solely on book sales, very few make back the investment in time and cost. I went to an event in the San Fernando Valley where I wasn’t even allowed to sell books. But events like these still lead to sales.

Before people buy your book, they need to know that you and your book exist. Frequent public appearances can build your visibility. Most people aren’t ready to buy the first time they see something. It can take six to eight exposures to generate a viable sales lead. The more times you can make yourself and your book visible, the more likely someone will get to yes.

You can increase the effectiveness of an event by having someone live-stream your presentation and save it for later playback. You can post excerpts and handouts on your website and distribute materials through social media. This reinforces the experience for your attendees, extends your reach to people who can’t attend your presentation, and shows you are active and visible.

Another benefit of public appearances is networking. You can meet bookstore owners and event organizers, book reviewers, influencers, and other authors. The relationships you build can lead to more opportunities and greater visibility.

How do we create author events that lead to more visibility and book sales? Here are a few things that I’ve found to be helpful.

  • Look for the WIIFM that will draw people to attend. To support my Mastering Table Topics book, I give seminars on how to improve public speaking. It includes an exercise where people can practice using skills from the book. How can you turn your book event into something attendees would want to learn about and then buy your book to learn more?
  • Look for alternative venues. One author did a book signing at a local bar and grill, and he got a great turnout. Where do your readers like to hang out? What types of events engage your audience?
  • Do your own event promotion. Don’t depend on the host to do all the work for you. Work with the host to promote the event. Send announcements through your social media channels. Contact local press. Post on community websites.
  • Develop interesting giveaways. Bookmarks and flyers often wind up in the recycle bin. Look for unusual giveaways that attendees will remember and keep. At Indie Author Day, I wrapped candies with a paper that has a table topic question and information about buying the book. Children’s book authors gave out coloring pages and crayons. One author gave a small key that is a part of the story. Think of other creative ways to promote your book.
  • Be prepared to sell your books. Have as many copies as you need or make sure the bookstore orders or consigns them. If you are not at a retailer, have a credit-card payment system ready, like Square, and have enough change for those who pay cash.

Author events don’t have to be a waste of time and money. Use creativity to attract readers and find ways to encourage them to consider buying your book. Even if they don’t buy at that event, or the next one, you can create enough of an impression to encourage them to buy in the future. Look for chances to network so you can build opportunities.

Selling yourself is tough, and rejection is part of the process. Keep making yourself visible, keep showing yourself as an active author, and keep encouraging readers to get to yes.

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