Author events, including signings, talks, Q&As, presentations, and more, are always a great way to build support in your local community, build your fan base, and sell books.
But as options for author events have narrowed, with dwindling bookstores and event space, it’s easy to feel like you’ve missed the boat on booking and hosting events.
But that only means you need to dig in and get more creative!
When I was first in business (23 years ago), we worked with a lot of indie authors who were persona non grata – in the early days of indie publishing bookstore managers were really discouraged from hosting indie authors, which forced me to find more unique places to host events.
I’ve had authors in restaurants (to draw in crowds on slower days of the week – hence the popularity of trivia nights), in coffee shops, Hallmark shops, and even a Blockbuster video (I realize I just dated myself). The key to doing creative events is this: alignment.
So aligning your book with a place that “fits” the market.
The Blockbuster event was an author who had a book on movie wine pairings, so which wine to drink with, let’s say, a night of The Godfather. It was a cool concept and we put her in a Blockbuster on a Friday evening, and if you remember what video rental was like, you know how busy those places got, she sold out of books in no time and was able to entice many others to place orders.
Planning Your Book Event in a Non-Bookstore Venue
Now I’m not saying to skip bookstores altogether, but what I am suggesting is to look outside of a normal bookstore venue to expand your options. But also consider what I mentioned above: alignment.
For example, if you have a book that’s about gardening, why not consider an event in a garden store or a nursery? If your book is on home improvement, why not ask your local hardware store if they’re open to letting you do a talk?
The same is true if you have a book for children. Yes you can go to local schools and that’s great – but where else do kids hang on in your town? Maybe there’s a rec center, a children’s toy store, or a yoga studio that has mom & kid classes, that might be interested in hosting you.
The idea behind these unique events is not just because it opens doors, in terms of expanding your reach, but it’s also a very low-competition market.
If you do a book even in a bookstore, you’re competing with every other book signing on their calendar, but if you do a book event in an unexpected venue, it’s a unique opportunity to capture a potentially much bigger audience because it’s not something they do every day.
When I had an author do a signing in a Hallmark store it was such a popular event. The book aligned well with the store, it was a great gift idea – and what are people doing when they’re in a Hallmark store or any card shop? They’re likely looking for a gift and an autographed book makes a great gift!
The same is true for any novelty store, gift shop or home goods and lifestyle store. I know an author who wrote a book on the history of the mob in Vegas who did a signing at a Vegas souvenir shop.
And don’t feel like you’re left out if you’ve written fiction! Here are a few examples from clients we’ve worked with: women’s fiction where the ladies are on a wine country tour, perfect event for a wine bar or other bar that’s popular with women to meet up with friends. Cozy mystery with a prominent dog character is ideal for a boutique pet store. Upscale lifestyle and home stores are a slam dunk for any bookclub appropriate title.
Just remember, the connection doesn’t have to be super on the nose, that’s where your ability to sell the idea to the owner or manager comes in, and make the alignment very clear!
Pitching the Store and Getting a Yes
When you pitch a non-bookstore outlet for your event, they may tell you they’ve never done this before and that’s fine. I’ve heard this response dozens of times for every unique author event I’ve planned. So be prepared! Be ready to concisely walk them through the logistics of how this will work including book sales, etc. which I’ll cover in a moment.
The idea is to at minimum, get them to ask you to explain how it would all work!
Mention to the store that you’ll do some local media outreach – we do this for all the author events we plan on the author’s behalf. Let them know you’ll be doing your own local promotion to help bring people into their store and any savvy business owner knows that the more foot traffic they get, the more they’ll sell so that’s always music to their ears.
Logistics, Book Sales, and More
Once you pique the store’s interest you’ll need to close the deal.
Most stores may not be willing to stock your book, or add it to their inventory, but they may be open to doing something on consignment, which is easy enough to do.
You bring the books, and they get a percentage. If you do it this way, I recommend leaving a few signed books behind that they can sell. If you do a good job of getting the word out about your event, it’s likely that you’ll get stragglers dropping by the location after you’re done due to positive word of mouth – which is like gold – and having books there that are signed is a nice way to let them get your book, even if they missed the actual event.
The next piece of this is the day-of promotion, and I don’t mean pitching to local media (though that’s important, too), what I mean is creating some swag to give away, and maybe a sign to display in the store. Swag is a really fun way the store can help spread the word about your upcoming event!
Planning for your Event
I mentioned local media before but let’s cover those details. I love doing local media for events, and events in unique places are even more fun so be sure to target your local radio, TV, print, and social media accounts and let them know about your upcoming event.
You may get a mention, but be prepared if they want to interview you, too! Have some fun and intriguing sound bites prepped. If you write non-fiction it should be a tip or hack related to your book or area of expertise, if you write fiction, your elevator pitch is perfect, think of it like a movie trailer – you want to make people want more!
Getting creative with author events is a fabulous way to promote your book locally, and as I said previously, keep your momentum and sales going between releases.
It’s also a really good relationship builder and if your event goes well, there’s a good chance they might ask you back!
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