Planning a Unique and Popular Book Event

KWA member, author B.D. Tharp, center, autographs her book, Feisty Family Values, at a Derby Public Library event last year, for Dee Paige, left, and Marilyn Monson, right.


Table. Check.

Comfy chair. Check.

Attractively arranged pile of your books. Check.

Plenty of pens for autographs. Check.

You are happily ensconced in a corner of the local book store or library, ready to host your first book signing. There’s only one thing missing…readers to buy your books. Perhaps the best venue for your book event isn’t where you think. It’s time to get creative.

Ask yourself some questions. What are the occupations of the characters in your book? Do you reference a type of business or restaurant? Is there a favorite meal, pastime or hobby of your protagonist? Compile a list of possible locations relating to your novel.

Make the first move. Cold call a bunch of venues, or stop by with a big smile and a color flyer. Some will say no right away. As battle-worn writers, we’re used to that. Be persistent; you’ll find that many groups are looking for interesting people to fill spots in upcoming events.

One prolific author in my small hometown had a book talk and signing of her new kid’s book at the local children’s art center. She’s also an art teacher, so her event was well-attended. She is a singer in a gospel group, as well, so copies of her books are always available at the concert venues.

If your genre is:

Young Adult or Children: Try schools. Think book fairs, festivals and parents night.

Romance or Women’s Fiction: Try hair salons or spas.

Historical Fiction: Think re-enactments, museums, powwows or encampments.

Science Fiction/Fantasy: Try comic book or video game stores.

All others: Think senior centers and communities, festivals and fairs, restaurants, boutiques and shops, nature centers and farm and art markets. Don’t forget online groups! Have a virtual event or host a blog tour/hop. You can send autographed bookplates to buyers.

Prepare a short “script” to repeat in calls to local businesses and clubs. Email a photo, bio and book synopsis, based on their firm/group’s interests. Have a press release ready to drop in the latest event’s particulars and send off to area newspapers.

Have a copy of your book cover enlarged to poster size and laminated on poster board at a local print shop. Buy a tripod to display at the venue. Order a few extra posters and distribute to area book stores.

If you want people to show up, talk it up! Have friends and family post photos, reviews and advertisements on their FB pages, Twitter feeds, Pinterest, church bulletin or website. Team up with other authors in your genre for a special event to be held at a larger book store or community center.

Pick out a uniform. Or a couple of them. That way you can throw it on at a moment’s notice or when you’re hustling home from your day job. Make sure these clothes are comfortable and make you feel confident. Call your contact person to confirm your book event the day before.

It’s time to set an inviting display table. Did your main character always have fresh flowers on her desk? Or was he an antique collector? A sports fan?  If your main character has a passion for peppermints, put a bowlful on the table for guests. Hand out bookmarks or business cards for future events.

B.D. Tharp, author of Feisty Family Values, arrives early for book events and spreads a lacy cloth on her display table. She writes women’s fiction, and this subtle step sets the stage. Ms. Tharp also brings a dish of chocolate. Clever woman!

Remember to ask the reader to slowly spell their name when you’re signing their book. You don’t want to cross out an error, or rip out a page. Have two or three standard phrases to accompany your autograph.  Try “Celebrate love!” for a romance novel, or “Stay curious!” for a spy/mystery thriller.

If this is a regular book signing, don’t think you’re chained to the desk. Grab a book or two and stroll around the store. Smile and look customers in the eye. Say something like, “Hi! I’m in the store today signing copies of my new novel! Care to have a glance?”

“Stack the deck” at your first few events with friends and family. They can lend moral support and even ask a few questions. Soon, you’ll be handling these book signings like a professional—because you are! Don’t forget to write a follow-up thank you note and assure your host a VIP slot for next time. Next month, I’m continuing this subject of marketing with a post on public speaking. That’s right, writers…a sequel!

(Special thanks go to H.B. Berlow, B.D. Tharp and Samantha LaFantasie for their invaluable help in the creation of this blog post. Bookplate!)