I recently had an opportunity to help SLO NightWriters set up two signing and reading events for their Anthology, one at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay and the other at Volumes of Pleasure in Los Osos. The Coalesce event went off without a hitch on Sunday with a good size crowd. Of course, this venue is ideal with a garden and chapel in the back. There was plenty of room for a reception area, food tables, and an indoor area for the readings. The Los Osos Event is on December 6, and we’ll see how many people show up and participate. This event will be out front with a popup tent, and so may present other kinds of problems and solutions.
Because I have set up a number of my own events, I was able to offer the following suggestions and am repeating them here in case other authors might benefit. Most of my events occur outside, so some of these suggestions may not be appropriate for all venues.
l. Buy brightly colored balloons to display outside the event. These create movement and draws attention to the event. At Coalesce we attached them to a sign out front At the Los Osos event, they will be attached to the popup tent.
2. I usually have a paper craft available for people to do when I hold an event. These are something simple that might appeal to all ages, especially children. For this event, it was not appropriate to have a project.
3. Don’t rely on the venue to do all the publicity. It is important for the author to do some of their own. Your own news releases, flyers, emails and other forms of publicity will help get the word out about the event. People sometimes need to see the publicity in several places for them to remember.
4. Have a raffle. NightWriters had two raffles. One was for the general public and the other for the membership. The general public winner would receive a free Anthology and would be asked to return at another time to pick up their prize from the bookstore. When they return, hopefully they will buy something else. We also had a raffle just for NightWriter members. They would receive a year’s membership renewal. People like to turn out at events if they see that they might win a prize. I usually give away one of my children’s books with the thought that they might return to the venue and purchase another.
5. Have the event in a location where there is likely to be a captive audience. Both bookstores are popular with local residents. I like locations where there are lots of people strolling by such as in front of Coalesce bookstore on Farmer’s Market Day or at the Gallery at the Network in conjunction with Art After Dark. Art After Dark is held the first Friday night of the month in downtown San Luis, and there are lots of people strolling up and down the main street and visiting galleries, the museum and shops. At some locations, I might have a small grouping of chairs for readings and at others there may not be room.
6. Food is important. For our children’s book event at Whiz Kids Toy Store, we had popcorn, appealing to kids and adults alike. At Coalesce there was a table full of goodies in the garden area. Food helps to create a festive atmosphere. Even if I am on the street, I have a bowl of candy or cookies.
7. Have an inviting display. With my own events, I usually have stuffed animals on my table, my books in a display rack, a bright table cloth and colorful signs and banners. I like to engage people in conversation as much as possible. Include brochures, business cards, bookmarks, newsletter copies and a clipboard to gather email addresses on your table.
8. If on the street, remain standing and talk to people. Don’t sit at the table and look board. Be lively and engage potential buyers in conversation.
Now it is your turn. Please share your suggestions about what works or doesn’t work at your events.