Your First Author Event – As  A Real Author!

One of the most exciting things to happen when you become an author is when you book your first event. But, it can also be one of the most scary, especially for those who have never done any sort of public speaking.

There is a learning curve to it, so don’t expect to be perfect your first time around, but these tips and tricks can help make your first event experience as smooth as possible.

Before Arriving

  • You will generally exchange emails with whomever is organizing this event. Whether it’s an author signing that only features you (YAY!), or is an author fair with many authors, you want to have open communication.
  • Be up front that this is your first event, and thank the organizer for the opportunity.
  • Ask lots of questions. It’s better to be over-prepared than floundering in the moment. Where is loading and unloading? How large of a table will you have? Do you need to provide your own table? How large is the entire booth space? Can you bring banners? Will electricity be provided?
  • Create a checklist of everything you will need for your display. In the beginning, you may end up over packing, and that’s totally okay. Once you get some more experience, you will learn what to bring and what not to bring. You may find that you even have different set ups and displays for different kinds of events. All of this is very individual, and you will figure out what works for you as you gain more experience.

When You Arrive

  • Get there early. Parking can sometimes be a precious thing, or directions that you thought were clear may not have been so easy to follow once you got there. Give yourself extra time for parking, loading, unloading and checking in.
  • Greet your fellow authors. Ask about their works. Introduce yourself. Exchange business cards. These people are your peers, especially if this is a local event. You will continue to see these people over and over again at future events in your area. It is best to make a good impression right off the bat.
  • Learn where the bathrooms are. This seems so silly, but you would not believe how many people will be asking where the bathrooms are if the event is in a large place. Being ‘that’ person who ‘knows where to go’ will put you in an incredibly positive light. Who doesn’t appreciate that person who tells you where the lou is? Trust me on this one.

    Getting to know my fellow authors

Your Display

  • When planning your display, you want it to match the genre of your book to best showcase your works. If you write children’s books, use bright, bold colors. If you write fantasy or sci-fi, go with blacks, purples, blues, even sparkly and shimmery fabrics. You want your display to stand out and compliment what you write.
  • Don’t over crowd.
    This will come with experience. You will find that you have packed 6 boxes full of stuff to display on your table. In your brain, it all works out. But, in execution, you find you packed about 5 boxes too many. You want to draw attention, like I said, but you don’t want your book to become lost in the clutter of everything else you have displayed either.
  • Make it interactive.
    Have something that makes people stop. Candy, a book trailer, candy. Yes, candy is often a go-to for many authors.
  • Get some height.
    If you can vary the height of your display, it will draw more attention to you, and whatever it is you have elevated. And you don’t have to build or buy anything fancy. In the picture below, I use a cardboard box covered with a nice piece of fabric I bought at a local thrift store raises my books above everything else.

    My display at an author fair

In the Moment

This is usually the scariest part for authors. You have your first person looking at your book. What do you say? Do you just let them pick up the book and read the back? What if they don’t notice your free bookmarks?

  • Breathe.
    You are the expert here. The celebrity. These people are here for you.
  • Have a hook.
    Your hook is different from your pitch. Your hook is what you use on those people who have given a pause in front of your table that you use to draw them in further. One that is often recommend is “Do you like to read,” or “What kind of books do you like to read.” This is where getting to know your fellow authors can be very helpful. If you write sci-fi, but the person who stopped to look is more into romance, you can respond with, “Oh, that’s great! My book is more sci-fi, though there is some romance in it as well. Author Blah Blah writes romance. She’s down at the table with the roses. You should check her out! Did you have any questions I can answer for you?” You have promoted your book, promoted another author that might fit this reader better, but still allowed the reader to ask more about your book in case they may be interested in purchasing it for a friend or family member.
  • Have a pitch.
    Let’s say the person reading your book says they love to read books that are in your genre. Great! Now what? Have at least a few sentence pitch that discusses the cool parts of your book without giving too much of the plot away. I find that watching movie trailers helps me do this. So here’s my pitch: “My book is YA Fantasy. It’s a bit like Narnia meets Eragon. These three boys are transported to a different world where they are believed to be the reincarnated souls of the world’s ancient kings and must right the wrongs of the land. But they’re really just three 14-year old kids from Ohio who have no idea what’s going on. There’s elves, and dwarves and magic, and a battle for the throne, and that’s just the first book in the series.”
  • Don’t stare at your phone.
    Nothing is less inviting than someone sitting behind a table just staring at their phone. You want to be inviting, smile at the people who walk by. Compliment the lady who has a tote with a fandom you love. Or that guy who has a really cool shirt. Be kind and engaging. You could be screaming and terrified on the inside, but put on your author performance in the moment, and have a your nervous break down after.
  • Dress Professionally.
    I’m not talking suit and tie or church-wear here. But, try to look like you care about being there. Even a book written about the grunge of the 1980’s can be presented in a professional manner. If possible, at least skip the t-shirt and pair a nice top with your jeans. If you look like the expert, you’ll draw people to you because you are presenting an air that says “I belong here.”
  • Don’t get discouraged.
    I would like to put a disclaimer out to most new authors that your first few events and sales will be dismal. It’s okay. I promise. Everyone’s gone through it. And where you are toting your dead tree at a local event, and you have yet to make a name for yourself, you are not going to sell that many books. Be patient and understand that it takes time to become a household name. Once you start putting yourself out there more and more, your sales will go up. For now, think of these events as marketing opportunities and learning experiences. Above all else, remember that the reason you wrote your book was your passion for writing, not a paycheck.

Congratulations on your first author event! It’s a pretty cool feeling, huh? In no time at all, you’ll be an absolute pro at this. Maybe I’ll even see you at an event and learn a thing or two from you! Happy selling!