As I register for AWP 2018, I’m worried. I watch thousands of authors descend on the halls of the Tampa Convention Center. As an unknown author of one novel, I wonder how to get my books into the hands of readers when there are other writers who are just as talented and unique as I am trying to do the same.
Author events are an obvious method of connecting with readers. As a writer and playwright, I have attended and participated in several author events, but as I delve deeper into the business side of writing, I feel it’s imperative I learn more techniques on how to make my event a success.
In the panel Successful Author Events at Libraries, Bookstores, Schools, and Literary Centers, Sarah Nicolas, Reba Gordon, Racquel Henry and Kimberly Britt share secrets to help writers plan successful events. As the panelists discuss having realistic expectations and preparing a creative presentation, they say the secret to a successful author event is professionalism, communication and involvement in the writing community.
Two types of author events were discussed by the panelists: single author events and multi-author event. A single author event is when an author is invited by an organization to present a workshop or to discuss her book. Multi-author events feature several artists, such as festivals, reading series and author showcases. (Furthermore, a library author event can be as simple as an author hosting a reading of her work, while a school author event may involve the purchase of a classroom set of the author’s book and an invitation for the author to speak to students with a book signing to follow.)
When an author communicates effectively with the organizations hosting her, she builds stronger relationships. Panelists discussed the importance of communication for both authors and event organizers. Panelist say authors and event organizers need to have a clear understanding of the event time frame, technical requirements, dress code, and responsibilities of each party.
Professionalism is the key to making your event a success. In addition to arriving on time and being prepared to connect with the audience, every author should have a press kit, a promotion plan and prepared talking points.
A good author press kit should include high-resolution images and clear, concise information about the author to help organizers adequately promote the event, no matter their budget. It also provides event planners materials to assist with both print and online promotion. An author’s press kit should include:
- Easily digestible information about the author
- Professional headshot
- High resolution book cover images
- Social media links
- Geographical location
- Email address
As an author, promoting your author event is vital to its success. An author must use her email list, social media platforms and word of mouth to spread the word. The panelists stressed that writing is a business and people like to do business with people they know.
Prepared talking points
The panelists agreed that not all good writers are good speakers. Prepared talking points are helpful to authors of all speaking abilities. They provide direction for the author’s presentation, which helps the author form a better connection with her audience.
Attending author events plays an important role in successful author events. There is tremendous power in supporting other authors and the organizations that host them. In the discussion, the panelists shared how attending author events gives an author the opportunity to see how an author event is structured. Though every event is different, attending several gives an author an idea of how she would like to present herself during her own author event.
According to panelists, no one enjoys “grumpy” authors. They encourage authors to respect the organizations who host their events as well as their audiences. The panel ended with encouragement for authors to be creative in their presentations and to arrive at the event prepared for almost anything.
Katrina Byrd is a student in the Low Residency Creative Writing MFA Program at the Mississippi University for Women. Katrina is a writer and playwright who has received four Artist Minigrants from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Several of her short plays have been performed locally and several of her short stories have appeared in Inflight Literary Magazine, Black Magnolias Literary Magazine and Monkeycyle Literary Magazine.