Hosting a Book Event at an Indie Bookstore
You wrote a book! Congrats! Now to paaaarrrrrrty!
I mean, work. Now to work. But it helps to treat this part of your job like a big party, and the great news is, bookstores are full of people who love books and love authors, and they want to make your event as successful and fun as possible.
Now, I’m going to assume that your publisher’s publicist hasn’t organized a book tour for you because if they have, you’re set. All you have to do is show up with a smile and your signing pens. But if, like many authors, you’re expected to organize events for yourself, you can usually work with the bookstore’s event manager to do that.
Should you do an event on your own? In conversation with another author? With an entire panel? The bookstore may have opinions and recommendations, but it’s also a question of how comfortable you are in front of a room on your own. If you’re a teacher who’s used to having the floor and doing presentations, maybe a solo event is where you’ll shine. If you’re someone who does better with an interview format or when there are other people to bounce energy and banter off of, look into recruiting one or more authors to join you.
So, let’s say you are the lone ranger type. You’ll want to have a speech prepared, and maybe some visuals to go with your talk. This could be a Powerpoint presentation, a slide show, a book trailer… anything to mix it up a little and keep the audience engaged.
Here’s a sample of a solo event:
- 10 – 15 minute talk
- 3 – 5 minute reading (short excerpt, or people’s minds begin to wander)
- 10 minute game/giveaway or Q&A session with the audience
If you’re doing a panel or you’re in conversation with someone else, all of you can talk longer than 10 – 15 minutes while still keeping the audience’s attention.
Sample of a group event:
- Each author describes their most recent book in 1 sentence
- 25 – 30 minute talk (usually one of the authors serves as moderator and poses questions to the others)
- 10 minute Q&A session with the audience
For all events, readers love swag! Bookmarks, pins, stickers, pencils, custom chapstick, temporary tattoos… Bring lots and encourage everyone who comes through the signing line to take one.
If this event is your launch party, then also consider bringing in food. It could be anything from mini cupcakes to a full catered meal. It’s especially fun if the food is related to your book. At the launch party for The Crown’s Game, I had a pastry chef make desserts that were inspired by my book: pate a choux swans, apple sharlotkas, Napoleons, Russian creams, and cupcakes with little crowns on them. It was a lot of fun, and delicious, too!
(If you’re going to have food, make sure to ask the bookstore ahead of time. They may have policies about the kinds of food or drink you can bring. After all, they are in the business of selling stacks of delicate paper that are sensitive to sticky fingers. Buffalo wings and caramel apples are probably not allowed.)
But don’t feel pressure to bring food or swag if it’s not in your budget. This is about your books, and the people who come to the events are there for your stories, not for the jellybeans!
Most of all, take a deep breath, smile, and enjoy the event. You’ve written a book, something most people only dream of ever accomplishing. The people in the audience are there to support you. And you get to sign your name on the pages of this thing that you created… That’s a feeling that will never get old.
You wrote a book. You’re amazing. Now let’s celebrate!