Carol I. Hoenig is the author of the novel Without Grace, as well as The Author’s Guide to Planning Book Events: Tips and Tools for Bookselling Success, which received a Book of the Year gold medal from ForeWord magazine. She also worked as a community relations coordinator and then a national event specialist with Borders Books for more than eleven years. Hoenig’s essays, articles, book reviews, and short stories have appeared in a wide number of publications. (Find out more about Hoenig at www.carolhoenig.com.)
We asked her to share her expertise on book promotion, in a brief interview.
RR: Do you think book events are becoming less relevant? How has new social-networking technology changed the way store events (and so on) should be planned?
Hoenig: I don’t think book events are becoming less relevant, but I also think that bookstores are not necessarily the place to host these events. Even though that is where the books are, that’s not necessarily where one’s audience is. For example, if your book is about a dog or cat, it’s probably wiser to pitch an event to a pet-store manager and suggest you’d be willing to help promote the event to bring traffic into their store.
As far as social-networking goes, this is a great place to send out notices about upcoming events and to host chats with readers via Skype or a podcast. It’s much cheaper for publishers than paying to tour an author—especially a midlist author or one who is just finding his or her fan base. Still, there is something about meeting an author face-to-face that many readers enjoy doing.
RR: What are a couple of common mistakes that authors make when planning book
events, and marketing themselves in general?
Hoenig: Not knowing where their audience is. I had a number of authors who wanted me to host events for them when I was working at the Borders store in Manhattan on Park Avenue. I knew there wouldn’t be a market for these certain authors, but they were sure that since there were so many people in the city that an event there would be standing room only.
RR: That’s a great point—we’ve seen some authors be very successful with book events at locations outside of bookstores: botanical gardens (for a book about plants), bars, and so on.
Hoenig: Also, many authors must bring something to the table when pitching an event to a
bookstore manager or any store manager. They must let these people know what they’ll do to help promote the event.
Finally, if they are successful in getting an event and only a couple of people show up, they should treat those people as their audience and not make them feel they don’t count just because the turnout was abysmal. For example, I did an event on a very cold evening in Vermont for Without Grace, and only two people showed up. The store manager was mortified, but I told him I absolutely understood. I chatted with the two who were in attendance and they were very pleased to have the attention. I ended up selling them three books that night—one bought one for himself and one for a friend. Sure, three books isn’t a lot, but if I decided to dismiss them, I don’t doubt that I would have sold zero and left a bad impression. . . . When I was about to leave the store, the manager had me sign stock and put autographed stickers on the books, promising they’d be displayed for a few days.
RR: What are the top five things an author can do to make a book event successful?
1. Make sure it’s where his or her market will be most accessible.
2. Promote it by sending out e-vites well in advance.
3. Send out a reminder a couple of days prior to the event (and call the host to be sure everything is ready).
4. Be prepared with a talk and/or reading. (Keep the reading to a minimum and open the floor to questions early.)
5. Remind the audience that an autographed copy would make a great gift—no matter the occasion. I’ve sold a number of books this way. One person having said that they were going to a friend’s for dinner and didn’t know what to bring and thought that an autographed copy of my novel was a perfect suggestion.
RR: Aside from hosting book events, what are a couple of primary pieces of advice for a
writer who has a book to promote?
Hoenig: Have a Web site. I do a lot of publicity for authors and it frustrates me when they don’t understand the importance of having a Web site. They should also be involved in social media sites and blog. Red Room is an ideal place for writers to blog. Also, Filedby.com is another place. In today’s Internet world, it’s foolish not to take advantage of finding an audience all from the comfort of one’s home.
Authors should also try to do joint events with other authors. It builds excitement and will help guarantee a larger turnout.
RR: Any final words of advice?
Hoenig: In today’s Internet, self-publishing, print-on-demand world, books can be published in record time. However, I strongly encourage new writers to take their time before bringing their work to print. That first book will be their calling card, so to speak; it can be a springboard or a brick wall, depending on the care and attention they gave their manuscript. I’ve even heard from some traditionally published authors who wished they’d invested more time in their book before it reached the shelves.
-Charles Purdy, Editorial Director, Red Room