(Originally posted at Love Romance Passion,February 18th, 2010.)
After the publication of my first novel, The Kommandant's Girl, I was thrilled to be invited to speak at a number of events, ranging from small book clubs and library gatherings to larger fundraisers. I gamely accepted every invitation, participating in well over 60 events. By the end of the year, I found myself exhilarated but also, well, a little burned out. I realized then that promoting oneself as an author is an important, but time consuming job of its own.
As an author, there is nothing I like better than meeting readers in-person. But these days, with two jobs and a baby at home, I'm much more selective as to the invitations I'm able to accept. I think for most authors, there is a cost-benefit analysis that goes deciding whether to participate in an event. So if you are planning one, the following are my brutally honest tips for maximizing your chances of getting an author to attend:
Ask about timing.
Consider the author's schedule. For some authors that also have a day job, an evening appearance may be the only option. Does the author prefer an early evening in order to get home to put her kids to bed or a later evening to allow her time between work and the event to eat and regroup? For example, I get up to write at five a.m., so staying late at an event is often not feasible. Also, to the extent you have control over the date, consult early with the author about whether some days are better than others.
Keep it short.
Even if your book normally meets for two hours, understand if the author may only be able to stay for the first forty-five minutes or an hour, and start promptly. This will also give your group a chance to candidly discuss the book further after the author has left.
I am far more likely to be able to travel to an event that is fifteen minutes from my house than an hour and a half away. Perhaps offer to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop closer to the author's residence. Of course for a remote author, phone or videoconferencing can be a great alternative.
Shallow, perhaps, but true. I spent a lot of nights during my first year as an author choking down a salad in a supermarket parking lot because there was no other option for managing dinner between work and a book event. I was always so grateful for the hosts that had light appetizers or even dinner.
Think about group size.
While small, intimate gatherings are fun, it is almost always more beneficial for the author to have a slightly larger turnout. Consider merging with another book club or reading group for the night to ensure a good crowd.
Are you going to advertise the event? Have books for sale? If so, discuss these things with the author when extending an invitation. For most of us, writing is the way we make a living and we are usually thinking about how an event can support book sales. I am frequently asked by inviting groups if I have books to sell. I don't, but I'm so grateful when the group can arrange with a book store or the publisher to have them on hand for people to buy. And I am always happy to promote an event I'm attending on my website and Facebook.
I kept participating in book events almost until the day my son was born, and when I couldn't attend due to early labor contractions, the group I had to postpone was very understanding. Another group however, expected me to travel in a dangerous ice storm rather than reschedule. Take unexpected events into account!
I hope these suggestions don't sound demanding or petty; that couldn't be further from what I intended. I love participating in book events and meeting readers and plan to keep doing so as much as my crazy schedule will allow. Hopefully armed with these insider tips, you will have a great deal of success in bringing authors to your future events. I welcome your comments (and invitations of course) here or through my website www.pamjenoff.com.