Live events can be exciting and a great venue to sell books. Here are some dos and don'ts I have learned from my readings and helping other writers.
(1) Get a free or cheap venue with free parking: In Chicago, this free parking really matters because you can spend upwards of $20, depending on where you park. The first venue I had was at a restaurant because it marked my one year of publications and parking was a struggle. The second venue I had at a local library with a sweet room and free parking. Yes, the library allowed food in the meeting rooms.
(2) Assign roles: When you have a reading, people will want to help. Divide the roles into what you need like greeter, cashier, and filmer (as in, the amazing person holding the phone during your event). I hate, absolutely hate, handling money, so I gave that role to my husband.
(3) Set up a laptop for ebook sales: Really, just open up the browser to your Amazon book page.
(4) If your book has a theme, use it during the event: If you have a catch phrase, put it on the cake (more on food in a bit) or cup cakes. Use it on the collateral. I matched the colors during one of my events of the tablecloths and plates.
(5) Budget for food: If you want to, especially for a book launch, provide food within your budget. My favorite event had a custom-made cake of my summer release by an amazing colleague. It was a gorgeous cake, one of the best-designed ones I have seen. That would have been enough. (But as you can see, in the background, I provided nachos and water.)
(6) Read short, juicy parts of your work: You want to entice your reader, not give them the whole buffet.
(7) Clearly mark the prices of your books: I know this sounds like a no brainer, but the Amazon self-pubs don’t list a price. A sticky with the price is sufficient. You can always haggle if you need to.
(8) Set up a desk: Make sure you have a desk for a signing. I know that’s also a no brainer, but if you are signing books regardless of where you have the reading, you need space to sign and talk to your fans. I do this for all my venues. The restaurants will provide a small table and chair.
(9) Promote your future work, social media, and groups: I made sure to pitch my future book, Mona’s Return, had an email list sign up, and promoted the Inner Circle Writers’ Group and Penned in the City.
(1) Don’t overspend on food: I know I just said to provide food. When I launched my book Not Your Abuelita's Folktales, I spent money on appetizers. That was fine because I was celebrating one year of publications, but won’t be doing that unless I’m celebrating a major milestone.
(2) Don’t under promote your event: That means you have to advertise in advance. I chose a Saturday around 2:00 p.m. for the first event and had 15-20 people. I assumed my colleagues would attend, and that was not the case, sadly. The second event was not as well attended because I tried gearing that event to my students. I couldn’t get an adequate time or venue for them to meet. I should have promoted the readings longer and invited more people. Promote, promote, promote!
(3) Don’t read too long: Keep the reading short, including commentary. This one I failed at gloriously both times. I read way over 30 minutes, including the Q and A. A good friend of mine suggested the reading be 20 minutes total, including Q and A. You can always talk to your fans, when you sign books. For Livestreaming, you also want to keep your video short.
Really. the most important thing is to enjoy the event. Focus on who is there and have a great time! I am sure you all have other tips you can offer. Please, post your advice.
This article was originally published in Penned in the City, a Facebook group I administer. I invite you to join this great network of readers and artists!
Dr. Jesú Estrada,