Image Credit: Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. (Many thanks to Sarah Archibald who is behind the Brechin/Angus Book Festival for the originals of these). Book cover images created by Chapeltown Books/Bridge House Publishing.
Now this is a timely topic for me as I will be taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival from 19th to 21st November and something rather special is coming up next March which I hope to write about nearer the time.
For the Festival, I’m running a writing workshop on flash fiction. I’m also giving an author talk on the ups and downs of the writing life. I’m looking forward to doing this and hope to share a report on how things went later. There are also events over the weekend I will be taking part in alongside the other authors such as the afternoon tea on the Sunday when people can come and chat to us over tea and cake. (Now there’s a civilised event for you!).
I have to smile too as in 2020 I had just renewed my railcard for the year when You Know What hit us all and I went absolutely nowhere, author event wise! What a complete waste of time renewing my railcard proved to be! (I didn’t bother asking for a refund. This whole thing was nobody’s fault. I certainly wasn’t blaming the train companies for my lack of ability to travel. Just one of those things but it was rotten timing. Another week and I would have known not to have bothered renewing!).
This year, as well as the recent Association of Christian Writers day I attended, I am at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival, and plan to be at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event in December in London. My new railcard is going to come into its own quickly!
And it has been so lovely to catch up with ACW friends after a long absence (though Zoom helped enormously in keeping contacts going). It will be lovely to catch up with my Bridge House Publishing friends later in the year (likewise with Zoom here for staying in touch in the meantime. I really can’t sing the praises of Zoom highly enough).
So now I am out and about again, how do I try to make the most of an author event?
Preparation is key. That doesn’t come as a surprise though I would add it pays to give yourself enough time to prepare. There is no such thing as starting too soon. These things take longer than you think to prepare for properly.
For the Festival, I prepared my material as soon as possible on knowing I was going to take part. I am currently reviewing this but don’t anticipate making major changes. I am also preparing handouts for people to take away.
These will give a flavour of what my workshop/talk was about and will share useful links, including how to find me online if people want to know more about my books. You do need to make people aware of how they can contact you and if they enjoyed your talk/workshop, hopefully that is precisely what they’ll do. (I will also be taking books with me of course but I live in hope that I will sell out what I take and people will be clamouring to find out how to get signed copies from me once I’ve come back home again. Well, a writer can live in hope, can they not?!).
I’m also taking a sign up form for my monthly author newsletter (first time I’ve had to do this) and a book order form (am really living in hope here though it is difficult to estimate how many books to take with you for things like this. Given I’m going up to Brechin by train I need to ensure I take enough but not so many I can’t lug them on and off public transport). I plan to leave out postcards and business cards.
It’s nice to get my book holders out once again. These help me display my books nicely on a stall and gives me more room to put other things out such as the postcards and business cards. But you need to give yourself time to think about how your display will look and what you need for this. The trick here is to have an interesting display of books and things associated with your books but not to have the table too cluttered.
Also give yourself time when at the event before the “kick-off” to take pictures of your stall for use in marketing later on. One lovely thing about being at in-person events is you do pick up tips from other writers and how they organise their displays.
It was thanks to that for example I discovered there was such a thing as book holders. It is hard to catch a potential reader’s eye when your books are lying flat and your potential reader is not right by your stand. People have to come right over to your stall to see them. Having your books upright in a book holder gives you more chance of said books catching someone’s eye. (And that’s where having fabulous book covers helps to draw them in to find out more).
These go from your books to publicity material. Vistaprint is my go-to for things like postcards and business cards. If you are creating your own cards, again give yourself plenty of time to get these right. If you can download a proof copy (as I can with Vistaprint for cards), always do so. It can save you grief later on. It took me ages to get my business card right and it is easy to overlook something. On my first version, I left my email address off. Oops!
Reading your material out loud (and in my case recording it via Zoom to play back as an mp4 file) is so useful. It will help you get your timings right and, in my case, make me slow down as for my first author talk on Zoom this year, I discovered in my rehearsals I was speaking too fast. You do have to make yourself slow down here.
So rehearsal is always good and technology helps a lot here. Again, all part of the preparation process, but this is something that could be overlooked. Naturally I can’t rehearse for the afternoon tea (though I am a dab hand at drinking tea and eating cake so am sure I shall be fine there!). What I can do though is anticipate some questions likely to come to me (and which will come to most authors) and work out answers to those.
Making a Good Impression
Being courteous and professional goes without saying almost but get those right and you increase your chances of being invited back to an event. Nobody can know for sure how an event will go. I’ve had signings where I sold well and at other times I’ve sold poorly or not at all. That happens.
What I try to do is see an event as a way of getting my works out there, even if people don’t pick up on them immediately. I forgot who said it but there is a saying that someone needs to see something several times before they will commit to buying it. So I need to get my books (and me!) out there so people know they exist.
Events such as Brechin/Angus Book Festival are a great opportunity to do exactly that. And authors taking part in any event are encouraging reading and the love of the written word simply by being there. I would be very surprised if over the Brechin weekend, I don’t get to talk about my own love of reading and how that’s inspired my writing.
And getting together with other authors at events like this is fun, encouraging, and I know I’m going to go home with additions to my To Be Read pile. During the communal events at Brechin, we will almost certainly learn tips and hints off each other. It is how writers develop and yet another reason to network.
Will let you know how I get on!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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