Today’s post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, basically it’s a bunch of authors putting together helpful information for other authors. I was approached by Raimey a couple of weeks back because she noticed my tutorial videos, and thought I would want to join. This is obviously something I really enjoy doing, so I was happy to be part of their blog hop! You can find all the other posts for this month showing up over the next couple of days here.
When you first started out in the author business, if you’re anything like me, you had highly unrealistic expectations of what the book business was like. You assumed that author tours were these magical series of events where a publicist setup the locations and all the author had to do was show up, sign copies, and talk about books. That’s so far from the truth, it’s no wonder people get overwhelmed when they learn that much of this lands on the author’s shoulders to organize, stock, and attend.
As part of my ongoing Author Vending series, I’m talking about tips and tricks that up and coming authors can use as they attend festivals and shows to promote their books. There are a lot of steps that an author might find themselves struggling to figure out. I want this series to be a guidebook to those authors just getting their feet wet.
Whether you are an indie author or traditional, working with a small press or the big five, unless you’re a big name author, chances are you are going to be responsible for setting up your own book tour. The words book tour sound intense at first, but really you just have to think of it as a series of places where you’ll be doing readings and signings. It’s an opportunity for your friends and fans to see you and buy copies of your books. Even if you only do a couple a year, they can be huge promotional tool to get your name out there and to get people talking about your work.
The first major step is finding events to attend as a vendor. Ideally if you’re just starting out as an author, you’ll want to find a venue that has the following requirements:
- Low cost – This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is essential for a first-time author vendor to choose their first events at places where they have the ability to break even. A $50 author booth, where you’re selling your books for $10-15 a piece is more likely to be successful rather than one with an initial cost of $100+.
- Local – Try to find a venue that doesn’t require you to drive far. That not only makes it easier for you to get a return on investment, but means that if you get there and realize you forgot an essential piece of your setup, you can still run back without stressing out.
- Not necessarily author focused – Sometimes if you’re the only author at an event, it helps you stand out. Your booth will attract the readers, and you’ll be surprised how often people will want to buy a copy for themselves but also one as a gift.
- Support group – If you have a hard time talking about your books or your worlds or characters, don’t be ashamed to bring a friend or family member to help out. Ideally having someone in the booth who has also read your book and loved it will help to champion your work when you’re too nervous to do it yourself. The more you encounter these situations though, the easier it becomes to figure out how to describe your work.
So now that you have a good idea what to look for, how should you find events in your area?
- Look for libraries and independent bookstores. Many indie bookstores will already be planning an author signing event, and libraries are always looking for more exciting events for readers of all ages.
- Look for events you’ve attended before. Even if it’s a craft-focused show, you may be surprised at how well you do, especially if you’re familiar with the layout and guests.
- If you’re struggling to find local events, or want to branch out, Facebook is a great place to start. Start an Author Business Page and make sure you list your hometown there. You may have festivals reach out to you to attend their show. Look around for events your friends are attending, or events a few months out. You’ll be surprised how quickly you find places looking for vendors.
- If costs are still too high for you, see if you can find an author/artist/crafter who is willing to share a booth with you. You get less display space, but it’s much easier to break even with half the cost of the booth. This may help you get into some high traffic venues too like fan conventions.
- When attending events, make sure you walk around and see what else is there. I’ve found a few author festivals that way. You’ll be surprised how often other authors will use those events to promote an author-specific event.
- Join an authors group near you. I’m part of the Atlanta Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned in just the 1.5 years I’ve been part of the group. Some people have been doing this for decades longer than I have, and there is always more to learn.
I hope this helps you in finding that first event, and in getting the nuts and bolts down of what is required for it. Usually it’s just having the confidence the first time, and with each event afterwards it gets easier and easier.
Although online promotions can help really get your name out there, I’ve found that it still doesn’t beat a local event. You get the chance to talk about your work, to talk with fans, and to sign books in person. You ultimately are creating a unique experience for your fans, and even though at times they can be a lot of hot work, it’s totally worth it.