It’s commitment time. The clock starts ticking when you sign up for a book event, and success is both defined by and up to you. Some things you’ve already done and others should be considered.
In order, here is every little thing you want to do, and only you know which ones you can skip. Let’s book it!
- Pay for the event. Put it on your calendar. Set a reminder a day and a week ahead.
- Figure out what the event rules are so you are in compliance. Will you be sharing your table? Decide how that affects your set-up and downsize accordingly.
- Procure the main items: canopy, table, chair, table whatnots. Check delivery times on those whatnots if you have to order them, so they get to you ahead of the event.
- Order your books. Make sure you have enough time for them to arrive and prep (if you have stickers to attach). Amazon can be random with delivery timing. If you find yourself in a pickle, there are quality printers that can rush your books, like 48HourBooks.
- Set up your table ahead of time–completely–and take a photo. Have this handy reference when you set up at the event.
- Prepare and schedule your advertising. Do not count on your event organizers to bring shoppers to you! Begin with friends and family, stretch to the neighbors and coworkers, then expand into social media, newsletters, etc. You cannot begin early enough, telling everyone about your upcoming event and how much you’d love to see them there. If you have access to community bulletins, library boards, neighborhood chats, and book clubs, you can spread the news.
- Practice your pitch. If a shopper pauses in front of your table, what will you say? Can you maintain open body language and friendly eye contact? Practice on your peeps and get some honest feedback. Then go practice some more. If you don’t have a polished sales pitch, you can never go wrong with a friendly smile and simply asking, “Hi! Are you having fun?”
- Will you have a raffle, a game, or other interactive activity on your table? Make certain all of the pieces are in place and that the system works. I’ve seen poet-trees (write a one-liner and add to the wire “tree”), newsletter sign-up raffles, and tabletop spinners for prizes.
- Practice a reading if reading aloud is part of your event. Find a short, exciting, G-rated passage from your book and practice reading aloud in front of a mirror and then an audience. Use a timer and aim for three to five minutes. Decide whether you want to be introduced by your real name or your pen name and make sure your emcee can pronounce it correctly. If you can arrange for someone to video your reading, you will have it for marketing later! Prepare for questions or sales that may follow.
- Consider bringing along a table buddy for the day. If you need a break (and you will) there will be someone to watch your table while you’re gone or bring you lunch.
- Prepare for taking payments. This one is a very individual choice. Authors can collect payment via Square, Venmo, PayPal, etc. and decide whether cash or checks are involved. Having a sign on your table with clear pricing and payment options will help shoppers know whether they can buy from you. Update your accounts and charge your hardware. Make certain you have correct change for cash. Avoid odd pricing (ending in .99) or you’ll be juggling pennies or one dollar bills all day.
- Plan to create marketing materials on-site. Yes! Don’t just sit there in the quiet times. Go live on Facebook or Instagram, add to your Stories, or create a fun Reel. Record your reading or interview your neighbor. Make sure you take photos to post later and use in all of your marketing.
- Network ahead of time. Find out who else is attending and reach out to other authors. It’s always fun to know someone at the event. Friend and Follow them on social media, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc. Every author knows the value of a click.
- Be professional, even if you’re a hobbyist. If the event begins at 10am, have your table ready to go at that time. If the event ends at 3pm don’t leave at 2pm. Respect your fellow authors and the event organizers by not leaving an empty table among a beautiful display of tables. It makes everyone look bad, not just you.
- Pack your event bag. Include whatever you might need for the day, including water bottle, snacks, medication, sweater, hat, sunscreen, backup signing pens, a fully charged cell phone, a portable charger, etc.
- Valuables: leave them at home or attach them to your body. You can’t be everywhere at once and purses, bags, wallets, etc can stray. Sometimes permanently. Must you bring your laptop? Should you display something you value or find a cheap replacement? Your tablecloth goes to the floor, right? At the very least, hide your items there or in the trunk of your car.
- Figure out where the event is and put it in your phone’s map. Trust us on this one. There’s nothing worse than running late and getting lost on a day that’s supposed to be fun. Include the phone number of the organizer (if there is one) in case you have a last minute issue.
- Be courteous and let the organizer know if you can’t make it. Venues run tight and organizers can switch things up on the fly if you give them the chance.