By: A. Kidd, author of The Healing Star
I’m thrilled to be guest posting on Journeys and Life. As a new author, I’d like to share my experience with author events. My book, The Healing Star, is a middle-grade light fantasy for grades 3-6. I’ve done a total of 5 events so far, most of them occurring in October. A couple of them were group author signings at bookstores and gift shops. I had my official book launch at a library in conjunction with a book club. I also participated in a literacy night at a grade school and had an individual book signing at an independent bookstore near my hometown. They were all successful in their own unique ways. But what I couldn’t have anticipated was that there would be so many perks beyond just selling books. I’d like to share five such rewards with you.
Networking: I met so many cool, smart, interesting authors of all different genres during the group author events. The camaraderie is something not to be taken for granted. Other authors may be called upon to cheer you on when you’re giving your own author talk or book reading. They can provide you with tips for selling books. One author sitting next to me at my first event shared some great guerrilla marketing techniques. For instance, consider putting your bookmarks in prominent places around town. They might also give you advice on where to get a good deal on promotional materials. Even better than that, they may tell you about other book events happening in the area. More events equal more sales and more opportunities for exposure. You may also meet other teachers, principals, or retailers during your interactions with the public.
Connecting with the community: This is a gem. I think the whole point of publishing our work is so that we can connect readers with our writing and interact with an audience. Most of the time we’re just staring at a computer screen, clicking away at the keys. It’s a lonely business, especially if you are writing a longer work, like a novel. These events allow you to talk about your passion. It can be daunting for those of us who are a little more introverted, but in the end, it is so worth it. At my hometown event, I was able to interact with family friends I hadn’t seen in years. At the school visit, children crowded around me after my author talk to ask me questions about the book. Their enthusiasm gave me such an energy boost. The children at the book club offered insights and feedback on my story, which will be invaluable when I write my next book. At one of the group events, I ran into an old friend from college who also published a book. We used to perform poetry together. It was so great to reconnect!
Learning opportunities: Right before my book reading at a multiple author event, I serendipitously had the chance to listen to another author talk about her book. She wrote a nonfiction book about body language and demonstrated to us some techniques on portraying confidence when speaking. She showed us all how to stand with our shoulders back and chest out, in a power pose, and suggested we do this right before a public-speaking event to feel more confident. She also reminded us not to hold our book in front of our faces when reading. At a group event, you can also walk around and see what kinds of giveaways other authors offer or how they set up their table, which will help you design your own space.
Helping foster a love of reading: This one is so unexpected and important. You never know if your book might be the one that hooks a reluctant reader. At my hometown event, a girl came in with her grandmother looking for something to read. She said she wasn’t much of a reader. The bookstore owner guided her in the right direction. She also stayed for my talk and reading. In the end, her grandmother purchased the book, and the girl had me sign it. I cannot be sure if she will read my book or not, but if I created any kind of spark for her, then that is gratifying enough. On the flip side, I am also learning the best way to hook reluctant boy readers. I have to think about what parts of the book to highlight to reach individual readers. My main character is feisty, her best friend is a boy, she takes kickboxing class, fights off bullies, and battles a wolf. But she’s still a girl. Fantasy lovers and avid readers don’t usually care about gender, but some reluctant readers might. These book events offer great opportunities for me to practice and finetune my pitch.
Providing support: You also never know when you might affect someone else’s life on a personal level with your book. I’ve had several adults tell me how much they enjoyed my story, even though it is geared for middle grade. They pointed out passages that inspired them. One girl at the book club said she cried at a certain part in the story. Of course, it isn’t my intent to make anyone sad, but we all go through difficult situations. Sharing stories can be both cathartic for the writer and the reader. In my book, the grandmother is sick. The main character deals with bullying. There are also obstacles in the way of what she wants to achieve. We can all identify with such universal concepts of pain and struggle. Books can provide a ray of hope. And if someone shares with you how your book changed their life or even their day, that is worth more than selling a ton of copies.
Bonus: I will also tell you that it can be just as beneficial to learn what doesn’t work at these events or to figure out that a certain kind of event just isn’t working for you. I found out after my first author signing that I needed to bring my own book display holders. I also need to have cash ready to provide change anytime anywhere and explore as many payment options as possible to help make it easier for people to purchases my books in the digital age. I will certainly hone my pitch for reluctant boy readers, and in the future, I probably won’t book so many events in a single month. Writers experience burnout too. In fact, they probably need to rest and recharge more than most. Just know that whether you sell a single book or 100 copies, you’re making a world of difference by sharing your stories. And changing the world, one book at a time is always worth it.
**Editors Note** I was really excited about the chance to get A. Kidd back on Journeys and Life for the second time this fall. She’s a fantastic new author and I hope this article helps out any authors out there (such as myself) that for whatever reason have been hesitant on taking part in events like this. Thank you so much for being part of this fall Michigan writers series and we can’t wait to have you back again.