Author Events — Behind the Scenes

ArmchairBEA LogoExampleHello Armchair BEA Participants!

I’ve been coordinating author events for a small independent bookstore for many years. I can honestly say every author we’ve worked with has been delightful and interesting. Authors are the nicest people! Since becoming a blogger less than a year ago, I’ve discovered that most of them like to interact online. I think when they are procrastinating or have writer’s block, Twitter and Facebook call to them.

I’d like to point out something about the etiquette of author events. Most of our events are free. The publisher sends the author on a publicity tour, at no cost to the author or the bookstores involved, with the expectation that books will be sold. Bookstores that exhibit a poor track record of sales at their events won’t be offered many more authors. So if you want to continue meeting authors at events in your community, you need to show your support by buying books at the events. Nothing irritates an independent bookstore more than attendees who show up with books they’ve previously purchased on Amazon to be signed by the author. Does Amazon bring authors to your community?

Thanks for listening . . . and here’s a post from October, 2013, about one of my favorite recent author events. In this case, Carol Rifka Brunt arranged her own travel. She came all the way from England for several appearances in the United States. We were thrilled and honored to host her!

Lunch with Carol Rifka Brunt

This week I was fortunate enough to meet Carol Rifka Brunt, author of Tell the Wolves I’m Home. It’s always an amazing experience to meet the actual person whose writing you’ve admired. I’ve met many authors over the years, and I’ve almost never been disappointed. At first, I was surprised to learn that it isn’t enough for an author to write a successful book. Once the book is finished, author has another job: to market the book. If the author is lucky, his or her publisher will provide a lot of marketing support, including a publicity tour. But often the burden is on the author to arrange and publicize events.

ImageCarol Rifka Brunt is a case in point. Carol’s first novel landed on the New York Times bestseller list and has received rave reviews from all sorts of publications, including the Wall Street Journal and O, Oprah Winfrey’s magazine. Nonetheless, Carol was on her own when it came to organizing events promoting the book’s paperback release. Her friend Rebecca Makkai (Lake Forest resident and award-winning author of The Borrower and many short stories) suggested she contact Lake Forest Book Store. We were excited to hear from Carol, since we had read Tell the Wolves I’m Home and were enthusiastically recommending it. She told us she planned to speak at Western Michigan University on October 14 and wondered if she could visit Lake Forest afterwards. Of course, we immediately scheduled a luncheon and started spreading the word. Here’s what Carol posted on her blog:

Unlike a lot of authors, I haven’t done any readings or live events to support or promote Tell the Wolves I’m Home in the US. One reason for this is that I live in the UK, which makes it kind of logistically difficult. Another is that I’ve been lucky enough to have readers pick up the book and spread the word without me having to set foot to pavement, which is fantastic. In fact, Tell the Wolves just hit the New York Times bestseller list–a minor miracle for a geeky little book like this–and I haven’t been in the US once since it first came out in June 2012.

But although events haven’t really been a necessity, I have to say that I think I’ve missed out on one of the really enjoyable parts of being an author by not getting out there–meeting readers.

Readers in the Chicago area were thrilled to meet Carol — 50 of us gathered at Authentico in Lake Forest for a luncheon to hear Carol speak about her wonderful book. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the story of a 14-year-old girl, June Elbus, whose beloved uncle has just died of AIDS. June adored — almost worshiped — her Uncle Finn, whose last work was a portrait of June and her older sister. The portrait becomes a virtual character in the novel, as June and her family come to terms with their loss and with an unlikely friendship that June develops. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a perfect book club selection — it’s immediately engaging, it has layers of complexity without being dense, and it’s thought provoking. There are no heroes or villains in this story — only people trying to do their best in a difficult situation.

Carol read a lovely passage from her book, talked about the art that inspired her, engaged the audience in a discussion, and answered questions. I think those of us who had already read the book wanted to read it again after hearing Carol speak — and I suspect those who hadn’t read it couldn’t wait to get home and start reading. Spending time with Carol added another dimension to the reading experience — so we thank her for doing so well at her second job: book promoter.

Carol’s website is full of interesting information and links to reviews: http://www.carolrifkabrunt.com.

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20 thoughts on “Author Events — Behind the Scenes

  1. Dear Ann Thank you for the posts… My reading list is expanding … Barbara Rosuck

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. I agree about buying etiquette. I also buy 2-3 books at book signings. I love to support the bookstores and authors in any way I can.

    • Thanks for commenting AND for buying! 🙂 Of course, no one should feel pressured to buy a book at every event — but I did want to point out that if book sales aren’t healthy at author events, the events won’t happen any more.

  3. It’s great when an author realizes how important the book blogging community is. We’re practically their free sales reps!

  4. Totally agree, it is great to support hosting bookstores by purchasing signing books there, when possible. Or even just something, to show support for the venue that’s supporting authors (and the reader community, by holding such events to begin with). It’s the circle of bookish life!

    • Brenda, I think they often feel more comfortable reading aloud than they do speaking about their inspiration, road to publication, etc. For more on that topic, read Tricia Tierney’s blog post: http://triciatierneyblog.com/?p=3574 (Author Events: Notes to Myself and a Rant). Tricia is a veteran author events coordinator at a Barnes & Noble in Connecticut and she has strong opinions (which I share) about how much reading aloud authors should do at events.

  5. Great point about supporting book stores by buying books at author events! So far, this is what I’ve always done, but I did end up being unable to buy a book I really wanted at the Rochester Teen Book Festival since it sold out. In future, I may buy the book I want most in advance and buy a second book at the store, if it’s available to make sure I don’t miss something I’m particularly excited about 🙂

    • That is too bad! I am always paranoid about running out of books (it’s happened to me only once and I was traumatized) — so I always order way too many. Then we end up having to pay shipping for the returns . . .

  6. I have totally noticed the tendency to want to re-read a book after hearing the author speak about it!! no matter how recently I’ve read it. Love the etiquette tip!
    I’d actually love to hear more about how you set up a successful author event. I’m working on opening a bricks & mortar store and would like to have regular author events.

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