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Book Events from an Author's Perspective
There are a lot of things people associate with being a writer, but to be honest, when I was just starting out, I didn’t think much at all about book events. It wasn’t until much later in the game, after I was agented, that I started paying attention to which authors might be coming in my area, and what these kind of events were like.
I don’t know about you, but to me, the writers at those events always seemed kind of glamourous. I always seemed to catch ones who were coming through on tour, so there would be funny stories of nearly-missed flights and mad dashes through the streets, or mentions of how they were hitting three cities in four days.
Since What's Left of Me released, though, I’ve gotten to learn what book events are like from the other side of the table :) Of course, it’s only been a month, and I’m very much still a newbie, so I’ll possibly come to feel differently about things once more time passes, but for now, here’s an “inside look”!
So, let’s start at the beginning: how are book events set up? How does an author get to one?
Sometimes, an author will just get an email letting them know that they’re being sent to so-and-so convention or on so-and-so tour. Other times, we might have a specific bookstore in mind that we’d like to visit, and will contact our publicist to see if they can set something up. Sometimes the publisher will fly an author out to an event. Sometimes, we hop in a car and drive ourselves. It really just depends!
After arriving, if the event is a panel or a signing at a convention like BEA, there’s sometimes what’s called a “Green Room” that connects to the stage/signing area, where authors gather a little early so the organizers know we’re accounted for. Directing a bunch of writers can be like herding cats, dontcha know? ;) Why is it called a “Green Room”? No idea! Here, though, we also run through things like mic checks and get to know our fellow panel members/panel moderator if we haven’t met them before. Sometimes, we’ll already know each other, and that’s always nice!
Personally, I love doing panels, as I think group events are always more fun than solo events. It’s always interesting to hear other authors talk about books, reading, and writing, and of course, I feel really honored to be speaking with them! I’ve gone into almost all my panels knowing very little as far as what we’re going to talk about--generally, we authors don’t get any more information than you guys do about the topic (in other words, we’ll just know the title of the panel ;P). Some moderators might give us a quick run-through of questions they’re thinking of asking, but many don’t. Sometimes, like for my 1.5 hour panel at the Southern Festival of Books, a run-through is impossible since the panel consists almost entirely of questions from the audience!
As for bookstore events, authors usually arrive early to chat with the event organizer at the store, as well as sign stock. Then we hide “backstage” until we’re introduced :)
While writing up this post, I did a call-out on Twitter for questions people wanted me to answer about this subject, so I’ll do my best to cover those—then it’s time for me to question you!
Do you get creeped out by any fans/how does it feel to be someone's celebrity?
Haha, I’ve never been creeped out by a fan, and to be honest, I’ve never, ever felt like a celebrity. Really, the idea of me as a celebrity is laugh-out-loud-funny, and I think most authors feel the same way. WE are super excited to see YOU! At the end of the day, we are all just crazy, book-loving people, and we love to be with other crazy, book-loving people, especially when they’ve apparently enjoyed our books enough to come see us :)
How do deal with hand cramping? I imagine your hand must get tired after signing so many books!
I’ve actually never had this happen, and I once signed 275 books consecutively! Maybe I have good hand strength. Hahaha. If you think about it, though, if you only write 2 words in each book (your first and last name—though for some authors, their signature looks more like one word!), even 300 books is only 600 words! That’s not too bad. Of course, if you personalize them, that adds on words :P
I think most authors, at least debut ones, are on too much of an adrenaline high to notice things like hand cramping anyway!
What's been your favorite comment/question from a fan (so far)?
Ooh, I dunno. After doing a number of events, there are a number of questions that tend to be asked over and over (things like: Where do you get your inspiration? How do you get published? How did you come up with the idea for ____? What’s your advice for aspiring authors?), and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! It’s very cool to see what people are most interested in knowing, and every time I answer, I feel like I get a little better at answering.
On the other hand, it’s always cool to get a silly question, or an unusual question, even if those sometimes stump me and make me think for far too long before answering ;)
What do you put into preparing for an event? Do you have swag made? Do you have an author liaison go with you?
Some authors will make swag especially for a particular event, but most authors I know just keep a stockpile of swag that they dip into for whatever event they’re attending. A publicist may or may not accompany an author—this usually depends on the nature of the event. Sometimes a publicist may fly out, sometimes the author is given a local contact, and sometimes the author strikes out on her own :) (I’ve always had, at the very least, my publicist’s phone number should something go wrong!)
Does your publisher tell you what you can/can't talk about ie. upcoming releases or projects you are working on?
Not really. There are, of course, certain things you’re not supposed to mention too early. I’ve known friends who had to sit quietly about movie deals long after they were made, and things like sequel titles are often chosen long before they’re revealed.
Do you bring books you've purchased to give away or does the publisher give you some to give away at events?
At conventions like BEA and such, the publisher will provide ARCs (and sometimes finished copies) to give away. If I were to just do a local library event or something, though, and wanted to give away books, I’d have to get them myself. Sometimes, the library will purchase copies to give away, which is always super nice of them. Other times, books will be for sale at the event.
Is there anything authors dread about events? For example, being asked a certain question.
I think we just hope we don’t accidentally make fools of ourselves ;) I know I adore doing events, and I think most authors feel the same way.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little from the author’s side of a book event! Before you run off, let me know a little about your side of a book event! What do you like to see, and what don’t you?