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Why book events are awesome (and some tips for pulling them off)!
Generally speaking, I’m a very introverted person. I don’t love parties. Meeting new people can be more stressful than fun. My ideal weekend consists of me, my couch, some snacks, and a great book or manuscript. So all through the pre-publication process, leading up to EVERLESS’s release, I was sure of one thing: events were going to be a challenge. Faced with talking about my book to actual readers, I’d surely freeze up or shut down. I’d have to brace myself to appear in front of a crowd, and I’d be an awkward robot while signing. Before EVERLESS’s launch party, I was so nervous that I chugged a cocktail beforehand (as the wonderful Zoraida Cordova, who was moderating, can attest).
And that pre-event nervousness hasn’t gone away. I’ve been similarly nervous before every trip and every event, especially when there’s some sort of complicating factor—a tight layover, a schedule in flux, a language barrier. I’m always sure that no one will show up, that I’ll say something stupid, that I’ll sell no books and disappoint my team.
And yet—you know where this is going, right?—all my events have been absolutely wonderful. Every single time, once the event actually starts, it goes fantastically. Even when there are hiccups, I’ve never failed to have a great time, and (I hope) the people who attended did too. Recently, I was wondering why that is. Why do my standard struggles for human interaction seem not to apply to book events?
First of all, it’s a massive privilege to see people engaging with my work. To have people take time out of their busy days to come to a bookstore to hear me read and speak. I’m humbled by every event. But more than anything else, I think, it’s the power of story overcoming my personal awkwardness. It’s crazy awesome that a book—a story—can transcend distance, geography, even language. That a reader anywhere in the world can pick up a book and be plugged directly into the mind of the person who wrote it. I think it’s one of the closest things we have to real magic.
So while it’s okay to be nervous before events, trust in the power of books and their unique power to get a bunch of introverted nerds out the door and get them excited about it. And a bit of preparation can ease the stress, too, so here are some tips for making your event the best it can be:
Figure out what color Sharpies work best for your book and buy them in bulk. Carry them with you always, and especially to events—never assume the venue will have enough!
Also in the category of things the venue will probably have but you should bring just in case: a bottle of water, a granola bar, and a copy of your book. If you plan to read an excerpt, find and bookmark the page beforehand.
When signing books, try to make a connection with each person you meet. Most people have something to say, even if it needs a little drawing out! You can ask people where they’re from, what their favorite part of the book was, or even just how their day is going. And remember that readers are like wild animals: probably more scared of you than you are of them. To ease that fear, try to be a person first, and an author second.
Figure out some stock phrases or doodles to write when signing books (unless you are one of those authors who can compose long, beautiful messages on the spot, in which case: I envy you). I usually think of a couple references/inside jokes from the book for people who have read it already, and another for people who haven’t yet. You’ll usually be able to tell from talking to the people in line who’s who, and hopefully your charm will convert the non-readers into fans!
Have something small to give away for people who aren’t ready to purchase a book that day. While sales are super important—especially for the bookstore, where booksellers often put significant time and resources toward making events happen—there will likely be a few people in line who can’t buy that day, but would still like to meet you. If you have bookmarks or postcards you can sign and give out, that will make them feel welcome (and give them something to remember you by)!
BONUS TIP: I’ve seen more and more authors bring an object—a book, a journal, a poster, a tote bag—to signings for readers to sign, and I can’t tell you how much I love this idea. It makes readers into participants, gives them a chance to tell you how much they loved your book, and makes a fabulous, heartwarming souvenir for you!