Five Favorite Things to Hear from an Author Proposing an Event

Jenn Northington has the kind of job that book nerds everywhere find glamorous.  She is the events manager at WORD, a truly wonderful indie bookstore in Brooklyn.  (Motto: EAT SLEEP READ)  Author readings, signings and events are in her hands.  Here at Blurb is a Verb we often hear the author’s side of the book publicity story.  Jenn wrote this post last year, and I think it is perfect for a Summer Re-Run. Her glimpse of a bookseller’s perspective never gets old. These are her Five Favorite Things to Hear from an Author Proposing an Event:

"You know what might be fun?" No! Tell me! We love to do events that are out of the ordinary, that invite audience participation, that take the average reading-plus-Q&A and make it better, faster, stronger.

"I noticed from your website (or, even better, from shopping in your store) that you sell a lot of the genre that my book is in. In fact, you even have a staff pick for one of the books that influenced me!" Don't say it if it ain't true, but do do your homework before approaching a bookstore. If they sell mostly mystery and your book is a nutrition bible, trust me -- they're not the store you want to do your event at. Take a look at their events schedule, get a feel for the types of things that they are saying yes to, and pitch (or don't pitch) accordingly. 

"You'll be my only event in the area." Hallelujah! Many folks seem to think that if they're not reading and signing at every bookstore, library, rotary club, and grocery store in a given region, they're not doing their jobs. But I honestly believe that you'll better serve yourself (and your chosen venue) to pick just one. If you saturate an area, you're really just splitting your audience. 

"My (aunt/best friend from high school/second cousin/whoever) lives in your neighborhood and loves your store, and will bring people to the event." Glorious! Listen, we want to put butts in chairs just as much as you do. When an indie says yes to an event, it's because they want it to go well, and they'll do everything they can to help get people out for it. But there's no doubt that we can always use the extra help to spread the word, so if you've got local connections use 'em!

"Why no, I haven't put my book online as a free download." While this may help you in a multitude of other ways (yes, I realize we live in the age of Seth Godin and Cory Doctorow), it does not help sales at author events one iota. A signature on a page is not enough to make a person buy your book twice, especially if they didn't have to pay the first time, and even more especially if the book is in hardcover. If you want to do a giveaway online, consider a teaser chapter -- or maybe just wait until after you're done touring.
Sarah:  Thank you!  I'm especially intrigued by your first suggestion.  What was the quirkiest event that an author proposed?

Jenn: I once had an author ask me how much knife-throwing I would like during an event. No lie! And before you ask, we actually ended up going with "none" (there were going to be small children in the audience, and our event space has a very low ceiling, and, well, I chickened out).


  1. Brilliant on both your parts. A delight to read, as well as a fine reminder of what to be -- and not to be -- as an author on the stump. Well done. And thanks.

  2. Thank you, Jenn, for taking the time to better educate us!

  3. Its so nice that I got some real time inspiration for organizing an event. All the 5 points are really awesome. Thanks for the post.

  4. I never thought of number 2 Jenn, good tip!
    I look forward to my first author event....

  5. As a reader, I would love to go to an author meet and greet that's a little more unique than a simple reading with a Q&A tacked onto the end.

  6. Oh, nice! I'm bookmarking this post in my marketing file.

  7. Will keep these in mind when proposing author events for this autumn! Thanks to both of you!

  8. Helpful article! I'm a little sad that the knife-throwing got vetoed, though.