Stepping to the stage is: OOSA
Today’s tip is inspired by recent literary events. We’re not taking sides. We’re not saying anyone is right or anyone is wrong. Being in the position of having attended literary events AND hosted literary events, our advice is simple. As with everything else in this industry: DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Going to ANY literary event is a gamble. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It is what it is. People can promote out the wazoo. It can be the perfect date, the perfect venue, but unless you are Stephen King, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, a celebrity, or a former president, nothing is guaranteed. The industry is fickle.
While there are no guarantees, there are still some things you can do on your end.
First and foremost, determine YOUR purpose in attending or participating in an event. Why are you going? What are you looking to gain? Is your sole purpose to make money? Are you looking to network with other authors and literary professionals? Are you wanting to connect with readers? What is YOUR purpose? Based on your purpose, find events that can help you accomplish that. Not all events will help you with your goal. Some events are more reader friendly while others are more author friendly. Some events are about making money while others are about networking. Some events are about corralling as many people in a room as possible while others are about interaction. Find events that suit you.
Second, if you are interested in attending or participating in an event (AFTER you’ve determined your purpose), do a little recon work. The Internet has made that super easy for you. Go online and look for pictures from the past events. If this is the second, fourth, or sixth year of the event, there should be pictures. If you cannot find any pictures of the event, that’s a red flag. If you do find pictures and the only pictures are of authors only and no readers, that’s another sign. Simple, isn’t it? You’re not out of any money. You’ve spent very little time. What you saw (or didn’t see online) gave you some insight.
Third, talk to people who attended the event previously. Talk to authors and readers both. Ask them to share their experiences. You need to hear both sides of the experience. Authors may have loved it while readers hated it. Readers may have loved it while authors hated it. Find out and find out why. Talk to the promoter and host. Any of this can be accomplished with an email, inbox message, or a quick phone call. You’re not out of any money. You’ve spent very little time. What you heard (or didn’t hear) gave you some insight.
Now this next point is VERY important. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. We repeat, have realistic expectations. Just because an event is successful doesn’t mean you’re going to make a killing. Yes, people may come, but everyone is not coming to see you. Everyone is not going to purchase a book. Everyone is not going to purchase YOUR book. If you’re looking to move three cases of books, you should probably stay home. Looking to move ONE case of books may be unrealistic depending on who you are and the event. Even if an event has a turnout of 100, you’re not going to leave with 100 sales. Not even half of that number will purchase your book. You have to keep in mind there are other authors at the event so those customers will be shared. Some will attend to purchase specific books by specific authors. Some will buy your books, others won’t. Some won’t buy anyone’s book. Some are there simply to meet their favorite authors, to take pictures, and/or to have books they’ve already purchased signed. Even if they wanted to, the reality is people can’t afford to buy books as they may want to, especially if there is an additional fee to attend the event. Times are hard. If it is an out-of-town event, just as you traveled to attend an event and incurred costs such as traveling and lodging expenses, think about the reader who did the same thing. You’re at least going to make a few sales to recoup your money. The traveling reader is spending money to spend more money. Many will attend events on a budget knowing they can only purchase X amount of books. That may not include you. And remember eBooks? They’ve had a large impact on the sale of books and the turnout of literary events. You have many that just prefer eBooks. So while they may attend to show support, to meet an author, maybe purchase a book or two, the majority of their purchases will be made online.
Last but certainly not least, YOU have to do work too. It’s the responsibility of the event/host/promoter to properly promote the event to its target audience, but that doesn’t make you as a participating author exempt from promoting. It’s no different than an author who foolishly signs with a publisher and thinks after they’ve turned in their manuscript that they don’t have to do anything else. That they can just kick their feet up and the money will come to them. That it’s the publisher’s responsibility to make their book a success. Uh…no! You need to let your readers and anyone who will listen know where you’re going to be. You will get back only what you put in. The host’s responsibility is to market the event. It’s YOUR responsibility to market YOU!
If there are ten authors at an event, you’re just one of ten. If there are fifty authors at an event, you’re just one of fifty. Make sure you have readers there for you. If no one knows who you are, if no one knows you’ll be attending an event, how well do you think you’ll do?
We could go on and on, but we'll end with this...Do your research and choose your events wisely. Also know that the success or failure of an event can be for many reasons, including you as the host OR participating author. Know that if an event wasn’t successful one year doesn’t mean the same will necessarily hold true for the following years. Successful events take time. There will be trial. There will be error.