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A Bookseller’s Guide to Successful Author Events

7 tips from one of Chicago's busiest bookstores.

So you wrote a book! Fantastic. Congrats on your new job. Yes, your book is now your job. You are the chief seller of your new book. Want to write and sell another book? Well, you better sell the first one.

We know not everyone is a salesperson. It can be exhausting and sometimes uncomfortable. I’m a bookseller. I totally get it. However, my work as a bookseller can only help your ONE book so much. I have a lot of books to sell. Thousands of books are published every year. We have dozens of author events and other events every month. We can only do so much.

Sure, you’ve dreamed that someone will accidentally pick up your book, fall in love with it, tell all of their friends and the next thing you know … BESTSELLER. Reality check — that almost never happens. (I know … it’s sad. Insert virtual hug here.)

If this is your first book, you might be thinking, “But my publisher has a publicist right? Don’t they do this stuff?”

Answer: Not really.

They help schedule your tour and maybe some interviews, but they will not be promoting you every step of the way. Some of the most successful authors we see are PROLIFIC social media hounds. They realize that to be successful and reach through all of the noise in the world, they have to hustle. Follow some big name authors if you don’t believe us.

So, here are some tips on how to make your book event a success at my own bookstore, Volumes Bookcafe, as well as just about anywhere else.

1. Share your event with YOUR network.

We don’t know your people. We wish we knew them. We don’t. We can’t invite your friends on Facebook or email or Twitter. YOU have to do that. Don’t feel comfortable inviting everyone in a city that you don’t live in? GET OVER IT. You aren’t trying to sell a pyramid scheme or something, right? You’ll never know unless you try.

Maybe that weird dude from high school will invite ten of his closest friends because he is SUPER proud to know YOU, a published author. Maybe your aunt’s friend will bring her whole book club. Don’t underestimate people. In our experience, even acquaintances or friends of acquaintances are eager to support you.

LET THEM.

(And for real about the aunt’s friend thing. It can be a game changer)

2. Liking a tweet or Facebook event doesn’t help.

It has absolutely zero effect on spreading the word. Retweets are better, but writing your OWN tweets/posts about your event is best. Try it.

While you’re at it, ask your friends to post about it too. Your friends are your best asset. They might know a ton of cool people in that city you’ve never been to. Use them. That girl who overstayed her welcome on your couch years ago? Use her. That guy you worked with that used you for rides ALL of the time. Use him. Your uber gossipy cousin? USE THEM.

3. Don’t wait until the day of the event to promote it.

That helps no one. Consider this. Most bookstores have to order your book several days, if not 1-2 weeks ahead of your event. If they don’t think that many people are coming, they probably won’t order enough to cover the surge you might provide on that last day. That helps no one.

Promote your event 1 month – 2 weeks – 1 week – 2 days – day of.  You can schedule this using things like Hootsuite, or put reminders in your calendar. It will take 3 minutes out of your day, and each time you do, you increase the probability of selling another book.

4. Document your visit.

Take pictures of the bookstores you visit. Talk to the booksellers. Become their friends. Booksellers are your biggest asset. If we love an author, we’ll handsell them like crazy.

5. NEVER use an Amazon link when advertising a bookstore event. EVER.

This is a sure way to not be invited back the next time and/or have some very testy booksellers at your event.

6. Pick a local bookstore and use them all the time.

Bookstores  can ship books anywhere. Use them for pre-orders. Find one that reports to the NY Times List. Visit that local bookstore often and sign your books. Send people to that bookstore to get signed copies of your books. That bookstore will be your friend forever. They will promote you FOREVER. We have several local authors that come in often and send business our way. We prominently display ALL of their books.

7. Remember that your event isn’t the only one that month (or even that week).

A bookstore won’t be ONLY advertising your event. Use that knowledge to turn your followers onto each of those bookstores. Authors can be the best cheerleaders for us, and we return the favor. Post about other author’s events at your fav bookstores. Other authors will return the favor. Post about your favorite author’s tours. Attend those events. Mingle. You’re part of the network now. It has its benefits and its drawbacks but we are one big community in the book world, and it turns out that those who put the most in, get the most out of it.

Conclusion

We don’t tell you this to scold you. We are telling you this to HELP you. Your success is our success. We love writers. We love books. This world needs both to keep going. So, let’s work together to make that happen (Insert virtual high-five/hug/fist bump here).

A slightly modified version of this post was originally published at VolumesBooks.com.

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