Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 7, 2016

Taking it to the Streets: Lessons Learned From Creating a Multi-Author Event

Brandi Megan Granett

Are you looking for a way to reaching your local community of readers and writers?  Do you want to find a way to make your book launch or book marketing bigger than yourself?  Consider stepping away from the internet and taking it live with a multi-author book event!

What started as just a crazy idea to promote my book launch turned into a 45 author, all ages book fair at a historic mill with a food truck serving crepes and a local vineyard doing wine tastings and bottle sales that I christened, River Reads

And to keep up with the theme of giving back, I wanted to share what I learned so that more events celebrating writing and reading could pop up everywhere.


Start Early

I began planning my event five months beforehand.  While I feel like this was plenty of time, I might have liked to have an additional month to really finalize the line-up of authors before some of the local print publishing deadlines.

Pick a Space First

I suppose this may not be true for everyone, but I needed to know I had a space locked in before I started to invite authors to attend.  Plus, after getting the space, I knew how many authors I could host.  Instead of asking to rent a space, the language I used was partner— as in, would your space like to partner with my community event—some spaces can host community events at different prices than they would for weddings or other celebrations.  And the space I found, Prallsville Mill in Stockton NJ, lived up to the word partner.  They promoted the event on their social media and in their email lists.  They answered all of my questions and shared their knowledge of event hosting freely.

Ask Everyone

To find authors, I started with the ones I knew asking them if they would like to participate via a Google Form that also collected all of their contact information.  Using this Google Form cut down on the emails sent to me and automatically tabulated the results into a spreadsheet.  I also emailed local bookstores to ask who they knew in the area.  To give my event a theme, I tried to recruit authors living along the Delaware River.  All genres were invited—though one thing I learned was to have people self-identify their genre.  I left that off the Google Form and mistakenly thought a book on dog training was for children.  I also posted my call to authors on a local Facebook group.  I cast my net widely and accepted everyone who reached out until the space was full.

I’d also say don’t be afraid to include a mix of authors: traditional, self-published, children’s and adult!  Families and friendship groups contain a variety of readers.  Having something for everyone could really expand your event’s reach.

Make Partners

In addition to partnering with the Prallsville Mill, I employed the partnering language with local vineyards.  One of the many I reached out to, Unionville Vineyards accepted my offer within minutes!  They offered to send someone to do wine tastings and bottle sales in exchange for being involved in our marketing and publicity efforts.   This added an extra value to the event and drew in people to stay longer. 

We also contracted with a food truck serving crepes.  This part of the festival planning proved to the most challenging.  Few small businesses are willing to take a chance on an unknown event.  In the end, I agreed to pay for any shortage in sales.  Happily, the crepe truck turned a profit—and this was a big worry off my shoulders.  I don’t recommend this path for everyone—but I thought adding the food truck both kept the author’s fed and drew in foot traffic.

We also partnered with the Friends of the Hunterdon County Library to host a “blind date with a book” sale to solicit donations for their group.  In exchange, the Friends promoted us to their membership.  Their inclusion in the event also made it possible for the event to be shared on certain community bulletin boards and spaces that only promote non-profits. 

To further this sale, Books Sparks/Spark Press donated beautifully wrapped books.  For the rest of the sale, I used all of the ARCs and review copies I received throughout the year.  I both collected money for the library and found more readers for authors in my online circles.

Another key partnership we made was with the local bookstore in Frenchtown, NJ, The Book Garden.  Caroline, one of the owners there, who does public relations work for the United Way of Hunterdon County, shared her press release skills that resulted in River Reads being featured in many local newspapers.  On the day of the event, she took credit cards for any authors unable to process them on their own.  Having people willing to share their unique skills and talents to support the event is a key takeaway!

My biggest partnership was with a local author, Marie C. Collins, who stepped out right away with an offer to help.  While I am terrible about asking for help, she used her knowledge of the local education landscape and her background in Middle Grade publishing to craft and distribute information about River Reads to local schools.  Then she rallied the Children’s, Young Adult, and Middle Grade authors into creating a scavenger hunt, prizes for giveaways from local bookstores, and a Halloween theme for their space.  Through this partnership, River Reads grew beyond my initial dream.  I am grateful for the vision and support my partners provided!  The main lesson here probably a timeless one—accept help with a glad heart and ask for it!

img_7917-1Go With The Flow

One of the biggest challenges to River Read was the actual reading part of the event.  Initially, we hoped to feature authors reading throughout the day.  We organized two separate reading stages for adults and children and drafted sign-ups for the authors to pick a slot that morning.  I choose to limit the readings to five minutes to keep the emphasis on the conversations in the room between readers and authors.  But as our day unfolded, the readings weren’t working.  Sometimes there weren’t enough guests circulating, sometimes people were too engrossing in conversations and selling books.  So instead of forcing it, we just went with the flow and let the reading ebb and flow.  We let authors take control rather than bending the event to our will.

More Help Available

To celebrate the launch of my novel, Triple Love Score, I knew I wanted to do something.  But the idea of that something including me and a microphone with my loved ones gathered around for a reading of the steamiest sex scene in the book seemed, well, terrifying, (notwithstanding my hopes of getting a cake with my book cover on it!)  As Ann Garvin teaches new members of our collective, The Tall Poppy Writers , a rising tide lifts all boats, so I decided the best way to celebrate Triple Love Score is give back to those around me.  If this idea sounds like a plan to you, I would love to know about it.  While these are not the only things I learned, they are key takeaways.  If you would like to know more, please email me at brandi.granett@gmail.com.  I’d be happy to help you start your own festival!

What do you think, readers? Has Brandi convinced you to try this?

downloadBrandi Megan Granett is an author, online English professor, and writing coach.  She earned her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University and her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.  Her latest novel, Triple Love Score, will be published by Wyatt-Mackenzie in Fall 2016. Morrow published her first novel, My Intended, in 2000. Her short fiction appeared in Pebble Lake Review, Folio, Pleiades, and other literary magazines and is collected in the volume, Cars and Other Things That Get Around.  She writes an author interview series for the Huffington Post.  When she is not writing or teaching or mothering, you will find her on the archery range.

19 comments on “Taking it to the Streets: Lessons Learned From Creating a Multi-Author Event”

  1. You are a brave woman, Brandi. I'd love to be invited to something like that, or attend it, but plan it? No way, Jose! The potential for disaster is just too high!

    Hope your launch was everything you'd hoped it would be!

  2. Brandi, I second what Laura says here--wow! You are AMAZING. I'm guessing the event is the kind of thing that keeps on giving,with your network of authors and business partners growing exponentially once everything's in place. This was really inspiring.

  3. Your event fascinated me from day one. And yes, it got me thinking. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned, Brandi!

  4. Good for you, Brandi. I started a book festival in my town in 2014. Well, I started planning it, the first one was in July 2015 and we did it again in 2016 and planning for 2017 is already under way. 2015 had over 70 authors, this year it was 95! We had so much fun and yes, all the steps you took, we take too. We also partner with local hotels for reduced room rates for authors who can book in advance. The town has taken note as we bring hundreds of readers into the area who take the time to visit other area attractions and spend money in town.

    Congratulations on your success. I'm sure you're area appreciates such a fantastic event.

    1. Connie, that is amazing! I keep having a dream of having an "author takeover" of a local town where authors will be stationed inside local businesses to sell books and mingle with shoppers!

  5. What a fantastic idea! I love the idea of using the language of "partnering". I'm involved in something a bit off the beaten track...a Book Garden at the Spring and Fall Home & Garden Shows. People attending those events do not expect to see us. I've always sold some books (a few more each time I've participated). Some of the authors sell several hundred dollars! Your post has given me something to think about...Thank You!!!

  6. Wow! Truly inspiring! I love the idea that we as authors don't have to be silo marketing machines hanging in the wind by ourselves---leverage our generosity, mesh our disparate skill sets, and ta!dah! you've got a major book launch/eating/drinking event! Brilliant!

    Which isn't to discount the enormous amount of work involved. I suppose that's a 5-6-month period of otherwise insane-making pre-pub anxiety turned into productivity!

    Judith has a great idea, too---start with an existing event and carve out a book niche. Still, though, a ton of work!

    Thank you so much for this discussion, as we all know, massive work in marketing and publicity is now an absolute requirement to sell our books.

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