Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 6, 2021

A Checklist for In-Person Book Events

by Penny C. Sansevieri

If you want to market a book, you really need to consider using every tool in your workshop and every trick in your magician’s hat to get your book into readers’ hands. So let’s put politics aside for the length of this post in order to discuss how to use an old chestnut book marketing strategy in our new normal life as Masked Book Marketers.

In-person book events are possible again!

They won’t look or maybe feel the way they did in the past, but I’m okay with that. I’m just happy that we can be in shared spaces and interact with one another again because adding author events to your book marketing arsenal is a great way to build your local fan base and plant seeds for future sales and long-term support.

Your first step is to check your state’s current protocols on in-person gatherings; then craft your pitch to event locations keeping those protocols in mind and including relevant information that addresses any key issues (for example, your own vaccination status).

Once you have an event (or several!) on the books, use the below checklist to ensure you’re covered and ready to entertain your fans!

Events Require (You Guessed It) Book Marketing

Don’t expect the store to promote you. Be proactive and the store will really appreciate it.

Send a confirmation email to the bookstore or event location a few weeks in advance. No doubt the location already has you on their calendar, but it makes you look professional and on top of your game.

Confirm how books will be handled. If you’re doing a non-bookstore event, check on the process of getting the books to them. Ask if they need ordering information. Be prepared if they ask you to bring books yourself. If you’re appearing at a bookstore, you won’t have to worry about this, but non-bookstore venues may need a bit more help.

In addition, do some research to find out their policies – masks, vaccinations, distancing – so that you can ask any questions you might have. The prepared you are, the better your event will be!

Share with EVERYONE!

Ask for the store’s media contacts list. Most venues automatically notify local newspapers, but let the store/location know that you want to help out.

Begin contacting local media. Some require you submit information for their online events calendar a few weeks out – sometimes longer.

Post your event on Facebook, invite your network, and be sure to tag the venue if they have a social media presence. You should know how to do this from your other book marketing strategies, like promoting a new release!

Post an event on Goodreads and invite your network. Sure, many aren’t local, but you never know how these things can grow.

Send an email to all your personal and professional contacts and encourage them to forward and share event information. This is another book marketing basic that you should be very comfortable with.

Before the Event

Get bookmarks and/or postcards printed. Be sure to have the location, date, and time on these if making them specifically for the event.

You might also consider designing or ordering masks that coordinate with your book cover. We have a few authors who have done amazing things with this. Even if your book doesn’t lend itself to mask haberdashery, you can still choose one in a color or a theme that compliments your book.

If the bookstore or venue has agreed to let you put up signage or even banner stands, get that printed. Will you be doing multiple events? Get a few printed but ask the printing company to leave a blank space at the bottom so you can fill in the location, date and time.

You’ll want to get custom-order items in right away so you don’t have to pay for expedited shipping.

Remember, a busy table with lots of “stuff” on it is enticing: people get curious, so give them another reason to come over.

What to Bring to Your Event

As event day approaches, you may also want to consider what to bring the day of!

Hand out bookmarks. I’ve even autographed one or two when people hesitate to buy a book. More often than not, they return later to buy a copy just because I gave them a bookmark. Personal connections are powerful.

Postcard-sized handouts can also be fun, but you don’t really need postcards AND bookmarks. Consider which is more appropriate for your event and, potentially, for your book. Generally, if you have a non-fiction book and a business or consulting practice tied to it, a postcard will give you more space to promote your business.

Whether it’s chocolate or some other food that specifically ties into your book, snacks tend to keep people lingering at your table. This is particularly good if you aren’t doing a Q&A or a presentation of some sort.

If you’re in a giving mood or if you have a book that might tie well to small bottles of hand sanitizer, these can be an excellent freebie for non-grazing table-shoppers.

Always have a reason for them to leave their email. If you don’t have a strong newsletter (generally this works better for non-fiction), consider doing a drawing for a gift card to the store.

During Your Signing

Don’t sit down unless you have to. If you’re delivering a talk, be sure to greet folks as they come in and sit down. Even if you’re not formally speaking, move around your table and spark up conversations; invite people over for a piece of chocolate.

Smile, talk, and most of all, have fun! This is no time to be shy.

If no one shows up, remember, that’s okay. It has happened to all of us at one time or another. Really!

If there are books left over, let the bookstore manager know you’d like to sign them. This way, people who missed the event can still a copy of your signed book. This is an excellent book marketing strategy that you can expand on: leave a signed book or two at different places in town, like your salon or barber, your favorite coffee shop, etc.

Don’t feel confined to the signing time; feel free to stay longer if people are still showing up. I can assure you the venue won’t care unless they’re trying to close for the evening.

After Your Signing

Send a thank you note to the person in charge of coordinating your event. Don’t send an e-mail. Send a handwritten note. It will go a lot further!

Write anyone who signed up for your newsletter or entered your contest, thank them for stopping by and encourage them to find you on social media as well.

Book marketing isn’t just about slapping people in the face with your brand and product, it’s about personal connections; take pride and joy in making those whenever you can. Readers who feel connected to you are more apt to buy.

The Takeaway

Events are fantastic ways to spread the message about your book, build a loyal fan base, and get in the habit of speaking in front of crowds.

They’re also a really dynamic piece of your book marketing plan. Think about it, you probably do a lot of online book marketing, but how much do you really do in person, with real people?

Regardless of whether your first event is amazing or just so-so, keep on planning more. Get creative and brainstorm a list of unique venues. Now that we can be more safely social with strangers (who may become fans!), you owe it to yourself and your book to put literally put both of you out there and trust that if you build it, future fans will come.

Good luck!

* * * * * *

About Penny

Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine. 

Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon Optimization programs as well as Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of 18 books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon: 2021 Amazon Ads Powerhouse Edition, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing, and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet." Her next book From Book to Bestseller is due out this fall.

AME has had dozens of books on top bestseller lists, including those of The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. 

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.

Top Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

17 comments on “A Checklist for In-Person Book Events”

    1. Now this is what I've been needing all these years. A no nonsense, play by play review of what you need to do. Thank you. Other posts that mentioned marketing either bored you to tears, or sent you screaming into the hills in fear.

  1. Excellent tips! I've been noodling the idea of having a book signing event for my writing group in the spring after our 2nd anthology is released. This post is a keeper.

  2. Hi Penny,
    This post was a fun reminder that we can have in-person author events, we just have to cross a few extra 't's and dot more 'i's.

    Love it or hate it the mask is a way of life today - and making a quirky, book-connected mask is fantastic.


  3. Wonderful tips!

    A few years ago, the BN person in charge of events asked me to email her after another author mentioned me--BN was going to do a local author event. I never heard back from her, but I also don't think the event ever happened. I had sent all the info she requested.

    A lot of events are still virtual and some of these tips still apply. I participated in one by an indie shop for a writing contest submission.


  4. This is a great list. The only thing I would add is...make sure that people have purchased the book, before you sign it. I lost out on many sales because of this rookie mistake - I'd track the books sold, then present the number to the store at the end, and find they had fewer go through the till - people either walked off with them, or stashed them in the store. As a self-published author, the cost was my own.

    1. Ohmygoodness! That must have been heartbreaking the first time. And that's a fantastic tip. It's easy enough to just say, "leave the receipt in the book when you bring it up to sign."

  5. Thanks, Penny! All good tips. I've found the "share with everyone" to be critical to a successful signing. Even better if you know people in the area who will come and support you and spread the word among their friends. If you have a few folks there, others feel more comfortable coming over.

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