(photo from The State Library of New South Wales. Probably if you have your author event here, we will not go, as it is very far away from New York City. Also it appears that we might need a time-traveling machine, which we unfortunately do not possess.)
So, your book is coming out in the very near future and you are like, ‘clearly there should be celebration!’ and of course you are correct. And your local bookstore and/or library seems to be on board as well; you schedule a date and a time.
Now that date’s coming up, and your bookstore/library seems to think that you’re totally on top of it and know what you should be doing for that hour-and-a-half of time that you’ll be — gulp — talking in front of a whole room of people. What should you do?
Here are five basic options to think about when you’ve got an author event staring your calendar in the face.
1. Have a party.
This might actually be the most complicated of the options, though it sounds like the easiest. There are just so many things to consider — and so much that you, personally, have to provide. Should there be refreshments? Music? Games & activities? What is the likely outcome of champagne + pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey?
However, on the plus side, you’ll only have to personally say a few words — thanks for coming, please check out and buy copies of my exciting new book.
2. Do a reading.
Worried about coming up with an hour long speech? That’s so many words! Luckily, your book is full of words, and you have already come up with them, so sometimes the easiest option is to just read them aloud, then take questions and sign books.
Graphic Novel Caveat: If you’re a graphic novelist and doing a reading, you may also have to put together a powerpoint presentation, recruit people from the audience to help do the voices, and make very very sure the store/library you’re reading at has a projector.
3. Organize a panel
If you don’t like to be the center of attention, maybe recruiting some other people for your author event would help! You can all have a discussion about the general subject of how awesome you all are. Or, you know, some other topic, like how much you all like Tolkien.
This one does take some work, because a typical panel tends to have four people plus a moderator, and you have to make sure that they can all come. On the plus side, if you’re worried about attendance, more speakers tends to mean a larger audience!
4. Do a talk.
I’m always fascinated when people do book events and instead of talking about their book, they talk for an hour about ‘The Modern Novel’ or something similar. On the plus side, this means exciting new information that I’m not likely to have heard before even if I’ve gone to another of this author’s events for a previous book.
On the minus side, what if some of the attending audience are not interested in the modern novel? Also, hour-long educational/inspirational speeches seem like a lot of work.
5. Mix it up.
An hour and a half does seem like really long amount of time to just be doing one thing. So why not have half an hour of reading, half an hour of a talk (you can discuss the reading! your inspiration! your childhood! your writing technique! etc.), followed by a Q&A with the audience and a signing.
And last: have fun! Your event is not meant to be a torture-device.