Recently a friend of mine, Tosca
Lee, and I had an interesting discussion about creating author events.
We discussed the issue of writers being more introspective than
gregarious. Being the outgoing sort, I’ve had trouble understanding why
author signings and other events are sometimes painful for a writer.
Then I spoke with a variety of author friends who explained the effects
of public appearances on their more reserved personality types. The
energy drain and feelings of discomfort topped the chart. It ran from
outright fear of speaking to embarrassment over not knowing what to say
to each individual. Sometimes it was a fear of repetition. They wanted
to truly be sincere but felt uncomfortable repeating the same thing
over and over. These concerns are strong and legitimate. So what does
an author do?
Tosca is also an international
speaker who has had to spend enormous time and energy meeting, leading,
and conducting events all over the world. The perfect person to give a
few tips. I thought sharing our discussion, with Tosca’s permission,
might be helpful to others as well.
I interviewed Tosca Lee and some
bookstore owners to create what I hope will be an enlightening series
of articles for the readers of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine. Please share your feedback for next month’s
article, when we’ll discuss how to have an amazing author event from
the bookstore owner’s point of view. I’ll be sure to watch for your
questions to ask Shawn and Suzanne Kuhn, my guest bookstore owners, in
September’s column. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Join a chat between author
the difference between the old model of a book signing and an author
Tosca: I'm not sure what the
differences are, but I do know that the stereotypical idea is that an
author shows up to throngs of people waiting in line. That does not
happen, unless you’re Neil Gaiman or James Patterson.
are the top tools an author brings to a bookstore event?
Tosca: Personality, smile, and
an approachable attitude.
are the most successful elements?
Tosca: Talking to and engaging
the people who have come to see you . . . and those who didn’t come to
see you but are perusing the store. You’ll find new readers that way.
should an author never do?
Tosca: Be unapproachable,
unfriendly, or unsmiling. Readers (current or potential readers) need
to connect with you as a person. They will be ten times more likely to
want to read your stories (if they do not already) if they feel they
know you. You are a part of your own brand.
fun elements should always be present?
Tosca: Be ready to talk about
your story. Your pitch didn’t end with trying to nab an agent or
editor—it continues here, with the would-be reader if they are not
familiar with your work.
does an author bring personality and individuality to an event?
Tosca: By being a real person.
Many people view authors as odd semi-celebrities. Sometimes they’re
stunned to know that an author lives in their hometown.
there a mind-set an author should have toward an event? A bookstore?
Tosca: That they are going to be
gregarious for however long the event lasts. That they will be gracious
and giving of themselves.
happens after an author leaves?
Tosca: Booksellers will talk
about you. Give them a good impression and a reason to want to
hand-sell your books. They are a crucial part of your interaction.
hand-selling, and how does an author earn it?
Tosca: By getting to know and
earning the advocacy of the booksellers.
creative ideas should an author be thinking about for promotion?
Tosca: Use social media. Contact
the paper and any groups you are a part of.
does the author partner with the bookstore for promotion and
Tosca: Contact and talk to the
community relations managers ahead of time. Get to know them. They are
your partners and potentially a great ally in this thing called Selling
if an event has low numbers?
Tosca: Talk to the people who
came to browse. Introduce them to your books. I’ve met many new readers
if an event has super high numbers?
Tosca: Give everyone a moment of
your undivided attention. Thank them for standing in line. They did not
come to see you to be treated like a number or a widget in an assembly
line. They came and waited to connect with you.
Return the respect.
the absolutely worst thing an author can do at a signing or event?
Tosca: Sit behind the table and
expect everyone to come to you. Be unfriendly. Act like a diva.
media ever show up to an author event? Do remotes or interviews?
Tosca: It’s possible—but you
have to be the one to arrange it ahead of time.
it help if an author can come early? Does it help if an author can meet
the store personnel before the event (like days or weeks)?
Tosca: Yes. Yes.
Favorite author event
Tosca: I love meeting people at
every event. I am truly grateful and humbled by those who come to meet
and talk with me. I always leave inspired, wanting to write the best
that I can for the people I just met. I keep their faces before me in
weeks and months to come as I go into my next project.
Friends, as you can see the
mind-set is the most crucial here. But what about the how-to? We’ll
visit with bookstore owners next month and dig even deeper into this
concept of a successful author event. Stay tuned and send me those
More information on Tosca Lee
can be found at http://www.toscalee.com.