American Christian Fiction Writers
Angie Breidenbach

Angela Breidenbach is Mrs. Montana International 2009 working with Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries, the Jadyn Fred Foundation, and drawing awareness to Fair Trade practices. Angela’s calling is as a purposeful life coach and educator. She’s also certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and Assisting Minister. She serves as the American Christian Fiction Writer's Publicity Officer and is a multi-award winning inspirational author and speaker. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom's brain, but she is also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. She is married, has a combined family of six grown children, one grandson. Purposeful Living Educator & Coach. Personal growth = Powerful living! You can interact or learn more about Angela Breidenbach at these sites: on Wednesdays each week.

He Said/She Said:

How to have an amazing author event from the writer’s perspective.

Part 2

Exciting events? How does an author manage that? Shawn and Suzanne Kuhn of P and K Bookstores tell us how. Their passion for author/reader relationships, Christian fiction, and encouraging Christian authors brings us a special interview. With ACFW’s conference in Indianapolis ( this month, there’s no better time to learn how to have an excellent author event.

What’s the difference between the old model of a book signing and an author event?

Suzanne: A book signing is readers meeting an author. The author usually sits behind a table, signs a book, and the line moves on. End of interaction. An event is fun and exciting. Fans look forward to a gathering that creates excitement and buzz.

Shawn: There’s no difference unless the author initiates and desires a difference. Most bookstore owners are no more clued in than the authors. We’ve experienced exciting nontraditional events, so we desire something more for our authors and customers. But if I don’t give the author a vision for more, and brainstorm prior, we’ll be stuck with a card table, an aloof event. A card table and chairs for an author event has no place in a bookstore any more than a stool for the employees to sit on behind the counter. Both are contrary to the purposes and mission of bookselling, which in my opinion is a passion for the product, presentation, and people.

What are other ideas besides a standard book signing?

Suzanne: A lunch, a tea, a train ride—anything that goes along with the theme of the promoted story line. For example, Camy Tang could meet at a Japanese Sushi bar with her fans. Limited availability, seating, also creates a sense of urgency. Mary Ellis could meet at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, PA.

Shawn: Do an event at a Starbucks, make it known on Facebook and Twitter when you’re visiting an area for pleasure or business. Create your own event. I want a successful event in my store in order to sell books—both the signing author’s and our other books in general. Authors want to sell books and create passionate fans. I’ve had famous authors shop in my shopping center and not come in my store and say hello to the staff or offer to sign every book on the shelf. I would never miss an opportunity if I were an author. Suzanne and I were in a Borders checking out the competition and we saw customers shopping for Christian fiction. She couldn’t help herself, because she’s passionate about Christian fiction and bookselling, so Suzanne told the Borders customer about her favorite authors. Then she put two books in the customer’s hands. (Suzanne notes: The Borders customer purchased them both.) You don’t need to be asked to create an event. You are an event, if you so choose.

What are the top tools an author brings to a bookstore event?

Suzanne: Autograph items like bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, pens, and booklists themed to emphasize branding. Other important tools are accessibility and interaction.

Shawn: The top tools to bring are a love for prospective fans and an excitement about their craft and books. If they’re not excited, sold-out, and their own biggest cheerleaders, the booksellers and the fans will not carry the torch after the event ends. When I connect with an author, I sell more of their books. On the other hand, if an author treats the event like they’re drinking castor oil, the infected fans and booksellers will spread a negative report about him/her and his/her books.

What have you noticed are the most successful elements?

Suzanne: Interaction, interaction, interaction. Wear comfy shoes and stand up. Hug, pray with, and encourage your fans. When a fan is taking the time to come meet an author, often standing in line waiting, it’s important for them to feel a connection. Share a quick story about a personal experience or a “secret” glimpse into an upcoming book. Engaging people is key. Take pictures with fans. Hear their personal stories and care about what they share. If the situation warrants, cry, laugh, and rejoice with them. Fans are an author’s best friends when it comes to selling books.

Shawn: Authors have been given a gift, a platform for communicating the character and truths of God through the medium of story. It’s a form of communication as old as the Bible itself. The public has this mystique about an author. It’s your job to meet that expectation, or at least understand it. Then bring human touch to their experience. While signing, are you totally focused on the person present or are you looking through her to the end of the line, or the lack of one? You are an author. It’s all about you and all about them and ultimately all about divine appointments.

What should an author never do?

Suzanne: Never look bored, seem uninterested, or lag in conversation. Never allow people to feel as if they are an inconvenience or rushed.

Shawn: Never complain about the lack of people, or their lack of excitement. At this point, it’s all your responsibility. As retailers, we can’t do anything about the books or customers we don’t have in the store, we can’t or shouldn’t complain, rather we need to Sell What’s Available Today (SWAT). I’ve had store managers tell me that the mall needs to do more to bring in traffic, while they and their employees ignore those already in the store. SWAT for the author is Signing What’s Available Today. The author should be the thermostat for the atmosphere at the event.

What fun elements should always be present?

Suzanne: An author’s support team should be fun and energetic. They can create excitement and anticipation as the fans are waiting in line. Bring lots of freebies—creative freebies. Everybody loves free things. But they love unique free things even more.

Shawn: Have a signature characteristic. Always sign with a Bible verse and use a Sharpie, or special color ink. My mom always wrote cards and notes in green ink. We expected it. What if you signed in a special color and the next time you signed for the same customer you were consistent? They will remember it. You need to brand yourself.

How does an author bring personality and individuality to an event?

Suzanne: An event should always reflect the individual author. It wouldn’t work for Camy to try pulling off the Amish theme or Mary to pull of the Asian theme. People sense whether a situation is forced or natural. Always go with what’s most natural to you and your book.

Is there a mind-set that an author should have toward an event? A bookstore?

Suzanne: YES! An author must understand their success is directly tied to selling books and creating fans. The more books sold, the more successful you are. The more fans an author has, the more books he/she sells. You want me to love you, to think you are wonderful. If I connect with you, I will tell all my customers and sell more of your books.

Shawn: Once the decision is made to do an event, show up in spades. Millions of authors have written millions of books. Most end up as remainders (which I also sell); it’s your job to sell you. If you don’t, how can you expect me to sell you? By the way on remainders—embrace them. Many customers may not be willing to try you for $14.99 without knowing you. You shouldn’t care how that book got under your pen, rather be glad that the book and the fan are there. Get them hooked at any price, and when your new release comes out, they’ll want it at full price. Here’s a thought: Buy remainders and use them as giveaways or premiums. Find away to get them into the hands of new fans.

What advice do you want to share?

Suzanne: Regardless of the situation, make it fun for the fans.

Shawn: I have been told 95 percent of the authors struggle to make a living at writing. The other 5 percent of the authors are “lucky.” Surprisingly, they make their own luck with hard work, great attitudes, and a lot of perseverance. All authors are forged in the same crucible and have many tests in bookstore events. The “lucky” ones are the ones who live in their calling and see with eyes of faith what God has placed in them.

Guest Bio: Shawn and Suzanne Kuhn have been married for twenty-two years. They have done many author events in and out of their bookstores. Shawn and his business partner, Tom Pilsch, own seven stores in the mid-Atlantic states, including the Bible Outlet in Lancaster, PA. Website: