If you're interested in taking part in an event someone proposes, let them know via the message board. Please note: the coordinator of the event has the last word on who takes part. IMPORTANT NOTE: You don’t pay anything to join the Pennsylvania Authors’ Network and there’s no fee for taking part in an event, but for this to become a success, it's vital that everyone makes an effort to bring people to signings.
Remember, it doesn’t matter whether or not the people you invite have already bought your book, because you're promoting the event as a whole.
The rest of what you need to do is basic common sense, but I've set out some of the less obvious things here:
COMMUNICATE WITH THE COORDINATOR The coordinator is the focal point. Make his/her job easier by doing your part. Give him/her your cell-phone number. If you're looking to take part in an event, make sure your author photo, book's cover pic and your bio are in the Pics and Bios for PennAN events folder on the Yahoo Group. He/she will do most of the work, but offer to help.
If you take on a task, keep the coordinator up to date with your progress. In particular, make sure you keep him/her informed about any contact you have with the library/bookstore that will host the signing.
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE It's human nature to want to take the easiest path. In the case of multi-author signings, that can sometimes mean sitting back and letting the other participating authors do their bit, while you come up with reasons why you can't do yours. The trouble is, if everyone did that, the event would be a waste of time. That's why it's so important to try to get people to attend. If you know someone, you can invite them; it's really that simple (if you're not convinced, check out the step-by-step guidelines set out below). Sure, you'll have to get out of your comfort zone, but if the event's a success, you'll be glad you did.
Handy tip: After reading the guidelines, if you're still having trouble making a list or inviting, talk it over with the event coordinator (or contact me admin@Pennsylvaniaauthorsnetwork.com), but keep it along the lines of: "Here's my problem. Can you help me solve it?" rather than a "I know we're supposed to bring people, but..." conversation.
BOOK SCREENING If it's a library signing, someone there may want to screen any books being sold at the event. If you can’t provide a review from a recognized source like Publisher's Weekly, you’ll need to donate a copy of your book to them for screening in advance – give them time to read it (you can probably get it back afterwards). Reality check: A glowing review from avidreader626 on your personal website, or your book’s Amazon.com page doesn’t count.
Handy tip: If your book got published the traditional way, and received a favorable review in something like Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com, Library Journal: http://www.libraryjournal.com, or Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com, the library will likely agree to purchase your book for inclusion in its collection.
GETTING PEOPLE TO ATTEND In order for these multiauthor book signings to be successful, you need to bring people along who might buy a book. A good goal is to aim for six attendees, with couples counting as one. Reality check: On average, if eight people tell you 'yes', chances are, only six of them will turn up, so you're looking for eight 'yeses'.
If you have any reservations about being able to get people to a meeting, follow the steps set out below. You'll be amazed at how easy it is.
MAKE AN EVENT LIST In order to have six people show up, you’re looking for at least eight people to tell you they’ll be at the signing. Make a list of everyone you could invite to an event (you'll need a separate list for each county you hope to do a signing in).
If it helps, imagine you’ll get a thousand dollar bonus for every name you add, you’ll be surprised how quickly it fills up. Keep that list safe. Add to it all the time.
Be creative. If you belong to a writer’s group, add their members to the list, but try to get people from outside the group as well. If you don't know someone's name, put down a description for the time being eg: girl who writes westerns, guy from across the street, etc.
PROMOTE THE EVENT ON THE WEB Start by posting details of the event on your website/blog, but your work doesn't stop there.
You'll see a dramatic improvement in your results by doing your invitations in person. Rather than 'informing' people (please note: announcements on your website or Yahoo message board, and group email invitations count as 'informing'), try inviting them in person. It will take you longer, but a personal invite is a lot more effective than a junk email, especially if it’s done face-to-face. If you can’t invite people face-to-face, call them. Only use email as a last resort, and even then, make it an individual invitation rather than a blanket 'To whom it may concern...' effort. Reality check: An email promoting the event is easy to send out, but it's the on-line equivalent to handing out leaflets at the mall. You'll be lucky if 3% of those people show up.
In my experience, authors shy away from personal invitations because they don't want to be told 'no', but any writer worth his/her salt will have heard that plenty of times from agents and editors, so it shouldn't be a problem for us.
When you've finished your list, get a separate sheet of paper. We'll use this to write down the names and telephone numbers (remember, face-to-face invites work better), of the ten people who you think are most likely to say 'yes' when you ask them to come to the event. Leave space between each name so that you can mark your progress.
IMPORTANT: Before you start inviting, please read the instructions below, you might find them helpful.
THE INVITATION It is important to understand that a successful invitation is a four stage process which neither begins nor ends at the point where you ask a person to come to the event. We can break it down like this:
MOTIVATING PEOPLE TO COME Why you want them to come, and why they should come. Your motivation is simple, You want them to come to a multi-author event because you set a goal to bring six people. It doesn't matter if they've already bought your book because they might be interested in one of the others on sale that day.
What's important here is the motivation for the people you intend to invite, which depends entirely upon their relationship with you. If they're non-writing friends or family members who read (at least occasionally), chances are, their only motivation for coming is to support you, so your invite should reflect that. If they're fellow writers and/or avid readers, then as well as coming to support you, they might also be interested in hearing what some of the other authors have to say.
What about people I don't know very well? I'm glad you asked. In addition to being by far the largest group on your list, it's also the easiest to add to. People in this group fall into two categories: Those who know you've written a book, and those who don't. Your 'pitch' will be the same for both, except that one will start with the words: 'Remember I told you I have a book published...' and the other with: 'Did I ever tell you that I have a book published...' (see below for the rest).
THE PITCH Before you make a face-to-face invitation, make sure you look smart and have the following: A smile and two business cards, one of which has details of the event written down on the back. Handy tip: While smiling usually helps, if it's forced, you'll look insincere (or, worse, constipated). Neither of these is good, so just be yourself, but friendly.
What to say and how to say it? Just like you should have a one sentence pitch for your book, you need a one sentence pitch for the event. Something like the following:
'I'm doing an author event next month with some other writers. Would you like to come?'
Okay, so that's two sentences, but you get the point. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can preface that with a 'Remember I told you I have a book published...' or a 'Did I ever tell you that I have a book published…?' Make sure you allow them to answer before you launch into your invite.
Notice how you haven't mentioned date/time/location yet? that's because you only need to go into details if they show an interest.
RESPONSE/CONFIRMATION (immediate and follow-up) You’ve steeled your nerve and made your pitch. Now for the most important part of the invitation: the response/confirmation. You probably think you have nothing to do at this point, but you'd be wrong. As a matter of fact, what you do next is VITAL to you success. After you make your 'pitch', SHUT UP AND LET THE OTHER PERSON RESPOND That sounds so obvious you're probably wondering why I even mention it, but the urge to fill a silence, or intercept a possible 'no' before it happens can be almost irresistible. Bite your lip if you have to. You've done the hard work (the personal invitation), now you must let the other person answer.
Here are the most likely responses (if you think of any I missed, please let me know):
A: "I'd love to...," or words to that effect. B: "Maybe/probably/perhaps...," etc. C: "I'm not sure...," etc. D: "But I already bought your book...," etc. E: "No thanks."
Let's begin with A: "I'd love to....” Before you start doing the happy dance, bear in mind that you still have to give your new best friend the event details. This is where your business card comes in.
Take a fresh business card and (even though you already (should) have them on your website), write the event details on the back for him/her. In addition to making the invitation more personal, you're also giving them a physical reminder that they agreed to come.
Again, this next part sounds so obvious you'll wonder why I mention it, but ASK IF THEY KNOW SOMEONE ELSE WHO MIGHT LIKE TO COME, THEN WAIT FOR A RESPONSE. That person counts as a 'yes.’ Mark your invite sheet to that effect. If they said they might know someone, make a note of that too, but remember, as Gimli might say: 'That still only counts as one!'.
How about B: "Maybe/probably/perhaps...?" They count as 'yeses', don't they? I'm afraid not. With rare exception, when someone tells you they'll 'probably' be there, they mean: 'No, I will not be there'. That doesn't mean they don't want to come, but it does mean they haven't agreed to...yet. People lead busy lives. Chances are, if they haven't made a commitment,—that is said 'yes' — to being somewhere/doing something, they'll find themselves busy with other things on the day.
So what should you do if they say 'probably'? You treat B: 'probably' and C: 'I'm not sure' the same way. Tell them: 'It's a multi-author reading/signing. We're working hard to get a lot of people there and I'd love to see some familiar faces in the crowd when it's my turn at the mike. Will you come?'
At this point, they may agree, or (more likely), they'll tell you they have to check their calendar/talk to their spouse etc. It doesn't matter, the important thing is that you made it clear that you wanted that person there, rather than just 'announcing the event' to them.
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T BE PUSHY. Give them a card with the details of the signing on the back (fill it out in front of them if there's time). Tell them you'll be in touch a week or so before the signing to see if they can come. Ask if they know anyone else who might want to come. That person counts as a 'maybe'. Mark your invite sheet to that effect.
D: "But I already bought your book..." A lot of the people on your event list will have already bought your book. I recommend using the same approach you used for B & C, because it tells them other authors will be there, too (don't forget to add 'Will you come?'). When they hear this, their response will change. If it's an A, B, or C, write the details on a card for them, etc. (Don't forget to ask if they know someone who might like to come).
E: "No thanks." We saved the easiest for last. Like I said before, 'no' is never fun to hear, but when someone turns you down, don't ask for an explanation/burst into tears/fly into a rage/threaten to let the air out of their tires, etc. If you feel it's worth mentioning, ask if they know anyone who might like to come (but don't expect a positive response), otherwise, smile, say "okay," and move on to the next person on your list. REALITY CHECK: There are close friends and family members on your list who you know for sure will come out to support you, some of them won't. On the other hand, casual acquaintances, and other people you almost didn't bother asking because you 'knew' they wouldn't be interested will turn up at the event and bring a friend. The trick is to invite them all, and not take it personally if they turn you down or fail to show up on the day.
Invite all ten people on your event sheet. If you haven't got eight 'yeses' (remember, 'probably' doesn't count), add another five names from your main list and go through the above process until you do.
KEEP THE COORDINATOR INFORMED Keep the coordinator informed about your progress (especially good news, like you have your eight 'yeses'). Encourage your fellow participants. Share any useful tips/funny invite stories on the message board.
A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE EVENT You want to be sure the guests you invited intend to be there. Follow up with the those people who said they would, or might, come to the event with a quick phone call to say you're looking forward to seeing them. If they don't intend to turn up, you'll most likely find out then. If they do, ask if they intend to bring a friend. Promote the event on your blog, Facebook, Twitter account, etc. Reality check: Remember, life happens. One or more of your guests may pull out at the last moment. That's why you should aim to get eight people who say 'yes.' It leaves you two 'spares.' Even if more than two cancel, you should still be okay because some of those who do turn up will bring a friend (like you asked).
REHEARSE YOUR TALK See (also), notes on 'Your talk' below. Reality check: If you aren’t used to speaking in public and/or with a microphone, there's a good chance that when you 'stand up' to give your talk, your mind WILL sit right back down again. Be prepared. Have bullet points on cards. If you find yourself drying up, or worse, drifting off topic or waffling, stop talking. Handy tip: Imagining the audience naked won't help (and can be quite off-putting if you have older relatives attending the event). When it comes to calming your nerves before a 'performance,' there's no substitute for knowing that you've practiced a lot.
Don’t assume the coordinator is doing everything. You might know something they don’t. Are there any writing groups, or book-reading clubs in the area? Check with the library. Keep an eye on the local press, they might advertise in there. By all means produce some leaflets. At the very least you or the coordinator should have some available in the library a week or two beforehand, but make sure they look professional, and don’t expect miracles.
ON THE DAY, BE ON TIME Spare your coordinator some anxiety. Be at the venue AT LEAST fifteen minutes before the event is due to start. Make sure you contact him/her if you get delayed—even if you're only a few minutes behind schedule.
Don't forget to bring at least thirty copies of your book— stop laughing, it might happen.
Bring plenty of change and a receipt book.
DRESS THE PART
Regardless of what we were told at school, people really do judge a book by its cover. Wear your writer’s uniform. If you don’t have a deliberate image that you want to portray, dress smart-casual.
The coordinator will have a thank you card for the venue's host, please sign it before the event starts.
THE PANEL and Q&A When the event starts, the coordinator/moderator will welcome the audience, thank the host and give a quick explanation about PennAN, after which he/she will invite the panel members to introduce themselves to the audience : 'My name is John Evans. I live in Bangor, Northampton County, and I write YA fiction.' Please note: This is not the moment to pitch your book.
Next, if it's appropriate to the panel topic, the moderator may invite each author to give a brief description of his/her path to publication. Again, please note, this needs to be brief, especially if there are five panelists.
After that, the moderator will ask each member to answer a series of relevant questions on the chosen topic.
Afterwards, the moderator hosts the Q&A session. Be patient when the questions start. If one isn’t pitched to a specific author, let the moderator choose who answers. He/she’ll make sure everyone gets a fair turn.
Keep your answers short and to the point.
When your turn comes, be confident. Grab the audience's attention straight away. If you're not sure how to start, a joke is always good for breaking the tension: ‘Now I know how those poor suckers auditioning for American Idol must feel’, or ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to sing’ etc.
If your mind goes totally blank, or you find yourself in a panic, ask the audience for empathy - ‘I can’t believe how nerve-wracking this is’ – they’ll give it to you.
Be friendly. Smile. You'll have more fun and people will like you better (which also means they’ll be more inclined to buy your book).
Talk to the audience, not your note cards. Look at people, especially those who came for you.
Please don’t hog the mike. Take the hint if the moderator gives it.
When the other authors are giving their answers, be attentive, study their technique. You might learn something new.
After the moderator takes a last question, he/she will invite each panel member to pitch ONE book to the audience.
Introduce your book as you might do in a query letter. Gary Frank, has a brilliant one for his novel, Forever Will You Suffer: 'A three hundred year love story gone horribly wrong'.
Pitch the genre, too. ‘If you know someone who reads [insert genre] they’d like this book because…' If it’s a memoir, talk about your book as if YOU didn’t write it. Pitch it to the audience as if it’s your best friend’s book and you want them to read it.
A FEW DAYS AFTER THE EVENT
Follow up with your 'guests.’ Thank them for coming, ask for their input. Is there something they thought went particularly well (or badly)? Pass the feedback on to the coordinator.