Originally sent to the Listener Insider Mailing List on August 18, 2016.
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I’ve interviewed over 70 authors for the WROTE podcast. I’ve self-published. AND… I’m a production editor for a small, non-fiction press… plus I’m connected to a larger publisher. This places me in a unique position to answer any questions you may have about the business of being an author. I reached out to a group of professional writers, asking what areas confused them at the start of their careers, and received some GREAT starting questions. Here’s the next:
Answers for Authors
Vance, I just don’t feel like I get a good return on attending huge conferences, but I feel like I need to still reach out. My publisher is hosting an Author’s Lunch – should I do that?
Excellent Question! And yes you should! I say that before I even know whether it’s a business lunch for all the current authors at that publishing house, or a “meet the authors” lunch where readers can meet several authors at once. Either way – yes you should attend.
Since the tone of your question is about conferences and reaching out – I’ll stick with that subject this time and address publishing house events next time.
So… huge conferences just aren’t a bang anymore? Expensive, but don’t pay for themselves? I personally think that they are beneficial if you expect to network and attend education sessions. But it’s rare that an event’s overall premise is “sell books.”
But I’m right there with you on the pain of the expense. You just can’t get around the costs associated with traveling to a huge convention. Yet, as you pointed out, you really still need to reach out. So what do you do?
Start local. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Publisher Events: If your publisher happens to be local, ask to meet with the Marketing department. Use your appointment to brainstorm “reaching out” ideas with them. It shouldn’t surprise you that they’ll have media contacts – maybe a local columnist would love to interview you about the Author’s Life? Perhaps they partner with a local TV or Radio station and can get you an interview on a talk show? And when it comes to meeting and greeting readers, I assure you nobody in town will know ALL of the local book store owners by name better than your publisher does.
- Book Stores: Go introduce yourself. Scoot. Go. Now. Ask if they have events or openings. You probably know the main drill here – readings and signings. And those two things are fine for what they are, but did you know about book clubs?
- Book Clubs: I recently had the honor of being a guest at a book club meeting where they’d just finished reading my novel. It Was Amazing! I had two hours with six amazing people who all had feedback, questions, squeals of glee, and insight into plot threads that I hadn’t even imagined yet! >:-DThat alone would have been worth twenty hours. But then something amazing happened… over the course of the next few days all six of them rated my novel on Amazon and GoodReads and a couple of them wrote reviews!!!
OVER THE MOON AMAZING! I was so jazzed up by the experience that Book Two of the series just started flowing right out of me – almost pantser style. (I say “almost” because I’d already loosely outlined the whole series.)
Now for the hidden take aways.
- It cost me nothing. (Though I did offer to run out to my car and grab paper copies for those who’d indicated they’d like to share my story but didn’t want to give away their newly-signed copy.)
- It was a cozy gathering. I don’t do well in mob scenes. I clam up and find the nearest shadow. Yet this was a group of six with a couple bottles of wine and an outdoor patio fire pit. Yeah… that was exactly my speed.
- Reach beyond imagining. Their reach far exceeds anything I could have done on my own in those two hours. Six ratings and a couple reviews? Not to mention six amazing new readers who wanted to share that they’d met the author! That was connecting on a level that a signing booth just can’t replicate.
So how do you find these wonderful clubs?
- Ask your favorite bookstores if they host any book clubs.
- Ditto favorite coffee shops.
- Ditto local library branches.
- Ask your publisher if they have reader’s circles.
- Check local MeetUp listings.
- Check for Facebook groups, narrowed by city
- Good old internet browser search
If you’re curious about Publisher interactions with book clubs, Publisher’s Weekly recently ran this article on Why Book Clubs Matter in the Age of Tablets (link) that includes names of regional bookstores that host or support book clubs.
If you’re reaching out unannounced, just be your usual social self. Ask if the club reads books in your genre – or if they might like to try it if it’s new. Be ready to offer copies. Finally, be sure you can meet them on discussion day. I might also suggest offering to bring a bottle of wine as long as the club’s not listed as “non-alcoholic.”
Most of all, just have fun!
If YOU have a question you want answered from inside the biz, send it my way and I’ll pose it to the professionals!