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  • 8 Things That Can Go Terribly Wrong at a Book Event (And How to Avoid Them)
This blog was featured on 03/15/2018
8 Things That Can Go Terribly Wrong at a Book Event (And How to Avoid Them)
Written by
Christelle Lujan
March 2018
Written by
Christelle Lujan
March 2018

Is your first book launch coming up? Do you have a signing scheduled? Are you ready to go on tour?

If you are planning to do a physical book tour, you’re likely racked with nerves and excitement. Going store to store isn’t for everyone, but if you’re planning to get some face time in with your audience, don’t fall victim to these unfortunate (and common) mishaps.

You’re Not on the Schedule

Whether you’re planning your events yourself or working with your publisher, sometimes mistakes are made. Whether it be the bookstores fault or a miscommunication from your team, authors have shown up to events only to find no one expected their arrival.

Before departing for your first event, make sure you’ve checked in with the bookstore to confirm everything is set. Ask the senior-most staff member you can find and double-check the time and details.

No Books Here

Perhaps just as bad as not being on the schedule when you show up for an event is getting there and realizing the store hasn’t stocked up on your new release. Perhaps they ordered your debut book rather than your latest novel. Maybe you and another author share a same name. Sometimes, the store staff just drops the ball entirely and forgets to place an order.

Don’t walk into a store only to find you have no chance of selling a single copy. Whether it’s an indie bookstore or a national chain, you can never be too safe. Make sure you confirm that books have arrived and that they’ve ordered enough to accommodate your audience.  Another helpful way to protect yourself would be to bring a box of books yourself just in case.

No One Knows You’re Having an Event

Perhaps the most common mistake is forgetting you have news to share. Time and time again authors forget to promote themselves and inform their fans. Whether you’re a social media buff or have a strong email list, make sure you’re telling everyone about your event.

Send invites early and often to help rally an audience for your event. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to the store and your publisher to see what they are doing to help. Bookstores can and should put up posters ahead of time (though you may have to create them yourself) and your publisher should be willing to at least Tweet about your event.

You’re Late You’re Late You’re Late

There is nothing worse than being late to your own party. Whether it’s traffic or a mild panic attack before you leave, give yourself a little cushion. Plan to arrive at least thirty minutes early.

Nothing is Set Up

There are a few things you should expect to see when you walk into your book event. There should be a stage or at least a designated area for you to stand and talk. Odds are, you’re going to need a microphone too. Chairs should be set up for your audience and in all likelihood, there will be a table with your books neatly arranged on it.

If you walk in and this isn’t the case, you may have to be prepared to start kicking things into high gear. All the more reason to show up early.

A Wanderer, One Superfan and Your Mom

As the start of your event draws near, you may begin to see that the crowd isn’t what you had hoped it would be. There may be a stranger who was passing by and decided to sit, an eager front-rower you suspect is the one who has been Facebook messaging you daily, and a dedicated relative who comes to everything, but that’s not exactly what you were hoping.

While there is very little you can do in that moment to fix it, plan ahead of time to ensure you have a crowd to talk to. Reach out to local book clubs, try to get featured in the events sections of local papers, ask your friends to bring a friend or two of their own. There’s nothing worse than talking to empty chairs so do everything you can to help fill them. Sadly, the bookstores rarely see it as their job to draw an audience.

Stumbling Through the Event

Let’s say the opposite occurs. Maybe there is standing room only and you didn’t really expect to deliver to a crowd of 80. If your heart wasn’t pumping hard before, staring into that many expectant faces might kick it up a notch.

Make sure you have a timeline and some talking points for your event. Not only will this help things go smoothly, it will ensure you have enough material to cover the span of your event.

No Evidence

One thing most authors don’t think about until after their event is over is assigning someone to be the photographer. They’ll have completed a fantastic event and have nothing to share on social media or with friends. Whether you go the professional route or just ask a friend to use the camera on their phone, you’ll be glad you captured the event.

Try not to stress yourself over all the "what ifs," but do what preparation you can to make sure your next event goes off without a hitch. 


* This post was originally published in November 2015.

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  • Irene Allison

    Very helpful information. I'd add that it can be useful to go to the bookstore a few days before the event and check out the environment, where the reading will take place, the lighting, potential set up, etc. If anything is awkward then at least there may be the chance of fixing it before the event. Another benefit? If you have a mental image and physical feel for the space beforehand, you can visualize a great reading! No harm in that! Thanks for all the tips!

  • Laura Pitet

    Great tips ! Thanks !!! Direct Assurance

  • Iris Waichler

    Great tips. Thank you Christelle

  • Alonna Shaw Writing

    Christelle, you've created a handy checklist here, as well as offering some bigger picture tips!

  • Laura Brennan

    Oh, I love the idea of getting a photographer! Think outside "author" photos, too -- one of my favorite pictures from an anthology booklaunch is a shot of empty shelves, with just one lone book remaining.  :)

    One other thought about drumming up an audience: see what writing groups are in the area. Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers -- every niche has an organization and they all have local chapters. If appropriate, contact them to see if there's a way they can help spread the word about your talk; they might if it's right for their audience, and they certainly would if you yourself are a member of the national chapter.