Many authors make public appearances, or outings, in an effort to connect with more people. For those who have never done it and are interested, I thought I’d put together some pro tips for authors who would like to do a public event.
The first thing I want to say is that participating in an event, as a speaker or as an author vendor, normally won’t propel you to endless fame or thousands of book sales. Generally, the people whose appearances drive attendance and sales already have a large platform. People come to events involving relative unknowns generally because of the event itself or the information gained at the event.
Keeping this in mind, let’s talk about the kinds of events new authors can participate in, and how to do it. There are generally a few types of events authors appear at: festivals, conferences, and special programs.
Festivals. Think book or crafts festivals, where you set up a table and sell your books. For these kinds of events, you pay a fee and show up at your table with all your wares. This is going to be small networking, where you can talk to people on a one-on-one basis as they pass through. Most times, people are more interested in you than your book, and if they make a connection, they’ll consider trying your book. If not, then you’ve gotten to know them.
Conferences. These can offer a mix. Much like festivals, many conferences also have opportunities for you to exhibit your wares at a booth. But unlike festivals, conferences tend to be paid events where people come to gain knowledge and camaraderie. A nonfiction writer would want to attend conferences on their subject area. If an author has a book on the best marketing principles for restaurants, they might want to go to a restaurant conference as an exhibitor, as well as a speaker at one of the panels. Generally, conferences have “calls for proposal,” where they seek people willing to be panelists at the conference. If there are conferences you feel you’d be a good fit for, then submit a proposal. If you have good content, you might get selected. Conferences tend to seek proposals nine months or more in advance of the conference. So, if one is coming up soon, you’re likely to only be able to attend as a paid exhibitor. Still, if it’s a place you think you’ll connect with people, attending as an exhibitor and getting a feel for the type of panelists the conference wants, is helpful for the future. While nonfiction authors may have more obvious information to share, fiction writers aren’t left out in the cold. Many writing conferences are seeking panelists focused on writing for specific genres. And depending on the fiction writer’s topic area, there could be lots of good fits. Sci-fi and fantasy conferences often have author panels discussing various themes. Or a romance novelist, whose couple meets via some new technology, might find a conference on technology in dating to present a session at. It’s all about finding your niche. Look for conferences you have attended in the past or ones that interested you, and think about ways your expertise might fit. Remember, it’s not about selling your books. It’s about providing valuable information you think will help, and connecting with people. Conferences have varying ways of compensating presenters. Some seek volunteer presenters, others provide free admission to presenters, while others still pay certain speakers (paid speaking is a gig all unto itself).
Special Programs. A special program is anything that might be set up as a one-time event that gets the author out there. Several of the IU staff have hosted workshops on self-publishing at their local libraries. Libraries are always looking for programming that is of interest to the community. If you think you have an idea for a program, talk to your local librarian about how your library system makes programming decisions. They’re often very welcoming. And you don’t have to do it alone. If there is another author or speaker in your community who you could pair with, that might make a stronger presentation for the venue.
Those are the basics. If you plan to present often, you’ll need things like a bio, headshot, and basic information about what topics you are qualified to speak on. Have you hosted a session somewhere? Any advice you’d care to throw in the mix?