This past St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2015, I had the opportunity of doing a multi-author book signing at the Provo City Library with 9 other really fun authors: Holly Kelly, Jaleta Clegg, Laura Bastian, Mikey Brooks, Jacob Cooper, Tifani Clark, Ali Cross, Marianna Roberg, and Donna Weaver. Jacob gets the award for the road farthest travelled (from St. George). Before the event, we had about a month to get ready, which is kind of code for saying, we had no idea what we were doing but we pulled it off anyway.
Yep, we sure did. With flying colors. (Er, mostly green for the holiday.) After all, as authors, we are resourceful. If we didn’t know the answer to something, we looked it up on Google. Very few online articles addressed the subject of “how to put on a multi-author book signing” so I thought I would share here the things I learned from this experience:
1. Plan ahead, ideally at least three months. Some venues might even require more advanced notice. This gives you time to send out press releases, line up your venue, recruit other authors, and just in general stay somewhat sane (well, authors, good luck with that). A month prep time still worked, however, thanks to a very helpful staffer at the library who was very responsive to our questions and all our authors pulling together to make the event a success. If possible, get a free venue. This will increase your profit margin, I promise.
2. Come up with a fun event name. You are an author, be creative! We picked the date to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, thus the name Lucky Literacy Night.
3. Get a financial commitment from the authors to save their spot. Ours wasn’t much, we are talking $10 each. This helps pay for shared costs like refreshments and posters, and also ensures that the author is serious about being in the line-up.
4. Keep the number to 10 authors or less. Too many and you start running into logistical issues. The magic number may be constrained by your venue. The advantage of doing multi-author events is, it’s great cross-promotion. Before extending an invitation to authors, you might want to set parameters of genre so that you can even more effectively cross-promote.
5. Designate a leader. Someone has to coordinate the event with the venue and make some decisions on behalf of the group. In our case, by default, the honor fell on me because I, along with Marianna Roberg, got the bandwagon going. (Though I have to say, without Marianna posting about it on Facebook, this idea would have been just that, an idea.) Which I didn’t mind at all, though I know at least once someone wanted to lead a mutiny. Fortunately, I was able to pacify them with promises of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Joking aside, do get the consensus of as many authors as possible on decisions so that everyone has a buy-in. Who likes a tyrant, right? Delegate as much of the tasks to as many authors as possible so that a) no one gets burnt out and b) so everyone will feel involved.
6. Get as much free publicity as you can. Obviously, we didn’t have a ton of marketing money. But it was no reason to despair. I sent press releases to the major Wasatch Front papers and the Provo paper, then got onto as many free community boards as possible. Ask your authors to spread the word on Facebook and elsewhere. One of the more effective viral things we tried was to post a picture of the author along with the event motif. A lot of people liked the pics, which meant more exposure for each author.
7. Pick a venue with high traffic. I will be honest here. Provo City Library is a beautiful building, and our room was an excellent space. We had enough room for author tables and presentations. But it was a little disconnected from the rest of the library. An attendee had to pretty much come to the library specifically for our event, so social media promotion was super helpful. As the event wore on, the irony struck me that beneath us, a room was teeming with book-lovers and potential fans who were unaware of the jolly St. Patrick festivities going on above. That said, it was fun interacting with those who came, and we were grateful that the library made signs pointing people to our event.
8. Cookies are good. We had a bunch and they are great to help people linger. It was either an email blast or cookies and the cookies won out. If you have money for an ad and cookies, go for it. Or sweet-talk a bakery into donating some.
9. Do prize drawings and fun little presentations. One of the funnest features of the night was the occasional prize drawing and author presentation. Mikey Brooks led out with a mashup illustration, which was a great icebreaker; Jaleta Clegg, Tifani Clark and I did a panel on what inspires us; and Jacob Cooper did an awesome reading. (He has a great reading voice, which is why he is narrating my novel Ghost Moon Night!). Interspersed among these were prize drawings. Each author donated a fun but inexpensive bag of goodies related to the holiday and/or their book. We also each put bookmarks in each other’s bags.
10. Have a super fun emcee. Kelley Crandall, aka The Book Stalker, was our amazing emcee. She did a phenomenal job of keeping us on track, and making us all feel like a million bucks during her introductions. Go check out her website here. She offers publicist services, among other things, to authors.
11. Have fun! Remember, it’s not the number of sales you make that measures the event’s success. Each public signing you do will touch a potential reader. So keep the event upbeat regardless of turnout or sales. Eventgoers might not buy your book then, but they might when they get home and get admiring your bookmark. Especially when they remember how nice you are. Be sure to take lots of pics and do a post-event report on social media so that the authors get a bit more mileage from the event.
If you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear it in the comments!