Author Events: In Person, and Socially Distant

I’m going to give you a small peek behind the curtain at operations here at Three Houses Press: we plan out topics well in advance, so we weren’t exactly expecting the US (and a few other parts of the world) to still be struggling quite so badly with COVID by the first week of August. That we are not in a better place in any significant way is devastating, frustrating, and in a very small way makes our topic for this week interesting to approach. Because dealing with this pandemic is slowly becoming our new normal (yikes), today we will cover author events in the context of both social distancing and how things were done in the olden times.

In a time long, long ago when we could freely touch our faces in public and take leisurely strolls around grocery stores, authors could hold events in public. There are a few different ways to go about an author event including a solo reading/signing event, joint events, in conversation events, panel discussions, conference/fest events, and book launch parties.

A solo event is most typical for what you would picture when you think about an author event: it’s some speaking/reading, probably a short Q&A, concluding with signing books. Sometimes an author will opt for just a signing event, where they skip the presentation/Q&A step altogether and just do a meet and greet while signing books. A joint event is a stepped up version of a solo event, where two authors (typically ones who would draw a similar crowd or are from the same publisher) do a combined version of a solo event. This can be a great way to attract people who are familiar with one author and introduce them to a newer author whose work the reader would likely enjoy. 

An in conversation event is more akin to an interview, but on stage. The interviewer might also be an author, and the interviewee generally asks a few questions as well as answering. A panel discussion is an expanded version of this, where there are several authors answering questions led by one interviewer. All of these kinds of events can happen at a conference/fest, especially ones like the London Book Fair or BookExpo America.

A book launch party is of course an event held when a book is published, meant to promote the book. It is more of a party than a formal reading, just meant to have people come out and celebrate the author’s hard work and perhaps generate some press, reviews, or organic content marketing. All of these kinds of events (minus large conferences) can be held at bookstores, but a book event is certainly not limited to bookstore spaces. If you have the resources, holding a book event at a special venue such as a winery or an art gallery can make an event more interesting and memorable. 

For any kind of in person author event, there are a couple of key things you’ll want to remember:

a) have books on hand! You should think reasonably about how many books you’ll need to have with you—show up with too many and you’re stuck carting the leftovers around, and if you don’t bring enough you’re doing yourself and your customer a disservice. Aim to have a few left over, but not enough that it’ll make your back hurt. 

b) even if this is your first event for your first book, try to make the event feel personal to you. You don’t want people to leave your event feeling like they should have just stayed home and read your book there. 

c) don’t be discouraged if your event isn’t a sold out smash hit. Use the time at a smaller, more sparsely attended event to appreciate those who have shown up for you, turning them into lifetime readers and followers. 

While we hope to continue to attend these various types of author events in the future, for now we seem to be stuck in virtual/Zoom land. The good news is that local bookstores, libraries, and publishers are working hard to make sure that authors and their readers can still connect through virtual events. 

It’s worth checking out your local bookstore’s social media to see what they’re offering, as everyone seems to have a different approach. Locally to me, in Boston, indie stores like Brookline Booksmith are holding virtual author events almost daily online. You register for the event you’re interested in via Eventbrite, and get details from there—a Publisher’s Weekly article from early May suggests that this is a way to stop ‘trolls’ from invading online spaces, something you wouldn’t think too much about for an in person author event.

Though online events so far don’t seem to be as lucrative as in person events, bookstores and authors are adamant that they will continue to work on figuring out virtual events that are beneficial to everyone. If you have even a passing interest in the literary community (if this isn’t you, how have you made it this far into this post…?) and you have a couple dollars to spare, you might look into supporting your local indie by attending some virtual events and seeing if tipping is an option. If you are an author yourself and looking to do an event, this is your time! You are no longer limited to your local community, though I would suggest contacting your local indie first and foremost. The beautiful thing about this new virtual event age is that you can attend and host events all around the country without it costing very much, if anything at all. 

Hopefully this was a helpful look into author events both of the past and the now, and here’s looking to when the past can become the future once more. Happy eventing! 

Notable author tours currently happening virtually: 

Jeff Kinney, for his book Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure

Christopher Paolini, for his book To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Stephenie Meyer, for her book Midnight Sun