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On Planning My First Solo Author Event

Planning a book related event is stressful on all accounts, no matter if it’s a simple reading or a large writing conference. Regardless of size, the same questions remain: Will people have a good time? Does the agenda flow smoothly? Will people discover something exciting? Are there enough networking opportunities? What about food and drinks?

And then the big one, the one that strikes fear in every planner’s heart: Will people even come?

I’ve done it twice officially now, planned book-ish events. One was a rather large writing conference for Ooligan Press while in grad school years ago, the other an author event for my newest releasethat I hosted on May 11. I’ll chat about that one since it’s still fresh in my mind. (Maybe in another post I’ll talk about the wonderful chaos that was Ooligan Press’ Write to Publish 2016.)

Let me start off by saying this: my event was a success. Way more people attended than I expected, and I had a lot of fun! However, there are a lot of moving parts when planning events, even something as relatively small as mine.

Ever wonder what actually goes into planning your own author event? Read on for a behind-the-scenes look!

First: Set the Date & Find a Venue

The first step is always setting a date for this fabulous soiree and then finding a place to host it.

Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties (cover)April became an interesting month for me this year, one full of possibilities that didn’t pan out. My adult fantasy novel Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties came out on March 27 and I wanted to host an event to celebrate my new release. (Obviously!) I had wanted to do a book-ish event right then, but my paperback copies didn’t arrive until weeks later. (Hello, living in Alaska; however, I ended up being on an Alaska Writers Guild panel on the 27th so that was pretty cool.) Yet all April I struggled to find a venue for my budding event, trying to prep something for when my paperback books arrived. It was a challenge, to say the least. I approached many different venues and was met with many different hurtles. I just couldn’t find a place that a) fit my budget, b) fit my timeline, and c) actually wanted to do an author event.

My books arrived mid-April—and I was thrilled!—but I still hadn’t found a location and, to be honest, I was getting a bit antsy. It had been three weeks since my official release, and I hadn’t hosted an event yet! I decided to approach a local coffee shop for my event idea, requesting a room rental, and a week later I had gotten the green light.

The challenge? Because of the slight delay in communication, I only had two weeks to plan my very first solo author event. I really loved the coffee shop, though, and it was a unique location, so I buckled down and went to work.

Second: Do All the Prep & Try Not to Panic

Saying there will be an event and actually hosting one are two vastly different things. You can say anything your heart desires, but planning for said event takes a freak-ton of work. (And yes, “freak-ton” is the official measurement for this kind of thing.)

Now that I had a venue and a date, I had to figure out what the heck I actually wanted to do for my book party, so I thought back to all the other events I had been to and pulled from them, as well as adding my own twists. I settled on a reading, a Q&A, and a book signing. The reading was inevitable, but that meant I had to look through three hundred pages of my fantasy novel to find two tiny snippets that might spark interest in potential readers. (A monumental challenge, to be sure.) I knew the Q&A would lead itself so I barely thought about that, but then for the signing I had to make sure I had all the books I needed, the money box and the Square all prepped for payment options, and designated a person to be the “book purchasing person.” (I asked my sister.)

Gift BasketI wanted there to be lots of interesting opportunities for the folks who attended, so I had a donation bin for my local animal shelter that people could bring items for, and put together a gift basket for one lucky winner. (I tied both together by saying if you brought a donation, you could put an extra name in for the gift basket.) I debated over the gift basket for a while, finally settling on some things that readers might enjoy—tea, chocolate, mug—and some special items—my books and a hand-made necklace.

I also wanted to bake cupcakes and grab fruit, too, so my attendees could have snacks the day of. The cupcakes were chocolate with vanilla frosting, decorated with sprinkles that color coordinated with my cover—blue, purple, and green. The fruit was color coordinated with the “sunkissed” idea—red, yellow, and orange—that matched one of my super important characters.

Third: Decorations & Other Things

There are a ton of little things that goes into creating events. Things you may not even think about.

PosterI got to create signage and cool event posters, which is an obvious—and fun!—task. One Friday, I ran around town and purchased a bunch of decorations, tablecloths, and easels for the posters, as well as all the gift basket items. I put up signs. I posted on newspaper and community event pages. I created a Facebook event page and chatted about it on social media. I did a test run on the cupcakes. I practiced my welcome speech and my reading in front of anyone who’d listen—my family, my coworkers, my cats. I set up the kitchen island bar as a test-table of sorts for my donation bin/gift basket/book purchasing table and took pictures when I organized it the way I liked.

The best random thing I got to do? Figure out what pen to use for the signing! (Confession: I just took one from work because I liked it and put it back the next day. They hardly missed it!) I also had to figure out what I’d write in the books so I brainstormed a couple of phrases that I could fall back on.

Fourth: Day of Insanity & Ending

Day of will be stressful but fun! Soak it all in, okay? After the event ends, thank folks.

CupcakeThe day of, I baked cupcakes—navigating a cat-cupcake disaster—and cut up the fruit. I made sure I had everything. I panicked a little bit. We had half hour to set up the room and luckily a coworker friend of mine and her significant other showed up to help, because, wow, thirty minutes goes by quick. The room came together quite nicely though, and attendees started filing in. When the time came to start, I grabbed a drink from the baristas up front, took a couple of deep breaths, and rocked it.

That night, I thanked my attendees and the venue, posted on social media, promised to upload some photos later in the week, and planned to drop off the donations soon, too. (I also unwound by having a giant pretzel, some tea, and watching something fun.)

Reading

So, I did it. In two weeks, I planned a successful author event. It was intense. Stressful. Fun! There are not enough words to explain how much of a whirlwind those two weeks were, but I did it. Would I have liked some extra lead-time? Of course! Would I do it again under the same conditions?

Not even He Who Shall Not Be Named could stop me.

So now, if you ever want to plan your own author event, maybe re-read this and create something fabulous. I’d love to hear all about it.

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