[The DIRT DIARY book trailer is almost ready for unveiling! If you'd like a sneak peek, just sign up for my newsletter by Nov. 11th. Also, I'm over at Middle Grade Matrix sharing my response to the question: Is this a girl book?]
I think all writers wish for book signings/readings/etc. that are crowded with adoring fans. But honestly, unless you live inside an episode of Castle, that’s not how they often work. So when do I consider an event to be a “flop”? It depends on how you define success. Let’s break it down.
If you’re looking for well-attended events then things like launch parties are usually a good bet. Of course your friends and family want to help you celebrate the release of a new book, so as long as you spread the word (and the event is scheduled for a time/place that’s pretty accessible for people) your launch party should have a fairly high turnout.
It can also be good to team up with other authors for a joint reading/signing or a panel, so that you can pool your audience. However, more authors doesn’t always mean a bigger turnout. The main thing is spreading the word about the event and giving people a concrete reason to be there (learning tips about getting published, getting a glimpse of a new project, etc.) The good news is that when you do a multi-author event, at least you’re not sitting there all by yourself feeling pathetic if no one comes.
Even if a lot of people come to an event, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll buy books. I’ve done some events at bookstores where my reading was scheduled after story time. A lot of the kids from story time stuck around, half-listened to my reading, worked on the crafts, and then they and their parents left without buying books. They were clearly too young of an audience for my book. But hey, at least I wasn’t reading to an empty room!
If the store wants me to sign stock then I consider that part of my book sales. Once a book is signed, the store is less likely to return it to the publisher. And stores like B&N are often glad to have signed books, especially around the holidays, since people are more likely to buy them.
This one is less quantifiable, but you never know who you might meet at an event. Meeting one enthusiastic person who can be an advocate for you and your books is priceless. That person might recommend you for school visits or conferences, for example. That’s why I’m often willing to give an event a shot even if I’m not sure how it will turn out. Even if the attendance and sales are low, you never know what might come of it.
So when do I consider an event a flop? I guess almost never! I feel like as long as there’s something you gain from it (whether it’s sales or a personal connection or even just a great conversation with a young reader) then it’s not time wasted.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make smarter decisions based on previous events. If you know a certain store/library/etc. isn’t well-organized then maybe it’s best not to go back there. If you drove two hours and only sold one book, you may think twice about doing that type of event again.
Of course, not all events will work out mathematically. Time and effort will not always equal money. If you hate doing events, don’t do them. Find some other way to reach out to readers and to the community. But if you do enjoy events then I say keep expectations low and go into it for the experience, not for the numbers.
Speaking of events, here are a couple of flyers for my upcoming events. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there! (Can you tell I had a little too much fun with Word templates?)