January 28th Program Notes: A Lively Conversation About Author Events

By Katie Sheehan, Berrett-Koehler Publishers

January’s program was chock-full of tips and tricks for planning author events in the greater Bay Area. The NCBPMA hosted a diverse panel that included an online television representative from http://www.FORA.tv, an event planner from the Borders bookstore near Union Square, an event planner from local Bay Area independent bookstore, Books Inc., and two event planners from Bay Area libraries, including the Atherton Library and the San Francisco Main Library. See below for names and organizations.

The moderator for the panel was Lillian Fleer, the Events and Outreach Director for Heyday Books. Fleer began the discussion with a question about the importance of author events. The general consensus was that they create a personal connection between the reader and the author that makes the content more meaningful to the reader. Successful author events also help the venue, be it bookstore, website, or library, because it helps them to strengthen communities by bringing them together. Good events bring more people into the venues and create more new customers.

Successful author events are shaped and determined by the surrounding community. For example, the regional branches of the San Francisco library prefer events that pertain to gardening, cooking, crafts, and parenting, whereas the downtown Borders event coordinator tends to select more celebrity events because those events bring in people off the streets, generally tourists, who then spend money in the store. Borders will host any type of creative event including stand-up comedy shows, magic shows, anything that pertains to a book and is creative. Everyone agreed that you should know what kind of events are held at the location you are pitching. Please don’t pitch a body, mind, spirit, book to a bookstore that focuses primarily on current affairs.

All panelists agreed that the best way to increase the size of any event is for the author to be very involved in the promotional efforts. Authors should promote to their contacts in the community and also perhaps find an organization that will help promote the event to its members as well. Panelists also stressed the point that they need an adequate amount of time to plan the event. Please don’t call them the week before. Most venues need at least 6-8 weeks advanced notice in order to plan an event that will be well attended.

Promotions for events include Facebook, local newspapers mentions, flyers, e-newsletters, and posters in the stores. For more information contact the event planners themselves!

Jason Jeffries, Sales Manager, Borders; Margie Scott Tucker, Co-Owner, Books Inc., Carine Risley, Branch Manager, Atherton and Brisbane Libraries of the San Mateo County Library; Blaise Zerega, President and CEO, FORA.tv, and Rosie Levy Merlin, Program Outreach Librarian, San Francisco Public Library were our speakers, and Lillian Fleer, Events and Outreach Director, Heyday Books was our Moderator.

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