Author Events – Are They Worth It?

Recently I attended an “Authors’ Day” event that was held on a Saturday at the Tamarack District Library,  105 miles from my home. I left my house at 7:00 a.m. and returned home around 4:00 p.m. There were 19 authors spread throughout the library. My table was located in an ideal spot, almost directly in front of the library’s entrance.

Authors who attended Bios, Books, and Brunch

I didn’t sell one book.

So was going to this even worthwhile? That’s what I’m trying to decide, so I’ve been listing positives and negatives.

Postitives

  1. The library has a Facebook page and advertised the event with pictures and short bios of each attending author.
  2. The library advertised event locally and had signs in the library, listing attending authors. My name was on those.
  3. The librarians are wonderful. They’re enthusiastic, helpful, and had water, coffee, tea, scones, fresh fruit, and chocolates available (for free) for attendees and authors.
  4. There was no cost to attend.
  5. The librarians stoked my ego by saying the library has all of my books and they are in constant demand.
  6. My table was paired with Peg Herring’s table, and I had a great time talking about writing and self-publishing.
  7. Several people stopped by our tables and talked to us about our books, took our bookmarks, and said they mainly read e-books or listened to audio books. (So maybe they bought a book at a later date???)
  8. I rode to the event with another writer. We talked all the way there and back about writing. (I now have some new ideas for my wip.)
  9. I made contact with a local newspaper owner who features authors. It’s an opportunity for more publicity.

Negatives

  1. Very few people came through the library. (There were mothers with children who visited and purchased books from a well known children’s book illustrator.)
  2. That’s a long ways to drive and not sell any books.
  3. A full day of writing was lost.
  4. Writing time was also lost the day before as I packed books and PR materials for the event, and then unpacked the day after.
  5. I didn’t sell any books. Maybe some of the people who stopped by and talked will buy on-line, but that’s just a maybe.

My positives outnumber the negatives, but those are pretty strong negatives.

So are events of this nature worth our time? I really don’t know.

Want to buy a book?

By the way, I won’t be blogging for the next two weeks, but I hope to have some great pictures to post when I get back.  Au Revoir

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42 Responses to Author Events – Are They Worth It?

  1. Caroll Drudy says:

    Wish I had known about it. Maybe Susan and I could have come. Eager to read your latest book.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Hi Caroll. Well, evidently the PR for the event wasn’t widespread enough. 🙂 Thanks for thinking of coming. That would have been a long drive for you. By the way, ECHOES OF TERROR is available in hardcover or e-book form on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Hint, hint.

  2. Lynn Cahoon says:

    Yeah, I’ve been asking myself the same question. What is the ROI of the event? Is it something you WANT to do because you love the library or a friend asked you? Can you take off the time from writing without messing with your schedule?

    I have no answers. I went to a two day event and sold some books, but not enough to justify the costs. But did I get new readers? I hope so.

    Good luck on your author journey and enjoy your time off.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Thank you, Lynn. And you’re right. I have never sold enough books to justify the costs of any event where I had to drive more than 30 miles. They are fun to attend, and I do learn a lot from talking to readers, but I sometimes think reclusive writers have the right idea.

  3. I’ve never had success with sales at a multi-author event. I think the only people who do are the huge headliners. As you say, the negatives are pretty big, so I haven’t participated in any lately.
    Have a great trip!

  4. Becky Lower says:

    I tried several events like this a few years back, and won’t do it again. It’s a big time suck and a waste of time, even if you do get some marginal publicity for it. I will continue to participate in panel discussions, etc, but a straight-up book signing at a library seems to be a bust.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Since my publisher (up until lately) has been Five Star/Cengage and they sold primarily to libraries, attending library events seemed wise. And I do love librarians. Whether I sell books or not, I think supporting libraries is important, so I won’t say “never” to attending, but I will think twice about it.

  5. Nancy Gideon says:

    I’ve found that the positives come AFTER the event not during. If I can get materials into their hands, the chances go up that a later sale MAY happen. I spent two days at the HUGE Tucson Book Festival last year. Sold some books but not a great number but I did have bookmarks w eye-catching tassels and charms on them that I’d made and passed out over 100 of them (even to children!). They featured covers from my series and contact info. Two days after I got home a had a considerable jump in e-sales, enough of a spike to know they’d come from those bookmark holders who found them later and took a second look. But all things considering, I don’t pursue many public events. Working full time, my weekends are better spent writing.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Nancy, I also think being able to combine participating in an event with visiting an area I want to see, or seeing friends or family, makes attending worthwhile. And I think it’s good to visit areas of the country where my name might not be familiar. But you’re right. If a writer is also a full-time worker, those weekends are very precious.

  6. Catherine Dilts says:

    I attend author events to socialize and network with other authors and the venue hosts. I typically do not make many sales. So I limit my participation to nearby events, and only two or three a year. I agree, the lost time is important to weigh when deciding whether to go. At library events, patrons might not be interested in purchasing books, but they may keep your books on the shelves by checking them out.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Catherine, that’s one thing I’ve discovered. If patrons of the library meet me, they may not buy my book, but they’ll check it out. (And I tell them to do that.) It doesn’t increase my sales, but I’m a storyteller first. I want others to read and enjoy (I hope) my stories.

  7. I’ve attended only one such event and did sell a few books but not many. Multi-author events do have benefits–networking for one. But there is too much competition in regard to sales. You have to decide to consider it more of a social event.

  8. I was at the same event because it was a daytime event and near my home. I’d been invited the previous year and was unable to attend. Book sales were minimal. I don’t know if those who took the promo handouts made purchases later or not. It’s unpredictable, but that’s the publishing industry. I choose the events acording to my schedule and travel time and cost. My .02.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      I was glad you made it this year, Loralee. It was great seeing you there even though we didn’t get a chance to talk for any length of time. (My fault for not getting up and moving around more.) As you said, no cost to you and who knows, maybe it will lead to many sales.

  9. Alice Duncan says:

    When I lived in Southern California, going to events like that was worth it. There were zillions of published authors present, and they took place in malls and stores people actually visited. Now that I live in the middle of nowhere, those types of events aren’t worth it. Having to drive three and a half hours just to get somewhere takes a lot of joy out of attending stuff like that. They used to be fun. Kind of, although they’ve never been my “thing.”

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Alice, I’ve also found times have change. Not as many people seem to come out for mall, bookstore, or library events unless the author is a BIG name. Or maybe that’s just my perception. But you’re right, it’s worth the time if you live close by. Not worth it if you have to drive three hours (or even an hour and a half).

  10. I agree about multiple author library signing events; they aren’t profitable for hand selling. Multiple author events for me in the past was the 10-day State Fair Authors’ Table, and a 3-day Christmas Bazaar. The fair was grueling as the author had to be there opening to closing, every day. But I sold a lot of books, made great contacts, built a fan base that continued through my 30 years of being at the fair. The Christmas event was easier and profitable. I did notice a change when e-books came out– sales of expensive hardcovers fell.
    I enjoyed the social aspects, but can no longer take the grind of the fair.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Wow, Irene, that Fair event sounds grueling. Yes, it is the social aspect that makes it difficult to say no to these events…even when multiple books aren’t sold.

  11. I’m so glad to read this post, Maris. I thought I was the only one who didn’t sell many books at these events. However, I attended one Saturday, and I sold a ton of books. Well two people bought all 6 of my books. and someone bought the first 3 in a series of 4 and a couple of stand-alones. I drove 45 minutes, well my husband drove, but not a ton of traffic. Had a great time. This was not just a book sell. Authors read from their books and made presentations. I think that makes a difference. I also think if you have to spend the night, try to combine it with getting to see someone you don’t often see, or research for a book. I’m already signed up for a couple in 2018. It’s all a balancing act and we have to find what works for us. Enjoyed your post.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Marsha, you are so right about events where the author reads a bit from the book making a difference. I know I’ve sold more books when there’s some sort of platform where I can read a first chapter. (My first chapter’s are generally short.)

  12. Vicki Batman says:

    It’s a hard call. I’ve been and not sold any. I’ve been and sold lots. One thing I have learned from Handsome is if you are speaking to the audience, go out there before the event and shake hands with the attendees. That personal touch always helps.

  13. I’ve been to a few local author-day events, and sometimes I sell quite a few books and at others I sell none. I agree with your list of positives, and overall I think these events are worth doing, especially if I learn something from talking to other writers and readers. But every time one comes along, I hesitate a moment before I sign up, and I’m always glad I did.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Funny thing happened today, Susan. This post went out and a few hours later I was invited to an “Authors’ Event” at our local library. Not sure if there was any connection, and because I will be out of town on the Saturday the event is being held, I had to turn the invitation down. But darn, I think I could have sold a few books at this one and it’s being held less than a mile from my house.

  14. Melissa Keir says:

    I’ve been to a few of these type events and never sell a bunch. My hope is that people will know my name and check me out. The events I love are the ones where I can talk with other authors and hang out with readers. Those events are wonderful because I’m not there to “sell” my books but to “sell” myself. The personal connections are worth more than the cost of the events.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Melissa, you are so right about the personal connections. I know how I feel when I personally talk to an author, and I’ve been lucky enough to make some long-time friends after meeting them at author events.

  15. Jen J. Danna says:

    I think it really depends on the event. I’ve found library events to be unsuccessful no matter how many or few authors they are. People go to the library not expecting to spend money; they borrow books for free. So I’ve never found it to be a great venue for sales. But I recently went to a big multi-author book festival in Toronto and sold quite a few books because these were people who came out to meet authors and buy books. I think venue is everything.

  16. I have given up store signings almost completely and library signings totally. The last two I attended were quite big and still – few people – no sales. I totally support libraries, but most who walk through and take swag will just get the book from the library. And why not? I’m sure sometimes they might read one and decide they want to see all the other books you have written and will order them if the library doesn’t have them. But overall, it’s just not worth the time away from writing and the gas it takes to get there. If an independent book store invites me, I usually will do a signing there because independents usually do the best job of advertising, they know their readers and will steer them to the right books/authors and make sure your devoted readers are aware you will be there. Chains are definitely not worth the time. Your best bet is your own advertising on Facebook, a great web site, Twitter, blog visits, etc. Much, much better than live signings. And boosting a Facebook post about launching a new title is very cheap and well worth it, My visits and sales jump way up when I do a boost. Far better way to reach readers without leaving your desk. Us “oldies” are used to signings because that used to be the only way to reach our readers, but in all my 35 years of writing I have seldom had a truly successful signing at a book store or library. At times there might have been 10-20 people stop and buy a book, but usually at local signings where my friends come. I really think that strangers look at us and think “If they have to go out and hawk their books, they must not be very good or very well known.” I always feel like I”m begging people to please buy a book, and I hate that. I have GREAT sales in Walmarts, B&N and on Amazon, but that doesn’t seem to meld into great live signings. So overall, signings just aren’t worth the time and gasoline. I don’t seek them out, but if I”m specifically invited, as opposed to a mass invite to a big library event, I will usually oblige them for being kind enough to ask – and usually it’s because I sell very well there and I know the store owner will really push the signing. Just my opinion.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Rosanne, I love your comment about feeling like you’re begging people to buy your book. I’ve had that feeling more than once. I am not a good salesman (or saleswoman) and I don’t want to play that role. I’m a writer. I like meeting people and talking about books, but I don’t want to sit (or stand) and say “Buy my book.”

  17. cj petterson says:

    It’s a wonderful way to introduce real authors to readers, but (I have found) people visit the library to borrow books, not buy them.

    I choose to attend events based on my outlay of time and money because I know I’m not going to get much, if any, return for my buck.

    Your list of positives does outnumber the negatives, though.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Thank you, cj, for your comment. You are right. It’s best to realize I won’t get much return for my “buck,” but if I have the time and money, the experience of meeting new readers can be worth it.

  18. Good PR and good for getting known to the librarians, but that’s too many authors to count on any book sales. If selling books isn’t your main goal, this works. Otherwise it’s far to go and too time consuming to be worthwhile. Maybe accept the ones closer to home or where you’re the only speaker or are on a panel with a few other authors.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Good points, Nancy. I will say driving to the library with Diane Burton and sitting next to Peg Herring during the event made the time worthwhile for me.

  19. Lorena McCourtney says:

    I was glad to see your post, and the responses, about the general lack of sales at book signings. I’ve always thought mine were the only ones that went that way, but now I see it’s not an unusual experience. (Misery loves company?) One thing I’ve learned – you’d better know where the restroom is because that’s often the most-asked question!

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      You made me laugh, Lorena, because that’s exactly the question I’ve received when doing an event at a book store. That or they want to know where they can find such-and-such a type of book that has no relationship to what I write.

  20. Diane Burton says:

    Great post, Maris. You asked the question that’s uppermost in my mind. Is it worth it? To get my name out? Yes. To actually sell books? I don’t know. My “success” at Tamarack Library was one book sold. Yay! Seriously, I’m trying to get name recognition here in Michigan and hope that it will spill over elsewhere. Yes, it takes time from writing. But, it’s so much fun to talk to readers and other authors. Loved riding with you to this event and talking books. Also, loved talking to Loralee who was in the same “room” with me. I’m going to do a couple of craft shows in December. Maybe I’ll have more success.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Diane, I’m curious to hear how the craft shows work out. In the past I’ve seen writers at craft shows and wondered if they sold enough books to cover the cost.

  21. Nicci says:

    I have stopped doing them. I don’t like to pretend the positives outweigh the negatives. For me they don’t. I don’t get enough writing time as it is. Your post is spot on and I appreciate seeing it laid out so well.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Nicci, I think I’m at that point. As nice as librarians and booksellers are, I keep wondering if the time/money spent to participate is worth it. From what I’m reading in these comments, it’s not.