When I talk with newer writers about their works-in-progress at my office hours, I often find myself mentioning a recent author appearance they might have found helpful: a signing of a book in their genre at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, or a relevant talk at the Downtown Main Library or the Mercantile Library.
I am consistently amazed by how many writers admit they’ve never attended an author event. Ever.
There might be a lot of reasons why (I spend a lot of overscheduled evenings on the soccer practice sidelines too!) but I think this often boils down to a misconception of what an author appearance typically entails. It's usually a missed opportunity. These events are worthwhile hours for any readers, but for fellow writers especially. Here are five reasons why.
It’s easier than you think to make a lasting connection.
Attendance is often lower than you might expect: Even bestselling authors can sometimes draw small handfuls of readers in cities they don’t frequent. Which means you can often make a memorable impression on the author, if you have the courage to speak up and introduce yourself. (Hint: Book tours can be lonely. They’ll be glad if you do.)
Be friendly; engage; mention your name and the sort of writing you’re pursuing while you’re getting your book signed. Then, follow these three simple steps for a lasting relationship: 1.) Follow the author on social media afterward, if you aren’t already. 2.) Post about how much you enjoyed the event and tag them (you’ll very likely get a grateful, immediate response!). 3.) From then on, semi-regularly like/comment on their posts. Do these three things, and he or she is likely to remember you. Really! Try it and see.
There are plenty of people I now interact with on Twitter and Facebook on a fairly regular basis because I met them (and followed back) after they attended one of my events. And if and when they end up submitting or publishing work of their own, you better believe I cheer them on!
It’s a golden opportunity to ask an expert
Say you’re a historical novelist struggling with an aspect of incorporating your research into your story. Attend a signing for another historical novelist and then, when the Q&A period comes (there’s almost always plenty of time for questions, and believe me, the speaker is happy when the audience has some!) go ahead and ask. You might walk away with some great pointers—the kind of personalized tips you won’t get from a book or blog post.
You’re supporting the community you hope to join
The independent bookstore or library hosting and the author speaking get a big boost—in morale even if not dollars—when chairs fill for these events. It says something to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and show up for them when you can. Think of this as paying it forward. And if you want to read the book anyway, why not get an autographed copy? If you’ve already read the book or you find it’s not your cup of tea, signed books also make great personalized gifts.
You can watch and learn
When the time comes to participate in an event of your own, whether on a big or small scale, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect—and feel more comfortable in how to prepare—if you’ve seen others in action. Take note of what speaking styles and approaches you do and don’t like, and of creative ideas you might adapt for your own use in the future.
You’ll refill your creative well
Sometimes I think creativity really is contagious. If you’re starting to feel burnt out or discouraged about your own writing, that might make another writer’s event seem less appealing. I’d argue that’s actually the perfect time to go. Hearing someone else talk so passionately about their process has ways of rekindling your own. Try it and see!
If this piques your interest, subscribe to get event emails from your favorite local bookstores or Branch Libraries and follow them on social media. Even better: next month, the region’s largest book festival, Books by the Banks, opens a new window, will be happening right here in Cincinnati! There, you can meet dozens of writers in a single day, in one place, for free.
I’ll be there too—come and say hi!
Until next time,
2019 Writer-in-Residence: Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County
Editor-at-Large: Writer's Digest
Novelist: Almost Missed You, opens a new window • Not That I Could Tell, opens a new window • Forget You Know Me, opens a new window • St. Martin's Press
jessicastrawser.com, opens a new window / t @jessicastrawser, opens a new window / f @jessicastrawserauthor, opens a new window