Book Events from an Author’s Perspective

There are a lot of things people associate with being a writer, but to be honest, when I was just starting out, I didn’t think much at all about book events. It wasn’t until much later in the game, after I was agented, that I started paying attention to which authors might be coming in my area, and what these kind of events were like.

I don’t know about you, but to me, the writers at those events always seemed kind of glamourous. I always seemed to catch ones who were coming through on tour, so there would be funny stories of nearly-missed flights and mad dashes through the streets, or mentions of how they were hitting three cities in four days.

Since What’s Left of Me released, though, I’ve gotten to learn what book events are like from the other side of the table 🙂 Of course, it’s only been a month, and I’m very much still a newbie, so I’ll possibly come to feel differently about things once more time passes, but for now, here’s an “inside look”!

So, let’s start at the beginning: how are book events set up? How does an author get to one?

Sometimes, an author will just get an email letting them know that they’re being sent to so-and-so convention or on so-and-so tour. Other times, we might have a specific bookstore in mind that we’d like to visit, and will contact our publicist to see if they can set something up. Sometimes the publisher will fly an author out to an event. Sometimes, we hop in a car and drive ourselves. It really just depends!

After arriving, if the event is a panel or a signing at a convention like BEA, there’s sometimes what’s called a “Green Room” that connects to the stage/signing area, where authors gather a little early so the organizers know we’re accounted for. Directing a bunch of writers can be like herding cats, dontcha know? 😉 Why is it called a “Green Room”? No idea! Here, though, we also run through things like mic checks and get to know our fellow panel members/panel moderator if we haven’t met them before. Sometimes, we’ll already know each other, and that’s always nice!

Personally, I love doing panels, as I think group events are always more fun than solo events. It’s always interesting to hear other authors talk about books, reading, and writing, and of course, I feel really honored to be speaking with them! I’ve gone into almost all my panels knowing very little as far as what we’re going to talk about–generally, we authors don’t get any more information than you guys do about the topic (in other words, we’ll just know the title of the panel ;P). Some moderators might give us a quick run-through of questions they’re thinking of asking, but many don’t. Sometimes, like for my 1.5 hour panel at the Southern Festival of Books, a run-through is impossible since the panel consists almost entirely of questions from the audience!

As for bookstore events, authors usually arrive early to chat with the event organizer at the store, as well as sign stock. Then we hide “backstage” until we’re introduced 🙂

While writing up this post, I did a call-out on Twitter for questions people wanted me to answer about this subject, so I’ll do my best to cover those—then it’s time for me to question you!

Do you get creeped out by any fans/how does it feel to be someone’s celebrity?

Haha, I’ve never been creeped out by a fan, and to be honest, I’ve never, ever felt like a celebrity. Really, the idea of me as a celebrity is laugh-out-loud-funny, and I think most authors feel the same way. WE are super excited to see YOU! At the end of the day, we are all just crazy, book-loving people, and we love to be with other crazy, book-loving people, especially when they’ve apparently enjoyed our books enough to come see us 🙂

How do deal with hand cramping? I imagine your hand must get tired after signing so many books!

I’ve actually never had this happen, and I once signed 275 books consecutively! Maybe I have good hand strength. Hahaha. If you think about it, though, if you only write 2 words in each book (your first and last name—though for some authors, their signature looks more like one word!), even 300 books is only 600 words! That’s not too bad. Of course, if you personalize them, that adds on words 😛

I think most authors, at least debut ones, are on too much of an adrenaline high to notice things like hand cramping anyway!

What’s been your favorite comment/question from a fan (so far)?

Ooh, I dunno. After doing a number of events, there are a number of questions that tend to be asked over and over (things like: Where do you get your inspiration? How do you get published? How did you come up with the idea for ____? What’s your advice for aspiring authors?), and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! It’s very cool to see what people are most interested in knowing, and every time I answer, I feel like I get a little better at answering.

On the other hand, it’s always cool to get a silly question, or an unusual question, even if those sometimes stump me and make me think for far too long before answering 😉

What do you put into preparing for an event? Do you have swag made? Do you have an author liaison go with you? 

Some authors will make swag especially for a particular event, but most authors I know just keep a stockpile of swag that they dip into for whatever event they’re attending. A publicist may or may not accompany an author—this usually depends on the nature of the event. Sometimes a publicist may fly out, sometimes the author is given a local contact, and sometimes the author strikes out on her own 🙂 (I’ve always had, at the very least, my publicist’s phone number should something go wrong!)

Does your publisher tell you what you can/can’t talk about ie. upcoming releases or projects you are working on?

Not really. There are, of course, certain things you’re not supposed to mention too early. I’ve known friends who had to sit quietly about movie deals long after they were made, and things like sequel titles are often chosen long before they’re revealed.

Do you bring books you’ve purchased to give away or does the publisher give you some to give away at events?

At conventions like BEA and such, the publisher will provide ARCs (and sometimes finished copies) to give away. If I were to just do a local library event or something, though, and wanted to give away books, I’d have to get them myself. Sometimes, the library will purchase copies to give away, which is always super nice of them. Other times, books will be for sale at the event.

Is there anything authors dread about events? For example, being asked a certain question.

I think we just hope we don’t accidentally make fools of ourselves 😉 I know I adore doing events, and I think most authors feel the same way.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little from the author’s side of a book event! Before you run off, let me know a little about your side of a book event! What do you like to see, and what don’t you?


18 Responses to Book Events from an Author’s Perspective

  1. Natalie Aguirre Oct 22 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Great tips. The publicity part of being author is the scariest for me so it’s good to know what to expect. I’d much rather sit on a panel too. I’ve seen some authors use a power point presentation at their book signings where they share about the writing process and that can be interesting. But you have to think how to make up one that’s interesting.

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:26 am #

      Thanks! And yeah, a powerpoint can be great, but many times, they’re tricky to set up at a book store. Technology always has the potential to go haywire 😛

  2. ellie Moreton Oct 22 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I LOVE Q&A, even if I can’t think of a cool question, someone else usually does. But I REALLY like stories. Like the behind the scenes fun things or things that you say that made you htink of your book or something goofy. It makes me like the author and even the book more somehow

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:27 am #

      Yeah, Q&A is really fun! And I agree, book events where the author is goofy/funny are definitely more fun!

  3. Caitlin Oct 22 2012 at 9:28 am #

    It’s called a Green Room because the backstage waiting room of theatres used to be painted green. I’m not sure if this is fact or theatre urban legend, but I believe the green paint was meant to counteract the color of the limelight in early theatres, which was kind of green and would freak actors out after too long. 🙂

    And book events are so much fun! I’ve really loved the ones I’ve been to so far.

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:28 am #

      Oooh, thanks for the explanation! That’s a really cool store, whether it’s true or just urban legend 😛

  4. Christa Oct 22 2012 at 10:47 am #

    This is such an interesting post. I’ve never really thought about all the logistics the author must go through. I used to work at a bookstore, so I’m kind of a familiar with some of the things you mentioned. Like the green room! We actually painted ours green.

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:28 am #

      Thanks! And how cool that your green room was actually green! 😀 I’ve never been in one that was actually green.

  5. Kheryn Casey Oct 22 2012 at 11:11 am #

    This is a fantastic post, thank you! I think the only reason I don’t like hearing excerpts during an event is because I’m always afraid the author is going to give something away (especially for if it’s their newest book that I haven’t had a chance to buy yet), even though I think authors generally choose pieces that won’t give anything major away… If it’s a book I’ve already read, though (and has been out for a while), it’s nice to hear the author’s voice. 🙂

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:29 am #

      I think most authors are just as anti-spoilers as you! We wouldn’t want to spoil our own story 😛 Good to know that you like hearing the author read, though 🙂

  6. Daphne Oct 22 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    This is a great post, it’s always nice to know how the author feels after events like this.

    Let’s get that apparating going to get you over to London, k? 🙂

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:29 am #

      *crosses fingers* Plans are getting made. We’ll see 😀

  7. alicejane011@gmail.c Oct 22 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Thanks for answering my question Kat! ^.^ This post was really informative (green room). I also like panels better than solo author signings!

    • Kat Zhang Oct 23 2012 at 1:30 am #

      No problem! Thanks for asking 😀

  8. Alexa (Loves Books) Oct 23 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    I love hearing about what an author thinks of book events! Most of the time, I’m very shy when it comes to meeting authors – they’re definitely celebrities in my eyes!

    • Kat Zhang Oct 25 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      No need to be shy! 😀 I’m sure they’re very happy to see you!

  9. Caitlin Vanasse Oct 23 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    My BFF and I caught Scott Westerfeld last time he was in MN and he did this awesome presentation/powerpoint explaining kind of why he decided to write an illustrated novel (it was the Goliath signing) and how that collaboration process worked. It was really interesting. Plus he was super nice and self deprecating and he answered questions about all of his books not just the more recent series.

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