Attending In-Person Events
I recently attended the Book Fiend’s Reader Fest 2019 in Connecticut, and it was one of the largest author events that I’ve participated in.
I was fortunate to have other members of my writer’s group in attendance as well, to provide support and show me the ropes. Live events are a great way to expand your audience and network with other writers, but they can also be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t prepare in advance. In this post I can hopefully provide you with a list of essentials and potential pitfalls so you can learn from my mistakes when you hit the road yourself to do a live appearance.
Essentials for Author In-Person Appearance
Here are some of the essentials you’ll need – keep in mind this is an “everything and the kitchen sink” checklist for a full day(s) conference. If your event is smaller you can reduce as needed.
- BOOKS! – This seems obvious, but make sure you purchase copies of your books ahead of time so you have them in advance of the event. I didn’t have nearly enough stock, and it’s awkward telling people to look at Amazon on their phones.
- POWER – I cannot stress this enough. Bring power. That means cell phone charger, laptop/tablet charger, a power strip, and one of those little USB charger bricks if you have one. You won’t know if there is an outlet near your location, and it really stinks to run out of battery in a pinch. Plus, you can be a hero and make friends by helping others who forgot to bring these things
- FOOD & WATER -Some events provide food. Others don’t. Don’t assume they will 100% have food, especially if you have dietary restrictions, or that restaurants will be easily accessible. Looking things up in the area ahead of time using Maps or Yelp is fine, but you may not get breaks or be able to leave your table, so you’ll want some quick and easy snacks and a water bottle handy to keep yourself going.
- CASH & CREDIT DEVICE – Bring change. I cannot tell you what an awful feeling it is to turn someone away who WANTS to buy your book because they cannot pay you. Make sure you take out plenty of change in cash. Dollars or your own local currency. Then, ensure you have a backup, whether it is Paypal/Venmo, and some kind of credit card reader. You don’t need to accept checks or anything, but you’ll want a minimum of two forms of payment that you can accept. If you know your audience is going to be tech-savvy it wouldn’t hurt to have Apple or Android Pay either.
- CREDENTIALS – Make sure you have any and all emails, tickets, badges, and identification that you need to prove you are an author/vendor in a safe and easily accessible place. If this event is big, it’s likely run by a convention agency. That means you might be talking to service and security who have NOTHING to do with the event and don’t know or care who you are. You don’t want to be the person holding up the vendor line digging through your Inbox for the “invite email” you got three months ago.
- EMAIL LIST – Make sure you have a way for people to sign up! Live events are one of, if not the best, way to get new email list subscribers. I used to use a clipboard and pen, but messy handwriting made it hard to figure out. Now I use a cheap tablet with a Google Form that looks pretty and makes it easy for people to sign up.
- BOXES – You gotta have something to lug all this in. Some kind of tupperware box is the minimum, but those rolling handcarts or even small luggage could work if you have it. Assume there will be stairs and sidewalks and doors and nothing will be easy. Then if it’s a straight walk to an elevator you can be pleasantly surprised.
These are nice to have, but might not be 100% necessary
- Tablecloth – If you’re either solo or sharing a vendor table, a tablecloth can make things look much nicer. Even a cheapo one from Walmart or Target that you wash and iron will make a plastic folding table (which is usually what you get) look far more inviting and professional. You want your books to make the best impression they can, and this is an easy way to step up your game.
- Display Stands – To make things look nice you’ll want some of those cheap wire or plastic display stands. You can get them online or at a craft store. These really help by showing off your book in an attractive way that is easy for passersby to pick up, plus they save precious real estate on your table, which can sometimes be limited.
- Business Cards – Not essential, but HIGHLY recommended. It is extremely easy and cheap to get business cards made. You don’t need to go crazy either. A few hundred basic cards will likely last you a while, and they are a great way to give all your key info (email, website, socials) out quickly in a way that people can look at later. ProTip: I only get one-sided cards, because if I’m networking, a blank cardback is a great place to jot notes for other authors and industry people.
- Candy – People love candy. Especially free candy when they are wandering around all day in a convention center full of overpriced food. A bucket of candy on your table is a cheap way to draw people in and grab their attention for those critical few seconds to start a conversation. “Oh, I see you enjoy Kit Kats?…”
- Clip-On Fan – Seriously, bear with me on this. You know those little clip-on fans that are either plug-in or battery powered? During warm weather events those can be a total life saver. If you can spare room in your box for a small fa that you can clip up and get some air moving, if can make sitting at a stuffy table all day way more comfortable. Don’t assume there will be shade or AC, and room full of people at a live event can heat up quick.
I hope this list is helpful to you, and can help you feel better prepared for any live events that you might be attending. Or, if you’ve recently attending an in-person author appearance and think I forgot something, please feel free to add it down in the comments.