Hello lovely authors,

Let’s talk about book event promotion. Every author gets nervous about doing book events. Most authors avoid them like the plague. We’ve all heard the stories (or in this case, experienced the horror) of doing tons of work to set up an event only to have no one show up! Now, for this article, I will be focusing on real-world events such as book signings, conventions, author panels, etc. But a lot of the tips can be extrapolated to online events as well.

How do you make your event a big success? Here are five easy steps that are free or low-cost.

  1. Plan Ahead

There’s more that goes into this than you might realize. The first step is to look at event calendars in the area where you want to have the event. (Same for Online events like Facebook Parties. One day this summer I was literally invited to ten fantasy book launch events in the same week!) Make sure you don’t have a ton of competition. I made this mistake with my first book signing in Salt Lake City. I did everything else right but missed the fact that the same day I was doing the book signing there was an ARTS FESTIVAL two blocks away from our signing. The bookstore was dead. There was no traffic at all. If I had looked at the calendar, I would have sent my PAs (AKA, my husband and the heathens) to hand out flyers at the festival an hour before our event to take advantage of the foot traffic, but I didn’t know until an hour before it ended. We were still able to pull in some people, but not as many as I wanted.


After you look at the calendar, plan the date and a good deal of the idea behind the event. Are you doing a book signing, reading, or a talk? Can you partner with other authors in your genre in your area to create a better draw? Contact them and see if they would be interested. It is always easier to get a multi-author event approved than to get a single author event approved (unless you are a NYT bestseller. But if you are, you wouldn’t be here, would you?) Give a good month’s notice (I prefer 6-12 weeks, especially as I am planning around work.)  Create a mock-up flyer, a publicity plan, and go find a venue.

2. Plan the Marketing

You’re asking: Why would you do this before? You aren’t doing it ALL before, but you need to have this kind of information to present to the venue with your media kit so that you can show them why they should say yes to your event. See, for you, this event is all about what you’ll get out of it, but for B & N, or your local restaurant, or Costco, or whatever, it’s what will THEY get out of it. Someone who comes with a plan shows them that you aren’t just hoping to capitalize on their traffic. You are prepared to drive additional traffic to their event. So how do you do that?

It’s actually easier than you would expect. First, make a list of all your local event calendars. Almost all of them will let you share an event for free. (You can make that list when you’re checking for other local events in your area, right?)

Now make a list of all your local news outlets: radio, television, newspapers, newsletters (think city newsletters, college campuses, book groups, everything.)

Make a list of your local libraries. This is a book event. If you aren’t hosting it at a library (FYI, this is a GREAT spot to host events, but you have to be prepared to handle all the sales. I literally just did this as part of promoting an author panel I am doing with Sci-fan Convention, and while at the local library asking if they would hang the promo material, I asked about doing an Indie Author Day Event there in October. She was very excited to get more information!)

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Let the venue know that you will be contacting these locations asking for interviews, announcements, etc and that you will be creating flyers and posters like the mock-up to promote the event. If they sell books, clarify if you need to bring your own, or if they will order books for the event. Bigger chains like B & N will require ordering from Ingram Spark for your event. (They want to be able to return them if they don’t sell in the next three months.) But often indie bookstores or libraries will require that you bring your own books.

Once you have your location, you can get down to the nitty-gritty. Start promoting. Create a Facebook event with the details, send an invite to anyone in your location and offer an incentive for them to invite others (Like a rafflecopter giving away something tied to your genre, but not your own book. Unless you have multiple books in a series then you can give away the first book. Other options include giving away something big in your genre. I like giving away a copy of Lost Boys when I’m promoting The Hunters Saga. They’re a natural fit.) promote the Facebook event on all your social media.

Find sites like Eventbrite or Spingo that allow you to create a free event. They will promote to your location. Look up your local community Facebook pages. Ask if you can share your event there. Look for local book clubs online and share the information there. Create a Thunderclap or Daycause campaign (free, as long as you get the requisite number of support. Learn how to do so from my first Thunderclap Failure.) 

3. Tap Your Network

Networking is so crucial. You have a network in your life, whether it be a job, church, school (or your kid’s school) your book club, or your online community. Write down every possible resource. Who can you approach to help you promote your event? Does your girlfriend have an awesome laser printer and would be willing to let you make flyers in exchange for the paper and ink? Does your church have a sign maker for church events they will let you use? Is your co-worker a whiz at design and would be willing to create some banners and ads for you in exchange for having their design logo on the ad and maybe $25? Is your babysitter or kid happy to take bookmarks to school to pass out? Can you pass out flyers at church, your yoga class, whatever.

K, some of us don’t have those connections, but who in your online world will help? Tap into those, too. Now onto the “cheap” not free part of this.

4. Figure Out Your Budget and Promote Accordingly

The first step is to make your flyers and hand them out. If you can save yourself the legwork, see if one (or more) of the people in your network will help put them up. Depending on how many flyers you can create will determine where you will put the flyers up. Look at shops around your event locale. Many have community boards or will share it at the front register if you ask. Next, you want to hit up bookish places. College campuses, high school libraries (if your book is age-appropriate.) local libraries. Still have budget for more flyers? If you write sci-fi or fantasy, hit up local game stores. There’s a natural cross-over. Do you have any LARPing groups in your community? Reach out to them.

If you still have the budget, print up bookmarks and offer those to locations who put up your sign to give to their clientele. Still have some money left over? Look at local advertising options. If you still have some money left consider investing it in Facebook Promotion. You can target by location, interest, and other cool analytics. Even as little as $10 can give you some great reach at the local level. Still more budget? Look at the advertising options offered on Eventbrite and Spingo. If you still have more, then you can look at running a 15-second radio or tv ad on local channels that declined to do a story on you. If you are flush, you could even rent out a billboard on a major road in town. Make sure your investment in marketing is laid out in that marketing plan you submit to the venue option. The more invested you are, the more invested they will be.

5. Follow up

Be sure to have a sign-up sheet at the event that specifically invites attendees to your e-newsletter. (If it’s part of a raffle, you will get more sign ups.) Also have SWAG (Stuff We All Get, like bookmarks.) If you have multiple books, offer bundle deals for discount prices. If you don’t, but are doing an event with others, see if they would be open to doing a group bundle.

When the event is over, send a welcome email thanking those who signed up for attending your event. Include a coupon for your e-book. Those who didn’t buy it at the event will likely buy it now. Some might get it on top of getting the paperback. Include your intro email letting them know what they will get being on your e-newsletter list, and how frequently they can expect to hear from you. (Stick to that!) Remind them that you appreciate their honest feedback in the form of a review.  

Be sure to send a thank you card to the host of the event. If you had books left over from the event, swing by in a week and check how sales are going. If they sold them all, ask them to order more. Again, thank them for hosting you and offer to do another event in a few months.  

There you have it, five inexpensive ways to skyrocket your book event success. Even if you have as little as $20 for promotion, you can make your event a success.  Have any questions or tips you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep Writing!