Whether it's a bookstore, a library, or some other venue, the basic principles are the same. Think of it like arranging a family function. There's a lot to do, but none of it's too complicated. If you follow this step-by-step guide, you won't go far wrong
If you have any problems/questions, post a 'HELP' message on the board at the Yahoo Group, chances are, someone will have come across a similar situation and know how to handle it.
Remember As the event coordinator, the buck stops with YOU. The Pennsylvania Authors' Network is not responsible for any part of any event that you set up. You have to make sure everything's in place.
It's your job to make sure everyone knows what's expected of them. You have the final say as to who else takes part, but use common sense. You’re the team leader, not Genghis Khan. Be polite, friendly, and clear in your communication.
Don't be too proud to ask for help, offer to help, or accept help.
FINDING PARTICIPANTS There are plenty of authors in your county with books to sell, it's just a question of finding them. The first thing you should do is get in touch with any other Pennsylvania Authors you know. Spread the word. Promote the Network. After all, a multi-author event helps everyone, right?
Why not check with your library for a list of local authors? If you talk up the Network in a positive way, they'll probably agree in principle to hosting an event for you as soon as you're ready. While you're there, ask if they know of any local writing groups (or even reading ones). You can contact them too.
Send out emails to the authors on the library's list, asking if they'd care to join. Handy tip: Don't limit yourself to novel writers. This system works equally well for non-fiction and anthologies too.
LIBRARY OR BOOKSTORE? A library will likely be more concerned with having a well attended event than actual sales, on the other hand, people come to a bookstore to buy books, so you can expect to get better overall sales from the non-guests who attend an event at (say) Barnes & Noble or an independent books store.
If the event's at a bookstore, make sure everyone concerned is crystal clear about who's selling books and what percentage goes to the store.
A library will be more open to self-published authors, but they may well want to screen the relevant books first (some bookstores might want to do that too).
If you choose to hold the event there, a library will advertise in the local press, but you need to do your bit too.
Contact local writing groups/reading groups (chances are, some of their members will be novel writers). Handy tip: If there’s a local writing group, see if one of their members would do an article for their newsletter (and/or the local press). Ask for a copy of the article (not to judge, but to use as a reference in the future).
UNLESS YOU'RE CONFIDENT YOU CAN GET ENOUGH PARTICIPANTS, SEE WHO'S AVAILABLE FOR A SIGNING IN A GENERAL AREA BEFORE YOU BOOK A SPECIFIC LOCATION
Ideally, you need four of five writers (plus one standby). The standby should have an automatic place on the next event if he/she doesn't get to take part in this one. Put a message on the board at the Yahoo Group , inviting people to take part, or if you prefer, contact people directly from the links section.
Handy tip: Sometimes an author might express an interest, but fail to follow through with information etc. That's okay, life happens and sometimes we have to change our plans. It's a good idea to make it clear from the outset that people need to have their 100-word bios, book cover pics (and author pics, if needed) in the PICS & 100-WORD folder on the Yahoo group if they want to be included in any promotional work the host puts in.
Be flexible with your date and location. The venue you originally planned to use might not be the most practical.
It's quite possible that you, or one of the participants, will know who to contact at the venue, but if not:
ASK THE RIGHT PERSON This may sound obvious, but whichever route you decide to take, make sure you talk to the right person. It doesn't happen often, but there are a few people who would rather say 'no' than admit they're not the one with the power. A 'Who do I talk to about author-related talks and events?' question, will not only help you avoid that problem, but also gives you a great opening line when you introduce yourself to the gatekeeper: 'I understand you're the person I need to speak to about arranging an author-related event. I'm calling on behalf of the Pennsylvania Authors' Network... Remember, if this goes well, you want this to become a regular event, so be professional in the way you dress and how you communicate with library folks.
A ONE-SENTENCE INTRODUCTION When asking for a multi-author event, use a one-sentence pitch (like the one above). Be prepared for questions. Offer to send an email, explaining a little more about what we do and refer the gatekeepers to this site—so they can review what we’re about at their leisure.
Here's an example of a follow up email:
Dear [INSERT NAME],
I enjoyed talking to you earlier.
As promised, I'm writing to confirm my inquiry about the possibility of [INSERT NAME] Library hosting a Pennsylvania Authors' Network (PennAN) event.
PennAN is a free to join, free to use network of writers and authors based in (or near) Pennsylvania. We put on multi-author events at libraries and other venues around the Keystone State, usually in the form of a panel/Q&A, in which participants share some of their knowledge and experience about writing and publishing. Possible topics include: The Nuts & Bolts of Writing a Book; Getting Published; I Finished my First Draft; Now What? and Writing for Younger Readers.
The coordinator provides the host with a brief event blurb, along with mug shots, cover pics and 100-word bios for the participating PennAN members.
We don't accept speaking fees for PennAN events, though we do ask that our host allows us to sell our books afterwards, and helps promote the event as if it were something they were paying us to put on.
We're currently in the process of putting together the network's [INSERT SEASON] schedule. If you'd like to host one of our events, or you have any questions regarding the above, please let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Help yourself, promote the Network. It's quite possible the gatekeeper knows other Pennsylvania authors. Ask for contact details (or at least their names and book-titles). Remember, the more people in the Network, the better it is for everybody.
Create a separate email list for the event (including the host and standby panelists). Make sure everyone has the event title and promotional blurb (see Panel Topics in Files section of the Yahoo group for examples of blurbs and panel questions), and also a copy of the PennAN banner (with a link to this website).
Make sure panel members understand what’s involved/expected of them (see Guide for Participants). A good goal would be for each author to get six people to attend. It doesn’t matter if their friends/relatives etc. have already bought that author's book. If everyone else brings six people, there will be at least 24 people at the event who haven’t. Reality check: If people go about getting their six the right way, the number of 'guests' at an event will be nearer fifty (since some of those personally invited will bring a spouse and/or a friend, others will turn up because they saw an advertisement, or just happened to be there on the day).
Communicate Keep in touch with everyone (including the event host and standby panelists) in the run-up to the event. Make sure they have your cell-phone number, even if you don't have theirs. If someone isn't answering group emails, specifically request a response. Don't assume things are going smoothly for everyone. Aside from the usual 'life' issues that can get in the way, some people will have more trouble inviting people to an event than others. In most cases, all they need is encouragement and a little support.
A week or two before the event Check online to see what advertising has been done. Many libraries use Patch.com, but if they haven't, feel free to post the details on there yourself. Also, remind the participants to put themselves out there to try to bring people to the event.
Send out the questions you plan to ask panelists and invite feedback/alternatives.
Buy a 'Thank you' card for whoever agreed to let you hold the event (you'll need to get the others to sign it on the day). Contact the other participants. Make sure they know they need to be at the venue at least fifteen minutes before the signing. IMPORTANT: Remind them to start promoting the event on their blog, Facebook and Twitter pages a day or two beforehand.
Speaking order Have a confident speaker go first, to set an example for the others. Remember, some of the authors will be nervous. They need to know that it is perfectly normal, and that they'll settle down once they get started.
ON THE DAY Remember you are the moderator. The other participants look to you to set the lead. Dress smart-casual. Be the first one there.
In addition to your book talk, you need to do a brief welcome to the audience. Thank the host and explain a little about PennAN.
START ON TIME Even if you're expecting more audience members to arrive. The most important people are the ones there right now. Don't insult them by keeping them waiting.
INTRODUCTION In your introduction, welcome those who turned up. Remember to thank the library/store—and in particular, whoever agreed to host the event - by name. Invite each panel member to introduce themselves by name, town, and genre.
If it's appropriate to the panel theme, invite each member to give a brief description of their path to publication.
Go through your list of prearranged questions. Keep an eye on the time. Use a prearranged signal to let folks know if they're taking too much time. Handy Tip: If you can, put authors who are used to talking in public on first and last.
Some people are uncomfortable/nervous/petrified when talking in front of others. They'll get better with practice, but for now, you need to look out for them. If they dry up, veer off-topic—or worse, can't stop themselves talking, help them out.
Remember, you are the moderator. You need to make sure that everyone gets a fair turn at the mike, as it were. You also need to step in if a panel member talks too long or strays off topic.
Q&A session After about 40 minutes or so, invite questions from the audience. You can give everyone a chance to answer, but if there are lots of hands in the air, you can move on to the next question after one or two panelists answer. Take care not to let one audience member take over the Q&A session. Folks will get plenty of time to come up for a chat afterwards, should they so wish.
After about 55 minutes, take one last question, then ask each panel member to give a brief explanation about one of their books. Use an elevator pitch and who would like it. When that's done, thank the audience for coming, thank the host again, and invite folks to come and meet the authors and buy a book or two.
After the event, and before the authors leave, get them to sign a collective ‘thank you’ card for whoever agreed to let you hold the event. Handy tip: Even if that person attends the signing, mail the card to them. They’ll appreciate the gesture more.