The first time I did a library presentation, I joined seven other authors for a morning of author talks and book sales.
No one came to listen to the talks and only one author sold a book.
At the end of the day, the organiser asked if I would like to do an author presentation by myself. Of course I said no. If no one came to listen to me when I was one of eight authors, why would anyone come to listen to a talk by me alone?
Six months later, I changed my mind and I am so glad I did. I nearly missed out on an amazing experience that has increased my profile as an author and even sold a few books.
After doing four presentations of a series of five, I offer the following seven tips for success.
1. Have a reason for people to come, other than your book.
The best presentations I have been to have had a theme that attracts people; a woman sharing her story of travelling alone at 60, a cookbook promoting recipes without gluten, sugar, or dairy, and an organic gardening guru. If you write fiction you might need a gimmick. Can you come in character and talk about the time period of your story, or maybe recreate your fantasy world in Lego?
Perhaps the reason my first author presentation failed is that it didn’t have a clear focus. There were too many of us and no connection other than we were all authors.
2. Go along to entertain and inform.
If you have an hour to present, and people have been interested enough to come along, then I feel there is an obligation to present something informative and entertaining. One author friend has a science activity as part of the promotion for his science themed children’s book. The author of a cookbook shared a few recipes and also samples of her creations.
Another author sometimes combines with a musician who performs songs from the era of his book, and sells his CD’s. He says that combining your presentation with another artist can attract more people.
As well as sharing some fun stories of my house sitting experience, I also talk about how to be a house sitter, where to find house sits, and then provide a handout with some helpful tips. Be generous and share something, even if it is a sample chapter, or a book mark with your contact details on it.
3. Have a friend at your first presentation
Ideally you want to invite a friend to your first presentation who will tell you how you come across and make helpful suggestions. Look for someone whose opinion you value and who is comfortable telling you the truth, rather than just being supportive and complimentary. I was lucky that an author friend came to my first one and gave me a few tips that improved my subsequent presentations.
4. Bring plenty of change
My books are fifteen dollars so I stocked up on five dollar notes and thought I was prepared. When a lady wanted to hand me a fifty dollar note, I had to send her away to get something smaller. That could have cost me a sale. Now I have more money in my bag.
Many people don’t come to the presentation expecting to buy, so make it as easy as possible for them. One author says he has sometimes given a book to someone who did not bring money, and asked them to post him a cheque when they get home. He says they always pay. Make it as easy to pay as possible.
5. Don’t judge your success on whether you sell books.
I attended a few other author presentations before I did mine, and each time they sold only a few books or even none. If the presentation is in the day time, your audience may be retired or on low incomes. They may be other writers looking to find out more about the writing and publicity process. For many reasons, most visitors will probably not be interested in buying.
Thirty six people came to one of my presentations but I only sold one book. At two other smaller presentations I sold six and seven books. It depends on who turns up on the day I guess.
6. Make your books available to the library
The local library bought one of my books for each branch. For this to happen, you need to have your books registered with library suppliers. In my region of Australia, libraries get their books from Bennett’s or Peter Pal, so it is important to be registered with them.
It was very exciting seeing my book displayed with a library number on it. I was even more excited when I looked up my name in the library catalogue and saw that twenty two people had reserved my first book and fifteen my second.
The library did a fantastic job of promoting my book and my speaking events. They printed posters and handouts that were scattered around the libraries for months before the presentation. My name and book title were emailed out in several library news bulletins and even printed in the local papers. It was great publicity.
7. Be Prepared
The day before my presentation, I call to make sure everything is ready, and maybe even visit to see where I will be. I use a PowerPoint presentation with pictures so I ask if the technology is all set up or if I need to bring a laptop or anything.
I print enough handouts for the expected group and laminate some bookmarks to give away with my books. A better option is to have your handouts professionally printed and maybe use one of those roll out posters. I plan to do both one day.
On the day, I go early in case of any hiccups. The library staff in my area are brilliant and are usually ready with the chairs and tables all set up, but it gives me a chance to practice the first few slides and put copies of my books on plate stands. Sometimes I bring a table cloth for colour.
If you are an author with a published book, then I recommend you consider talking at your local libraries. At best it is great publicity and maybe sales for your book. At worst it is a fun day out at a library, surrounded by books.
Why not give it a go?
To learn more about house sitting or my travels in Australia, visit my site at www.nikkiahwong.com