5 Tips for Great Author Events

Amy Baker

Back in March 2017 I became a debut author. Despite being published, I didn’t have a clue how to promote myself or my book. I thought my publisher would handle all the promo -how wrong I was! Back then, it felt like so much of the publishing process was a mystery to a lay person like me. I knew no-one in the industry, I only knew one other writer. It was guesswork at every twist and turn, and I was inevitably left disappointed or annoyed that I hadn’t known certain things earlier. So, me and that one writer friend (Rosy Edwards) decided to set up The Riff Raff. A place to champion the monumental achievements of debut authors, and to inform and inspire those currently beavering away on what they hope will one day become a book. Since our first event in May 2017, The Riff Raff has hosted 25 events, featuring 160 debut authors, including Candice Carty Williams, Tara Westover, Guy Gunaratne, Jenny Zhang, Stuart Turton, Imogen Hermes Gowar and Sharlene Teo.

If you’re planning on running an event where you host authors, here are a few top tips for making your event a success…

1 – Happy authors = happy event

Your authors are the stars of the show, and it is a real privilege to have them attend. You can do a couple of things to make sure your event is a pleasurable experience for them. Send detailed instructions of what is required from them on the night, as well as all the essential info – times, directions, order of service, etc. The more detailed the better. Also, it’s so important to make sure your authors are at ease. The more relaxed the authors are, the better the event. The Riff Raff specifically showcases debut authors, some of whom have never spoken in front of an audience before. Therefore, we focus on keeping things relaxed and as unintimidating as possible. Considering the needs of authors (and your audience) will help you to develop your own vibe that makes your event unique and keeps people coming back. Also, sell your authors’ books. These guys have worked hard to bring their books to the world. Support them and their careers by giving your book loving audience the chance to add to their TBR pile.

2 – Consider your audience

Spend some time thinking about who your audience might be. Once you have an idea, you can shape the evening to appeal to their needs. Your audience will keep coming back if what they see and hear is what they are seeking. For example, The Riff Raff audience are mainly people who are writing books. This means we focus on the intricacies of the writing process, as well as the various routes to publication. We want our audience to leave feeling galvanised to complete their books, knowing that there are multiple routes to publication available to them. What information does your audience need?  

3 – Do your due diligence

As host it’s your job to facilitate discussion. It’s entirely up to you to take the lead on that and to be able to do a good job, you need to read the book/s. Take time to consider useful questions. You want the answers to your questions to leave people enlightened. Ask open ended questions that leave room for elaboration. If you have arranged someone else to host – make sure they have copies of the books well in advance so that they have time to read it (and no excuses!). Also make sure you provide them with a rundown of what is expected of them as host.

4 – Allow time for audience interaction

You may have hundreds of questions you are just dying to ask your authors, but remember you’re not the only one. Your audience bought tickets to your event to meet these authors and to ask their own questions. Dedicate a decent amount of time to giving your audience their chance to interact too. Also, have an area displaying the books, where people can go to buy a copy and to chat to the author. Some might not want to put up their hand but will be waiting for their moment with the author.

5 – Make it accessible

You know what successful events need? Bums on seats. One essential way to give that the best chance of happening is by making sure your event is easy to attend. Choose a venue that’s easy to get to and that people will be able to reach even if the tube network has a meltdown. If the journey is too much of a logistical nightmare, potential attendees will write it off immediately. Next, consider what day of the week is best. Are there any other big author events happening on that day at the same time that might lure your potential audience elsewhere? Also, it’s important to give people enough time to leave work and get to you, otherwise they might again decide not to bother. Lastly, make sure buying tickets is nice and straightforward. Basically, make sure that from buying the ticket to attending the event, people aren’t really required to think.   

Amy Baker is author of Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America, and founder of The Riff Raff. You can get in touch on Twitter, or drop her a line at oi@the-riffraff.com. Listen to The Riff Raff podcast here.