Lessons Learned from My Local Library Author Event

A week or so ago, I signed up to attend an author’s event at a local library. I had never been to an author’s event before.  I was a bit intimidated.

library 2

I have one self-published book (see Falling For Your Madness on the right) and I fully understand that marketing this book is up to me. I also live in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is one of the most well-educated and well-read states in the US. You can almost swing a dead cat (not that I would actually do that) and hit a writer in Massachusetts. This state has a long, long tradition of intellectuals, poets, novelists, and other notable characters and if I’m within driving distance of Henry David Thoreau’s and Louisa May Alcott’s and Emily Dickinson’s home, my piddly offerings of a quirky romance seem lame. So I said yes. I would go to this event. I feel a bit like a rag worn Cinderella going to the ball.

Two days before my event, I asked my Facebook group (10 Minute Novelists, and you can join them with this link) what they thought I should bring with me, besides the obvious books to sell. Their suggestions? Decorations that match the theme of the book! Business cards! Bookmarks! Colored ink pens for signing. (Apparently you want colored ink, as opposed to black, because it’s harder to duplicate. Who knew?) They also suggested candy to give away, water to drink and a buddy (so I could duck into the ladies’ room.) All of these were great suggestions and this is what I came up with the day of:

What to bring to an author's event
My buddy is my 16yo daughter. She was a great help.

My event was not quite what I thought it would be. Eighteen authors were featured, each with their own table. Most were indie authors like me. Some had created their own publishing companies. Some were nonfiction. One woman had academic books — something about the rise of minorities on Massachusetts campuses in the ’70s — that, truthfully, was never on any Christmas list of mine. Everyone, despite my preconceived notions of what writers are like, seemed to be clean, cigarette odor free, not completely dressed in black, and sober. Generally speaking, there were not any of these heady, cerebral high brows that I had equated with New England. Whew.

I had authors on either side of me. The woman on my left wrote nonfiction — folktales about cows. The man on my right had two beautiful Middle Grade adventure books, but he sat there, behind his undecorated table and played Minecraft on his phone. The three of us sold one book each. One.

I have to say, I was disappointed. It had been hard work to get this together and miss my Sunday afternoon nap. It felt, at first, very discouraging.  But I then I realized something there are things I can control here and there are things I can’t. I decided right there that whatever I could control, I would give it my very best. I would knock it out of the park. 

What could I control?

1. My presentation. My table looked great.

2. My attitude. I smiled and was cheerful for the entire time.

3. My engagement. I made an effort to speak to as many authors as I could. I connected with several, I passed out my business cards. I have new relationships. It could be that I’ll have future sales as a result. Mr. Minecraft didn’t engage with anyone, so all he’ll get as a result of his efforts that day is that one sale. One.

4. My gratitude. I made a special point of connecting with the librarian who organized the event. I told her about my non-fiction book that is now available for pre-order, (Write A Novel In 10 Minutes) and I even suggested that once it is released, I’d like to come and speak at the library about it, perhaps leading a seminar, teaching a class or starting a club. She loved this idea.

I left the event tired but energized. I have a vision for what to expect next time. I’ve already arranged for another event this weekend in another town. I have a new idea too. I’m going to pass out candy canes with this tag on them, and info on how to order my non-fiction book: (Which is (Write A Novel In 10 Minutes)  BTW.

By the

If there is a big lesson in marketing it’s this: You can’t control everything. But you can make the best out of what you’ve got. And sub lessons? I’m just as important as any New England cat loving, cigarette smoking alcoholic writer and I have every right to be at the ball.

What about you? What local events have you participated in? What tips do you have?

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.


  • Connie B. Dowell

    Hi from #StoryDam’s linky list!

    Sounds like some valuable lessons learned to me. I recently did a local authors’ event at my library too and had a similar experience. It was definitely more beneficial for networking and exposure than actual sales. Selling one was considered doing really well!

    I find it interesting that you all had food and drink at yours. During and after the event, librarians and authors from my library tried to think up ways to drive more traffic to the next event and food and drink was high up on our list. Here were some of the other ideas the group proposed:

    Getting a bigger name author as a keynote speaker (if that were possible).
    Not calling it a “local authors” event but just “authors” or even “book fair.” (Some folks thought the use of “local” could imply lower quality to readers. Also attendees would care more about the books than the authors themselves.)
    Partnering with a local business on the food and drink. Their name could go on the posters and signs as well. Thus, we’d be showing that we had something tasty that the community knew well and liked. Some people might wander in just for that and then stop to browse books.
    Organizing author tables by genre. Like you, we were all mixed up, which made it hard for people to browse.

    Anyway, who knows how many of these will actually get implemented or actually work, but we’ll see.

    One thing we did that it doesn’t look like you all did was have each author give a quick 1-2 minute speech about the book. I don’t think it was a good idea. It may have actually discouraged people from entering the room while someone was speaking and it brought conversations between authors and readers to a screeching halt.

    I’m glad to see you are giving local events a good try and hope your next one is better. Good luck with that and with maybe doing a talk at the library. Sounds fantastic!