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 Groups.io 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 New Jersey 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 involved knows what's expected of them. You have the final say as to who else takes part. That said, you’re the team leader, not Ming the Merciless, so be polite, friendly, and clear in your communication.
Don't be afraid to ask for help (or too proud to accept it).
Panel/Q&A's are aimed at writers. After a panel discussion with up to five published writers, the moderator invites questions from the audience.
At the end, panel members give a 60-second elevator pitch before selling their work to interested parties (see Panel Topics in Files section of the Yahoo group for examples of blurbs and panel questions).
Meet the Author events are aimed at readers. Up to five published writers take part. They each give a ten-minute presentation, in which they share a little about themselves, why they write, and talk about a book they read which had a huge influence on them when they were young.
After the last speaker, the coordinator invites questions from the audience, after which panel members give a 60-second elevator pitch before selling their work to interested parties.
A library's main interest will be in hosting a well-attended event. On the other hand, people come to a bookstore to buy books. You can expect to better sales from an event at a bookstore.
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 want to screen the relevant books first (some bookstores might want to do that too). A library will advertise in the local press, but you need to do your bit too.
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 New Jersey 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.
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 enquiry about the possiblity of [INSERT NAME] Library hosting a New Jersey Authors' Network (NJAN) event.
NJAN is a free to join, free to use network of writers and authors based in (or near) New Jersey. We put on multi-author events at libraries and other venues around the Garden State, usually in the form of a panel/Q&A, in which participants share some of their knowledge and experience about writing and publishing. Previous 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 (in this case, myself) provides the host with a brief event blurb, along with author one-sheets for the participating NJAN members if required.
We don't charge speaking fees for NJAN events, though we do ask that our host allows us to sell our books afterwards, and helps promote the event as if we it were something you 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.
Ideally, you need four writers (plus one standby). The standby should have an automatic place in your next event if he/she doesn't get to take part in this one.
Once you have things agreed with your host, post the event's date, time and topic (as well as the library or bookstore's name and address) on NJAN's Yahoo message board.
Sometimes, the host requests promo material for participating writers. When this happens, we use the author one-sheets NJAN members upload to the Yahoo group.
If promotional info is required, make that clear in your initial call for participants. Ask folks to check they have their one-sheet properly uploaded before they express interest in taking part.
Ask folks to reply to you on the message board. This helps to keep all the information in one, handy place.
As coordinator, you have final say as to who you want to join you at the event. That said, unless the host requests a specific book genre, or asks for a particular writer, I find it's easier to take participants on a first come, first serve basis.
Handy tip: Don't limit yourself to novel writers. This system works equally well for folks with non-fiction books, or those with short stories appearing in anthologies.
Once you've decided who's taking part, confirm the names on the message board, so NJAN admin can post details of the event on the website.
Create a separate email list for the event (including the host and standby panelists). Send out a confirmation email, so everyone knows what’s involved/expected of them (see guide for participants).
Make sure your email includes the event date and time, any 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 NJAN banner (a copy of which can also be found in the Yahoo files section) and a link to this website).
Keep in touch with everyone (including the event host and standby writer). In the run-up to the event, make sure they have your cell-phone number, even if you don't have theirs.
Handy tip: If there’s a local writing group, see if one of their members would like to cover the event 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).
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 (you can find a list of them within the files section of the Groups.io group.
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.
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's perfectly normal, and that they'll settle down once they get started.
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 NJAN.
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.
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. Name, town & county, 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 pre-arranged questions. Keep an eye on the time. Use a pre-arranged 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. You also need to step in if a panel member talks too long or strays off topic.
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 sixty-second explanation about one of their books ie: elevator pitch + 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.