I’ve been reading about book events on one of my online digests. A new author was worried about her upcoming event and wanted advice. She received good, reasonable and specific advice which will insure a great event. I thought I might add something of my own to calm here nerves. Every author has many of these experiences. It’s just nice to know we’re not alone.
My Worst Book Events and How I Learned to Laugh Again
I’ve done many book events, some alone, others with my husband or another author or group of authors. Many are enjoyable. Some are not. Others are strange. I thought it might be fun to share some highlights (or low points).
Glenn and I did a program for over a hundred attendees supposedly all members of an arts organization. We worked up what we thought was a dandy program that included slides. It appeared that everyone enjoyed it. Everyone laughed in the right places and clapped at the end. Those hundred plus guests bought…zero books. What I take away from this is one of the following:
They only read books on their Kindles;
They misunderstood the event and thought we’d give away hundreds of our books;
They came only for the food (a real possibility);
We all had a great time so I remember the food and the fun.
I was asked to speak at a local arts organization and was happy to accept the invitation because it was in a town where I had worked for many years. I hoped to connect with some of my old friends. Of course, no one attended that I knew, but the room was filling with a few people so I knew I wouldn’t be speaking to no one, and that has happened. My husband and I sat off in the corner so I could go over my notes. A woman asked if I was the speaker and when I said I was, she took an empty chair next to mine and began talking about her life. I felt I couldn’t chase her away (never shoo off potential fans or a needy someone desperate needing to talk—I’m a psychologist so I have a sign on my head that says “The doctor is in.”) so I listened politely for a time to tales about her life then excused myself. I went to the restroom to review my notes.
When I took questions after my short program, a tall, well-dressed woman whom I had seen quaffing several beers before the event, asked a question about a man she had met on the internet. At first I was concerned some unscrupulous male had taken money off here, but the question was about his recently refusing to return emails. She said she had found his life so interesting that she wanted to write about it, but he said no. When she persisted, he stopped answering her emails. She asked me how to get him to let her do it. I said she couldn’t get him to do what he didn’t want to do and was being intrusive by trying to. I told her that as a writer she should respect the people she interacted with. But she was undeterred by my cautions. She said there were some big stories in teams’ locker room and she was going to wear a wire and get those stories. I labeled her actions using a few words like “illegal, unethical, intrusive,” and others. Other people in the audience also commented. She shrugged and got herself a couple more drinks. You never know what you’ll find at the book event. The audience was as alarmed at the woman’s brashness as I was. What I take away from this is the following:
Go immediately to the restroom to review your notes or do it before hand;
I was talking about one of my murder in the brewery books, so I should expect
someone will try to win my friendship by drinking a few beers;
Again, everyone excluding my inebriated and insensitive questioner and I had a fun time.
The most unusual thing occurred just recently when a number of published writers in the local area were asked to read in a Big Read-In event. Because our local bookstore is so small, we held the readings in the brewery across the street. There may be a beer thing emerging here. Anyway, the brewing vats are in the back of a large space, and a bar and restaurant occupies the larger front area. The acoustics are terrible, so we all read using a mic. Speaking into the mic meant you could be heard over the voices of the patrons, but you couldn’t hear yourself well because the noise in the room drowned it out. It’s like driving a car blindfolded.
I was the last to read and by now the bar had begun to fill with customers, none of whom seemed interested in what was being read. They were there to drink fine ale. I knew several of the other writers, but did not know the man who muttered into the mic or the several poets, one of whom yelled at us about her sexual encounters as a bartender and then later new age diva. That woman was sure into sex, and she was eager to share poetically. She wrote nothing about her current sexual encounters. Maybe she was too exhausted by her active past to continue on in as frenetic a manner. I looked around the room. Aside from the small group of people near the mic, no one else in the room seemed to notice how lustfully she spoke of the guy with a zit on his neck. This is a tough audience, I thought.
I was the last reader, my husband scheduled right before me. He always gets an audience’s attention because his protagonist is a biker, a handsome one. Glenn won the attention of several folks seated at the bar, but still the noise buzzed around us. When I began to speak into the mic I wasn’t certain anyone could hear me because I couldn’t hear myself, but my small support group in front of me nodded, and I continued. I selected humorous passages from my cozy mysteries, hoping to amuse the audience. About midway into reading from one of my short stories, I was into the conversation in which one woman says, “I didn’t know you were a lesbian.” Suddenly the noise in the room ceased: I could hear myself. They were listening. I could see almost all the faces at the bar and restaurant turned toward me, and that attention continued for the next fifteen minutes until I ended my reading.
The moderator for the event said, “Boy, you sure got their attention when you said the word ‘lesbian.’”
Glenn and I each sold zero books as did everyone else including our hot-blooded poet. What I take away from this is the following:
Reading in a brewery may not be the best place for a Read-in;
Not selling the books on location may result in no sales;
I can get the audience’s attention better than a woman moaning about orgasms;
Many people had a good time and some of them weren’t drinking.
Tell us about your odd book adventures.