In this six-part series, we asked bookstores across the United States to answer some of your burning questions.
- How can authors get their book on your shelves?
- Do you accept self-published authors? In what situations would you consider this?
- What’s your processing for vetting books?
- How can local authors develop a relationship with you?
- Do you host author/book signing events/readings?
- Is there anything you would recommend to authors/publishers about how to best position their books in the market?
Part 5 below gives you an inside glimpse into whether or not 53 bookstores across the country host author/book signing events/readings.
Part 5: Do you host author/book signing events/readings?
Yes. Pre-Covid times we hosted, co-hosted and presented book events in our bookstore and at other places too. I’m a bookstore owner who is also a writer and a poet. I bend over backward to make the author as comfortable as possible. I am happy to interview the author and guide him or her toward making the best impression for the audience as possible.
It’s important the author gets people to the event. They need to market/advertise/email/promote the event. If you aren’t on the best seller list and don’t have a house hold name, if you want a successful event you must be able to bring in at last 10 people to see you. It would be wonderful if those people also buy a few things at the bookstore (even if they have already bought your book).
If you don’t know how many people will show up….you need to be honest with the bookstore owner about that. You might suggest another author or two that you know who has a recent book to join you for your event and cross market to fill several seats at your event. Events are successful when most of the seats are filled with people and at least a few bookstore sales are made. Events are not successful when only two or three people show up.
At the present time our bookstore is exploring other ways to have ‘events’. ZOOM for instance. But that doesn’t create instant buying opportunities. (More on this below. We are currently allowing a limited number of people wearing masks into the store (late August 2020) and we are continuing no contact curbside service (like curbside take-out from a restaurant.)
California: Skylight Books
For over twenty years we have been a hub for readers and writers to gather for readings, book launches, panel discussions, and live interviews. Before the pandemic of 2020 we were averaging twenty events a month in the store (and more offsite). Currently we are hosting events online and creating new literary podcasts (many of our past author events can be heard through Skylight Books podcasts). I can’t wait to start having in-store events again…some of my best memories of this bookstore are from moving, once-in-a-lifetime author events. Seeing Zadie Smith on her first tour, watching early David Mitchell fans clutching their copies of Cloud Atlas, hearing poets like Wanda Coleman or seeing Los Angeles jazz legends like Buddy Collette – there are so many and I hope there will be many more.
Utah: The Book Bungalow
Yes! We had been doing these live until the pandemic caused us to close for a while. Now that we’re open again, we’re still doing our events virtually (and will probably continue to do so until next spring), but using Zoom for virtual events has proven an advantage in many ways. We’re getting authors from all parts of the country and even other countries (we did an event this past Saturday with an author in England), and there’s no chair setup, etc.
Also, we can host groups of authors for panel discussions without them having to leave their houses and travel. As far as signings go, some authors mail me signed nameplates that can then be mailed to customers who buy their book(s). One thing we were doing when events were live was hosting a “Local Authors Night” for self-published authors on the last Saturday of the month. I’d group 2-3 authors and give each 20-30 minutes to talk about their book, read a portion, and answer questions.
Generally, they’d invite all their friends and family and so they could usually count on some sales from the other author(s) guests. I haven’t tried this virtually yet because I fear one author’s group of listeners might leave the Zoom meeting as soon as he/she has finished his/her portion. But I’m thinking about trying it come October.
Colorado: Old Firehouse Books
Yes. We host events of all kinds. Signings, book talks, poetry readings, story times, parties…we are always happy to discuss what an event might look like and see if it is feasible. We market for all of our events through our own channels, but for events with local, self-published authors, we do heavily encourage them to promote through their own channels, as it greatly increases the chance of a good turnout and sales.
Ohio: Wheatberry Books
Before “The Great Unpleasantness” that is COVID-19, we often hosted authors in our store for readings and signings. We had a great response to those events and made them fun and creative. Such events are currently on hold as we navigate new ways to do business, but we hope to reinstate them in the future.
Connecticut: Barrett Bookstore
Well, that’s a bit tricky to answer given the current situation we find ourselves in but the short answer is yes, we’ve historically hosted robust author programming. In pre-Covid times this took a variety of forms. We hosted regular author events at the store, ranging in size from 10-100 attendees. In addition we work with various community organizations to bring relevant authors and book signings to their events and our local schools as well.
Utah: The Printed Garden
This segues really nicely from the last question. If they have not already done an event for their book in the area and/or if I think the book would appeal to enough of our regular store guests or if they think they have enough family and friends in the area who would want to come to make it a successful event, I’ll offer to throw a book release party/book launch to help get it off to a good start. Many of our author events are put together with publicity departments from various publishers and/or through other local venues away from the store. When things were normal, I like to try to have 1-2 events ever week.
Nebraska: The Bookworm
Yes!! I can’t wait to get back to that! We host single authors who have friends & family in town and who think they might draw a crowd of 25 or more people. For any others, we have a Local Author Day three (and sometimes 4) times a year. Participants get one of our reading corners for one hour and can either do a traditional reading or have a more casual Meet & Great affair. We can usually host 6 to 12 authors that way.
We also work with the MFA programs at Creighton University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha and host student readings twice a school year — one in the Fall and one in the Spring.
Minnesota: Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery
Generally, we do a great many events, primarily in the summer. We’re in a vacation area and summer is when foot traffic is the most robust. We often have 2-3 authors in the store at a time. That produces a helpful synergy. This summer, unfortunately, we’ve cancelled all our events because of COVID19.
Pennsylvania: Bindlestiff Books
Far fewer than we used to. We turned our in-store event space into shelving, though we do some outdoor and off-site events. We don’t like to schedule an event unless we are confident that we can deliver an audience, as it takes almost as much time to put on an event that draws 2 people (our worst ever) as 300 (our best), and an event with no one in attendance does not help the author either.
Mississippi: Lorelei Books
Not currently because of the pandemic, but I formerly happily hosted author events for virtually any who requested one, particularly local authors. A small number of loyal customers would often come out to support, but attendance doesn’t automatically translate to sales of the book. I have found a more effective approach is to schedule authors as speakers for existing groups such as Rotary or book clubs looking for a regular program. But this tactic has been impacted by the lack of public events as well.
New York: Rough Draft Bar & Books
Normally–yes. We have near-weekly readings; monthly local author showcases; Monthly Writer’s Retreats, by application; several monthly book clubs led by members of our community; and the occasional bigger event with a very-well-known author or for an important community cause. We have not yet ventured into the virtual reading/author events in the time of COVID, but this may be a possibility in the future.
Nevada: The Writer’s Block Book Shop
Yes, but sparingly. All of our events are either produced in-house, or in close collaboration with a few local, institutional partners. Events are very tiring for our staff, who have often been on their feet at the store all day; unfortunately, at least in our market, the sales associated with events are also quite modest. We try to make sure that all events help meet our bottom line, or satisfy a cultural need in our immediate community.
Missouri: Skylark Bookshop
Yes, we have always done author events since we opened. Since COVID that has stopped, obviously, although we are now launching a new series of virtual author events: skylarkbookshop.com/new-events. We are also a sponsor of and bookseller to the Unbound Book Festival, which is, in essence, one mammoth author event. Apart from the local author events referred to above, we tend to limit our author events to traditionally published authors who have a publishing house behind them. It’s very unusual, for example, for us to host a launch party for a self-published book.
Nebraska: Chapters Books & Gifts
In a normal year, we host at least two events for local and self-published authors every year, one in the spring and another in the fall. For 2020 we canceled the spring event, and I’m currently considering ways to promote local authors virtually this fall. Because we have so many self-published and local authors, we typically host group events, often at sites such as a local brewery or the library.
Pennsylvania: City Books
In the days before Covid, I held one or two events a month. All of the in our store are on wheels, so they roll out of the way and we are able to set up chairs and a podium. Our maximum capacity is about 24 people. However, due to the pandemic, we don’t have any plans for events through the end of 2020. I’ve got some plans for online events later this fall, and we are developing a more active YouTube channel of writers recording their work.
North Dakota: Ferguson Books & Media
Yes! Anytime an author comes by, that’s the FIRST question we ask, and followed by a WHEN would you like to do an event. We give any author the opportunity to have an event, and it depends on other factors how much marketing we do for them. Every author who wants one, gets a 3 hour time slot and a Facebook event we share to our website.
California: Books Inc.
Books Inc. has an extensive author event series. With our 8 stores, we have at least one event almost every day! We host signings/readings, panel events, story times, and book club meetings. We also work with schools to set up school visits. *With Covid-19 restrictions, we are working to move our event series online.
New York: Postmark Books
We do, but not in our tiny store! In the pre-COVID days we sponsored or organized a lot of events at better event venues like bars, hotels, and libraries. We believe you should be able to meet an author and get a new book with a drink in-hand in a room with lots of space for mingling.
Colorado: Barbed Wire Books
I’m taking a sabbatical from books signings for a while- not just because of COVID-19 but because they are a great deal of work. I have always provided space for groups to use, and authors are welcome to use that space, but I won’t ‘host’ for a while. Frequently unknown authors will ask for a signing and they will invite family and friend. But they have probably already given each of them the book so sales can be iffy. If they are serious about promoting their books, they will approach this entirely differently.
We do! Pre-pandemic we hosted near daily (sometimes twice daily) author events, book clubs, and story times. Much of this programming has shifted to virtual platforms and we’re continuing to expand on those formats.
Massachusetts: The Bookloft
We have in the past done a number of author events, each month. Due to the coronavirus regulations, we are not doing those at this time, but we may do some virtual events later on this year or start doing in store events again. It is unclear when or how that will happen.
Connecticut: Breakwater Books
Yes, we do. Tonight we are hosting a virtual event for the book Filthy Beast by Kirk Hamill and we are planning an outdoor, socially distanced event for mid-August featuring The Betrayal of the Duchess by Maurice Samuels.
Alabama: Ernest & Hadley Booksellers
Once the book is in the store, we are happy to set up a book signing for them but they also have to be willing to promote the event among their friends and colleagues so we have a good turnout.
Maine: The Owl & Turtle Bookshop
We did pre-COVID. We enjoyed doing that though attendance was often spotty. Maybe that was due to us or due to our location. Probably us. We’re not marketers. (Maybe that’s why sales pitches make me so uncomfortable…this exercise is self-revelatory!)
New York: Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop
More readings than book signings generally; our events calendar for live in-person events is usually very busy. We look forward to being able to resume this programming after the COVID-19 crisis reaches a resolution.
Michigan: Canterbury Book Store
On occasion, although we are a small bookstore, so our space isn’t ideal for it. And until covid-19 is under control, we won’t be hosting one in person.
North Carolina: Malaprop’s Bookstore-Café
Yes. Obviously, COVID has crimped what we’re able to do, but in normal times we’d be doing four to five events a week. These days, we’re doing everything virtually, hosting around three online events a week.
Arkansas: Dog Ear Books
In the past we have had many author/book signings before, and we plan to after all the covid craziness dies down.
California: Borderlands Books
We did prior to the current pandemic and anticipate starting again in the future when it is safe to do so.
Ohio: The Book Loft
Currently all in-store events have been placed on hold due to the pandemic, but normally we have events every week. We also host a small local author festival once per quarter.
Maryland: Cricket Book Shop
We do host local authors for book signings but have done many in the past and unless they bring their people we do not have a very good turnout. It is not a high traffic area. We are very rural.
We host lots of signings and readings (at least during normal times).
Illinois: 57th Street Books
Pre-Covid we hosted 700+ author events per year.
Massachusetts: Brookline Booksmith
Yes, now virtually. We have a Transnational Events Series, an Open Door Events series, along with our award winning general Events Series.
Virginia: Winchester Book Gallery
We do, and advertise the events via our social media and web page, in conjunction with the author doing their own publicity as well
Missouri: Subterranean Books
Yes, we host author events and have a program specifically tailored to local self-published folks.
Texas: The Twig Book Shop
Yes. Also on the website under the Author tab there is a description of our pre-COVID19 options which included theater seating scenarios, but are now reduced to informal Sit & Signs outside on Saturdays or virtual events.
New Hampshire: A Freethinker’s Corner
At this time, we are only doing online “meet the author” events. Once the pandemic abates, we will go back to doing in-person book signings/readings.
New Mexico: Bookworks
We do host upward of 400 events a year in our store or offsite, but right now we are hosting virtual events via Zoom.
New York: Off the Beaten Path
Pre-Covid, yes. It’s one of our favorite things to do. This year we haven’t done any, but we are exploring a couple virtual author event opportunities.
Oregon: Chapters Books & Coffee
Occasionally. This is a weak area for me personally as I don’t like being in charge of events. We host for other groups who do the organizing though (the library or a non-profit).
New York: 192 Books
We host a small number of readings and signings (usually at the store, now online). We usually work directly with publishers to set these up.
Rhode Island: Riffraff
We host a few here and there, but only those we’re truly excited about, since they’re so much work. We try to keep everything coherent.
New York: The Book Corner
Yes, when the store is open to the public I allow any author to use our upstairs for signing/readings.
Oregon: Jan’s Paperbacks
Yes. In pre-covid era, I tried to have events weekly. It’s great to give the exposure to authors, and the extra marketing for the store helps bring new people in.
South Carolina: Main Street Reads
Yes! Weekly under normal circumstances – twice a week virtual events now and hope to resume safe live events soon.
Texas: Blue Willow Bookshop
Right now we are only hosting virtual events. Again the calendar is crowded but if we think the author can generate sales, we are happy to do so.
Vermont: Bennington Bookshop
Yes, we do, although we have cancelled our author events for the duration of the pandemic. We normally have a couple of events a month as local authors release a new book.
South Carolina: Fiction Addiction
Yes, but due to COVID we are currently only doing virtual events right now.
Vermont: Bear Pond Books
We host book signings. We do not have the space for a reading. We typically have them come on a Saturday. We advertise on our website and Facebook. They are responsible for any other advertising costs.
We do meet and greet events (in normal times).
New Hampshire: Gibson’s Bookstore
Yes, though for now they are all online.
Natalie Gasper is an internationally performed poet whose work has appeared in The Write Launch, The Hickory Stump, Sheila-Na-Gig, Noon by Arachne Press, and ellipsis…literature & art, amongst others. She works as an interviewer for The Nasiona and is a developmental editor for Envie, a Magazine for the Literary Curious.