Just before author events (and heck, even regular everyday chats) went exclusively, temporarily virtual, I spent a year as the writer-in-residence for my local library foundation, mentoring aspiring writers at monthly office hours, workshops, and more.
Now, I’m no stranger to mentoring writers: I’ve been doing it online and at conferences for my entire career. But what was unique about connecting through the WIR program was that we all shared an area code, and the frames of reference that went along with it. In these one-on-one meetings, then, I’d often mention a recent author appearance the mentee might have found helpful: A signing by a bestseller in their genre at our biggest indie bookstore, or a relevant talk at one of the libraries downtown.
I was amazed by how many aspiring writers admitted they’d never attended an author event. Of any kind.
Even though the vast majority of these events are free and open to the public.
Now, there might be a lot of reasons why (I’ve spent my share of overscheduled evenings chauffeuring my kids to various practices, too!) but now that events have turned virtual? Now that you don’t need to wait for your favorite author to visit your town to see them in action live? Now that you can attend events run by the country’s very best booksellers and literary institutions, from the comfort of your couch?
Not doing so is a bigger missed opportunity than ever.
Whether online or off, these events are worthwhile hours for any readers, but for fellow writers especially. Here are 5 reasons why.
It’s easier than you think to make a lasting connection.
Attendance is often lower than you might expect: Online, everyone is stretched thin these days, and offline, even bestselling authors can sometimes draw small handfuls of readers in cities they don’t frequent. Which means you can often make a memorable impression on the author, if you have the courage to speak up and introduce yourself. (Hint: Book tours and dud Zoom meetups alike can be lonely. They’ll be glad if you do.)
Be friendly; engage with comments and questions; if you’re lucky enough to be in person, mention your name and the sort of writing you’re pursuing while you’re getting your book signed.
Then, follow these 3 simple steps for a lasting relationship: 1) Follow the author on social media afterward, if you aren’t already. 2) Post about how much you enjoyed the event and tag them (you’ll very likely get a grateful, immediate response!). 3) From then on, semi-regularly like/comment on their posts. Do these three things, and he or she is likely to remember you. (Really! Try it and see.)
There are plenty of people I now interact with on Twitter and Facebook on a fairly regular basis because I met them (and followed back) after they attended one of my events. And if and when they end up submitting or publishing work of their own, you better believe I cheer them on!
It’s a golden opportunity to ask an expert.
Say you’re a historical novelist struggling with an aspect of incorporating your research into your story. Attend a signing for another historical novelist and when the Q&A period comes (there’s almost always plenty of time for questions, and believe me, the speaker is happy when the audience has some!) go ahead and ask. You’ll walk away with the kind of personalized tips you won’t get from a book or blog post.
You’re supporting the community you hope to become a part of.
The independent bookstore or library hosting AND the author speaking get a big boost—in morale even if not dollars—when chairs fill for these events (physically or virtually).
It says something to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and show up for them when you can. Think of this as paying it forward.
And if you want to read the book anyway, and if you can afford it, why not get an autographed copy? If you’ve already read the book from the library, signed books make great personalized gifts.
You can watch and learn.
When the time comes to participate in an event of your own, whether on a big or small scale, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect—and feel more comfortable in how to prepare—if you’ve seen others in action. Take note of what speaking styles and approaches you do and don’t like, and of creative ideas you might adapt for your own use in the future.
You’ll refill your creative well.
Sometimes I think creativity really is contagious. If you’re starting to feel burnt out or discouraged about your own writing, that might make another writer’s event seem less appealing—but I’d argue that’s actually the perfect time to go. Hearing someone else talk so passionately about their process has ways of rekindling your own. Try it and see!
How to find them? Subscribe to get event emails from your favorite local bookstore(s) or library, and/or follow them on social media. And if you know an author you like has a book coming out, check out the virtual book tour and save the date that appeals most to you.
Here at Career Authors alone, our Hank Phillippi Ryan has such a robust event calendar, none of us can keep up.
Also—hint, hint—I have a novel coming out next month, and I’d *love* to see you at one of my virtual events throughout March!
What author events have you attended, and how have they enriched your perspectives? Visit Career Authors on Facebook to Join the conversation.
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