How to Make Your DIY Book Event a Wild Success

Published by Daleen Berry on

Last week I blogged about how to organize your own book tour. The work doesn’t end there, though, so this week’s blog is about making the book tour productive. Because, to have a successful book event, there is much more to do. More that you, as the author, must do.

After you’ve contacted the bookstore where you want to appear, and the staff has agreed to host you, there are a few tips that can help make it a huge success.

That’s me, speaking at the panel session about “Pretty Little Killers,”
at the 2014 West Virginia Writers’ Conference.


First, talk up your event on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Send out emails to your friends. Ask everyone and anyone—your friends, fellow authors, and readers—to share your event with their friends who are in the area. Do this periodically, but don’t bombard people, for fear of annoying them.

Also know that even within a major chain, every bookstore will vary as to the amount of help they give authors. Some staffers will only set up a table for you, complete with a stack or two of books sitting there. Others will go all out, providing large, professional posters which act as a backdrop for your table. These displays look so good one would think a big publisher had a hand in their design.

This is the exception, though, and usually only comes with staffers who have a long history selling books. That’s what I experienced recently at the Books-A-Million in Youngstown, Ohio. Cindy Phillips, the store’s general manager, has spent more than 40 years in this field, and she excels at her job. (She says nowadays it can be difficult to find authors to host, so give her a call. But first, make sure your book meets the proper criteria.)

Because you have no way of knowing how engaging a book display will be until you arrive, I advise you to hope for the best—and plan for the worst. For instance, you can print off copies of flyers containing details about you and your book, because rare is the staffer who will think to do this for you. When they do, consider it a blessing, especially if the staff has been handing them out all week long.

In the past, I designed my own black and white flyers, which fit two at a time on an 8.5” x 11” sheet of white copy paper. They feature my author photo and a few important details about my book—including the title, the date, and location. I’ve even emailed the file to the store where I’ll appear a few weeks before the event, and ask them if they would be willing to print and share the flyers with their customers.

I’ve also designed larger posters with my author photo, a few book details, and a designated white space where the date and time goes. This is good in case the event changes due to unforeseen illness or inclement weather. Most of the time, I mail these in advance directly to the bookstore. This poster is perfect to hang on their front door, where it will serve as a great reminder for anyone who walks through it during the days leading up to your event.

In the final part of the “design a pleasant author table” category, pack up the tabletop poster you’ve framed in acrylic, another stand to display your book, and a decorative bowl. The bowl is to hold individually-wrapped pieces of candy, with which you will adorn your table. The poster and book stand will also help dress up the table, in case the bookstore staff doesn’t.

On the day of your event, arrive early. Allow for a 30-minute window, knowing that traffic or GPS guidance may leave you with only 15 minutes. (I’ve arrived late before, due to not allowing enough travel time. Not good!) Once you arrive, be friendly. Introduce yourself to the staff. Take a personal interest in them and make small talk. In many ways, these employees are your biggest fans, because they can and will recommend your book to the customers who check out. Often, they will even tell you how much they like your work—and ask you to sign their copy of your book. And, when you think about it, it makes sense. Few nonreaders will last long in a bookstore. Most, I’ve found, are avid readers like myself. Likewise, if you’re standoffish or simply too shy to chitchat, they may ignore you.

I also ask the manager (or whichever clerk is assigned to help me) to please announce my event periodically, preferably no less than every 30 minutes. They are happy to do this—but unless you ask, they simply may be so busy they forget.

Finally, when it’s time for you to go “on,” take a seat and a deep breath, and welcome the first customers who come through the door. If you offer them a piece of candy, you may just make some new friends. Or meet potential readers who will like your work so much they begin following your writing career, awaiting your next book.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

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Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: https://www.daleenberry.com. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.

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