Literary Events & Book Clubs
A literary event is an excellent way for a book club to network and share their enthusiasm about reading with other avid readers in their community. The goal of a literary event is to increase public goodwill for the club and to allow authors to meet and connect with their fans and engage new readers. These events have become paramount to the publishing industry due to the closing of many brick and mortar stores.
Book Signings, usually held in a home or library where an author talks about and signs books for a specified period, can be planned and executed in 30-60 days, and is an excellent event choice to introduce your club to the community and hone your event planning skills. A book signing can even be planned as an extension of your regular book club meeting. Identify and set a date with the author you want to promote, decide on the location and then begin to invite everyone you know to attend (see social networking below). Keep refreshments light.
Author expos and conferences bring readers and authors together in a more formal setting and allow authors to discuss, sign and sell their work. Complex events of like this could take six months to year of planning and might include workshops, seminars or panel discussions. Conferences usually offer a featured speaker and a meal. Author Expos and Conferences will require detailed planning that starts with identifying a Planning Committee.
To begin the planning process, designate one person the Program Chair; this person will set deadlines, keep everyone on task, and ultimately assume overall responsibility for the event. For structure, I subscribe to the time management practice “Big Rocks & Small Rocks”! Big Rocks are the major tasks you must accomplish to achieve a goal, if however you first fill your bucket with Small Rocks – you may not leave enough room for the Big Rocks! In other words, put tasks in order of priority and do not become bogged down by minutiae. Create an event binder for all of your notes, contracts, contacts, etc.
Big Rocks - 6 months to a year before the event
Before you begin the planning process identify your target audience and purpose.The event you host must be something your target audience WANTS to support and can afford! If you know other readers in your area, contact them and poll what type of event they would support and attend and how much they are willing to pay. If this is your first attempt at networking with other readers, go to Mosiacbooks.com and the National Book Club Conference.com, both have book club listings by city, state and email address. Contact your local librarian for suggestions, ask other readers. Once you decide on the kind and theme of the event, get started on the Big Rocks:
Choose a date: Select a couple of dates; consider other events being held on your chosen dates. Include key speakers in this process to ensure they are available.
Select a venue: Identify and contact venues to determine whether or not they can meet your needs – is it large enough, are your chosen dates available - and then visit, tour and meet the staff. Compare the venues for cleanliness, ease of parking and public transportation, cost of room rental, and food, etc. Request contact information for two recent patrons and call them to ask their opinion of the venue and service.
Participating Authors/Vendors: Contact and seal the deal with keynote speakers, featured authors, and other vendors.
Build a budget and set ticket prices: Once you have identified your projected costs, build in a 10-20% buffer to avoid running out of money or not being able to cover all of the expenses. Despite the best planning, charges will come up that you never considered. Reduce this figure to a per person amount to determine the cost of tickets. Order/print and begin to sell tickets.
Social Media/Advertising: Set up a Facebook Page for the event, update it regularly; add the event to the group’s website; send out an Evite invitation; choose an on-line ticket seller such as Eventbrite so that purchasers may buy tickets on line; print and disburse flyers. Ask book club members, participating authors, and others in your network to share the event on their FB pages and websites. Send press releases to the local papers and radio stations for inclusion on their Community Boards. Sell the event!
Small Rocks - Pull it all together: The last 1-3 months:
Order and stuff gift bags; design and print the program; engage a deejay; order audiovisual equipment; update speakers & venue; select the menu and table linens.
Week of the Event: Reconfirm with speakers, provide the venue with a final head count. Check with committee members to ensure all tasks covered.
Day of the Event: Arrive early, check out the venue, check in with your venue contact - advise him/her of any last minute program changes, confirm the time the meal is to be served, make sure book club members or volunteers are in their assigned locations and know the task they are to perform.
After the Event: Conduct a wrap-up meeting to measure your success and discuss what improvements or changes must be made for future events. Pay any outstanding bills. Complete the event binder. Send thank you cards and notes of appreciation. Consider asking a few authors and readers, whose opinion you respect, to provide feedback (see "Event Feedback" page)!
There is nothing more exciting than bringing authors and avid readers together. Though the thought of embarking on such a task may be overwhelming, it’s worth the effort and work to expand your reach and presence in the community. Things may not always go according to plan, but these mis-steps will only make your next event better. I hope you will tackle and enjoy both the planning process and your event!