HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Want to have lunch with Jenny Milchman and me?Okay, you're invited. Really! See below for details, date and time--AND for some truly valuable insight.
The Story Behind a Book Event or, Why Do Writers Do This Anyway?
(also known as, Hank & Jenny Do Lunch)
by Jenny Milchman
When you think about a book event, two scenarios are likely to come to mind. There’s the one where the writer arrives in a town car with her name in the rear window, gets whisked off to a lushly fitted out green room, only to be ushered onto a stage before a vast, applauding crowd. And then there’s the one where she sits at a folding table whose legs wobble, setting up stacks of her own books, and twiddling pens that feature the title of said book while customers come up and ask where the rest rooms are.
What? The first one’s never happened to you? Me either. But I’ve had elements, so I keep hoping. And I basically refuse to do the second by this point. It’s too humiliating. I never know where those darn rest rooms are.
Kidding. But not about the humiliation part.
It all raises the question of why writers do book events in the first place. Do they accomplish anything for our sales? Our careers? Our humanity?
I want to dispel a few myths about book events. But first, you might wonder why I feel in a position to do so. Well, it took me thirteen rejection-studded years to get published, and after it finally happened, I did the next logical thing. Rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, pulled the kids out of first and third grades to “car-school” them in the back seat, and hit the road on a 7 month, 35,000 mile book tour. So, I’ve done an event or two in my time.
One of the highlights was a talk with Red Wonder, Hank Phillippi Ryan, at the Cambridge Public Library. Watch this music video, and see if you can find the shot of Hank! She and I talked about books, and the industry, and how it may try to kill us, but in the end leaves us a whole lot stronger. Hey, we’re suspense writers. Death has to figure in somewhere.
Now for those myths.
Myth 1: Book events are about selling books.
Fact: Whether you sell two-hundred books or zero, you have met potential readers in a different, more meaningful way than happens on crowded online platforms. You’ve also encountered an influencer—the bookseller, librarian, or book club leader whose radar your work is now on.
Myth 2: You should read at book events.
Fact: Reading is the one thing I’ve heard over and over tends to bore attendees—and a bored attendee isn’t a good potential reader. Instead, teach something related to your book (a regional specialty, a craft, a foreign language, a lesson in CSI or genealogy—get creative). Discuss the fascinating road to getting published, or the more general accomplishment of achieving a dream. Hold a writing workshop if it fits the crowd. Tell your 10 Best & Worst moments as a writer. Make the whole event Q&A.
Myth 3: A low turnout event is a dud.
Fact: The great Louise Penny quipped, “The only thing worse than an event where no one shows up is one where one person comes.” And indeed it can feel awkward to perform a talk for an audience of one. So my answer is—don’t perform. Just…chat. Really connect to that person. Who knows who she knows, and besides, you may make a friend. At some of my sparsely attended events, one of the few people in the crowd was, respectively, a book reviewer for a major newspaper, a book club leader, and the president of the Friends of the Library Association.
SO: Let's do lunch! Seriously. This year, as part of my third “world’s longest book tour”, Hank and I get to meet again at a luncheon event hosted by former bookseller Joan Lang. The date is June 17th, the time is noon. In Pembroke Mass. Have a look at the poster for the event, complete with contact info so you can join us. Hank and I would love to see Reds readers in the crowd!
In this life of events, I know it’s going to be another high point.
Jenny Milchman is the author of Cover of Snow, Ruin Falls, & As Night Falls, and the creator of really long book tours.
HANK: SO? Can you come to lunch? CLICK HERE! We're cooking up all kinds of prizes and surprises--including mentoring, query advice, personal chapter critiques and of course, free books!
And how do you feel about book tour?