The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Book publicity FAQ: book events

Last week I posted about book publicity FAQs that pertained to the media.  Of course, book promotion also involves scheduling author events, which is another area in which book publicists often get questions.  Here are a few of the most common.

Can you add [city(s)] / [bookstore(s)] to the book tour?

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to make changes to a planned book tour; in cases where it might be, we need to approach additional opportunities strategically.  (You may have heard that Seattle has great bookstores, but that doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to add Seattle to a book tour — or that you would get a good crowd at a Seattle bookstore.)

What you need to know: First off, book tours are scheduled after very careful consideration about whether a tour will help sell books (or whether this is a media-driven title), potential local interest in an author / book, a store’s / venue’s history with a certain type of book / author, media possibilities in the market,  budget (of course) and with input from sales representatives and from stores themselves.  Second, book tours are typically scheduled three-six months in advance of the book’s publication.  If you have any questions about the tour (or if you are wondering whether there will be a tour), your best bet is to ask about it early.  If you’ve been assigned a publicist, talk to them; otherwise ask your editor.  (A month — or even two — before the book’s publication is really too late in most cases.)

Sometimes authors do a fair amount of traveling on their own.  If it happens that your personal travel will take you to certain cities at certain times and you’d like to see if a bookstore talk can be arranged at the same time, talk to the publicist as soon as you can.  Keep in mind that bookstores are most inclined to host signings for authors with recently-published books (“recent” being in the month or so before the event) and  will want to know if an author has local connections — friends / family in a city who will attend an event (and buy books) — or if the book would otherwise be of local interest.  Stores spend time and money promoting their events, so they really need to be selective about scheduling author talks.  Do keep in mind that even if it’s not possible to schedule a book talk, you can always stop by stores to sign copies of your book(s).  Signed books, particularly hardcovers, always go over well with readers, and some bookstores may order additional copies of a book (assuming they think they can sell it well) if they know in advance that an author will sign copies.

Can you arrange for books to be sold at an off-site event?

Possibly, if we find out early enough.

What you need to know: Rule of thumb — most booksellers will ask for an anticipated audience of at least 100 people in order to consider selling books off site.  Arranging for books to be sold at off-site events can be time consuming for the book publicist and unless an event is expected to draw hundreds of people, selling books off site often isn’t particularly lucrative for the bookseller.  (The bookseller needs to send at least one staff member to the event, which means they’re now shorthanded at the store and people who buy books at lectures don’t browse and make additional purchases at the store.)

For details about off-site book sales (including options for selling books if it’s not possible to find a bookseller), check my post What you need to know about off-site book sales.  And again, contact your publicist early so they (and the store) have time to make arrangements.

How do virtual events work?

With fewer authors traveling on book tours, more bookstores are trying out virtual book events these days, for example Skyping in authors or having authors participate in Facebook or Twitter conversations.

What you need to know: Being something of a technogeek myself, I’ve talked to a number of bookstores about the possibility of them hosting virtual events.  For the most part, stores have found that while virtual events can be successful for big-name authors, it can be hard to entice a large audience to interact virtually with lesser known authors.  (Truth be told, it’s hard enough enticing people to interact IRL.)  Which doesn’t mean that it’s not possible if you target the right readers for the right author, but generally speaking, stores seem far more willing at this point to experiment with virtual events with known quantities.

Needless to say, virtual events will be much easier for authors with some technical savvy, but most people with a computer and the ability to follow instructions can probably muddle their way through.  (FYI regarding Skype events — Macs have built-in webcams; otherwise you can find one at an electronics store for under $100.)


As a book publicist, author, agent, or other publishing industry professional what other book event questions come to mind?


February 18, 2010 - Posted by | Book Tour, Bookstores


  1. Thanks for this! I’ve got a logistical question: Who orders the books for an event? Say you have an event at a small bookstore. They would order the books, yes? How do they determine how many to order? Should the author bring extras from her own stash in case the store doesn’t order enough?


    Comment by Alexis Grant | February 18, 2010 | Reply

    • Alexis — in cases where bookstores host events (either on-site or off), they will order books. Often, people use the 1/3 “rule” which is that one audience member out of three will buy books. Obviously, this is at best a guess because you don’t know how many people will show up or even if the 1/3 rule will hold.

      From what I’ve seen over the years, stores tend to over rather than under order, so it generally isn’t necessary to bring one’s own books (unless a bookstore is not selling at an event, in which case it can be a good idea for an author to bring and sell books).

      Lastly, if an author finds that their books are selling out at events, it’s worth mentioning this to the publicist / upcoming event coordinators. When presented with hard data, store managers are typically quite willing to increase their orders. (They just don’t want to be saddled with dozens of extra books that may subsequently need to be returned.)

      Comment by Yen | February 18, 2010 | Reply

      • My favorite author event that involved my severe under-ordering was Bruce Campbell. I didn’t even know who he was but the publicist insisted that we really did want to order 100 or more copies. We ordered 120 thinking it was ridiculous. Well, we could have sold 250 or more. The author and publisher worked together to arrange for cases and cases of signed books be shipped to the author’s home to sign and then sent to us so we could contact those who didn’t get a chance to have a signed book. Let’s hear it for Hero publicist, and hero author.

        Comment by Jean | February 18, 2010

    • Thanks!

      Comment by Alexis Grant | February 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks, Yen! This is a great post.

    Comment by Kathryn | February 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. Having been on the bookstore side of things a couple of notes about the booksellers’ perspective:

    1. We were in a media-rich environment-which meant that we had LOTS of authors in town. With all of the competition for people’s attention it was sometimes hard to draw for smaller/newer/niche names. Sometimes the best way to get a crowd in or outside of a store is to partner with a local group. For example, you wrote about Naval Battles maybe partner with the Navy League in your area–a cookbook of Korean family recipes–maybe the embassy’s cultural office or community organization. The bookstore will be happy to host an event that will expose their store to a new/ different segment of their community.

    2. For offsite events, bookstores can share the proceeds with the hosting organization. The bookstore handles ordering/ returns and the organization handles the actual selling of the book.

    3. Remember the bookstore will work to promote the event, as will your publicist, but don’t blame either if the event doesn’t draw a huge crowd. No bookstore wants to host a disappointing event, nor does the publicist–there are so many external forces that can negatively affect attendance or perhaps the book doesn’t strike a chord with their audience. We’ve all been surprised by success and by relative failures.

    4. Appreciate everyone’s efforts. Your audience’s especially. Each author has to be thankful that someone took time out of their busy lives to spend with you and your ideas. No greater compliment exists–well, of course they could buy multiple copies to share with their friends–but truly, appreciate the commitment it shows to come to your event.

    5. And in response to Alexis–if you set up the event, ask the store if they need help in getting books for the event. Either give them your publisher’s information or ask if they need you to provide copies. Be prepared to create an invoice. Most bookstores will expect at least a trade discount (40% off retail), but ask what their usual policy is. And always have (extra) copies of your book on hand–you never know.

    Comment by Jean | February 18, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the tips, Jean — very helpful.

      Comment by Yen | February 18, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] Book publicity FAQ: book events […]

    Pingback by What authors (and venues) need to know about scheduling book talks / signings « The Book Publicity Blog | September 15, 2011 | Reply

  5. […] Book publicity FAQ: book events […]

    Pingback by What authors (and venues) have to find out about scheduling ebook talks / signings | JanNews Blog | September 11, 2014 | Reply

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