Decisive. Empowered. Resilient.

How to Prepare for Your First Author Events

How to Prepare for Your First Author Events

I love attending and participating in live author events, conferences and being a speaker. Every event is a good time and I love connecting with new people.

I am also one of those highly observant kinds of people and recognizing things to do/not do is like second nature, so I’m sharing today a list of things to help fellow writers prepare for their events.

There are not that many detailed articles out there for what to do and what to avoid doing when you are just getting started as an author (or speaker).

I always feel like event creators should automatically include a little Tip Guide for those participating in the event who are brand new – and you know what happens, nobody does this. Seems obvious to me, but many veteran event coordinators forget what it is like to be new at these things, they just assume that everyone knows how to rock it at the event. Plus, they have enough going on prepping for the event.

I am including a list of things to think about and prepare for your first few author events. (This list works great for speakers as well.)

You can also learn more by joining my Empowered Writers series (it’s free) where I help fellow writers, authors and bloggers learn how to expand and level up professionally.

Before the Event:

Pick out your outfit ahead of time. Dress and Act professional. (Too many people don’t do this). Business casual keeps you looking professional yet easily approachable. Bring a backup outfit too.

Bring a sweater, lap blanket or mini fan along. Often events are too hot/cold. Dress in layers.

Take inventory of the # of everything you are bringing ahead of time – so you have an idea of how much you will need for similar sized events in the future.

Have copies of your books, business cards, bookmarks and other marketing materials ordered, arrived and ready ahead of time. This gives you a chance to make changes and reorder in time. If you are not sure on how many copies to bring – ask the event coordinator about the events success in prior years or other writers who may have attended in prior years.

Remember to get cash out to give for change when people buy your books. Do this midweek. I’ve seen a lot of authors scrambling at weekend events to get cash out. You can also use a mobile payment system to accept credit cards (make sure you set this up way ahead of time as they have specific devices they do/don’t work with).

Be over prepared – take a mini trash can, plastic bags (so buyers can unload what they are carrying), extra pens, notepad/post its (for you), tissues, snacks, etc. You can always leave stuff in your vehicle if it’s already provided.

Take a mini refreshing kit to freshen up if it is a day-long event. (hairbrush, face wipes/makeup, body spray/deodorant, gum etc.) If you are on medication or suffer from allergies/headaches – take it with you – plan for longer than you think. Also if you have specific health requirements – let the event hosts know ahead of time.

Print out flyers/post cards with info on your other products/services/website etc. Put them in little acrylic displays on your table.

Do not do too much swag. You want people to look at you, talking with you, giving you better engagement opportunity. You want them to pick up your books instead. If they are too busy looking at your swag, they will ignore your books. Some swag is good but it is also not necessary, so if this is the first time you’ve heard of swag relax. Swag can become costly – many places like you to order in huge quantities. As you get going and begin doing more events then you can start thinking about adding some fun giveaway items for your fans.

Practice your table setup. Pre-pack all the stuff you are taking (to make sure you have the right containers and displaying materials), and literally practice your set up and tear down. Have your “Bring Along List” written out and ready for your final check off the night before you leave for the event. (I’ve included a sample list at the bottom you can download.)

If you have upcoming events – print them out and display it on your table. Have a signup sheet for people to leave their name and email to learn more about your events.

Have a sign up sheet! Or preset your kindle/Ipad to your landing page so guests can sign up for your newsletters and learn more about you. Sign up with that green button above and learn more about what you can do as a writer with a mailing list – it’s one of several things I teach.

Plan out your meals/snacks. If you are eating during the event, select foods that are easy to eat, not messy, and can sit out for a bit. Bring hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Also, remember to sip and not slurp down your drinks – drink too much and you’ll need too many trips to the bathroom. Take gum/mints/hard candy to help keep your mouth from getting dry.

Take a notepad along and during slow times jot notes of what you like/dislike about the event, what is working well/not well for you with your books/display, things to do next time, any referrals others might give you to follow up on etc. Notepad is also handy because people will drop names/event info quickly and you want that info to check into later on.

Pack some extra stuff (media mentions, display items, info about you). Often people will not show up or will leave early, giving you extra space to utilize. Make the most of this! Pull out your books and make a bigger display and showcase yourself!

If you are attending a conference as a guest or participant, always be prepared and ready to step up to any opportunities that come up. (Huge payoffs down the road!). Things happen, people don’t show up, the event hosts need people to fill in on a whim (speaking!). Take your other services along and be willing to hop into the spotlight and be a saving grace. Think of little things that everyone forgets (an extra extension cord, microphone, name tags, display stands etc. Label them so you get them back).

When you arrive (early) ask the hosts if they need help with anything, let them know you can step up with something if the schedule/plans change, and that you brought some extra supplies if they need them. Even if they don’t use your extra help/supplies this time, they will remember you in the future and know they turn to you.

If you are just getting started with the role of published author and doing live events – many don’t realize that publishers don’t always pay for marketing and promo for events. A lot of the time it is up to the author to really step up to find and create events and make them successful. Be prepared to handle most if not all of the marketing and event stuff on your own – this goes for both traditional and self-published writers. Most events charge authors to attend and rent table space.

What to use for carrying all your stuff? I enjoy using large sturdy tote bags and totes that have strong lids. I’ve seen some great methods I also highly recommend like the kiddie wagons (cloth and plastic), the square cubes that college kids use, suitcases with wheels/handle and if you have solid stackable boxes using a two wheel dolly.

Not all events create name cards/place mats for author tables or name tags. Create and print out a sign/poster with your name on it (I also include my brand/website) and a lanyard with name tag.  A full sized floor length table cloth is also good to have. Most events will let you know if they will provide one. You want it floor length because you can store your totes underneath and out of sight.

Remember to take your phone charger! (Like how I made that bold.)

Once you know you are confirmed for the event, plan out your social media and marketing plan. Write it out, create a short list of slogans/social media mentions and be sure to help promote the event.


During the Event:

Be early! Not many show up early and usually the coordinators could use a hand. Being early shows you value the event, you are professional and as a bonus it gives you time to really network, observe and learn and set up. At the very least be on time and don’t dawdle. Get to your spot and set up and be ready for the doors to open. Plus, if you do forget something you have time to run to a store or ask another attending author to help you out.

Act professional. Even in low key environments and places where you know a lot of people. You are working! People notice the difference.

Focus beyond just selling your books. A lot of authors will not sell many copies during events – there are so many variables: weather, time of year, location, marketing/budgeting, other events going on, your genre and those attending, etc.

Think big picture – every person is a potential opportunity. Even if they don’t purchase a book, they could mention you, your site, your services or remember you for another event. Can’t tell you the number of long term payoffs I’ve received that led to bigger opportunities down the road. They may not buy your book this time (for whatever reason) but internally be interested and see you at another event down the road and remember you.

Put your cell phone down. This is hard to do for everyone. Especially at events where the crowd ebbs and flows. It’s okay to take pictures and check your messages, just not every two minutes. Fight the urge. If it is quiet, get up and stretch your legs, strike up a conversation with those nearby (not too far from your table), rearrange your display, take some notes, start dancing.

Smile and have fun. You love writing and you are there to share your love and passion with others. Pleasant energy is contagious!

Take pictures! Of your table display with you behind it, of you with event signs, event coordinators and fans/participants. Utilize the events hashtags if they have some. Share on social media (along with a big thank you).


After the Event:

Add event photos to your website and social media. Tag the event, hosts and other participants.

Give a social media thank you to fans and event coordinators.

Write an actual Thank You letter to the coordinators/hosts.

Take inventory of your inventory. What sold well, what displays worked well etc.

Do your financials. Record sales and money made, jot down the expenses. Set aside what you owe for taxes.

Create a quick report of the event and your thoughts/ideas etc. Write down what outfit you wore so you don’t wear it to the next one – unless it is far away.

Don’t let one slow event bog you down. Focus on the positives and what you can improve on. Provide honest feedback to the hosts so they too can improve for next time. There are many factors that go into the outcome of these kinds of events and often you can only control how you prepare and how you handle the event. Think long term, big picture and how you connect with others (fans/peers).


Here is another list to check out in preparation for your events.

PDF Printable Version of this Checklist

The Writer’s List of Table Displays & Event Prep




This article is © Decisive. Empowered. Resilient.

Image © Dollar Photo Club

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