Author Robert Collins is here to give you his take on author visits. Robert is well-experienced in hitting the trails, he's got 3 author events this October alone! Robert has an expansive list of books available, including fiction, non-fiction, and short stories. He most recently released a YA short novel titled True Friends (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, & Goodreads). Also be sure to check out his website at robertcollins.blogspot.com.
I've been doing events to promote my books for close to 20 years now. Over that time some of the things I do have changed as I've gone into areas of nonfiction and fiction. Some things have worked for me and others haven't.
Take book signings, for instance. This is the traditional way to promote a book. But if the venue doesn't do much promotion, or schedules you at an odd time, you end up sitting around for a couple hours doing nothing. Right now I'm being picky about signings. I want to do them in stores that welcome independent authors. I want to try to make them special. I'm also steering clear of chain stores.
Another typical event is the book talk. These I like for my nonfiction. I talk about my subject with people who care about it like I do. Libraries and museums are good venues for nonfiction talks. I used to do talks in front of clubs and organizations. I had to stop because I wasn't reaching readers. That's important in deciding to do any event.
I've noticed some authors going in together on a signing or a book talk. I haven't done this myself, but I attended a museum event where 40 people came to meet 4 authors. What's key is finding authors who write in genres similar to yours. With some genres this is easy; with others, well, be picky.
For years I had a table at train shows, and recently I've started buying space at dealer rooms at sci-fi conventions. Special events like these offer you the chance to meet plenty of readers, and to get a decent number of books sold. Don't worry about whether you pay for your space or not. Look at these events as investments in promotion, with any sales as an extra benefit.
If there's one piece of advice I can offer about these events, it's this: stay until closing or just before closing. One, you never know when that last sale will happen. Two, your display will usually take much less effort to put up and take down than the other vendors. Waiting for them to start tearing down is a nice thing to do.
Before booking any events, ask yourself why you want to go anywhere. What are you promoting? What's out there? Why go there? If you can find authors with experience at those venues, talk to them. A little planning is the best insurance against wasting your time.