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The Ultimate Guide to Author Events and Book Signings

Jun 21, 2019 | Featured Event

Debbie Harpham


Author Events – Where to Find Them and What to Expect

This post is all about author events and book signings. I’m going to tell you where to find an event and what to expect once you’re there. I’ll have helpful advice for what to bring and what to wear and some important do’s and don’ts. Get the inside scoop!

Why go to an event?

I’ve been attending author events for the last four or so years. I enjoy listening to authors speak about their writing process and their inspirations. They often have wonderful stories about their research and people they’ve met because of the book.

Most authors I’ve met are just regular people, moms, business owners and former lawyers, with families, pets and other hobbies. They love meeting readers and fans. Most of the time writers are alone at a computer, talking to their characters and eating too much chocolate!

Lastly, I’ve met some great people in lines for an event. You could be with them for several hours or you might run into them again throughout the day. The wonderful thing about book events is that you automatically have something in common! Wave your book-nerd flag proudly!

So how would you find an author event where you live?

Book Festivals – check your closest big newspaper and search for literary festivals. For example, here in Southern California we have the LA Times Festival of Books every April and of course Book Expo in NYC.

Friends of the Library – Most libraries have a volunteer, non-profit group that does fundraising for the library through book sales and author events. I recently attended a historical fiction brunch and for $30 we got to listen to three authors and have a catered breakfast.

Bookstore websites – independent bookstores as well as mainstream chains often have events. Check their events page to see who’s coming up.

Author websites/newsletters – some authors do book tours when their book is released and then again when it’s released in paperback. Check your favorite authors page to find out if and when they are traveling, especially if you’re near a big city.

University websites – this is a hidden resource as they don’t seem to advertise outside campus even though they are open to all.

Events listings – Check out EventBrite or your local newspaper’s website.

Is it free or not? Do you need a ticket?

Library and Bookstore events are usually free. Sometimes there’s an option to pay for a VIP ticket which could include a copy of the book, a meet and greet and light appetizers, and front row reserved seats.

Author luncheons are more intimate and therefore can be more expensive. Depends on where the event is being held but the book is usually included.

Festivals might be free to enter, but usually there are tickets for the individual sessions or a VIP option if you want front of the line access or exclusive swag.

What should I wear? What should I bring?

Practicality always wins. Comfy shoes for standing in line and walking. If it’s a lunch, wear what you’d normally wear. Bring an extra tote bag that you can fold up and put in your purse. You’ll never know what you swag you might come home with.

Outdoor Book Festivals – Besides comfy shoes, I’d recommend a hat and sunscreen at the minimum. Of course it matters where you live, use your best judgement! Perhaps something to sit on? If you’re with friends, bring cards or mad libs. Snacks and water are always a good idea.

Can you Bring your Own Books to the Event to be Signed?

This is a little bit of a grey area. I’ve seen people wait in line for hours with 15 plus books to be signed, which as you might imagine holds up the line for everyone else.

It’s good karma to buy the authors book from the bookstore or bookseller if possible. It supports the bookstore and helps them continue to have events. And then you’ll feel better about bringing a few others to sign. I’d say definitely no more than three books per author, though.

If there are restrictions, it’s usually posted, such as “Author will personalize one book and sign up to five more.”

What’s going to happen first?

After finding your seats, the author will get started. Sometimes the author will have a moderator/peer ask them questions, and sometimes the author will have a spiel ready to go.

After speaking for 30-40 minutes, the author will ask for questions from the audience.

Let’s take a selfie!

Use your best judgement on this one. Ask the author if it’s okay and be quick about it. See if your friend can take the picture and then say Thank You! Or you could simply ask them to hold up their book and take a picture of just the author.

Book Tours vs. Book Festivals

I really enjoy getting to meet an author and maybe take a picture. For bookstore and library events that’s usually not a problem. There’s more time to say a few words.

Book Festivals tend to be much larger in scale, are usually outdoors and can attract some big name authors and celebrity-authors! They are usually free, have lots of vendors and food and music which makes for a fun day.

If you’re feeling extra, this is also the place to wear your bookish tees and pins and costumes. Book festivals and cosplay are a treat for everyone!

Plan Ahead

There’s usually a lot going on at Book Festivals, signings and giveaways happening at booths simultaneously and lines for everything! GET THERE EARLY. It’s best to get a schedule ahead of time and really plan out your priorities. You might have to wait in an hour line to get an ARC, but that might mean you miss the keynote speaker. Or you could wait an hour or more and then they run out of books. It happens.

Tag! You’re It.

After the event, it’s fun to post pictures, tag the authors and the event host. Did you enjoy a certain vendor or speaker? We all love bookish merchandise so share that tote or pin or poster!

Best Advice: Relax and Enjoy the Day

Know yourself. If crowds and lines make you anxious, I’d stay away from the big festivals. If you’re all about getting the most talked about ARC, then gather your friends and make a plan! The key is to be patient and have fun!

Visit Orange County Readers for book reviews, giveaways, and more posts like this!