In preparation for my upcoming book signing, I realized that it might be helpful for someone who is dipping their toe into self-promotion to see a timeline of my planning process. A great deal of planning goes into what is ultimately a 2-hour event (sometimes longer), and the best events are the ones where all the worrying and organization is done ahead. That way you can actually enjoy the moment when the party finally arrives! Here is a basic project timeline that I use, not only for my book signings but also for any local author festivals that participate in.
3 Months Prior:
Book the Venue – For the venue, I currently use for my personal signings, 3 months is adequate for a lead time. But, if you live in a populated area, where venues are at a premium, you may have to book up to 6 months in advance. I find that a glassed-off room at my local pizzeria works great for my purposes, since snacks can be served, and most importantly, a cash bar can be made available. I wouldn’t need to worry about this step if I am attending an event planned by an outside organization however, the application process starts for those at least 6 months prior, which is something to keep in mind when planning out your strategy.
Plan the Display – For venues that I have never been to, I make sure that I do a dry run with my display on the size table that they will be providing. That way I know what I can and cannot use, and what size tablecloth I will need. It also allows me a good idea of the space to know if any other signs or props will interfere with mobility around the table when speaking with customers. There is nothing worse than backing into and knocking over a sign when you are talking to someone who is interested in what you have to offer. This is especially important when you have more than one author sharing the space since everyone has their own idea of how they want their products spotlighted. You want to be sure that if you have several authors, that you consider requesting more than one space. Doing a dry run on your display can help you determine if it will be necessary.
2 Months Prior:
Order Marketing Materials – I like to have swag available at my events, things such as bookmarks, pens, and business cards. I order these ahead, just in case there is something wrong with the order and I have to have it reproduced. I also design posters for my event at this time and arrange for them to be printed at my local print shop. They need about a 2 week lead time for small print jobs. This may also be around the time that an outside event is asking you for headshots, bios or other content for their social media. Don’t leave this stuff until the last minute or you risk the chance of missing out on free advertising to their customer base. Also, be sure to like their pages and share their posts!
Order Inventory – This is the time I take a physical inventory of my books on hand, and calculate what I will need for the upcoming event. The books are print on demand, however, large orders can take some time to arrive. They can also arrive damaged, so be sure to open your package and inspect your books upon delivery. Flip through the inner pages as well, mistakes have been known to happen or pages have been known to be loose!
1 Month Prior:
Update Software – This is when I make sure my phone, electronic devices, and apps are updated, and that everything is charged and working to receive credit card payments. This is a good time to update receipt language if you use products such as Square, especially if you have added to your product line. My marketing images for the series changed when I released book 3 so I will want the receipt to reflect that. Don’t wait until the last minute to use software, I highly recommend playing with it at least a week prior to your event, especially if you are new with the technology. Make sure that you add new items you offer into your digital inventory, it makes things way easier and less stressful when you conduct a face-to-face transaction.
One Week Prior:
Pack my “Go Bag” – I have a suitcase on wheels for my shows, which allows me to fit up to 30 books, marketing materials, a small plastic display, and tablecloth. Yes, it is heavy, hence the wheels! I also pack a few snacks and bottles of water in a separate bag, since you aren’t always able to eat a large meal at these types of events.
Charge my backup battery – Because I take credit cards upon request, I make sure that I have a battery backup just in case I am at a facility where I am not able to plug in my phone. The brand I have found that works amazing is MyCharge (Adventure). I picked mine up at Best Buy. It holds a charge for a while and can charge a few times before you need to juice it up again.
Line up my social media posts – I like to post on social media at least once a day, and my blog posts push out on Saturdays. For the weekends I am not going to be around, or have other things to attend to, I make sure that I schedule these posts ahead. The scheduling program I use is Buffer, and I have been extremely happy with the results! It is a very easy platform to use and their team is super supportive.
Get change from the bank – Depending on what your books calculate to with tax, you may need coins as well as bills to make change for a sale. I make my books a flat rate and pay the tax out of what I take in, which makes it easier on the customer and you honestly when making change. Make sure you take plenty of singles, fives and tens with you as folks generally pay with twenty dollar bills. Make notes on re-occurring events that you will do in the future. Depending on the area, some events have more cash-paying customers, and some use credit cards more.
Look at your information packet – This is about the time that I re-familiarize myself with the event by looking through the vendor packet (unless it is a signing I am hosting). The information should run through what time to arrive and set-up, where to park, and what types of things you will need to bring with you. Be sure that you double-check this information as you never want to show up to an event and be lacking a chair for the day. Not that I have experienced this of course! Let’s just say, that was a long eight hour day standing on concrete and the lid to my tote will never be the same!
The night before – I double check that I have everything, load my car with display items, my go bag, and make sure that all of my electronics are charged. I find this helpful the next morning when I am running around like a nutball! This is also when I pull up Mapquest and make sure I know the general layout of the area I am heading to.
Beer – No explanation necessary!
If you plan ahead for your book signings and festivals, you can concentrate more fully on interacting with the readers who attend your event. What is most important, is that you can enjoy the day yourself and give your hard work the special focus it deserves! Have to run! Have a lot of packing to do! And maybe a beer or two to drink!