Five tips for a successful bookstore reading

As an “emerging author”, yesterday was my debut reading of Exodus 2022 at my local indie bookstore, and I really didn’t know what to expect. Sunny, warm days are rare on Bainbridge Island (a few miles west of Seattle) and yesterday was gorgeous. In the hours leading up to the reading at Eagle Harbor Books I figured the turnout would be dismal. But as the start time drew near and the crowd continued to grow, bookstore staff had to set up more chairs and make more room.

IMAGES, TOP: Reading at iconic Eagle Harbor Books.

BOTTOM: Author Kenneth G. Bennett and Booktrope

Project Manager Christina Angel Boyd.

The successful reading was definitely a team effort. Here are a few of the factors I think contributed to the positive outcome:

1) We contacted the bookstore early: I reached out to Eagle Harbor Books back in March. This allowed them enough time to review the book and consider it for a “staff pick” and to include the reading in their online calendar and monthly, island-wide newsletter.

2) The reading was a multi-author event: Because I’m a new author, Eagle Harbor Books suggested I read with other emerging talent. I ended up sharing the stage with authors Larry Weiner and Cathy Cuenin and was delighted to do so. The strategy worked. The books we talked about couldn’t have been more different, so there was something for everyone. The diversity of the crowd reflected the diversity of reading material.

3) We sought and received coverage from local media: My fabulous Booktrope Project Manager, Christina Boyd, contacted The Bainbridge Island Review about a possible story weeks ago, and the early interaction paid off. The Review wrote a lengthy article about the event and included author photos and contact information in the printed version of the paper and in the online edition.

4) The authors involved in the reading leveraged their own social networks: All of us who read yesterday alerted friends and fans to the event via blog, twitter, facebook and email, and repeated the messages in the days leading up to the reading.

5) We kept the individual readings short: The longest of the three readings lasted approximately 15 minutes. We chose pithy, interesting passages and then opened it up for questions. Judging from the vibe and post-event feedback, the audience seemed to appreciate this, and the energy remained high throughout the entire reading.

I wasn’t sure before yesterday if a local bookstore reading would be worth the time and energy required to make it happen, but now I’m a believer. Yesterday’s event generated an abundance of constructive feedback, interesting questions, and one-on-one dialog. Blog tours are great but it was really fun and satisfying to be able to interact with fans and new potential readers in person. And I think the word-of-mouth buzz and social media opportunities created by the event were worth all the preparation and work.

Have you participated in readings and what was your experience like? I’d love to hear from you.

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