AUTHOR APPEARANCES: WHAT’S YOUR ROI?
As an author, at some point, you are going to be asked (or even expected) to do author appearances. Whether by your publisher, the local school librarian, or the current organizer of that writing conference, someone will request your presence (Yay!) and you will need to decide whether or not to say yes (Hmmm).
Author appearances are a part of marketing your book, something that authors are becoming more and more responsible for these days. If you are traditionally published, your publisher may expect you to go on a book signing tour. If you are self-published, you may decide to send yourself on a book signing tour, at the very least making the rounds in your own back yard.
When you are first starting out, yes may seem like the only option, no matter how big or small the ask, even if you are a whole-hearted introvert. But, as your audience grows, the demand to write the next book increases, and your time becomes more precious, you may want to say no, more and more. That said, author appearances are a way of connecting with readers, of engaging with them outside of the written work, an opportunity to show up authentically.
Items to Consider
So, it’s important to consider the true ROI (Return on Investment) of an author appearance. The value it holds for you as an author. Yes, you (hopefully) sell some books but, other than the number of books sold, how do you know if the effort ( time, materials, and energy) you put into an author appearance is worth it? The simple answer is that you have to decide for yourself. Because there are so many variables, there is no real way of calculating the total ROI on an author school visit or appearance at an event. So, you will need to consider how an event is of value to you. Some questions to ask include:
- Are you expected/obligated to attend?
- Will you be paid to attend?
- Will your target readers be attending?
- Is it an opportunity to increase your visibility/enhance your credentials?
- Does it offer a networking/relationship building opportunity where you can connect with other writers and build community?
- Is this a marketing opportunity where large numbers of people may not buy, but will at least see your name and book covers?
- Will you have fun?
Types of Events Matter
The sizes and types of events that an author can attend vary greatly. They can range from vending at a free library event to being a signing author at a bookstore event to being a main guest presenter at a conference. And even these kinds of appearances range in type and size, and therefore value.
If you’re doing a school visit where you are receiving an honorarium, or the school has agreed to order a set number of books to sell to students as part of the visit, that’s great. But these days, that can be a hard sell. Plus, it limits you to schools where kids (and parents) have the resources to shell out $15 or more on a single book. Some of my best school visits have been to Title 1 schools where they were only able to pay a small honorarium to cover gas. But the teachers and the kids got so much joy from the visit, that it made it all worth it.
Pay to Play
While there are some events that are free to the author, like free library events, others require the author to pay a fee in order to participate. Some independent book stores even charge a fee for hosting a book signing!
- Are you paying for a space to vend?
- Does it require travel?
- Will you need to bring your own inventory?
- Will you need to bring your own tent, table, chairs?
Whether you are being paid to show up/present, or you are paying to participate, there are additional variables to consider. There are a number of things to take into account when deciding whether or not an event might be a good fit.
- Number of Attendees:
- Outdoor events like book festivals and farmer’s markets are particularly sensitive to weather!
- Number of attendees interested in what you write:
- A book festival offers a great range of readers, so you are likely to see a number of people interested in your book.
- A culturally specific food festival might be a great place to sell a cookbook, but may not be the best place to find YA Dystopian readers, and a beer festival might not be the best place to try and sell children’s books. (For me, the AZ Renaissance Festival makes sense!)
- Number of people with the money to buy your book:
- Some libraries offer fun local author events, but many of the attendees may be at the library to borrow not buy.
- Number of books you need to sell to make back your financial investment.
Other things to consider:
- Will the venue be ordering copies of your books or selling them on consignment?
- If you are selling direct, do you need a tax license?
- Do you have a system to collect payment?
It’s not always about the bottom line. When it comes to author appearances, there are a lot of ways to look at ROI. Whether you say yes, or decide a particular event is not for you, consider the potential value each opportunity offers before you decide.