Last Friday’s reading at Wayward Coffeehouse went really, really well.
My fellow author Luna Lindsey did a terrific job — if I hadn’t already know that this was her first time reading in front of an audience, I honestly never would have suspected it. There are so, so many ways an author can really screw up a live reading — talking too fast, failing to project their voice, not making enough eye contact with the audience, just flat-out being too damn nervous — but Luna managed to avoid all those pitfalls and just sailed through it like an old hand. I know she prepped and practiced and rehearsed like mad, and it all definitely paid off.
Everyone seemed to really enjoy my stories — I read “Cold Season” and “The Thirteenth Boy” from Slices, and “Melt the Bullet, Blunt the Knife,” a brand-new story that will be in my next anthology in October. That one seemed to be everyone’s favorite of my pieces, which was very gratifying. I’d been kind of nervous about reading it, because one of the characters has an accent I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off.
I did a rough head-count at one point, and we had about forty-five people. I don’t know how many people the place can hold, but I’m betting it’s not a lot more than that. That’s a pretty decent turn-out.
At this point, that’s the main thing that makes me nervous before a reading — I’ve been doing them for long enough that I’m not worried about entertaining an audience, but I am concerned with figuring out how the hell to get them to show up in the first place. Here’s what seems to be working.
- I teamed up with another writer. In this case, the aforementioned Luna Lindsey. The first time I did this, it wasn’t my idea. I was a little horrified by the suggestion at first, actually — I thought, What? Share the spotlight with someone else?? But when the actual reading happened, I realized the advantage to it — all the people who would normally turn up to one of my readings were there, plus all the people who would normally turn up to one of her readings. As far as I’m concerned, anything that means I’ve just doubled the size of my audience is definitely a win worth repeating. I’ve had a second reader at most of my readings ever since.
- I started promotion two-three weeks in advance. Any less notice than that, and people will already have made other plans. Any more notice than that, and I don’t think you can really sustain anyone’s interest and anticipation — that gives them long enough to forget about you.
- I sent out a message about the event to my mailing list. This is the most important way I keep in touch with my readers — I always encourage anyone who seems interested in my readings and releases to sign up for the list, just so they can be sure they won’t miss hearing updates through other channels. (You’re on my mailing list already, right?)
- I sent out Facebook invites. I know, I know. You hate Facebook. I hate Facebook. As near as I can tell, everyone hates Facebook, but we all still use the damn thing.
- I “shared” the event on my Facebook Timeline, or “Wall” or “News Feed” or whatever the hell we’re supposed to call it these days. This casts a wider net than just sending invites — for one thing, I don’t send invites to people who are outside the Seattle area, but maybe they are going to be in town that weekend, or maybe they’ll see the post and think of other people to invite. For another, I’ve noticed that while some people will use the “Invite Friends” feature on the event itself, others are more likely to just hit “share” on my post about it instead. That’s totally fine — I want people to have as many different ways to spread the word as they can.
- I asked other people to invite their friends and share posts about the event. While I’m sending invites and posting, I definitely make sure to include what — hold your nose — marketing people refer to as a “call to action.” It seriously helps.
- I posted something on the Wall for the event every day for nine days leading up to it. This was something new I tried this time, and I think it was very successful. I had noticed that the events that I was most likely to show up to myself were the events that kept posting to their Wall, and kept showing up in my notifications, and therefore just kept reminding me, “Oh, yeah, that’s coming up soon.” I had plenty of relevant links to post — links to the venue, to my website and Luna’s, to our books, and to videos of past readings.
- I posted the event on Google+. That’s also something new I tried this time, mainly because Google+ launched a brand new Events feature just before the reading. I like the new feature — it’s much slicker than Facebook’s event functionality. I know it doesn’t have nearly the user base that Facebook has yet, but I think I managed to reach a couple of people who hadn’t seen the Facebook invite.
- I sent a direct message the day before the event to everyone who had RSVP’ed “Yes” or “Maybe.” The message thanked them for RSVP’ing, and reminded them and/or encouraged them to attend. I can’t even tell you how many events I’ve missed attending myself because I simply lost track of the date.
And that’s about it. I also posted on Twitter and on Goodreads, and I don’t know if that helped at all, but what the hell, it didn’t take much of my time. There are many other things that I could do that I have done in the past, including stapling flyers to neighborhood telephone poles, leaving flyers at bookstores and comic shops and at the venue, and even buying ads on Facebook, but none of those things seemed to be worth the effort and expense.
So how about you? If you do readings, how do you get the word out? If you attend readings, how do you find out about them?
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