by Suzanne Kuhn
I recently worked a return engagement with a regional charity that hosts an annual Book and Author Dinner. This event features four New York Times best selling and/or sought after regional authors.
The first year I participated in the event, I asked the charity if I could provide the authors with my SuzyQ fine-tip, autograph Sharpies to be used for their signings and if I could chat with the authors for five minutes before the event to discuss SuzyQ tips for fan interaction. That event included three very well known, multi-published, more-than-a-million-books-sold, New York Times best selling authors and one regional, debut author with a memoir. The three NYT best selling authors’ responses to my tips were politely attentive, disinterested, and verbally indignant. However, the debut author was a sponge, seeking me out, wanting to know more about what he could do to have better interaction with the folks attending the event.
The dinner went well, the authors spoke, connecting with the crowd to varying degrees. The authors retreated to the signing area and began to interact with the readers. Oh, the signing areas. Remember, this was my first year and this was not a SuzyQ orchestrated event. I was not consulted as to the set up, and my author interaction input fell mostly on deaf ears. Each signing area consisted of an oversized desk, recessed on a 12 inch platform, with an over stuffed armchair behind the desk. The setup looked quite regal. However, although this setup may have been befitting the New York Time’s best sellers’ status, it caused the authors to be completely unapproachable.
All of the authors ascended the stairs to their comfy seats, with the exception of our regional debut author. Instead, he chose to stand to the front, side of the platform. He assumed the “approachable” stance that I had encouraged all the authors take.
How did each authors’ stance affect their event interactions? In less than 20 minutes, the three NYT best selling authors were done, their lines empty. The regional author had a line that extended past one of those NYT best selling authors and continued to grow for an additional 40 minutes. The line itself seemed to call to other attendees, who revisited the book table to buy this author’s book (he only had one title published). His sales accounted for 40% of the nightly total and his book was the only title to completely sellout.
This year’s event had a very different feel. During our planning sessions with the charity, I suggested forgoing the author platforms, instead using hightop tables and a bar high stool for authors who chose not to stand. I reminded the charity of the experience of last year’s regional author, pointing out the reasons for his success: no physical barriers, reader proximity, appropriate personal contact and eye level interaction. The event hosts agreed to my recommendations, resulting in a completely different level of author engagement. The authors all had equivalent lines with a greater level of reader interaction. But in my opinion, the real winners were the readers, who interacted with the authors on a more personal level. The satisfaction level for reader and author alike was high and rewarding.
When it comes to author events, it’s always important for authors to leave their readers feeling as if they were able to get to know the author a little better.
Suzanne Kuhn has more than 20 years of book retailing experience and event sales, including traveling as part of Karen Kingsbury’s team. In 2010 Suzanne launched SuzyQ, a full-service author promotion and retail development firm that works with authors, publishers and retailers, helping to coordinate events, train staff and authors in reader engagement, and develop promotions for increased sales and reader/customer loyalty. Suzanne’s experience and knowledge in the book retailing venue gives her an edge when consulting with retailers for niche and business plan development, facilitating book tours, and ensuring more successful and profitable events. Suzanne truly believes in the power of Christian literature to impact and change lives. Connect with Suzanne:
www.SuzyQ4U.com, on Facebook: SuzyQ4You or Twitter: @SuzyQn