How To Turn A Book Reading Into A Party

We've all been to those readings. The ones where some poor author stands pinned at one end of a very empty room and the two people in the audience fidget until the half hour is done. These happen far too often at cons where the party continues outside in the corridor and bookstores where some clerk leans against the cash register looking sad.

Then there are the other type of readings. The ones where people come away feeling like they've been to a party, swear that they will read the book as soon as they get home, and everyone (including the host) feels like they'd want to do this again.

I went to the second type last night.  A packed room full of authors, authors' friends, and many people who just stopped to listen and then hung around for conversations afterward because it looked like a cool group.

So how do you  get scenario #2 rather than scenario #1? Same way that you throw a good party. Make people feel welcome.

Imagine a party where the host spent the entire time in a corner of the room speaking to the crowd at large. Now add that the host isn't a good friend or relative, but the friend or relative of your date, somebody that you have never met. Would you ever want to go back to that party again?

On the other hand, have you ever gone to a party with a friend and the host made a point of talking with you, making eye contact, and actually listening to what you had to say? What did you tell your date about that host afterward?  Probably you were pretty complimentary.

The authors at the reading last night were those type of hosts. They greeted their friends. Many made a point of wandering over and asking to be introduced to people who came to hear other authors. They were friendly, complimentary about other people's work, interested in hearing what the audience was interested in, and nobody made a hard sell pitch.

The people involved in the Broken Eye Books reading at the Wayward Coffeehouse also didn't rely on the host venue or the publisher to do all the heavy lifting to publicize the event. Every one of the authors involved sent invitations to friends and tweeted or posted about the event ahead of time.

I went because I'd gotten at least three invitations, all from different authors involved, and was glad when I got there because I ran into even more people I knew. The readings were short, pithy, and intriguing, but the conversations before and afterward are what caused me to break out the wallet and buy another book for my overcrowded shelves. 

The reading also confirmed my own preference for group readings as being the easier way to draw a crowd and grab new readers. When I've been invited to do "single slots" at cons, I generally turn them down or get a couple of friends to join me. The more the merrier at the microphone -- and nobody will be wondering if the party in the corridor is more exciting than what is happening in the room.



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