Tips for Planning a Bookstore Event

Bookstore events are an exciting part of the book launch. Many authors look forward to readings, signings, and bookstore-hosted workshops and have visions of hundreds of people waiting in line to buy their book. Here’s how to approach to planning a bookstore event and some of the related pros and cons. 

Planning and preparation

First, you’ll need to plan ahead and start early. Bookstores schedule events months in advance. To have an event at a bookstore, you will need to start pitching them at least three months ahead of your target date for the event, which should be during your book’s first week of publication. At that point, you should have an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) to show them to pique their initial interest. 

Speak to an event coordinator, the store manager, or the store owner. At Barnes & Noble, the customer relations manager (CRM) handles events. These points of contact will decide whether to host your event and will help you schedule a signing or reading. 

Be prepared for this discussion with the following information: 

Publisher and distribution

Be ready to let the bookstore know how they can order your book, whether through a distributor like Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or the bookstore’s local wholesaler. Oftentimes, the book can also be purchased directly from the publisher. Greenleaf Book Group is also considered a distributor, so bookstores are able to purchase our titles directly from us. 

Marketing plan

You’ll need a marketing plan to convince the store that it’s worth their time to host the event. How will you bring in customers? The store must order copies ahead of time, so you should also estimate how many people will show up. At a minimum, the store is looking for at least 30 people to buy the book, but an accurate estimate will let them order just the right number—so you won’t have any returns or upset readers without a copy. 

Your time commitment for the event

How long are you willing to sign or speak at the event? A reading with Q&A is typically an hour, but longer events are not out of question. This info will help the store accurately plan and promote your event.

Your hometown

Bookstores tend to schedule events with local authors, so initially focus on your hometown or the nearest major metro. This local connection is key to bringing in customers for the event. An audience is much more likely to show up for someone connected to their community. 

Confirm the book order

Store managers and buyers are busy people, and it’s not unheard of for them to forget to order the books to support an event. Of course, if there are no books on hand for potential customers, the store may have to cancel the event. To ensure that you’ll have books to sell, contact the store at least five business days prior to the event. This gives them enough time to order books if they haven’t already and to confirm the number of copies en route. 

Have fun

To reach a wider audience beyond the local market, your best focus is on wider publicity efforts and marketing. Still, a big event to launch your book can drum up local sales, potential media interest, and an enthusiastic turnout from friends and family who will attend to support you. Above all, an event is chance for you to get to know your readers and to celebrate the huge milestone of publishing your book. Enjoy it!