Published Podcast Episode 16 | Event Planning for Authors with Ashland Viscosi of Creatives Meet Business

In today's episode, we're answering questions like, should I host an event to launch my book? How can I sell books at my event? What kind of event should I host? And how should I handle sponsorships? 

Answering these questions is Ashland Viscosi, owner of Creatives Meet Business. Creatives Meet Business (CMB) is an event and podcast series in Austin for creatives to define themselves as “artists” and “creatives” AND “small business owners” and “entrepreneurs.”

3:10 What guidance would you give someone who is considering an event? 

  • Events take much more time than most people think. Promotions, concepting, branding, etc. all take huge amounts of work. 
  • The first thing I would suggest thinking about is finding a non-monetary way to monetize your event, like introducing more people to a concept. Your secondary goal may be monetary, like selling books. 
  • Events aren't for everyone. Not every concept needs an event. So really know what you're getting into before you do it. Know how much leg work is involved and decide if the non-monetary measure for success is important enough to warrant it. 

4:50 Is there a certain subject area or type of content area that lends itself well to an event? 

  • There are some things that are traditional in nature, like a book reading at a bookstore with a cheese plate and wine. 
  • I think things that have an experiential arm are going to be far more successful. 
  • For instance, if we're promoting a taco book, maybe we'd create a taco tour, trying out 5 different taco places, inviting a chef walk through one of his recipes in a live demo. Likewise, if you're writing a business book, maybe you create a workshop around it and include the book. 
  • So what can you do that promotes the message of your book but that is entirely experiential? Those will be more successful because you'll have more people interested in promoting it and in coming to the event. 

7:50 How do you go about promoting an event to an audience? 

  • I look at it from a lot of different angles. 
  • Bijoy Goswami's book The Human Fabric, similar to Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Pointhas a framework of three people: the Maven, the Relator, the Evangelist. The Relators walk between many worlds and have many relationships, so getting people like that to share your event with people in their circles can have a big impact. 
  • Finding people in non-profits or similar organizations to help promote the even will also help enormously. But you need to offer them something in return — offer to promote their events down the line, come up with copy and custom graphics for them. 
  • Take advantage of free calendar listing opportunities with traditional media publications and online directories/resources. Be sure to look at an example of a published event or review all of the requested information before you submit so you know what all information to provide. 
  • Create a Facebook event or consider using a ticketing platform like Eventbrite (Splash, Ticketbud). Ticketing platforms will also recommend your event to folks who would be interested.
  • I shared about Relaters and an “ambassador” network. You’ve likely seen this before, structured as a Host Committee. This is a more formalized relationship where the hosts are recognized. 

11:50 Any advice on sponsorships? When are they appropriate? What shapes can they take? 

  • In-Kind versus Cash - an in-kind sponsorship is a product donation. In-kind donations are oftentimes very valuable as they eliminate an expense you’d otherwise have to incur. Cash sponsorships are often treated as a higher level of sponsorship, but don’t underestimate the value of an in-kind partnership!
    • If you have no relationship with a brand, an in-kind partnership is a great way to start. Oftentimes, you can find an online donation request form through a google search or through reviewing the brand’s website (you might have to really dig, sometimes they’re buried and can be hard to find). You’ll also likely find an info@ or partnership@ type of email address that you can write to directly. 
  • The biggest thing I would caution is deciding if you want the affiliation with a sponsor. Just because they have an audience or money, it might not be the right fit for your event. You're aligning their brand with yours, so you need to want them to be there and believe in what they stand for. 
  • There's also an idea that sponsorships are easy. It takes a lot of time and energy, especially with corporate giving. If you're trying to get money from a corporation, you would have probably needed to be on their radar in October for an even the following year so that they can budget out. 
  • It's also all about relationship. It's about finding the right contact at the right company and making sure that you have something of value to them. It's a partnership, not just a one-way giving street, and you probably want to keep working with them. 
  • Are there cool and unique ways you could insert a sponsor into your event? 

15:50 A lot of our authors may hope to integrate book sales into any event they do. Any tips for how to do that in an effective way? 

  • In most cases, I would think the best solution is to include the book in the ticket price. Selling the book at the event is too passive. 
  • There could be cool opportunities on-site to sell an experience, like a tour the event with the author or a raffle. If you're trying to sell, you aren't connecting with your audience. You're in sales-mode. 
  • In some cases, authors can send the book in advance of the event so that attendees have some time to get into the content a little before meeting. 

19:20 Once the event is over, how do we best make attendees a part of our communities? 

  • I am a big advocate of making sure you have people's email addresses. It's a far more secure way of staying in touch than social media. 
  • I am a big believer in asking for feedback and making things better. I tend to ask a lot of questions in my post-event surveys, but I have a lot of information to build on afterward. The feedback you're looking for is if they will stay a part of the community and what kind of information they want from you. 
  • Once you have their email, keep up a regular correspondence (but only if you have something to say). Maybe an author is sharing information about their next book, asking for feedback, etc. 
  • Be sure to also stay engaged with your Relators, the friends and colleagues you have that helped promote your event. 

23:50 What other parting advice do you have for authors considering an event? 

  • Again, keep in mind the time that events take. It will take you away from other creative processes, but it is a great way to promote your product or business. 
  • Ask yourself, who am I trying to reach? And is an event the right way to reach them? 

About Ashland Viscosi

Ashland founded Creatives Meet Business (CMB), an event and podcast series in Austin for creatives of all disciplines to define themselves as “artists” and “creatives” AND “small business owners” and “entrepreneurs.” The event series helps creatives – filmmakers, dancers, graphic designers, photographers, web designers, writers, and anyone wanting to make a living as a “maker” – learn how to become sustainable in their artistic craft. She also hosts, produces, and edits the Creatives Meet Business podcast and helps folks one-on-one with goal planning and various endeavors. 

Ashland values collaboration and accessibility of knowledge and information and wanted to create something unique for the community. The result was CMBXP, a three-day series of workshops that helps artists and creatives in real-time with artistry, business, marketing and storytelling.

Before founding both CMB and CMBXP and dedicating her time to community building and transformative educational events, Ashland worked in film and production. She has produced several short films including the festival hit “Rat Pack Rat” (Sundance 2014 – Special Jury Prize for Unique Vision, SXSW 2014), and she was a Production Consultant for “TOWER” (SXSW 2016 – Documentary Grand Jury Winner & Documentary Feature Audience Award Winner). 

Concurrent with her work in film, Ashland honed her fundraising, marketing, and event production skills during her years at an arts-based non-profit. Ashland is also the Sponsor Relations Coordinator with the ATX Television Festival and is the Programming Director for Social Media Week Austin.

She LOVES connecting people (she actually teaches about it at General Assembly), brunch, cheese plates, and conversations. Invite her to brunch or happy hour if you want to chat!

Email: ashland@cmbatx.com