How successful was your last author event – and how did you measure its success? British self-published author Lucienne Boyce, who writes both historical fiction and non-fiction, makes the case for measuring the success of author events in terms of connection with readers rather than number of books sold.
I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked after an event: did it go well – did you sell many books? As indie authors we’re bombarded with advice about how to sell more books, how to beat the Amazon algorithms, how to get gazillions of sales using BookBub or Crowd Pleaser or whatever the next Big Selling Thing might be. It seems that author events are seen as part of the writer’s “selling armoury”.
This is the point where I should hastily insist, “Of course I want to sell lots of books because obviously I’m just a silly unprofessional amateur if I don’t” – but I’m not going to. Fire up the stake, but I’m going to come right out and say it: I do not equate success as a writer with money transactions. By the same token, I do not measure the success of an event solely in terms of how many books I sell.
Author Events as Creative Endeavours
So I don’t believe that the sole or primary function of events is selling books. For me, their first importance is that they are creative endeavours. Writing a talk, putting together the illustrations – these are obviously creative activities. But so too are the more mundane aspects: the planning and organising and checking, dealing with all the tedious detail (is there a projector? a table? how do I get to the venue?). Perhaps it’s no coincidence that we talk of “making” something happen or “creating” the right conditions and atmosphere to make an event a success.
What might feel like success? It could be turning up to do an event where you’ve been told to expect fifty people, discovering there are only ten, and not selling a single book, but at the end someone comes up and says your talk inspired them. For me, that’s what writing is about, connecting with people, sharing an idea, creating an understanding.
Only Connect With Readers
You might think it’s a pity they weren’t inspired enough to buy a book, and of course book sales do look like pretty obvious indicators of connection. If someone buys my book, presumably I’ve piqued their interest in my work. But it’s not the indicator (the sale) that matters so much as what’s indicated (the connection). Of course I hope that if I’ve made a connection with someone they will want to read my work and build on that. A sale is no guarantee that’s going to happen. After all, they might just pay up because they want me to leave them alone, or I make them feel guilty if they don’t buy, or they buy on an impulse which they later regret.
For me, then, the value of events lies not only in their commercial possibilities, but their creative ones. They are not just about selling my books, but about sharing my creative vision. So don’t ask me did you sell many books? Ask me: did you give a good talk? Or, Did you interest or inspire anyone? Or, Did what you said fit with what you’re trying to achieve with your writing? These are much more interesting questions than: did you sell many books?
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