The Anxious Author's Incomplete Guide to Surviving Book Events - for Authors

I remember my first book signing as an Author. It was March of 2020, just a mere two weeks before the world shut down thanks to Covid. We'd been hearing the first murmurings of this new virus but that wasn't of interest to us, we were excited to meet readers and commune with our author friends. 

Image is of Evie Mitchell signing at her first event attempting to look professional by posing for the photo as if she's going to sign a book

Or at least most people were. I was an emotional wreck with high anxiety, freaking out about being invited to a signing that I had NO BUSINESS attending. 

Hello, imposter syndrome, thy name is Evie. 

Image of Evie Mitchell with some explanations about who she isImage is of Evie in the centre with writing around outlining some things about her. 

Your first author signing is an exciting moment in your career, but it can also feel daunting -- particularly as an author with only a few books out. I remember the feeling, it's the same one I get before every single signing. 

Will anyone know I am? Probably a few people.

Will anyone buy my book? Generally, yes! 

Will I make any money? Depends on the overall costs of the event.

Will I get an accidental text from a sex worker? Potentially, but that's a whole other story for another day. 

Screen shot of texts from Evie's PhoneImage is of screenshot from Evie's phone with a reminder for a "Pleasure and Pain 60" with Lucy.

If you're nervous, don't worry! I'm your local introvert who is here to help with 'The Anxious Author's INCOMPLETE* Guide to Surviving Book Events'. 

*I say incomplete because I'm always learning and evolving, and the market and events are always changing. It's important to take everything you read with a grain of salt and examine if it's still relevant and useful to you. 

Preparation is Key
Most events will have an author group or some form of information pack that is available to you. If in doubt, contact the organiser to confirm where details like table setup and location, book sales protocol who handles them, hotel blocks and any additional expectations might be located.

In the lead up to the event, consider how you'll get there (i.e. flights, driving etc), whether you want to bring a friend as your Personal Assistant (morale support is great but they're also good in case you are a sell out success!), and how your books will get there. 

Image is of me and my book bestie Liz at BABE23. Liz and I met at Readers and Writers Down Under in 2014 and have been going to book events ever since! She is the extrovert to my introvert and I ADORE her! 

What to pack
This is completely subjective and often depends on what you can afford and how fancy you want to go. But for me, the essentials are pens, some kind of table runner with my branding, and signage. Though signage can be a banner behind you or something on your table. It's really up to you and what you can afford. 

Vistaprint has a variety of options for all budgets, but do check around. There's lots of stores that offer banners at discounts at different times of the year. 

Book Inventory
One of the most common questions is, HOW MANY BOOKS SHOULD I BRING??

Well, it depends. I tend to use both preorders and attendance numbers as a bit of a ballpark. I also don't mind bringing extra stock home from domestic signings where I'm driving. But lugging extra books home from an overseas signing or a signing where I had to fly can be a pain.

Image is of Evie's overseas luggage which is 95% books and 2% tea bags. 

Here's my general rule of thumb, estimate how many books to bring based on preorders. I tend to go look at most popular books from my preorders and match that, and add 15-20 of my first in series and/or most popular or newest release.

So, for example, at Steamy Lit 2023 I had 143 preorders totalling over 700 books. Of those, my most popular was the special edition hardcover of my Nameless Souls, and the steamy versions of my All Access series.

Image of Steamy Cover of Knot My Type
Image is of the steamy cover version of Knot My Type. 

As I flew from Australia, Steamy Lit sold the All Access for me, and I had my hardcovers delivered directly to the venue. I also brought about 10 of my most popular series, and 20 of my first in series. At the end of the event, 
I had 14 unsold books.

But what happens if you're a new author or have a smaller preorder than anticipated? If you're unsure, go with about 4-10% of walk through. So if the event has 1000 people attending, aim to bring 40-100 books--but only order what you can afford to take home after to sell yourself. 

Alternatively, you may be able to utilise the on-site bookseller (if available), or only offer preorders and no sales on the day. Just message early and often to attendees about what options will be available based on what works best for you. 

How to handle preorders 
There are multiple options available to support you to handle preorders. My suggestions are outlined below. Note: I am an affiliate of Jotform and Shopify but only because I love both platforms so much!

The best free option is Google docs. You can set up a preorder form like this one for free. Once you have all your preorders, you can send out invoices via paypal or other invoicing software you may have (i.e Xero) to readers. It's cheap, if not time consuming but it'll save your hip pocket if you're just starting out. 

If you're after a paid option and don't have a Shopify or other ecommerce website, you might like to look at jotform or beventi. Full disclosure, I've only used beventi as a purchaser not a seller so can't comment on its user interface or costs. 

I personally love jotform. It's a super easy to use platform, it allows you to take payments in the currency that's local to the event (very helpful if you're also ordering books in the local currency) and connects seamlessly to Paypal. They also offer a bunch of other services and best of all there's monthly options so you can either pay for it for a short period or buy the year long and use it for all sorts of things. I've paid for a year long to use with all my events, but also use it for ARC sign ups and Author Swaps. 

Finally, you can also use your Shopify or other ecommerce. This is a little more fiddly and requires considerable more outlay but if you already have an ecommerce website then definitely something you can use. The main issue is setting up an event page and then adding in locations and variants for the different events. See example below. The downside is when a reader accidentally orders from the event page when they definitely aren't attending so you need to make it very clear throughout the check out process what they're purchasing.

Event preorder example when using Shopify

If you'd like to know more, feel free to email me about how I've used this in the past. 

Where to order books
You can order books through Amazon, Ingramspark or local printers. 

For the US and Canada, I've used 48 hour books and loved their options and service. The price was great for how quick they were. 

For the UK, I'm using Bookvault but haven't tried them out for an event yet so can't comment on service outside of print on demand. They've also branched out into the US recently. 

For Australia, good question, ask another. I've had nothing but bad juju so far from local printers. I'll update once I have some better options. 

The "Swag" Factor
I've seen authors go all out on swag, but these are people who have the money to do so. If you're just starting out, look at cheap options that help readers get to know your books by directing them to places they can either download a sample, read for free or at a discount, or learn more. 

To do this, I use bookmarks and postcards with QR codes directing readers to my website or a newsletter where they can get a free book. Alternatively, they can grab one of my business cards which includes a QR code for a free book, and a code for 10% off all the ebooks and audiobooks on my website. 

Evie Mitchell Business CardImage of Evie Mitchell's Business Cards

Money and luggage weights are always issues for readers. Offering free or lightweight options are always a good idea. For example, I offer free steamy postcards that many collect at signings and have me sign. On the otherside is a QR code with a link the series and a code for 10% off the ebooks. 

Postcard example of NSFW artImage of steamy postcards 

I also have stickers and enamel pins for those who preorder, or those who buy bundle packs on the day. These are fun ways I can thank my super fans, and I love seeing them post their hauls after the event.  

What to do during the event
Table set up 
Bump in is always a little chaotic. Things will pop up you didn't expect - like half your books being lost in transit or you forgot your pens or you suddenly realised you're next to YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR EVER and are trying desperately not to freak out. 

Image is of Evie being totally chill and not at all freaked out and intimidated before the doors to RARE Melbourne23 opened. 

Just go with it. Make a list, ask around if you need help, and most of all enjoy the chaos (as much as your little anxious heart can). 

Also, be strategic about how you've set up your table. For example, look at the way the room is set up and the way that people might flow through it. Don't be afraid to shift your books to optimise visibility. 

Think as well about how to set up your own table's flow. Where will preorders be placed? How will your PA handled transactions? Do you have enough space to sign without knocking things over? Take five minutes to work out how to optimise your space - it'll save you a headache during the event. 

I am a highly anxious person. I have a tendency to sit at my table pre-event and freak the FUCK out. I hyperventilate, I sweat, and I try to smile through it. 

Meme about social anxietyImage is of a guy holding his head looking pained. Writing reads, 'I've got 99 problems and 86 of them are completely made up scenarios in my head that I'm stressing about for absolutely no reason.' 

To overcome this, I tend to pump music and try to deep breathe. If you see me before the doors open, be aware that I will be freaking out, but I'll be fine during and after the event. It's why I always have a PA with me who can support me to have the freak out and run a gentle interference with anyone who might want to talk to me before I'm 'in the zone'. They'll do all the talking while I smile and nod and try not to be standoffish when really I'm just trying not to break down into a puddle of anxious tears. 

Work out what works for you. That might be going and visiting other authors, it might be listening to music, it might even be doing some kind of meditation. Either way, do what works for you.

During the event
Practice your elevator pitch
Develop a concise, engaging summary of your books to grab readers' attention. If it helps, prepare some questions for your PA to help guide people to the books they might connect with. 

Image of the great bake off meme

Image is from the great bake off and reads, "Authors when asked to describe their latest book. 'Started making it. Had a breakdown. Bon appetite."

Be ready to answer questions about your work, your inspiration, and your writing process. And your characters! These are my favourite. I adore hearing about how my readers have connected with my stories and what they are most looking forward to from me. 

Genuine enthusiasm is contagious
Before I became an author I was the hardcore reader who'd be on the computer purchasing tickets through three different devices then rocking up with 1500 books on preorder and an arm full of friendship bracelets. Don't believe me - see the receipts!
Branded shopping trolleysImage 1 is of personally branded shopping carts... which we had to empty five times before we finished our day
Image 2 is of me meeting Penny Reid and sobbing all over her. I also brought her yarn which she later made a scarf with and posted on social media about and I WILL NEVER GET OVER IT! 

The best thing you can do is share your passion for your book, for the event, and for reading with readers. I promise all the stress will melt away and you'll have THE BEST time! Just give over to the joy and enthusiasm. Book people are the best people and I always end up with sore cheeks from smiling the whole day. 


Bonus Tips
Dress comfortably and professionally. You'll be standing or sitting for long periods, so prioritise comfort but remember that your photos with readers will be on social media later that day. 


Evie with one of her favourite readersImage is of me at RRR Knoxville in 2023 with one of my favourite readers, Colleen! 

Bring water and snacks. Stay hydrated and energised throughout the event. Don't forget to bring some painkillers, and don't apologise if you need to go to the toilet or take five seconds to shake off the cramp in your hand. Readers understand bodily functions!

Finally, follow up! Thank readers for attending and encourage them to leave reviews or share their thoughts on social media. If they signed up to your newsletter, send that specific group an email thanking them for stopping by and sharing news or observations from the day. My rule of thumb is always be kind.
Remember, this is a celebration of your work and a chance to connect with your audience. Relax (ha!), have fun, and enjoy the experience.

Afterall, you never know where this crazy author career it might take you. 

Image of Cookie from Steamy Lit, Lucy Eden, Kimberley (a reader) and Evie at Disneyland
Image of Cookie from Steamy Lit, Lucy Eden, Evie Mitchell and Kimberly (a reader) at Disneyland.