Episode 72: Author Events
I met Alison Morton in person for the first time at the Triskele Literary Festival. While there, former guest Debbie Young put her forward as a potential guest for the show. At the time I didn’t have an idea of a potential show topic, but looking at her website I saw how many speaking events she had done. So then I thought that would be a good topic to talk about, especially as I’ve done exactly zero speaking events myself.
How did you get your first speaking engagement as an author?
Not counting her launch, her first speaking event was when she approached the Romantic Novelists Association Conference which she had been a member of for 4 years. As she didn’t write books that are wholly Romance-based, she pitched a session on alternative history and was accepted. She feels she built her connection with the organisers over the years before.
Did you approach them or did they approach you?
Even now she mainly approaches people to speak. She has been asked by some conferences like the Historical Novels Conference in Denver to speak about self-publishing. She has raised her profile by writing for magazines like Writing Magazine. You have to build up your reputation and make connections with the organisers to hope to be asked to speak rather than having to approach people to speak.
Have you been paid for any of these author events?
The answer is yes, but it is by no means certain you will be paid. Some pay a fee, some give you a free conference pass, some pay travel and hotel, and others yet you get free food. Some don’t pay at all, especially when you are beginning to speak. You need to do a lot of free stuff before you get any paid speaking at author events.
Does it help to have contacts with other authors in terms of getting booked for author speaking events?
Alison advises doing this as she has received speaking invitations directly out of connections she has made with other authors. They have recommended her to conference organisers.
What has been the most difficult event you have spoken at and what did you learn from it?
In terms of disappointment Alison arranged to speak at a national chain bookstore in the South West of England and expected a crowd of around 50 people. But then only about 5-10 people turned up because the bookstore made no effort to promote the event itself. But Alison was philosophical about it and gave the same speech she would have given to 50 people.
What advice would you give to people who would be nervous at speaking at author events?
It is a massive thing to do, and hard for many authors to get used to it. Alison recommends several things:
- Write down what your book is about and what a reader would find interesting, as if you were a reader rather than an author.
- Dare to book it. This will force you to do it. Agree the topic and aim for a more low-key event if you are just starting.
- Write it all out : to get the ideas out. Don’t read it at the event, just use it to get the ideas out.
- Go and walk about alone and read it aloud to get used to your own voice.
- Do a few slides if you are confident but don’t overdo the slides, keep them simple to talk around rather than read off.
- Remember to breathe.
She says always remember the crowd have turned up to see you, so they must be interested in you. Alison arrives at least 20 minutes early to these events and ensures she always has the mobile number of the organiser of the event. For a book launch you need to arrive even earlier as you are arranging the event, especially as people always turn up earlier than the arranged start time.
How can people find out about you and your books?
If you liked this interview then you might like How to Sell Your Books Through Bookshops with Debbie Young, Selling Publishing Rights with Orna Ross and Small Print Runs – an Interview with Jane Davis