How To Book A Poetry Reading at Your Local Bookstore
by Michael Odom
The single most effective way to promote your book is with a poetry reading at the store where your book is on sale. The problem: most bookstores have neither time nor money to waste offering author events, like poetry readings, that no one attends.
The Pitch: You must convince booksellers to give up time, energy, and sometimes sales to promote you, an unknown. The most relevant piece of information you have to offer is the number of people who can reasonably be expected to attend your poetry reading. To this end, you should be able to offer a mailing list. Purchase a guestbook or make a sign-up sheet and get on social networking sites. Collect the names and contact information of people who might care to come to your poetry reading and buy your book.
The Build up: Once the bookseller has put you on the store’s schedule, set about making certain everyone in that store’s market is aware of your poetry reading. To some degree, the bookstore will do this, but your author event will be one of many on their calendar. Only for you is your reading the one reading in need of promotion. Send out preliminary email and social networking announcements a month before the date, then two weeks, then one week, then the day before. Write a press release (you can download a free template at HYPERLINK "http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT010143902.aspx"http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT010143902.aspx). Write it up and deliver it by hand, by mail, email, or ‘contact us’ link on a website to every newspaper, newsletter, local organization, or website that maintains a calendar of local events. Then make up an attractive flyer and post it on every public bulletin board you can find (cafes, Laundromats, post offices, even grocery stores, will usually have one).
Remember the more people you have show up at your poetry reading, the more books you sell, the easier it will be to talk other bookstores into hosting your future poetry readings. That said, only approach one store per market. Most markets aren’t large enough to support multiple appearances by the same author.
The Big Night: I hope you are prepared. No stuttering, fumbling with papers, or nervously hiding in the backroom. You are the professional poet everyone has come to see. Know your poems by heart even if you are reading from a page. Project your voice to the back of the room, without yelling, even if you have a microphone. Be personable, cheerful between poems, and engage your audience.
The Aftermath: Introduce yourself to the booksellers in the store. Thank them for hosting your poetry reading. They might take an interest in your book and bookseller word-of-mouth makes bestsellers. Stay available to your audience for questions and signing. Don’t let family, friends, or anyone dominate your time to the exclusion of others. When you get home, post it all online, with pictures if possible.