Four questions to ask yourself before scheduling an author event

During the last ten months of promoting my YA novel One Night I’ve learned that not all in-person events are worth my time. As an author it’s tempting to take advantage of every opportunity that’s presented to you, but events are not always worthwhile. Even for bestsellers. Late last year, I went to a book signing that featured two New York Times bestselling authors – one of whom has a movie adaptation of their book coming out — and there were nine people there. Nine. One of whom was my husband who had to be dragged by me. Not all of the people in attendance bought their books either. It was brutal! I’ve encountered similar situations at events I’ve done. Having done several events the four questions I ask myself now before committing are:

What is the expected foot traffic to the venue? My email list isn’t that large, not all my readers are local, and people are busy. What is the usual number of people (casual drop ins) that come to the event? Get an estimate from the event organizer before agreeing to anything.

Are attendees going to be in spending mode? I’ve noticed that at library events patrons are not as willing to cough up money for a book. The library is a wonderful place, but people are not in spending mode when they go there. They are normally there for the free access to books, movies, etc.

Will I be paid? If I’m compensated fairly for my time I usually don’t care about the above two questions.

Is there going to be a lot of upfront effort on my end? For example, will the venue provide a table, chairs, etc. or am I expected to bring that along? Will the event organizers help promote the event, or not?

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Are author events a great way of getting the word out about your books? Of course. But not all are created equal.

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How to Balance Writing With a Day Job

One of the questions I get asked most often is: how do you find the time to write? People seem to equate finishing a novel while working a demanding full-time job with pulling off a miracle, but I’m here to tell you there’s nothing miraculous about it! I make time to write because it is important to me. I juggle balancing writing with my day job, spending time with my family, cleaning, working out, and taking care of my puppy. Among other obligations. If you’re having trouble fitting writing into your life I suggest checking out Jessica Abel’s book Growing Gills. It will help you prioritize tasks and organize yourself so you can carve out time to work on creative projects.

My writing week in a nutshell (also seen in the infographic below):

  • 1.5 hours spent on word output/active writing during my train ride to work
  • 1 hour (sometimes 2-3, depending) spent editing another project on Saturday or Sunday morning
  • 1.5 hours on marketing – throughout the week, when I can or on the weekend
  • 35 minutes on social media – 5 minutes per day or one 30-minute session on the weekend

I have worked at this pace for several years. At this rate I am able to finish 1.5 books per year. Would I love to write more? Yes. But I think I’m doing alright if I do say so myself 🙂

Writing life info graphic

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Help our friend Mila

Dear readers,

As some of you may have gathered from reading my posts or following my Instagram feed, my husband is Serbian. We have started a Go Fund Me campaign for his best friend’s daughter who lives in Serbia and has cerebral palsy.

Mila

Mila is a sweetheart (we spent a lot of time with her and family last year and will see them again this summer) but has trouble doing many things on her own such as holding a glass of water, sitting up, etc. I hate being hit up for money as much as the next person but this is definitely a good cause. Mila needs treatment and surgery that will hopefully help her do these small things a lot of us take for granted. Mila’s twin sister Lena is totally healthy, but Mila is 100% dependent on her parents.

To read all the details please visit this page- https://www.gofundme.com/milaklikovac

Anything you can do to help spread the word is appreciated!

Thanks!

How to Prepare for a TED-style Author Talk in Less Than 10 days

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When an event organizer contacted me to fill in for a last-minute cancellation who was supposed to give a TED-style author talk as part of a weeklong writing festival at a local high school I panicked. There was no way I could pull off a talk like that in less than 10 days. That was the sort of thing that took months to prepare for, possibly a year. I was worried because this would be the largest crowd I’d ever addressed. There would be at least 200 people in attendance but there could be up to 500. Plus I had to be onstage for 35-40 minutes. Since the crowd would be made up of high school students the odds were good that I’d connect with some of my target audience there: teens who love John Green novels. Even though the thought of this speaking opportunity scared me, I knew in my heart that I had to do it. What I did to pull it off and how you can, too:

Watch other TED talks for inspiration. Understand your talk probably won’t leave people with as big of a “wow” feeling due to the time crunch you’re under, however, make a note of which talks capture your attention and why. Try to bring some of that X factor to your own presentation. The talks I gravitated toward included some very personal stories so I knew I had to include some in my own talk.

Make a quick list of all the possible story lines you can tell about yourself as a writer. Keep each story to one sentence/phrase. My ideas were:

-I am old enough to have paper and email rejections

-I started writing women’s fiction but was supposed to be writing YA

-I’ve met a few bestsellers—some randomly, some on purpose

-I quit writing at least 10 times

-I struggle to call myself a writer and share my work

-I know the journey is unpredictable but worth it in the end

I decided to go with a combination of the last two ideas because they were the most upbeat and inspirational. It also had a natural narrative arc.

Once you decide on your idea, figure out how to make it visual. Audiences remember speeches better if there are visuals involved. Studies have shown that people process images 60,000x faster than text. Since this was a personal journey story I decided to include a lot of photos: myself at five years-old since that’s when I started writing; my senior yearbook photo to represent the time I started writing my first novel; images of my college newspaper where I worked as an editor. During my speech I also talked about sources of inspiration and showed pictures of my dog, Cuba. I could see smiles form on attendees’ faces as that slide went up. Images are great in terms of jogging your own memory, too, and reminding you what you need to be speaking about at a given moment.

Do not write a script for your speech. Jot down notes and phrases but don’t try to plan for everything that will be said. The best talks allow for some ad-libbing. Plus if you write a script for yourself you will stumble if you don’t remember to say something exactly as you wrote it. I took an executive speaking course last year for work and saw this happen time and again. Someone tried to remember a script they had written instead of having a more natural conversation with the audience.

Don’t make it a sales pitch. Talks like these should be managed like your social media accounts. Be helpful. Be yourself. Be genuine. Tell the audience what makes your personal story unique. Tell them what obstacles you encountered. If there are logical places to mention your book by all means try to work it in. I mentioned my novel, One Night, when I got to the sources of inspiration section of my talk (One Night is set in Hawaii and I shared some of my favorite Hawaii vacation photos). But don’t make it a blatant “buy my book” pitch.

Practice as much as time allows. Ideally you should run through your talk at least three times if possible. Time yourself to make sure it fits within the time frame you’re given. If you mess up during practice, just keep going. Pretend it’s the actual day of the talk where you won’t be able to have a redo. If possible practice in front of someone, or at the very least, your dog.

Wear something that makes you feel like a million bucks. Whether that is a red dress, a suit, or a leather jacket. Wear something that instills confidence and makes you feel like you’ve earned the right to be up on stage. If you hear a Beyoncé song in your head when you put on an outfit that’s the outfit you should wear.

I was a nervous wreck before my big talk, going so far as to Google “author visits gone wrong,” but in the end it went well. I had a lot of fun doing it. The audience was engaged and students asked thoughtful questions. Afterward, a few students came up to me to commend me on my performance. One girl said, “You know, we’ve had a lot of boring speakers come and talk to us, but you were actually interesting.” Her compliment made my day.

Author’s Note: this post originally appeared as a guest post at Writer Unboxed. To be the first to get new posts, sign up for my email list.

Books to read if you enjoyed One Night

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Here’s a list of comparable books to check out while you’re waiting for the companion to One Night. (Spoiler alert: fans of Thompson’s BFF Ronnie will be glad to know he plays a much bigger role in this book!)

The One Night comp title list, in no particular order:

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas. This YA novel takes quirky friendship to a new level. Ollie is allergic to electricity and Moritz has a rare heart condition. For medical reasons the two can never meet, but their friendship is brought to life through their heartfelt letters to one another.

The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely. Hendrix, the main character in this novel, would definitely get along with Thompson. Like Thompson he makes it his mission to reunite his grandpa with the one place that reminds him of his one true love. Hendrix busts grandpa out of assisted living and they take an epic road trip from LA to NY.

The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis. This is another YA novel that centers around an unlikely friendship that just works. Teenager Maggie is blind until the day she suddenly starts seeing Ben, a ten year-old boy. Ben is the only person she can see and over time they develop a great friendship. I’m a firm believer that two people don’t have to be near the same age to share a special bond and this book delivers on that idea.

Paper Towns by John Green. Like Thompson, Quentin pines for a girl who doesn’t deserve it and goes to extreme lengths to find her when she goes missing. Don’t watch the movie instead of reading the book! There are some great scenes in the book that didn’t make the cinematic cut.

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What I’m Into This Month

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It’s that time again to talk about what I’m reading, writing, and watching this month.

What I’m reading:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Unabridged, people! This is not my usual read, but my husband ADORES this book and can’t wait until I finish reading it. It is interesting and in general I’m familiar with the story, having seen an adaptation starring one of my favorite actors Jim Caviezel. But it’s much longer than an average book. I just hope I finish by the end of the year.

What I’m watching:

  • The Wolfpack, a documentary about a group of brothers who grew up sheltered in an apartment in New York who have a passion for movies. Completely fascinating and available on Netflix right now.
  • Newtown, another documentary (apparently they are my thing this month) about the town of Newtown, CT and how they’ve dealt with the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. I make it a point to not get political on my web site, but this is really an eye-opener about how we need some reform to gun control laws. You will need tissues for this one.

What I’m writing:

  • A companion to One Night that follows Ronnie and Thompson into college. Tentatively titled The Only Thing. Thompson finds himself in another romantic predicament. More details coming soon.
  • I’m also editing my YA novel that’s set in Serbia. Why set a novel in Serbia you ask? My husband in Serbian and Serbia is a beautiful country that often gets a bad rap in the media.

If you want to be the first to know about new book news and read a preview of One Night, sign up for my email list.

P.S. I am giving away a signed copy of One Night over at my friend Melissa’s blog, So About What I Said. Be sure to enter and check out her great web site!

 

Upcoming events

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Hey all, I have a lot of events going on next week – an event bonanza as I’ve been calling it LOL. Where you can find me:

To be the first to know about events, sign up for my email list. If you’d like information on my public speaking or booking info go here.

What I’m reading, writing, and watching this month

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Okay friends, it’s been a while since I’ve done a post like this. My apologies.

What I’m reading:

  • House of Bradbury by Nicole Meier. It’s women’s fiction about a woman who buys Ray Bradbury’s old house in southern California. It’s a great read and can I give a shout out to Nicole here who graciously answered some questions for me recently about her publishing experience! Such a lovely person.
  • My Beautiful Life by Mina Dobic, a true story about a woman who cured her cancer by eating a macrobiotic diet. Fascinating. Thanks, hubby for the book recommendation!
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, contemporary YA about a girl who’s forced to live with her stepmother across the country. Just got this for Kindle on sale for $1.99.

What I’m writing:

What I’m watching:

  • We are binge watching Caribbean Life at my house. It is one of my greatest ambitions in life to live by the ocean one day. When I’m by the ocean I feel like I’m home!
  • I am sad and relieved that the first season of This is Us is over. Tuesday night has been my weekly cry session since this show started. I think it’s because the show feels too much like real life!