February: Bookstores, Workshops, Discounts, & Dirt

Events tips, #Muse20 discounts, the American Dirt controversy, & a hidden tea gem

Greetings readers & writers!

Bookstore author event season is starting to wake up, here in New England. For those of you who’ve published books (or plan to!) the prospect of events and working with bookstores can seem confusing and overwhelming. If one has a publicist, do they handle events? Does the author? How do stores book events anyway? Are they worth the time and effort? And how do you get people to come?

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know this is one of my favorite topics (I teach workshops on it, after all). And to answer those questions in succession:

  1. Yes, if you have a publicist, they will often assist with bookstore events. Sometimes they’ll plan a tour for you, usually they’ll just support you into accounts you’re interested in. Lean on them to get you into stores that have high-demand event calendars or where you don’t already have a personal connection.

  2. However, most of the event planning is up to the author after the initial publicity push for your book (and sometimes before and during, depending on how active a marketing team you have access to). Always keep your publicist informed, however, as they can help make sure the bookstore/school/other venue gets the books they need for your event.

  3. Stores schedule events one of three ways: 1) they pitch publishers for authors they know are touring (from a given list); 2) the publisher pitches authors to the store; or 3) the author pitches the store. Generally events are planned based on the store’s demographics, the demand for the book/author, the overall event slate, and the expected turnout.

  4. Events are worth the time and effort… sometimes. Make sure you are picking stores that can offer the marketing support and audience draw you need to have a successful event. Don’t do events just because you feel you’re supposed to — be intentional about audience and the kind of events you seek out/plan (and think outside the box! Bookstores aren’t right for every book.)

  5. The key to getting people to come is being targeted in your approach. Don’t rely solely on the bookstore or publisher’s marketing to get people in the door; it begins with you. Start where you have community. Pick stores that support the books and events you do. Aim for scheduling that maximizes when your audience can attend. Find out where your audience gets their information and target those outlets when it comes to marketing/publicity. And above all, let people know (repeatedly, but genuinely!) where you’ll be, when, and what you have to offer.

{For more pointers, check out my article: Quick & Dirty Events - Ask an Event Coordinator or register for my session at #Muse20}

The best way to learn how to host a successful event is to attend one… or many! I look to Boston Book Blog and my favorite local indie’s newsletters for inspiration. We’re lucky, in the Boston area, that we’re flush for choice: Karen Russell! Ken Liu! Kerri Maher! Kat Howard! Just to name a few I’m excited about. I’m hoping to catch at least one of these — maybe I’ll see you there!

What do you do if there aren’t stores in your area or your schedule doesn’t allow for making it to the ones that are? You can still engage with indie bookstores through social media (follow! share! retweet! engage!) and/or use bookshop.org or indiebound.org to order books through them, when feasible.

Bookstores are an essential part of the publishing ecosystem, connecting authors, publishers, and readers together. The more often you can support the stores you love — in any capacity — the more likely they’ll be able to support you when you’re looking to promote your next book or event.


Upcoming Seminars: 2020!

*indicates registration required

Not available these dates? Connect with me for one-on-one coaching that fits your schedule!

Book a marketing consult today!

Still trying to decide about The Muse & the Marketplace in April? GrubStreet is currently offering select discounts on registration! There may still be volunteer opportunities available as well (which get you into the entire conference for free, in exchange for assistance leading up to and during the conference). Finally, there are #Muse20 events open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Writing/Marketing Resources: Bookstore Edition!

A concise thread from author Rebecca Stead on her take-aways from a panel of booksellers at Winter Institute 15 on how to authors can create strong partnerships with bookstores. {I’ll also be talking about this topic at the Muse & the Marketplace!}

Publisher’s Weekly’s interview with 11 middle-grade authors on marketing and reaching readers should be required reading for writers of all age groups. Tips include: how to work with bookstores and libraries, school visits, social media presence, and being both generous and genuine.

Ever wonder how books get on a bookstore shelf? Check out YA author Alexa Donne’s super-informative overview video on how publishers work with book distributors, sales teams, and bookstores.

Industry News

The Dirt on American Dirt
A book centered on a Mexican family fleeing to the states, American Dirt, has received harsh criticism for it’s inaccurate and shallow depiction of immigrants and Mexican culture, while at the same time drawing enough praise and hype to get it selected for Oprah’s bookclub. Its controversial publication, however, has shone light on the frequent critique of publishers as gatekeepers: who is doing the publishing; who gets published; who is getting the money and marketing; and who isn’t.

The backlash has caused Flatiron, American Dirt’s publisher, to cancel the author’s book tour and consult more deeply on Latinx representation in publishing. It’s also affected bookstores that planned to sell and promote the title. And it’s certainly gotten everyone talking. If you’re interested in other books about the immigration experience, check out these great reading lists from Yes! Magazine and The Guardian.

On the heels of all this, Lee & Low has released their 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey on their Open Book Blog. While there has been increased awareness of the homogeneity of publishing and calls for inclusion, the survey shows little actual change in the demographics of the industry.

The 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards for children’s literature were announced on January 27th. Among the winners were Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Caldecott Medal), Dig by A.S. King (Printz Award), and New Kid by Jerry Craft, the first-ever graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal. You can view the entire award ceremony and speeches here.


When I first moved to the Boston area, I discovered a tea shop in the ‘burbs called Virtuous Teas, a cozy shop with large jars of tea lining the walls and gorgeous pots and tea cups. But then one day the shop was gone; I’d heard it had moved but never found out where. Then, just the other week, I stumbled across it’s newer location and gleefully spent as long as I could browsing (or as long as my kiddo could withstand not touching the tea cups). I’m really enjoying their Jasmine Silver Needle White Tea, a subtle, fragrant tea for on-the-go.

What is white tea? It’s the buds and early leaves of the tea plant and is much less processed. Being both seasonal and hand-harvested, white tea is more expensive than most tea, but has less caffeine, a short brew time, a reputation for immunity-boosting powers, and a clean, delicate flavor.

Big congrats to agent Erzsi Deak (who wanted to chat about her clients’ upcoming title Cat, Dog, Dog), one of the recipients of January’s free marketing consults! Stay tuned —and subscribed!— for future giveaways!

Let me know about upcoming events, marketing campaigns, and projects so I can help signal boost!

Happy writing!

Writer & Marketing Coach
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Allison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea. 

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