When you’re an independent author or publish with a small press or are a poet, you have to book your own signing gigs, much like independent musicians book theirs. Your publisher is too small to do it for you. How do you go about doing this? Well, today we’re going to discuss booking a gig in your own backyard with local business owners.


How To Book a Gig:


Study where other authors in your area are booking. Where are they having their readings or signings? Ask them for an introduction. Studying the biweekly NC Writers’ Network Reading e-blast that comes out every Thursday afternoon is a wonderful start. You should also know the different between a reading and a signing—a reading is where you take about 10-20 minutes to read your material before an audience and a signing is where you’re behind a table and folks are milling about and you don’t read your work at all. Attend your friends’ readings and talk to the people in charge, telling them that you are also an author. Follow up with an email and phone call. I booked a gig at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore in Boulder, Colorado by simply asking their webmaster (who is also the owner) if I could be added to their newsletter list. I told them I was a poet from Raleigh and I would be in the Boulder area in July–then they offered me the reading on Friday, July 10 soon after–awesome sauce!


Approach local venues where it’s in their best interest to partner with an author. I tend to stay away from chains unless they do a lot with the community and schools. Mention strongly what you offer—can you bring in a lot of traffic on a slow night? Talk about the best times for them and for your people. For example, if you want to book at a ladies’ boutique consignment store you need to tell the owner (only if it’s true) that you can bring a lot of women to their store who will buy stuff and that Sunday afternoon would be the ideal time for this crowd. Booking a reading is all about collaboration—I tend to find wonderful venues and collaborators every time I venture out to Art Crawls/Walks in Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Wake Forest.

Depending on your theme, which we’ll discuss below, figure out what store and shops will best suit you and your audience: yoga studios, art galleries, clothing boutiques, food specialty stores, real estate offices, antique stores, chocolate store, wine shops, and coffee shops. While bars and restaurants may be a good idea, be aware of their noise levels. Don’t focus exclusively on bookstores, but if you have a bookstore opportunity, please go for it! Bookstores know how to set up events and they know how to publicize via social media and their e-newsletters, which may not be the case at some of the venues I’ve listed above—you may have to rely on your own publicity/marketing machine.


What is your book’s theme? If it’s self-help or exercise or healthy eating, or geared toward women, think about where your readers would like to go and see you read or sign your book.


Offer refreshments. Either you can provide your own refreshments or buy them from the venue and make sure you advertise what these refreshments are in your copy. For instance, say that there will be complimentary wine, cheese and cake—because everyone likes free wine and cake.


The bottom line is that you want to find receptive business owners who want to help local authors succeed—it is win-win for both of you to pull off a successful event. I would also zero in on folks who have a history of helping authors—make sure you support them by shopping in their store, too! Most of all, always make it fun, don’t be a diva and roll with any changes. Doing so will guarantee a re-booking and even more support going forward from your local business partners!


Your Turn:

What did I leave off of the list? If you’ve booked reading gigs, please share with me what worked or didn’t work.