Essential tips for authors at a book-signing convention or lit fest #indieauthors

Last month the UK Indie Lit Fest took place in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in the north of England. This author convention was a free event, with over 40 indie authors attending. The event included writing classes, author readings, activities for children, and the chance for readers to talk to best-selling authors around the world via scheduled Skype calls. The author convention was well attended, it was brilliant to meet so many other authors and readers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day!

On October 27th-29th, the world-renowned LoveNVegas author convention is taking place at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. So, Las Vegas is a long way from Bradford – in every way! – and the US is far ahead of the UK in the size and organisation of this type of author event. Romance authors and readers in particular have massive conventions in America compared to ours here. But no matter where it takes place, what size the event, or the nationality of those taking part – readers and authors the world over still worry about the same things before attending.
I’ve put together a list of tips for authors attending their first convention / lit fest below. I also thought it would be really interesting to ask a reader and book blogger to give her perspective. Emma Mitchell, whose website is at EDM Editorial & Publicity Services, has kindly added her own tips to authors on attending conventions, from the point of view of an attending reader. Emma has some interesting comments – so please read on!
My tips for authors attending their first author convention
• Make sure your stall looks attractive and eye-catching. If you can’t afford a big banner, try and make the table look good with a nice table-cloth, and think of how you are going to set out your stall – preferably with your books easy to hand at the front – so that readers will be tempted to stop and look. And smile!
Helena Fairfax, Felicity at the Cross Hotel
My stall at the UK Indie Lit Fest, with author friend Marie Laval
Victoria howard, Lynda Stacey
The eye-catching stall of romance authors Victoria Howard and Lynda Stacey
  • Have your business cards ready to hand out to people stopping by. One excellent tip I learned in Bradford is to get a barcode printed up on your cards so that readers can go straight to your books online from the app on their phones. Check out K.S. Marsden’s card in the photo belowHelena Fairfax


  • If you can afford it, have some giveaways or “swag” to give free with your books. Bookmarks or postcards can go down well if you have great cover artwork, but my tip is to try and think of something more unusual. My author friend Marie Laval has a book set in Provence. She brought along some sachets of lavender and some cute little scented soaps. These were very popular – and the delicious scent attracted a lot of people!
Helena Fairfax
Lavender sachets for Marie Laval’s A Spell in Provence
  • For my own “swag”, I bought some bookmarks from Glitterama Crafts on Etsy and customised them with ribbons and beads.  They looked lovely on the stall!

Helena Fairfax, Felicity at the Cross Hotel

  • If you’re giving a reading, a workshop or a talk at the event, make sure to practise, practise, practise your timings before you go. If you’re at all nervous – and pretty much everyone gets nervous giving a talk – if you’ve practised it well, the words will flow much more easily. Also, as soon as you’ve set up your stall, make sure the room where you’re giving the talk has all the equipment set up and ready for you.
  • Interact with people at the convention. We authors are often shy people – but remember, readers are often equally shy, and will almost certainly be waiting for you to make the first move. When someone passes your stall, smile, and if they make eye contact, thank them for coming to the convention, and ask them if they’ve had to travel far. People like to talk about themselves. I’m not a salesperson and I’m British and a writer – three qualities that often make people feel awkward and diffident about pushing themselves forward! If you’re like me and struggle to promote your own books, asking people questions about themselves is a great way to get a conversation going, and even if that person doesn’t buy your book that day, they will remember you.

books, book reviews, reviewers, romance

A reader’s tips for authors

And now let’s go round the other side of the stall for some tips from book blogger Emma Mitchell :)

  • As a blogger and avid reader, I have attended many bookish events over the years and I love them. I think the most important thing for me has always been the interaction with the authors. There is nothing more pleasing for a reader than to have had a chat with an author they love and admire, or a new, to them, author. I also have a massive love for bookish merchandise too!
  • Everybody needs book marks and I know many readers have some amazing collections, myself included, of postcards, tote bags, pens, fridge magnets, book cups, and even tablet stylus pens!
  • Interaction at these events doesn’t have to be all about the “hard sell”, just talking to the author will make a massive difference to me, but you can try and sell me your book, by all means do, after all, I am at the event to buy books, meet authors I want to meet, and discover new authors.
  • I also find that the events where there are author talks are brilliant. Whether it be an author offering a workshop on an aspect of the writing world or a Q&A about their work, both are wonderful ways for readers and bloggers to understand the world of being an author a lot better.
The topic of my talk at the UK Indie Lit Fest
The topic of my talk at the UK Indie Lit Fest
  • With my “blogger” head on, I find that the authors who do interact are those who get more blog space. If I attend an event and am ignored by an author (and by that, I mean they don’t show any intention of interacting with me when I am stood at their table/stall) then I will be less inclined to feature them and their work on my blog. It is also likely that I will tell other bloggers about this negative experience and trust me, bloggers stick together, we have a universal black-list of naughty authors! You don’t want to be on that list! 😉
  • I think, the best advice I could offer to an author going to an event, interact, please, the people there want to speak to you, you aren’t an annoying sales person knocking on their front door at 9.00 p.m. in the evening and spoiling their night, they have come to see you, to buy your book, to have a chat. Interaction and nice pens are the key in this blogger/reader’s opinion!


Thanks so much, Emma, for dropping in with your interesting perspective. (Emma also has a thoughtful post here on the subject Do We Expect Too Much of Authors?)

I hope you’ve found our tips useful!

And finally, if you’re lucky enough to be able to attend the LoveNVegas event in America in October (how I wish!) here are some Las Vegas travel deals for the best flight and hotel packages. If you do attend, please drop by afterwards and let us know how it went!

* * *
Are you an author, and have you ever attended a lit fest / convention? If so, how did you find it? Did you feel confident approaching readers, or are you quite shy? What other tips would you give attending authors?
And if you’re a reader, have you attended a lit fest? What was your experience, and what do you love most about these events?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

16 thoughts on “Essential tips for authors at a book-signing convention or lit fest #indieauthors

  1. Thank you for your advise. I will take this on board at my next book event. As im also am really quiet and not very interactive/shy. Its always nice to see another Authors perspective. :)


    1. People expect a lot of authors – we have to write great books, and we have to be great salespeople, too! I feel for you with your shyness. I’m an introvert and I find it hard work being around people for long periods. It helps me to remember that a lot of authors – and a lot of readers – are introverts, too. It helps me to remember that others around me are often also battling with shyness. Wishing you all the best with your book event. Thanks so much for your lovely comment!


  2. Really interesting and helpful, Helena and Emma.

    I find this sort of thing really hard. I’d love to attend an Indie festival but I’d find it a lot easier if I was sitting with someone else. Love the tips on merchandise and presentation!


    1. Thanks so much for dropping in, Cass. It was a great help sharing a stall with Marie. We could share ideas and some presentation items. The organisers of the Indie Lit Fest also set up an FB group for all the authors well in advance, so we all got to know each other beforehand, and shared tips in the group. In the end I really enjoyed the day. I highly recommend giving it a go!


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