Historical Fictionistas discussion

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Goodreads Author Zone > What makes an author event successful?

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 26 comments I've been lucky enough to get some invitations to local libraries and writers' groups in the upcoming months, and other than talk about the how/why I wrote my book, I'm not sure exactly what I should say. Any advice from other writers who are more experienced at public appearances? What do audiences tend to respond to most? Thank you!


message 2: by Erica (new)

Erica | 368 comments I'm not an author...but I could be in the audience haha. The thing I would want to know the most, as a reader, is how you came up with the idea for your story. For example I heard Eleanor Catton started thinking about her story The Luminaries when she was only 14...and I think I read somewhere that Bryce Courtenay would often wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and would get up and start writing then and there. I find that stuff fascinating. But that's just me :)


message 3: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 26 comments Erica wrote: "I'm not an author...but I could be in the audience haha. The thing I would want to know the most, as a reader, is how you came up with the idea for your story. For example I heard Eleanor Catton st..."

Thanks, Erica. Good to know that readers are interested in the "behind the scenes" stuff and the details of how an idea makes it into print.


message 4: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 216 comments I've spoken at over 600 "author" events since Rashi's Daughters: Joheved came out in 2005. What my audience wants to know is the research behind my novels - what were the most interesting or surprising things I learned. Also what prompted me to write about these characters and this time period.

Maggie Anton


message 5: by Laura (new)

Laura | 38 comments I have your book on my TBR shelf right now. As a reader, I would be interested in how you came up with the idea for your book - did you love fairy tales when you were younger? Did you start writing the book with a definite idea of where things were going or did something change as you were writing? I'm always interested in why an author changed or deviated from history. With your specific book, I would be interested in the blending of history/fantasy/fairy tales. What historical influences did you use. I'd probably have some more specific questions related to characters/motivations as well.


message 6: by Eileen (last edited Apr 29, 2014 01:28PM) (new)

Eileen Iciek | 462 comments You might look into attending a few author events in your area, just to get the feel for it. I've been to a number of them, some read from their book, others won't, they all seem to enjoy the book signing part and getting to know their readers.

My 10 year old nephew attended a Rick Riordan mega event and Rick spoke about his books and showed slides of the different covers his books have had around the world. That event was geared towards kids, but I think older readers might enjoy that sort of presentation if an author has had their books published internationally.

For historical fiction, you might try coming up with a few bits of historic trivia about your era that did not make it into the book. I've enjoyed that.


message 7: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 26 comments Maggie: just had a look at your books and I'm so intrigued! Good to know that audiences are interested in the research behind them. I wasn't sure if that was "insidery" and only of interest to other writers.

Laura & Eileen: thanks so much for your feedback as well. The Rick Riordan event sounds really cool, and I can only wish I had a bunch of international editions to talk about :) But the historical trivia angle is a very good one, and something to think about.


message 8: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Bashaar | 140 comments I appreciated these comments because I have a book coming out soon and I am trying to develop an "author talk" to offer to libraries. It was helpful to me to read these comments about what others appreciate in author events. Thanks!


message 9: by P.D.R. (last edited May 01, 2014 09:15PM) (new)

P.D.R. Lindsay (pdrlindsay) Good tips here for my next book talk. Thank you. I'd always steered away from bits of research because although I love 'em I'd thought readers would not.


message 10: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 26 comments Kathy wrote: "I appreciated these comments because I have a book coming out soon and I am trying to develop an "author talk" to offer to libraries. It was helpful to me to read these comments about what others ..."

I think it's a great idea for historical fiction writers who specialize in a particular period to have a "talk" prepared for libraries, clubs, community organizations, etc. Good way to get out there and promote your work while also giving the audience a chance to learn something new and interesting.


message 11: by Carolien (new)

Carolien (carolien_s) I'm a reader as well and I attend author events when I can - probably 3-4 a year. I love hearing about the process of writing. I listened to Lauren Beukes describing how she had this collage on her study walls by the end of her latest book to keep track of all the bits and pieces.

If it is historical, I would like to know what came first - did you know the era that you are writing about well and then came up with the story, or did you have a plot and then researched the era in which you decided to place it. If the book is set in a specific location, you may have found some interesting bits about the place during your research. Even if you didn't use them, that's nice information to share.

It's sometimes nice to understand how things like your own hobbies and interest influence the book.

Good luck with the event. Remember, the readers are in awe of anybody who has managed actually to publish a book! They are at the event, because they are interested in your book, so you can expect them to be a nice bunch.


message 12: by P.D.R. (new)

P.D.R. Lindsay (pdrlindsay) Interesting, Carolien. I'll remember your comments for my next talk.


message 13: by Rhoda (new)

Rhoda D'Ettore (RhodaDEttore) | 8 comments Yes, Carolien! Very interesting. I write historical fiction, and I never use outlines. I just sit and type, then say, "What would really shock people now". I never truly thought about people wanting to hear that kind of thing! Thanks for the tip! Will def keep it in mind for my event!


message 14: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Bashaar | 140 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Kathy wrote: "I appreciated these comments because I have a book coming out soon and I am trying to develop an "author talk" to offer to libraries. It was helpful to me to read these comments abou..."
Thanks, Elizabeth, my book takes place in the late Roman Empire/Early Christian era, and I am working up a talk about that era and especially its interesting and surprising similarities to our 21st century world.


message 15: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Bashaar | 140 comments Carolien wrote: "I'm a reader as well and I attend author events when I can - probably 3-4 a year. I love hearing about the process of writing. I listened to Lauren Beukes describing how she had thi..."
Carolien, very interesting! I will keep your comments in mind as I develop my author talk. My own book is built around a character, and I did the research about the era to place her in her world.


message 16: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Iciek | 462 comments Authors who are doing author events: I think we would all love to hear what worked for your event, and what didn't. Please come back and give us the follow up!


message 17: by Melissa (last edited May 02, 2014 07:12PM) (new)

Melissa Eisenmeier (carpelibrumbooks) | 344 comments I'll second that about how authors come up with ideas. I know they come up with them in all kinds of ways, but it's always neat hearing about the inspiration for specific stories. I also like hearing the behind-the-scenes stuff, like what kind of research a writer did, stuff that got edited out, maybe funny stuff- Erica Spindler has a section on her website for "quips and quotes", where she relates funny stuff that happens with her work, like the time she was discussing killing off a character with another novelist, and looked up to discover two cops were listening in on the conversation.
I also like hearing a little about authors- what she or he likes doing their spare time, favorite authors, how they got into writing, that sort of thing. The favorite author part is *pretty* important to me, because if you know a writer likes to read, it's a sign that they're a better writer than Joe Shmoe. I don't care too much about who your favorite is, as long as you like reading.


message 18: by Rhoda (new)

Rhoda D'Ettore (RhodaDEttore) | 8 comments Melissa, this is true. As a writer, I do take a lot of creativity from my own life. As a reader, I hate when an author writes only about high school or college... or their first job in every single book they write. It is like they never grew up, or past that phase in their lives. It is one thing to say, "I had an ancestor who lived in this area, let me try to figure out what life was like for him" than to write --- i kid you not--- 400 pages in size 8 font!!! about the high school class trip and the summer before college. I waited this whoooooolllleeee book for something to happen. Nada!


message 19: by Darcy (new)

Darcy (drokka) | 94 comments As a reader, I like hearing about the anecdotal stuff that surrounds the writing. Such as 'while researching this, I stumbled across this interesting/bizarre/funny thing that let to idea/event/alternate idea/new character said 'hello, oh and surprise!'.

This might fall within the how did you come up with... Also, as someone who dabbles in writing, I also like to hear the how someone writes. How they carve out time (assuming they weren't writing full time at first), how to keep schtum as friends' and families' curiosities increase. That sort of thing.

Also, I think if the talk is part of a thematic event, then perhaps incorporate some of that as well.


message 20: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Smith (garrettsmith) As writers, we find book clubs to host the most successful events. Here, we define success as engagement. The members have recently read the book, and enjoy discussing it with us. They ask wonderful questions and give us ideas for the books to follow in the series.


message 21: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 216 comments Funny stuff is always a good idea. I have certain lines that usually make the audience laugh, or at least smile, and if they don't I know I'm in trouble. For example, I say that when I finally told people I was writing Rashi's Daughters: Joheved, the near universal reaction was "Wow, I can't wait to read it," but when I told them I was writingRav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery, the universal response was "Who?" Then I proceed to to explain who he was, when/where he lived and why his daughter's story intrigued me.

Maggie Anton


message 22: by Martine (new)

Martine Bailey (martineanne) | 32 comments What a fascinating read. I'm just preparing for my first ever launch on 22 May in London and I'm so glad you all want to hear what inspired the book! There are some great ideas so far and I love the idea of trivia and things that didn't get into the book. I remember researching arsenic poisoning online in a library and finding a young girl was hanging at my shoulder and was hopefully not too terrified...
I'm also going to offer some violet flavoured food to explain An Appetite for Violets and as I think it's apt, give thanks to those who have made it a team effort. I'll also be using bits from the #mywritingprocess http://www.martinebailey.com/blog.html to explain where I'm coming from.


message 23: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Eisenmeier (carpelibrumbooks) | 344 comments Congratulations, Martine! That must be so exciting for you.


message 24: by Laura (new)

Laura Gill | 152 comments I find it hard to recall what inspired a certain book or scene. I'd be a terrible guest speaker.


message 25: by Linda (new)

Linda Ulleseit (lindaulleseit) | 42 comments I've done a couple of author talks and lots of signings where I just read a piece and sign. I like both for diferent reasons. At a high school book club, I made index cards for each 'section' I might talk about: my life, my writing habits, my goal for my writing, what inspired my characters, theme of my book, etc. I did a quick intro, then gave the students three topics to pick from. It was like 'Choose your own author talk.' They seemed to enjoy it. The adult who booked me, though, said, "Oh, I thought you would do more with symbolism." um. okay. would've been nice to know that up front!


message 26: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Iciek | 462 comments Linda wrote: "I've done a couple of author talks and lots of signings where I just read a piece and sign. I like both for diferent reasons. At a high school book club, I made index cards for each 'section' I mig..."

So, something else to remember: find out what the sponsor of the author event expects from you.


message 27: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 26 comments Eileen wrote: "Linda wrote: "I've done a couple of author talks and lots of signings where I just read a piece and sign. I like both for diferent reasons. At a high school book club, I made index cards for each '..."

Yes, this is a very good point!


message 28: by Martine (new)

Martine Bailey (martineanne) | 32 comments I've just blogged my Countdown to a Book Launch, looking at the organisation of my debut launch for An Appetite for Violets last week. I fully appreciate I've been lucky to have a publisher and budget but a lot of the principles are the same - nerves, photos and so on. I've spent the last month gearing up to it but I now think it was worth every moment of frazzled nerves. Anyway,feel free to take a look at:
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...


message 29: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 26 comments Hi! I'm the person who wrote the original post, and I wanted to check in with an update on how my first library appearance went. One suggestion I found very helpful from this discussion was to include "behind the scenes" tidbits, so I did share some things I'd found out during my research and people did seem very interested. I also really enjoyed the Q&A section--that was probably the most fun.

So, I guess what really worked was to be prepared with a number of different topics (some people wanted historical details, while others were more interested in the ins and outs of getting a book published).

I was also very open about how the book changed during different drafts and my challenges/frustrations along the way. I think that can help humanize you to an audience (i.e. they see that the book was the result of years of hard work rather than something you just whipped up in your spare time).

Thanks for all the advice from both authors and readers! It was really helpful.


message 30: by Hilda (last edited Jun 01, 2014 08:35AM) (new)

Hilda Reilly | 170 comments I'm doing an event tomorrow and have found all the above comments very helpful. Thanks for asking the original question, Elizabeth.


message 31: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Bashaar | 140 comments These comments were also very helpful to me, as I am a new author just beginning to offer author talks. Thanks, everyone.


message 32: by Maria (new)

Maria Trujillo (maritillo) | 2 comments Dear fellow writers, I'm twisted up about another kind of author event, book fairs and conferences. I published my first historical fiction book in March of this year and have been trying my best to promote the historical fiction novel during my free time. I know that way is to participate in book fairs or conferences. To be honest, I'm not sure if my participation is too premature as I only have one book published. Although hesitant, I signed up for the Miami International Book Fair and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed about it. I don't how I should approach what might be a great opportunity. How many books should I order? What should I do and not do? Displays? Should I aim for smaller conferences or niche specific conferences in the future? Any articles I should read? I have been trying to do research on the topic (like any history aficionado) but it's been challenging to find an unbiased source. Any wise words of wisdom would be much appreciated.


message 33: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 35 comments Other than 'googling' book fairs and conferences to learn about upcoming events or going on every literary magazine's web site, has someone prepared a listing of conferences?


message 34: by Paul (last edited Oct 02, 2014 11:14PM) (new)

Paul (paullev) | 78 comments In addition to talks, readings at libraries and bookstores can be effective, too. Here's one I did at the late, great Robin's Books in Philadelphia in 2008 for Unburning Alexandria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYkbF...


message 35: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 216 comments I've been to plenty of book fairs/festivals, mainly those celebrating Jewish Book Month. For most I've been the only speaker at my time slot, so it was more like a regular author talk. I've also done a few fairs/conferences when I was on a panel with other authors, and those can be fun, but I think I sell more books at the former.

My target is Jewish women, so for me, libraries and bookstores don't bring in the crowds that I get when the venue [i.e. a synagogue sisterhood] attracts my niche audience. I strongly suggest trying to setting up speaking events at place where your target can be found.
Maggie Anton


message 36: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Couchman | 8 comments I'm doing an author talk/reading at our local literary festival in Parisot (SW France) on Saturday, so I found these comments and tips really helpful. Thank you.


message 37: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 616 comments A neighbor of mine made a suggestion: we have a monthly Art Walk in our town, and as she pointed out, writers are artists too! We had an author who simply brought a card table and some books and set up shop to sign and sell. (Of course, different publishers have different policies about authors doing direct selling; mine lets me buy books at cost and sell them independently, keeping all the proceeds.)


message 38: by Hamid (new)

Hamid Karima | 40 comments Very helpful comments here. I also think the personality of an author is important for the readers. An author can talk a little about him/herself; for example a few interesting events of his/her life, hobbies and experiences.


message 39: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Kmitta | 2 comments I have my first book signing coming soon at a major national bookstore. The suggestions offered will be helpful as I don't know what to expect. Any suggestions that you do? Do you handle these events differently?


message 40: by Melissa (last edited Jul 12, 2015 07:52PM) (new)

Melissa Eisenmeier (carpelibrumbooks) | 344 comments K.P., definitely throw out some tidbits on the research you're doing, or tidbits in general, maybe a funny story that happened when writing the book, and open up the floor to questions. Readers love that sort of thing.


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