Your Author Event Was NOT a Failure

by | Writing | 12 comments

“One fails forward toward success.” — Charles F. Kettering

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Image courtesy of Ambro at

I share the story of my meet-the-author library event for one purpose:

Don’t bemoan the poor response to your author event; look for the hidden successes. Click to tweet.

Act 1 – The Setup


I called a library. The event coordinator detailed impressive ways she promoted author events. She said the library was dedicated to helping authors. According to her suggestion, we set up a weekday date from 11AM to 1PM.

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at

Later, I delivered my press release content and book cover poster, which the coordinator displayed at the entrance. It would greet patrons for a month.

We checked whether my MacBook Air would work with their projector. Too iffy. I’d bring my large-screen desktop.


The head librarian said 4 to 12 attended these events. No surprise to me.

Act 2 – The Preparation


I wanted to add activities different from the normal ones. Of course, I’d wear my Cisney costume from Calculated Risk’s cover with yellow stickies dotting my suit.

Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy









I prepared and timed activities to fit a 90-minute period, leaving time to settle in and chat. Here’s the schedule titles:

1.  Doughnuts. Bring enough for participants and library staff.

Image courtesy of digitalart at

Image courtesy of digitalart at

2.  Writing journey with a twist: A String of Nevers. Perform my journey using catchy titles for each journey stage. Raise a NEVER sign each time I utter “never.”

3.  Story behind the story. Keep it to a few entertaining stories.

4.  Story tidbits. Tell about 12 story-related items from my story basket. End each blurb with an intriguing story question.

5.  Scene 1. Give a dramatic reading.

6.  Book Trailers. Ask for feedback on Calculated Risk’s two trailers.

7.  Q & A

8.  Bird of Paradise Napkin. Invite participants to fold a book-related napkin fold.

9.  Drawing. Give away a copy of Calculated Risk.

Act 3 – The Live Event


Sometimes, discussed promotion fails to happen. Such was true for this event. But I set up everything and was ready.

Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at

Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at

By 11:00, no one had arrived.

At 11:15, I enjoyed a doughnut, telling God everything was fine, I trusted him no matter what.

At 11:25, I told the mortified-for-me coordinator we’d try again in the spring. I packed up.

A woman came in: “I hear you’ve packed up and will return in the spring.” We chatted. Another woman arrived disappointed I was leaving. So we went on with the show.


Successful Reviews


1.  For trusting God and refusing to lay blame for no attendees, God blessed me with two women.

2.  The two ladies are active in eight library book clubs. They told me to come back, and they’d promote the event using their connections. They recommended a bookstore where local authors do well in book signings. And they both bought a book.

3.  I’ll use my preparation for this event for future ones. Rehearsing to two women is far better than to my mirror. I’ll tweak my presentation, and I’ll be ready for the next event.

4.  The head librarian recommended the same bookstore the women did and supplied names of contacts.

5.  I had fun.

What blessings have you received from an author event?

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  1. Sally Shupe

    Great post, Zoe! I loved your book signing. It was great talking with the other people who attended as well. You had it set up so everyone felt comfortable. Even if it’s just one person, on with the show. It makes it more personable and you are able to try out new things and see if it works or experiment. If it does or doesn’t you’ll know for next time. I enjoy the dramatic readings when I go to book signings. I like to hear the author read what they wrote. Have a great Thursday, Zoe!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Hi Sally, The book launch party you attended was a success in attendance and what I learned. As you say, this scantly attended library event did allow me to experiment with the activities for future events. I’m glad to hear you enjoy the dramatic readings by authors. It’s good to know attendees like them.

  2. Linore Burkard

    Great twist on what could have been a pure disappointment, Zoe. I’ve had a couple of disappointing turn-outs, and like you, I’ve always found there was something worthwhile about the endeavor, regardless. You found quite a few things to be thankful for–may we all flex our thank muscles a bit more and follow your example!

  3. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Hi Linore, thanks for sharing your experience of being able to spot the worthwhile things when you looked.

  4. Laurean Brooks

    I had one at a library where I was “required” to give a 30-minute talk before signing books. Four people showed. Two raised their hands before I was 5 minutes into my talk, to ask, “Can I get my copy, now, and go?” One said she had ice cream in the car. To which I replied, “You could bring it in and share with the rest of us.” (She didn’t think that was very funny.) I signed their copies and let them go.

    On the bright side, the two ladies left sat mesmerized until the end. Then they asked if they could take a picture with me, the “famous” (Ha!) author. I sold three books that day and drove 50 miles, (round trip.)

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Laurean, thank you for sharing this great story. It may not have seemed funny at the time, but your experience is an entertaining story in itself. A success! And, those two busy women made stopping by to buy your book a priority in their day. I hope they started a great chain of word-of-mouth about your book.

  5. linda Glaz

    Always trust God to put the exact person there who needs to hear what you have to say. If you teach one student, that’s one more person who ‘gets it’.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Yes, Linda, a great truth.

  6. Derinda Babcock

    Interesting post, Zoe. My first historical novel should release around April or May, or so I’ve been told, so I’m starting to think about book signings and how I can reach out to readers. I hope to learn all I can before this happens. Thanks for sharing.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Derinda, now is the time to get started.

  7. clampos

    I have had similar experiences, and some that were downright exciting. It is all part of life and marketing. The good, the bad and the ugly.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Clampos, so good to hear others have had similar experiences and that they could also be exciting. We never know who needed to be at our events.

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