|Debby at the Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon|
Is your writing chapter – be it ACFW, RWA or SINC – looking for a way to promote local authors? Perhaps your library wants to provide an informative and enjoyable afternoon for patrons. Maybe funding is needed for a new program or special charity. No matter the reason, hosting a readers’ luncheon or similar reader event is a great way for writers and readers to mix and mingle and talk about books and the craft of writing while generating revenue for a worthy cause.
I contacted a few folks who have organized programs I’ve attended and asked them to provide tips on hosting a reader event.
The Heart of Dixie Readers’ Luncheon is held the first weekend in May at the Von Braun Center in
. Many of the authors arrive on Friday and
lodge at the Embassy Suites that adjoins the conference area. Heart of Dixie RWA chapter members join the
authors for dinner that night and often visit in the lobby until late in the
evening. The next morning, readers line up
early and wait for the doors to open, hoping to grab a seat at their favorite
author’s table. Huntsville,
The writers provide books and small gifts for the people sitting with them and also donate large baskets or totes filled with books and other goodies for door prizes. The chapter provides additional baskets that are raffled off as well as “get your name in a book” chances where the winner’s name ends up as a character in a future novel. In addition, each attendee receives a bag filled with books and promotional material. A nationally known, best-selling author is the guest speaker, and a book signing follows the luncheon.
|Heart of Dixie|
Kathy Bone has chaired the Heart of Dixie Readers’ Luncheon for the last four years and shared the following suggestions for hosting a successful event.
|Kathy Bone! Thanks for providing detailed|
information about hosting a
1. Have a contingency plan in case of a catastrophe. Last year,
was hit with a devastating tornado seventy-two hours before the luncheon. The city was without power for weeks, and the
event had to be rescheduled. No wonder
Kathy put this bit of advice first. Huntsville
2. A reliable assistant is key. "At first, I handled most everything from registration to promo to you name it by myself,” Kathy admits. Unfortunately, one year she was hospitalized just a few weeks prior to the luncheon and realized no one could take over for her. She learned the importance of delegating, which—as she says--draws more participation from within the chapter. “It also saved my sanity,” she adds with a laugh.
|Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon 2009|
Sherry Werth, Debby and Kathy Bone
FYI: In case of a major catastrophe, such as the tornado, the luncheon coordinator should have a current list of those attending along with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses in order to contact them about any change of plans. In addition, the coordinator for the following year can use the list to send out announcements and invitations, which helps to grow attendance.
|Peggy Webb, Kathy Bone, Trish Milburn and Lynn Raye Harris|
Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon signing 2010
5. Promotional items. “Usually 2-3 books are included in each bag, along with author book promo,” she says. “A PROMO committee member will accept these mailings and bring them to the venue the day before the luncheon where the goody bags will be filled. PROMO items are also given to the basket chair person to be included in the raffle baskets.”
|Kathy chats with Author Ramona Richards,|
currently fiction editor at Abingdon Press
7. Special guests. “Travel arrangements are made by the guest speaker, but the Luncheon Coordinator arranges for the hotel reservations, ensuring someone will be available to escort the guest speaker back and forth to the airport.” Kathy advises making hotel arrangements, to include a reservation block for authors and chapter members, approximately five months before the event.
“We have an online reservation link created so authors have easy access to making their own reservations,” Kathy says. “This has been a great asset to our event.” The Luncheon Coordinator reserves a room for herself and the guest speaker as soon as the block is arranged. She also ensures name tags are created for attending authors, as well as chapter members.
|Mary wins my author basket.|
“Our luncheon has grown in size, from 144 to182 attendees in four years,” says Kathy. “We've learned to better access online resources, advertise the luncheon on the chapter website, use online PROMO requests to help create over 40 raffle baskets, post bookseller posters detailing the event, leave stacks of invitations at book stores and other retails shops, and include invitation postcards in other event goody bags. The key is promotion. I can't stress this enough. Let readers know this luncheon is all about them. Include readers. They'll love the chapter for it and be devoted to it from that time forward.”
In conclusion, Kathy adds, “Luncheon planning takes an accessible budget, a trustworthy committee, and a willing leader. A love of books will take care of the rest.”
The Heart of Dixie’s 15th Annual Romance Readers’ Luncheon will be held on May 5, 2012, featuring New York Times Bestselling Author Lora Leigh. Check out the chapter website for more information: http://www.heartofdixie.org/luncheon.html
|My first Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon, 2007. Far right is |
Christy Reece, now a New York Times Bestselling Author!
The Southern Magic RWA chapter in
holds a similar readers’ luncheon each November. The current chairperson, Lisa Dunick, says, “Actually, I am one of those people that had no idea
what a readers' luncheon was when I took on the chairmanship. I'd only been in
the chapter about a year and hadn't attended one before I took over.” Callie James--a
Seekervillager who had previously chaired Southern Magic’s Readers’
Luncheon—passed on a wealth of information to Lisa. Birmingham, AL
|Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon 2011|
The chapter wanted to grow the event, which, according to Lisa, was a huge challenge. “You need to keep the ticket prices reasonable but still be able to cover the cost of food and facility rental. If you want to have an event that is professionally catered, don't expect to make a lot of money--if anything--on the ticket sales unless you can sell A LOT of tickets. But then, too many tickets mean you have to pay for a larger space, so it's a strange balance.”
|Callie James won my basket last year.|
Start by knowing what you hope to achieve, says Lisa. “We made the conscious decision last year that the luncheon was to promote our authors and the romance genre, and that as long as we broke even on costs, we'd be happy. In previous years, they made a lot more by going with a less expensive venue and by using volunteer labor to serve, set up, and clean up. If you're just starting out, you need to make sure you know what your goal is. If your goal is a large profit, you need to ensure your food/beverage/facility fees are very reasonable. But above all, you should expect that the first year will be a building year.”
|Southern Magic 2011|
In regard to getting the word out, Lisa says, “Advertising is HARD. I used mailchimp, which lets you create lovely html emails and helps you track how many people open the invitations. Getting the word out early and often--especially by word of mouth--is essential to ticket sales.”
She also adds, “Don't skip on the baskets. When I took this over, I had no idea what a basket was and why it was important, but most of our profits came from those ticket sales. In past years, they sent someone out to buy things on sale, but I discovered that there are wonderful, wholesale basket distributers online that sell high-quality merchandise for much less than I even found at dollar stores or in clearance bins.”
|Debby chats with Linda Vickerstaff|
at the Southern Magic book signing.
Lisa advises asking for donations early. “We had so many lovely authors send boxes of books and other goodies this past year, and because I also asked presses and publicists, we were able to get some sponsors for things like the swag bags and an e-reader we raffled off.”
Follow Lisa on the Southern Magic blog: www.romancemagicians.blogspot.com
Be sure to check out this year’s Southern Magic Readers’ Luncheon, which will be held on November 3, 2012, in downtown
. New York Times Bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon will be the keynote
speaker, and Southern Magic member and New York Times bestseller Diana Love will
give the welcoming speech. Find more
information at: http://southernmagic.org/luncheon.html Birmingham
|Murder in the Magic City attendees listen to |
NYT BestsellingAuthor Erica Spindler.
I was honored to be included in a group of mystery and suspense authors that participated in Murder in the Magic City, held in Homewood, AL, just outside of Birmingham, on February 3, and Murder on the Menu, in Wetumpka, AL, near Montgomery, the following day.
Murder in the
is hosted by the local Sisters in
Crime Chapter and chaired by Margaret Fenton, who calls it “a one-day,
one-track annual mystery fan conference.” Close to 100 readers listened to a series of author
panel talks, enjoyed a delicious box lunch and bid on baskets provided by the
SINC chapter. Bestselling Thriller
Author Erica Spindler and Bestselling Mystery Writer Carolyn Haines were the
guest speakers. A book signing concluded
the day-long event, and the money raised was donated to the SINC Chapter’s
charity. Magic City
|Murder on the Menu attendees support|
the Wetumpka Library and meet new authors.
The following morning, the authors traveled to Wetumpka for Murder on the Menu. Former bookseller and long-time friend, Tammy Lynn chaired the luncheon and signing. More than 130 readers took part, and the proceeds benefited the town’s Library. The authors were treated to an early lunch with the mayor and chief of police and her deputy and then rotated tables during the actual luncheon to speak individually with the folks attending the event.
|Debby and Margaret Fenton at Murder in the Magic City.|
She also mentions the importance of a good hotel. “We used one in the past that was a TOTAL nightmare. They didn’t tell me they rent out spare rooms on the weekend to teenage girls. They left food in the elevator and pulled the fire alarm all night. I can’t tell you the humiliation and embarrassment I felt coming downstairs at 4 AM to find my guest of honor and one of my FAVORITE writers screaming at the desk staff.” Margaret now uses a hotel that provides excellent service and is relatively inexpensive.
Read about Margaret’s debut mystery, Little Lamb Lost, at her website: www.margaretfenton.com
Tammy would be happy to mentor any group that wants to copy the Wetumpka format. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Three Debs: (L to R) Debi McCarley, Debby Giusti and|
Mystery Author Debra Goldstein at Murder in the Magic City.
Debi McCarley works at the Wetumpka Library and helped to find authors for both events. Along with her invitations, Debi says, “I also included information about our town and the library. I think the most important information that needs to be stressed is how the money from these events will be used. Our focus this year is on upgrading our summer library programs.”
In addition to the
proud to announce that Seekerville friend Barbara Vey--you know her from
Publishers Weekly’s romance blog BEYOND HER BOOK, http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/beyondherbook/
is hosting her first annual Readers’ Appreciation Luncheon.
|Barbara Vey and Debby at RWA Nationals 2011|
The luncheon will be held at the
Creek Community Center,
in , on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Oak Creek, WI
For more information go to : http://www.barbaraveyreaders.com/
Your registration includes lunch with an author, tote bag full of books and goodies, exclusive book signing and free door prize ticket.
I’ll be there and I hope some of you will be able to attend. If you sign up early, you can request to sit at a specific author’s table.
Thanks to all the wonderful folks who provided great information about hosting reader events. Now grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some of the Valentine’s Day chocolate I brought along with the delicious breakfast bar that’s open. Tell us about reader events in your local area. Each person who comments will be included in a drawing for one of my Love Inspired Suspense novels, your choice.