A great way to get involved in your community as a writer is to organize, or get involved with, a community event. I just organized my first event, Georgia Loves Local Authors, by partnering with a local Christian coffee shop and bookstore called BooKafe. We started planning the event a little over a month out and it was a success!
Here are the steps I took in planning and organizing Georgia Loves Local Authors.
1. Come up with an idea for a community event that will help spread the message about values you care about. My idea for Georgia Loves Local Authors started about six months ago when I worked at the Rapides Parish Library. It began as a way to involve self-published authors with library programming. Originally the event was called “We Love Our Local Authors” and evolved to “Louisiana Loves Local Authors.” I ended up moving to Georgia before the event took place, but I heard about the success of the event and was eager to be a part of a similar event. I decided to use my idea from before and go forward on my own.
2. Find a venue for your event. I contacted the owners of a local Christian coffee shop and asked if they ever worked with local authors. We set up a meeting and I pitched my idea for Georgia Loves Local Authors. I came prepared with a presentation folder, sample flyer, an event planner contract which outlined the event and my duties. The owners of the shop liked how organized I was and agreed to go forward.
3. Act as the Public Relations Representative.
- I began marketing the event by finalizing the flyer with the owners of the shop. I used their logo and put my contact information on the flyer. I had 100 copies printed ($0.10 cents each, black ink on red paper). I took 50 fliers to local businesses and asked if they would display the flyers. The remaining 50 flyers stayed at the coffee shop.
- Three weeks prior to the event, I sent out a press release to all the local media and added the event to all community calendars. I also contacted the local Chamber of Commerce (the BooKafe is a Chamber member), and they sent out the flyer to all of their members via email.
- I set up a Facebook event and invited everyone I knew in the local area. I asked all of my contacts to share the event with local people (also 3 weeks prior).
- I collected names and contact information on everyone who contacted me about the event. We ended up with 6 local authors represented.
- I set up a link to a page on my website that featured information on the event, links and information on the participating authors, and directions to BooKafe.
- About a week prior to the event I sent out another press release which included information on the authors who would be in attendance, and their books.
4. Make a Tentative Agenda. The event I planned was four hours long, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I planned a rotation of conversation topics, door-prizes, and customer interaction that would keep things moving all four hours. The schedule worked for us, but I tweaked it a bit as we went along because we had so much customer interaction that we were running out of time. Here’s the schedule I planned:
- 10 -10:15 Finish last minute set-up, talk with authors
- 10:15 Ask authors to introduce themselves and share a bit about their book
- 10:45 Interact with customers
- 11 Customer door-prize
- 11:05 Authors talk about how they began writing and what motivated them
- 11:40 Interact with customers
- 12 Customer door-prize
- 12:05 Authors talk about the publishing process
- 12:40 Interact with customers
- 1 Customer door-prize
- 1:05 Authors talk about marketing and sales, building their author platform and following
- 1:40 Interact with customers
- 2 Customer door-prize and end of event
5. Collect Door-Prizes. I went around to local businesses and asked if they would like to sponsor our door-prizes. It was a great way to advertise for local businesses without much of a cost on their part. I also asked the authors if they would like to donate to the door-prizes. Note: In collecting names and information for the door prize, I was able to collect marketing information about the event. I asked for the following information: Name, Email, Phone, Have you ever been to BooKafe? and Did you know about this event? Are you interested in a book club, what genre? Are you interested in a writing club, what genre? Here are the door prizes I collected.
- 2 $10 gift cards from Dickey’s BBQ
- 2 movie tickets (customer’s choice) to Pooler Stadium Cinemas
- 1 Free Oil Change
- 5 Free Chick-Fil-A sandwich cards and 5 cookie cards
- 2 Tee-shirts and 1 BBQ sauce from Dasher Reprographics
- 4 Free coffee cards from BooKafe
- a $25 gift card donated by a local author, Curtis McKenzie
- a free book donated by me
- a free book donated by BooKafe
6. Follow up with authors, customer participants and business that donated. I can not stress how important it is to follow up! Here’s what I’m doing to follow up on Georgia Loves Local Authors:
- The day of the event, I emailed all of the authors and BooKafe thanking them for participating, and I gave them the numbers I collected through my information gathering:
Participants = 20People new to BooKafe = 10People aware of the event = 15People interested in a writing group = 7
- Personally took a thank-you card, signed by all the local authors, to each business that donated a door-prize to Georgia Loves Local Authors
- Wrote a blog about the event
- Sent a follow up press release, including pictures, to all local media
- Contacted participants who were interested in joining a writing group and began planning for monthly meetings. I’m thinking of calling the group Georgia Loves Local Writers – in keeping with the theme of my event.
7. Keep going! My work with this event is not over! I now have some great contacts with local authors, I’ve been invited to set up a table at a local women’s leadership event, and I am planning monthly writing groups for those interested. I’m also looking into the future for another Georgia Loves Local Authors event for next year which will hopefully include writers from my newly formed writing group!
Rachael Hartman is an experienced writer and author. She has worked as a full-time newspaper reporter, and as a freelance contributor to magazines. She writes high school Sunday school material for Word Aflame Press as well as lessons for Project 7 (P7) student-led Bible Clubs, Link247. She enjoys health and exercise, reading, art, and playing with her two dogs Darla and Danny. She owns Our Written Lives of Hope bookstore & publishing services. Check out her web site at www.owlofhope.com and link to her on Facebook.