PROMOTE THE EVENT!
Start by posting details of the event on your website/blog, but your work doesn't stop there.
Reality check: An email or post on facebook/twitter etc. is easy to do, but it's the on-line equivalent to handing out leaflets at the mall.
REHEARSE YOUR TALK/ANSWERS
See (also), notes on 'Your talk' below.
The coordinator will send you panel questions in advance.
Reality check: If you aren’t used to speaking in public and/or with a microphone, there's a good chance that when you stand up to give your talk, your mind will sit right back down again.Be prepared. Have bullet points on cards. If you find yourself drying up, or worse, drifting off topic or waffling, stop talking. When it comes to calming your nerves before a 'performance', there's no substitute for knowing that you've practised a lot.
Handy tip: Imagining the audience naked won't help (and can be quite off-putting if you have older relatives attending the event).
Don’t assume the coordinator is doing everything. You might know something they don’t. Are there any writing groups, or book-reading clubs in the area? Check with the library. Keep an eye on the local press, they might advertise in there. By all means produce some leaflets; at the very least you or the coordinator should have some put in the library a week or two beforehand, but make sure they look professional.
ON THE DAY
BE ON TIME
Spare your coordinator some anxiety. Be at the venue AT LEAST fifteen minutes before the event is due to start. Make sure you contact him/her if you get delayed - even if you're only a few minutes behind schedule.
Don't forget to bring enough copies of your book, plenty of change and a receipt book.
DRESS THE PART
Regardless of what we were told at school, people really do judge a book by its cover. Wear your writer’s uniform If you don’t have a deliberate image that you want to portray, dress smart-casual.
The coordinator will have a 'Thank you' card for the venue's host, please sign it before the event starts.
THE PANEL/Q&A Keep your answers short and to the point.
When the event starts, the coordinator/moderator will welcome the audience, thank the host, and give a quick explanation about NJAN, after which he/she will invite the panel members to introduce themselves to the audience eg: 'My name is Jon Gibbs. I live in Manalapan, Monmouth County, and I write middle grade fiction.'
Please note: This is not the moment to pitch your book.
Next, if it's appropriate to the panel topic, the moderator may invite each author to give a brief description of his/her path to publication.
Again, please note, this needs to be brief, especially if there are five panelists.
After that, the moderator will ask each member to answer a series of relevant questions on the chosen topic.
Afterwards, the moderator hosts the Q&A session. Be patient when the questions start. If one isn’t pitched to a specific author, let the moderator choose who answers. He/she’ll make sure everyone gets their fair turn.
When your turn comes, be confident. Grab the audience's attention straight away. If you're not sure how to start, a joke is always good for breaking the tension: Now I know how those poor suckers auditioning for American Idol must feel, or Don’t worry, I’m not going to sing etc.
If your mind goes totally blank, or you find yourself in a panic, ask the audience for empathy - I can’t believe how nerve-wracking this is – they’ll give it to you.
Be friendly. Smile. You'll have more fun and people will like you better.
Talk to the audience not your crib-cards. Look at people, especially those who came for you.
Please don’t hog the mike. Take the hint if the moderator gives it.
When the other writers are giving their answers, be attentive, study their technique. You might learn something new.
After the moderator takes a last question, he/she will invite each panel member to pitch ONE of their books to the audience
Introduce your book as you might do in a query letter. My friend, Gary Frank, has a brilliant one for his novel, Forever Will You Suffer: 'A three hundred year love story gone horribly wrong'.
Pitch the genre too. ‘If you know someone who reads [insert genre] they’d like this book because…'
Unless it’s a memoir, talk about your book as if YOU didn’t write it. Pitch it to the audience as if it’s your best friend’s book and you want them to read it.
A few days after the event.
Is their something they thought went particularly well (or badly)? Pass the feedback on to the coordinator.
Keep your answers short and to the point.