As you may know, my children’s book, Valiant Smile, was published in Greece in December (the English version is still under development, I’m afraid). Yesterday, I had the official presentation at Ianos, one of Athens’ best bookstores.
Yes, it was exciting. But I also had some concerns. Even though my publisher had arranged everything, I hardly expected anyone to show up:
- It was on a Saturday at 1 pm, when most people would either be home getting ready for lunch or at a children’s costume party (it’s the middle of the Greek Carnival). Even the publisher’s representative, the one who had arranged the presentation, had told me beforehand he would not be showing up.
- My author friends had warned me that Ianos hosts four such events every single weekend, so it was unlikely any of their own customers would be showing up.
So, I had two choices: either to treat the whole thing as a waste of time or to do the best I could without worrying about things beyond my control.
I chose the latter. And with the help of some wonderful friends and family members who helped and inspired me, I had a great time!
Some fifteen people showed up for the event (I was surprised to get that many, to be honest). The small number meant the event was far more casual than a bigger one might have been (and I love casual). I told them about the book, then we played something resembling party games (suitable for both children and adults), and generally had fun. A particularly talented friend had even prepared me an awesome cape resembling the one worn by the boy in the story, which I was more than happy to wear.
Lessons for the future
There were a number of takeaways for me from the event. I’m sharing here in the hopes they will be useful to you, too!
- Treat each and every event like a big one, whether you expect one person or hundreds to show up.
- People will help if you ask them to. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Kids don’t like it if you talk a lot. To make sure you keep them interested and entertained, be sure to include them in the conversation. If you drone on and on about your book, eyes will begin to roll… or close.
- Be prepared but not overprepared. I had prepared post-its and various aids for the presentation. I used up about half of these. Read the room and change tack depending on their reactions. Going with the flow can be far more productive (and fun) than sticking to a predetermined schedule.
- Boy/Girl scout websites can be a great resource for games to keep kids entertained. Think out of the box. For example, one of the games we played came from this unlikely source.
- There is a limit to the power of social media. Both I and my author friends had sent some 1,000 Facebook invitations. This was invitations to people belonging to Closed Groups specifically dedicated to our work, so they’re as targeted as they can ever hope to be. None of these people showed up.
- Having said that, an old classmate showed up with his family, having heard about the event on Facebook (even though he’s not on any of the Closed Groups people we’d targeted). And plenty of others said they’d heard about it on Instagram and elsewhere. So, even if none of the Facebook people showed up, over 1,000 people have now heard of the book and will recognize it on a bookshelf. Hopefully, this means they will pick it up and flick through it instead of just moving on to a better-advertized title.
- Ianos is one of Athens’ biggest bookstores, so I expected a few random strangers to join us. Even though there was a surprising number of people in the store and literally dozens of people came through to the part where we had the presentation, none of them sat down and attended. This, despite the fact we were obviously having a good time and laughing a lot. My conclusion was that people are naturally shy when it comes to “crashing” an event. Next time, I need to find a way to encourage strangers to join us. Any ideas are welcome!
- I’m really, really grateful to each and every one of the people who showed up! All of them have busy lives and could be elsewhere, especially on a busy Saturday. The fact they chose to be with me is a great honor.
That’s it! Next time I have a presentation, I hope to see you there. I’ll even put on my cape!