Beyond the Book Signing: Hybrid Events
Bowker | Tue Aug 23, 2022
I’ve always loved doing events, and when it comes to ideas for promoting a book, there’s really nothing better than doing in-person author events. But 2020 changed how events are managed, and even with lots of events still coming back online, many conferences and book-centric events are transitioning to the hybrid format.
One thing I’ve heard repeatedly from speakers was that it’s often hard to monetize an online event, and hybrid events are no different. In this blog post, we’re going to look at how to get more events but also how to monetize them.
Understanding Hybrid Author Events
So, what is a hybrid author event? Well, it’s an event that combines both in-person and virtual elements. Your event pulls in an in-person crowd and is broadcasted over Zoom or some other video conferencing format. This means that you’re presenting to both a live and online audience. This can feel a bit tricky the first time you do it – but after one of these sessions, you’ll quickly get the hang of this way of presenting your talk or teaching.
I strongly feel many conferences, bookstore events, and other speaking opportunities will morph into hybrid if they haven’t already done so.
Author Event Types Come in All Forms
Over the 21 years I’ve been in business, I’ve done a lot of different types of events and booked many for the authors we work with. Book signings are just one of the many types of events that an author can do. But if you opt to do a book signing, make sure you’re doing a book talk too! Because let’s face it, sitting at a table all afternoon isn’t a great use of your time, and a book talk and signing combined is much more interesting both for the attendees and the readers.
You may be called to speak at a conference or teach a workshop at a bookstore regardless – speaking can be a great opportunity to present your book to an even wider audience.
Ideas for Promoting a Book: Securing Your Author Event
The first step in securing an event is really deciding the type of event you want. Do you want just to do a talk and sign books? Great, you’ll probably want to get to know your local bookstores and speak with their events manager.
If you’re looking for some next-level author events, you’ll want to consider conferences related to your topic or even trade shows with speaking opportunities.
If you want to get really creative, you might even want to do in-store events. I’ve done events in Hallmark, at big electronics stores, and even (and now I’m going to date myself) at Blockbuster video.
If you go for something like a Hallmark, or specialty store, you’re probably looking at just doing a signing, which is fine for those venues. But anything outside of a specialty store, you absolutely want to push for an author talk.
A Few Tips for Hybrid Author Events
Before diving into the idea of doing events, there are a few things to remember.
First, make sure you have a good tech support person at the venue or (if need be) bring someone with you. This is because you want this event to be seamless for those attending online as it is for the in-person attendees. Can they see you? Where is the camera? Are you using your computer’s camera, or is there a separate one?
Most venues migrating into hybrid events will have a separate camera connected to Zoom. This is because your laptop camera often isn’t sufficient to capture all of the elements of your talk, especially if you’re not standing directly in front of your computer.
Dive into this event by first focusing on the digital experience, creating something highly visual, so the online group doesn’t feel left out. Make sure that you know how to toggle between the faces you see in the boxes and the chat box, so you can see if folks have popped in questions. Some venues may do this for you, but some won’t be able to spare the extra staff, so make sure you’re super comfortable on Zoom.
Create some kind of a bonus that both online and in-person folks can benefit from. One thing I did for a recent event was an offer to mail swag to those attending online. The conference loved this and even paid for the postage to do so. If you have swag, especially, don’t leave the online folks out in the cold. And keep in mind that if you’re eager to monetize the event (and aren’t we all!), swag can be another great way to do that.
Monetizing Author Events
This is where things start to get interesting because many authors who did virtual-only events in 2020 showed up, gave their workshop, or talked and walked away, often pretty disappointed. Did they sell a book? Well, maybe, but frankly, it was hard to tell.
After doing a bunch of online events, here is what I learned: you need a special offer, some way to get folks to sign up for your list so that you can market to them again. At its most basic, I offer to send a copy of my slides to all attendees, even those who attend online. I did a simple Google form to capture email addresses, and poof! Now I have a mailing list, and the attendees get the slides; everyone is happy.
For a recent hybrid event I did, I created a special book deal – so two books for $15, and for the online folks, I added $5 for shipping. I was amazed at how many books I sold. Don’t be afraid of creating these kinds of deals, even if it means personally mailing copies of your books out.
If you only feel like you can offer swag, then do that – or even just your slide deck, whatever it is, don’t leave a single event without collecting email addresses. Not to spam, but to send a follow-up email with more information about you, your books, and perhaps a special thank you offer for attending your event. You’ll be surprised at how much this can help to drive sales.
Events are great, but if your talk is part of a conference, you’ll especially want to make sure that you create an offer because attendees are probably bouncing from speaker to speaker, and at the end of the event, you’ll want to make sure they remember you.
Whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid, author events, talks, workshops, or lectures are all great ideas for promoting a book.
Get creative and good luck!