After several years of only being able to do virtual events because of the pandemic, many authors are starting to plan book releases and readings in person again. Release events and other readings are a great way to build excitement for your book and increase sales.

In-person events are also a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with fans of your books and get or keep them invested in your work. But can indie authors really do book events?

The answer is, yes! Although many people associate book tours with traditionally published authors, in-person events are something that indie authors can organize for themselves. You might be surprised to know that, even for traditionally published authors, organizing a book event often falls on them.

As an author who is both traditionally published and has indie-released books, I have never let self-publishing a book mean that it can’t have a book release. Over the past 15 years, I have organized book tours across the United States and Canada with my traditionally published and self-published books, as well as a tour across Europe with my first indie-published novel.

Building relationships with venues

The key to organizing successful book events in your city or while traveling is building connections and relationships with other people in the book world. Literary friendships and collaborations with other writers are a great way to learn about bookstores and other venues that might be interested in hosting a reading or book release.

Although historically self-published authors had some difficulty getting their books into bookstores, that’s not universally the case, and booksellers are becoming more welcoming to stocking self-published authors. Personally, I haven’t found it more difficult to get stores to shelve my self-published titles than my books published through small traditional publishers.

When you go to a bookstore, and especially if you attend any literary events, introduce yourself to the staff. If you notice the store has your book in stock, introduce yourself to the store manager, owner, or other staff working that day.

Libraries and bookstores are the obvious choice for where to go on a book tour, but these aren’t the only venues that host authors and book release events. Cafes, gift shops and other stores that stock books or are related to the theme of your book are all great options for book release or event venues.

Financing book events

In most cases, if you’re hosting a book reading at a bookstore, you will not have to pay anything, as the event will be in collaboration with them. However, bookstores might ask you to supply them with books that they will sell on consignment if they don’t have large numbers of your book in stock.

One of the best ways to make sure that people come to your reading is to collaborate with other authors in your area or your tour locations.

Some other venues like restaurants and some community centers may charge space rental fees and will allow you to charge a door fee and sell books yourself. Don’t be afraid to check with multiple venues to find the best deal.

Book tours that involve traveling have a larger financial component: you’ll need to finance transportation, hotels, and other associated costs. If you want to go on tour with your book, you may be able to coordinate paid gigs. I’ve had great success with getting paid events as a visiting artist with colleges and universities, which often have budgets for such events.

Libraries also frequently support visiting authors, as do some book clubs. There may also be artist grants available to you that can help cover costs. When it comes to financing, try to get creative with targeting your niche audience. For example, if you’ve written a book about a certain theme, consider trying to collaborate with a community organization that is focused on that topic.

Finding an audience

One of the big challenges with putting together any kind of in-person release event or book tour is making sure that you can fill the venue with audience members. This is both for your own self-esteem and to show the venue that investing in organizing an event with you is worthwhile.

One of the best ways to make sure that people come to your reading is to collaborate with other authors in your area or your tour locations. Use your network of other authors you’re connected with on social media or have met through writing events and conferences to find others who might want to read with you. It can feel intimidating to ask someone to be part of your event, but it’s a normal part of literary life. Just think of how flattered you would be to be asked to read. The worst that can happen is they will say no because they have another booking or otherwise aren’t available.

Getting the word out

Once you’ve set a venue and secured other authors to read with you it’s time to start promoting your event. It’s likely that your chosen venue will have a mailing list or calendar of events where your event can be included. But it’s important not to rely on their mailing list to get people to attend.

Create promotional materials to share on social media, and ask any other authors involved in the event to share information about it with their followers. If you have a mailing list, send information about the reading to your followers. You can also print out physical flyers to drum up attention.

Organizing book releases, tours, and other in-person events can be a lot of work, but they are also useful and rewarding. There’s nothing like meeting readers in person and hearing how your work has resonated with them.

Sassafras Lowrey writes fiction and nonfiction and was the recipient of the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for emerging LGBTQ writers.