Booking a talk or a visit
First, if you are a school or literary festival, contact us via the contact form here. It’s usually best to plan ahead – my schedule fills up alarmingly quickly – although I generally don’t take bookings more than 12 months in advance, so as to avoid clashes with foreign trips and publishing schedules.
If you are not a school or literary festival but wanting, say, a literary lunch or a keynote speaker, please can you contact Sylvia Tidy-Harris at www.thespeakersagency.com for details of bookings and fees.
In your e-mail, please include: details of your organization; the date(s) you have in mind; what kind of an event you’d like (reading, keynote speech, workshop, Storytime) and the fee you’re offering. Bear in mind that my fee reflects my planning time, and the time spent away from my desk, as well as the time I’ll be spending with you and the expertise I’ll be sharing. Also remember that I may have travel expenses to and from the venue, as well as meals and hotel accommodation. If musicians are involved, it will also include their fees and expenses.
I sometimes do pro bono work for charities and the reading community, but because I receive a lot of requests, I have to limit the number of events of this kind that I accept. Don’t take it personally if I can’t spare the time to support your particular cause.
Getting the most from your event
Once we have agreed the details, it’s often useful to plan ahead in order to make the most of your event. It’s always good for me to know what kind of venue it is; how big the room is; how many will be attending; what kind of format you have in mind (interview, workshop, in-conversation, Storytime or just a straightforward talk); plus technical details (sound, lighting, visuals, Powerpoint). This particularly applies if it’s a musical event; the band will need plenty of time to set up and sound-check; a suitable PA and mixing desk; and ideally, a sound engineer and lighting technician.
If you’re contacting me on behalf of a literary festival, please take the time to check out my latest book, and to see how it fits in with your festival’s theme. (There’s no point inviting a writer to a crime or poetry festival when they’re trying to promote their new sword-and-sorcery novel.) In all but exceptional circumstances, I build events around the book I’m currently promoting. Chocolate-themed events are great, but ask yourselves how well this will fit the themes of my latest book.
If you’re thinking of pairing two writers together as part of a joint event, first, contact both of them to make sure that they’re OK with the idea of sharing a platform, and second, make sure that the themes of their books are reasonably compatible. This way, both the authors and the audience will feel that their needs are being met.
If you are an interviewer, please ensure that you have read at least the current book, and take a few minutes to read the background information published on the website, including the FAQs. It’s also useful to meet, or at least talk on the phone before the event, to make sure we’re on the same page.
If you are introducing an event, please take a moment to run the details of your introduction past me before you make it. It’s surprising how much inaccurate information can be found on the internet, and it never hurts to check your facts.
If you’d like a signing afterwards, it’s up to you, the organizer, to make sure books are available (some people like to go through the publisher for this, but local independent bookshops are usually more than happy to offer their services).
If this is a school visit, it’s particularly important to prepare the pupils as much as possible in advance. Prepare by reading or discussing the book in class; plan book-related projects; prepare questions or topics of discussion. It’s really important to engage the pupils before the visit – they will benefit much more if they can see an author visit as part of an ongoing project, rather than as an isolated event. If books are going to be on sale, make sure this is organized well in advance, and have a good system of pre-orders in place – it’s not always realistic to expect children to bring money on the day. I’m happy to sign children’s books, writing or artwork, but I do draw the line at signing odd scraps of paper, so consider providing a supply of book-plates or postcards for those who can’t afford to buy a book. A full guide to maximizing the impact of school visits can be found on Sarah McIntyre’s excellent blog, here.
On the day of the event, please remember that everyone appreciates a warm welcome. When travelling by rail, it’s nice to be picked up from the station, and offers of tea and biscuits are always gratefully received. A gift of flowers is very kind, but not always easy to manage when travelling by rail – please consider something else if you know that to be the case, or just put the cost back into the fee. It’s useful to have a quiet, private place for the author to sit and prepare for the event; and if there are a lot of people, it’s very helpful to have someone present to organize the queue, perhaps with a supply of Post-it notes on which to write details of dedications and names.
Lastly, leave plenty of time for book signing. I’m more than happy to sign books at readings (this includes books readers have brought from home), but it’s sometimes hard to predict how long the signing queue will be. So far I’ve always been able to sign all the books readers have brought (I’m fine with selfies and photos, too), as long as the venue doesn’t have to close immediately after the talk.
Author events can be lots of fun, both for the author and for the public. It really does help to pay attention to those little details that can really make the difference between a lacklustre event and a stellar one…