Author Invites – A Checklist

Author invites here refers to invites to authors to present in public and/or group settings including, but not limited to, educational institutions, conferences, arts events, meetings, etc. It’s a mix of things both authors and event organizers need to keep in mind and pulled from various sources (linked). TL, DR discuss expectations and what you can reasonably do up front, value each others’ time, follow through on what you agree to, and have fun.

This is something I’ve had to learn by trial and error to navigate and so many years in, I am still learning. Sometimes people come correct, sometimes people balk at the idea that you are a professional and should be treated accordingly. Either way, it’s good to have some idea of best practices and as I learn I try to share. This felt like a good place to share this given Wadadli Pen’s commitment to nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and I would say beyond in the case of the various Resources, I’ve tried to share in this space over the years. Be mindful though that there is no one size fits all, size up each situation based on its particulars (e.g. commercial v. non-commercial) and adjust accordingly.

For Writers

This post actually has a pretty decent checklist, so why re-invent the wheel.

Be direct in your response (whatever your decision y/n)…(and if you have decided to accept the invitation) accept the invitation with pleasure. Confirm the necessary information, like location time and datediscuss the need for any special equipment and other relevant details (you will also want to ask if the event plans to record and redistribute, and discuss terms)…ask about the interests and attitudes (and I would add, age group and group size) of your audiencediscuss your fee (it’s not gauche to attach value to your time and ideally you shouldn’t have to be the one to raise it but often you are; yes, sometimes there’s no budget for it and you can decide then how you wish to proceed – we’ve all done events for free or for “exposure” – but what you do has value and writers have bills like everyone else; so, negotiate, agree to the the amount, payment schedule, payment method, and possible recourse for payment delays)…confirm all important details (which can include travel, lodgings; depending).

LettersPro, including sample letter. Link takes you to letter for book club invites but in the left margin are variations for different types of events. Parentheses in the quoted segments above are my inserts.

This post from an author dealing primarily with virtual sessions suggests.

Let people know you’re interestedpost this on a website or your social media (e.g. see my Appearances page)…make sure the technology works on both ends (this is the zoom era version of ‘discuss for the need for any special equipment’ for location visits)…choose a nice, quiet (clutter and other-people free) spacea glass of water (i.e. as with an in-person event, keep to hand whatever you need, including water, your books so that you don’t have to go off-camera for them mid-stream; is this a good spot to mention dress appropriate to the event?)…be flexible and go with what they have planned (best to discuss said plans ahead of time)…be prepared for anything (questions, critiques etc.) …set a time limit (and for book clubs, at which point in the meeting you’ll be joining).

The Author’s Experience: How to visit with Book Clubs by author and publisher Jill Santopolo. Bolds and italics are mine.

For Book Clubs, Educational Institutions, State Institutions, Commercial Entities, and Other Event Planners

Make sure the author is a good fit for your event and audience (e.g. age group). Do your research, including reviewing their catalogue/books. Check for their interest in doing book club or other events which may be indicated on their website. Approach them with an invitation, preferably via the contact method identified on their website. Consider your budget and if you have no budget be upfront about that – so that the author can make an informed decision. Purchase their books (if a book club), or arrange through publisher (or author if invited author is self-published) and/or local bookstore to have their books on hand for sale and signing (if another type of event). Decide on meeting date and method (i.e. in person or via zoom) – consider the budget, logistics, and other implications; be flexible during the negotiation process (e.g. the author may not be available on your preferred date or the author may have a specific time of declared availability (e.g. Tuesdays only at 2) but with flexibilty the meeting could still happen unless it’s a hard no).

This next section leads off with some of the tips mentioned above (re checking the authors’ website, being flexible on dates and time) and has some other tips.

Get in contact way ahead of time (i.e. not 9 days before your event) and have a back-up option.

On the time issue, (and I can’t stress this enough!), check and be clear on the time zones…and make sure to send the link at least a few days ahead, with a reminder on the day.

(Book clubs) Ask the author to join you for the second half of your meeting, and use the first half to discuss it; or discuss the book at one meeting and then invite the author to the next.

Some of my experiences (teachable moments)

I’ve done quite a few events/appearances over the years, so I’ll limit this to 2021, a year which began with the National Public Library’s Author of the Month, hit a personal high with the Medellin World Poetry Festival, and ended with, another high point, the Langston Hughes Festival (to pay tribute to Jamaica Kincaid) – all virtual. I was approached about one other event but that didn’t happen and I might discuss that hear as well. I won’t say which experiences refer to what event because this isn’t about calling anyone out in particular but about learning what to know and what to do re author appearances.

Don’t be afraid to take initiative, especially if you’re a niche or non-name brand author – get your author kit together, announce your availability, ask questions, and take action (try to walk the line between pushiness and assertiveness delicately but if you want an opportunity, you may need to swing in to action). You may get rebuffed and you’ll have to decide if to let that stop you, or review your approach and try again.

Be professional but be patient by which I mean have professional standards for yourself but, while you expect it of others, leave room for variables like the event or even your appearance during the event being shifted or even the event not starting at the scheduled time (if it wrecks your own schedule you might need to politely but firmly communicate this or even cut the length of your session but it’s a good idea to leave time buffers around scheduled events to manage your stress).

Have a good time even through whatever irritability you might have about some things not going according to plan (e.g. starting late, which may signal lack of respect for your time or might just be Murphy doing what he does).

Prepare, practice even. I guess I can mention this one since it’s my own. Before I did my World Book Day live conversation with Danielle Boodoo Fortune, I researched the best tech to use for an activity of that type, set up the one I chose, practiced using it, second guessed myself a million times, then before we went live did a dry run. Some of the events I did this year did dry runs as well, to test the internet speed (oh yes, check your internet speed) and a dress rehearsal of sorts for the actual presentation.

Above, our test run;
Below, the live.

I don’t advise having to produce the live while participating in the live (something will go wrong and one part of your brain will be trying to figure that out while keeping the conversation going, and keeping up with the chat but if you don’t have the team – and having a team is the ideal – you may be doing a fair amount of DIY).

Did I mention check your internet speed? True story, for one of my events, that did not include a test run but which included me setting up a nice little background (I moved a plant), the audio refused to work when I got on – I could see them, they could see me, I could hear them, they could not hear me (despite my mic being on etc.). Turns out it was an internet speed thing (I think) because after running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I cosied up to my router and it was only then that they were able to hear me and given where the router was I literally did the reading in a dark room by the light of a single lamp (which turned out to be okay ambience for the very horrific content of the reading…I think).

I say I think because I haven’t actually seen the video despite asking for it several times before being ghosted post-event…so that was fun. For virtuals, especially if, like me, you have a youtube platform, it’s not unreasonable to request video or video link if you’ve agreed to public posting of the video (because this is another thing you have to discuss and agree to, to be recorded, which can affect the fee if it is a paid event).

Include that in your contract – yes, you should request a contract and/or some kind of paper trail (yes, email counts); just have a written down record of what you’ve agreed to.

Where pay is a factor (again, don’t be shy about bringing it up, in fact bring it up even if you are feeling shy and if they don’t raise it first, because you are a professional, especially if writing is your profession) try to pin down the specifics re pay – how much; what deductions, if any, apply; payment method; and payment timeline (one of the realities of being a freelancer and writer, a freelance writer if you will, is doing the work and having to go ’round and ’round to get your pay in a timely manner, because getting paid when you expect to get paid matters). I’m not just speaking of appearances but it applies here too; writers must live and the field should be respected as the profession it is.

With book club discussions, do establish when you’ll be joining, what book will be discussed, and it’s a good idea if they have questions for you, and if you have a reading prepped. It can be painless and even fun.

I mentioned time zones earlier. Very important to know the time zone difference between event and guest and make sure you both know what time you’re going to sync up. One event I participated in listed the time zone there and here which I appreciated; most (and I’m going to say most in the US) just list the time specific to their time zone, leaving the details of figuring out your time zone relative to theirs and being there on time up to you. And if you are planning an event, check the time zone before sending the invite and make sure you are clear on the when of your meeting and that it’s convenient for both you and your guest or guests.

But finally have grace with yourself – whether you’re the writer or the person requesting the writer’s time – we’re all figuring this out and will misstep; the purpose of this post is to use the experience of myself and others to try to anticipate and learn from missteps so that those who come behind us, and us in the future, don’t step in it more than once. I mean we’ll probably step in something else, because you live and learn, but if we’re learning hopefully we won’t commit the same faux pas twice. Fingers crossed.

See also Let’s Talk about a Writer’s Time.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. If you use, credit. It you enjoyed, check out my blog. Thanks.

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