From the Booking Desk:
At the recent Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting with Judy Bobalik at the Malice-Go-Round event. For those that don’t know, this is a type of speed dating for authors in which pairs of authors rotate around a series of tables telling readers about their newest book(s). Often during the event, Judy and I would turn to each other and practically say the same thing at the same time in regards to our observations. It was at that point that we decided this co-authored blog post would be a useful and entertaining idea. Please take these suggestions as they are offered – as advice from two independent observers of the event, simply trying to help you make the most of your limited face time.
Topic 1 – Pick Partners Properly
Kristopher: If at all possible, try to coordinate your partnership prior to the event. If you can arrange who you are going to be paired with, you can better prepare yourself for the event. For example, Catriona McPherson and Cathy Ace decided to join up in the days before Malice and even named their pair “the Criminal Celts.” Because of this planning, their partnership came off as much more polished. There were some other similar pairings at this Malice-Go-Round.
Now, I realize that it might not always be possible to pick a partner. In those cases, try to find some common ground with the partner you are assigned. Or at the very least, put on your best acting face and try to be invested in your partner’s spiel. Looking bored and uninterested will ultimately reflect poorly on you.
Judy: What Kris said. If it is possible, chose your partner and work in tandem – Even if only as a brief intro. It can’t be said often enough to look like you are interested.
Topic 2 – Enunciate and Project
Judy: Stand up and speak from your diaphragm. Read this. Many of the participants mumbled so we couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Kristopher: Standing up is a great tip. Just by the very nature of doing that, you will command more attention. Visual aids (ie. a copy of your book) will also help for audience members to remember you later when they are book shopping.
Topic 3 – Two-Minute Elevator Pitch
Kristopher: The nature of this event only allows for a two minute pitch of your book(s). You should prepare a solid two minutes and then have a few back-up ideas to discuss in the event that you speed through your prepared pitch. There is not time for Q&A with this format and attempting to do so is unwise. Furthermore, remember, if you can’t talk about your book for two minutes, why would the audience want to spend hours reading it!
Judy: The ever important elevator pitch. Perfect it. But don’t drone it. Tell it, but don’t recite it. While difficult, make it sound like you haven’t repeated it 47 times.
Topic 3 – Quantity of Swag
Judy: Limit yourself to one item. If you have more, bundle them together. It takes time and detracts from what you are saying to pass out multiple items. People who should be listening to your pitch are more worried if they got all the swag. A couple people gave out postcards from their blogmates and those were nicely bundled with a ribbon.
Kristopher: The distraction Judy mentions is a real concern. Personally, I’d almost rather that authors gave out no swag at this event, but I understand the reasons behind it. There were times when all the activity at the table was so excessive that as the authors walked away, I realized that I heard or remembered almost none what was said during the pitch.
Topic 4 – Quality of Swag
Kristopher: I realize that everyone is working on a budget, but I implore you to please spend your money wisely. Again I would rather you have no swag rather than cheap, ineffective swag. What you hand out doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it should at the minimum have your name, website, and an image of your book cover on it. Text only swag comes across and boring and uninspired. A simple quality bookmark (or something) professionally printed shows that you are invested in your future.
Judy: I like my bookmarks to be smaller than a paperback. I often carry a book in my purse and if the bookmark sticks out it often gets dislodged and I lose my place. And while swag is nice, a well-designed bookmark or postcard is enough.
Topic 5 – Long Distance Run
Kristopher: These speed dating events are tough. It’s a long event, with authors repeating the same spiel many, many times. Bring water! And remember that while it’s a different kind of exhaustion, these speed dating events are draining for the audience as well. Try to make your presentation engaging, but not so active that you wear yourself out halfway through. But most of all, remember to have fun. And smile!
Judy: Bring water and throat lozenges. Smile.
Topic 6 – Attentive Audience
Kristopher: Those of us in the audience don’t get a free ride either. You should come to this event prepared to listen. Don’t hold side conversations while authors you are not interested in are pitching. Remember that you don’t have to take everything that is offered. If you truly have no interest in a book and are just going to throw the swag away, don’t take it. These items cost the authors money out-of-pocket and they would much rather save them for someone who might be interested. That said, don’t be shy about taking a chance on things that you might otherwise have ignored. If you enjoy the author’s personality, give their book a try.
Judy: Oh, yes. If you have decided to attend a speed dating event you are obligated to pay attention or at the very least not be a distraction. I took notes of authors/books that piqued my interest and ended up purchasing one of the books in the book room. And yes, don’t take stuff you know you will be just tossing once you get back to your room.
From the Booking Desk:
I would like to thank Judy Bobalik for joining me here at BOLO Books for this discussion. We sincerely hope that these simple tips will help to make these events more successful for you. We hope to see you all at a crime fiction convention in the near future.