Here in Auckland, NZ, we recently had Storylines, and event which celebrates children’s fiction. Some of my writer friends attended, and the author who’d been the most successful had had an activity going -in this case, origami. Another table I saw that was attracting the crowds was the bookmark ladies, who customised pretty bookmarks with beautiful calligraphy.
Last weekend, I attended LibraryCon, a mini ComicCon event organised by Auckland Libraries. The most crowd-attracting tables were ones that had interactive activities. One table had a ‘minicade’, or mini arcade of games and really drew the crowds (one of those games was called ‘Womp’ and I am already addicted to it!). Another table had a drawing gig – if you gave them a 5-second sketch, they’d fancy it up for you and make it look pro.
So – what can you do to entertain your audience? Think about things that are related to themes in your work, and consider what skills you have (or which friends owe you favours…).
For a book festival, I really think bookmarks are a winner. They’re over-used for good reason, as which book-lover ever has too many bookmarks, right? But, think about how you can customise them or make them an activity.
For the NZ Book Festival, I’ll be doing colouring in bookmarks as a free activity. This ties in well with my products, as I have adult colouring books and imagination / creativity are strong themes in my fiction work. It fits my target audience (children and ‘peter pan’ adults). It’s something I can do myself, and as it’s black & white printing I should be able to keep my costs to the minimum.
Having a competition or giveaway is an easy way to engage with and audience, albeit briefly. However, if the entry requirements include an email address, it could open the doors for further communication later. On this topic, again think about what is relevant to your audience. One prize pack I will have is a colouring in / art pack, and another will be aimed at readers of children’s books.
In the age of social media permeation, photo booths are fantastic. We had a small photo booth at my last book launch, which was run by James Stonley Photography (see the photos here), and it can be as simple or as complex as you like. Two things I’d recommend are to a) have someone (not you) to look after the booth so you’re not running around trying to do a million things at once, and b) have good lighting.
In terms of social media, you could upload the photos straight to your accounts (make sure you let people know that’s what you’re doing), and / or ask people to tag you in their photos.
If you’ve got a hashtag going, you could show a live feed on a projected screen of people using that hashtag (Twitter is ideal for this). People love seeing their names and tweets on the ‘big screen’ so is a great way to engage at an event and stay in touch later.