Tips from a Llama
First off, let me tell you that 98% of the time I wear “work clothes” to my job in an office: dress pants, heels, skirts. Another 2.9% of the time, when we’re out at public events, I wear khakis and a golf shirt emblazoned with the company name. Then there’s last Saturday.
Once a year my company organizes a Family Reading Festival at our local mall complete with visiting children’s authors, schools and organizations with literary activities and crafts, book giveaways and a character. This is one thing they don’t tell you at the job interview. “And part of your job will be to dress up as a beloved children’s character in a hot and slightly claustrophobic furry suit.”
This year I was Llama Llama, a young furry llama with a surprisingly long neck who wears red pajamas (as if I wasn’t hot enough already). I hear you laughing!
As a llama you get to see a lot of things the average human person doesn’t at a reading festival. So here are my tips for authors attending events, as seen through the eyes of a llama/writer who knew which tables had lots of kids crowded around them:
- Do not sit back in your chair chatting with the author at the table next to you. Attempt to talk to the people walking by your table. Yes, many people will keep on walking but someone will stop, if you invite them. Never let yourself look bored or discouraged – even if you are!
- Have something (preferably something big) on your table to attract people – better yet something people can touch. A nature writer had a butterfly net and a writer with dogs in the books had the actual dogs! Many authors had coloring sheets or small contests.
- Don’t lay down your books on the table. Stand them up some people walking by can see the covers. If they are paperbacks and too “wiggly” to stand up, invest in something to prop up at least one book.
- Enlist the help of others. Some of the authors had readings and one author had only two little girls at hers. She promptly found me (Llama Llama) and enlisted my help “herding” children to the reading room. Llama Llama is like the Pied Piper!
- Remember that adults actually pay for books. I heard some authors talking to parents about Common Core Standards and activities they have on their websites. They also thrust a book into the child’s AND the adult’s hands to look over. They had copies of reviews (not just book publication reviews but reviews by kids and adults), photos of them at classroom readings, anything to convince parents that they and their children would enjoy the book.
- Don’t wait for people to come to you. If, like at our event, there are tables manned by teachers, libraries, nursery schools go visit them (one reason it’s great to bring a friend to these events to help man your table). Take your book and handouts about author visits.
- Make friends with the organizers before, during and after the event. I’m not saying take them out to lunch but a few emails expressing enthusiasm for the event will make them remember you (and maybe get you a prime table spot or reading time).