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Top tips for running a great live literature event

Live literature events bring authors and illustrators together with eager readers, through a range of talks, interviews, workshops, and performances.

It’s about that inspiring experience of meeting an author or illustrator in settings as diverse as our bookstores, libraries, schools, festivals, and other settings. 

Whether you’re looking to run a live literature event for the first time, or want to improve your current programming, we’ve compiled some top tips for community event organisers to consider.

 

Start early and make a plan

As soon as you’ve decided to hold a live literature event, it’s best to put in place an action plan to give you plenty of time to work on your idea and prepare everything you need. 

We recommend starting a minimum of 8-10 weeks in advance. If possible, gather together a few colleagues to help with planning and implementation, and use planning documents to keep you on track. 

Use our handy Events Planning Checklist and sample run sheet to plan and run your event, or take a deep dive into event considerations and questions in our Event Planning Guide.

 

Collaborate with your author/illustrator on your event

The best live literature events happen when event planners and speakers are on the same page. 

When reaching out to an author or illustrator, ask questions about the kinds of events they usually put on, the topics they feel comfortable and excited about speaking to, and any recommendations for MCs or moderators, if required. 

When working together, it’s important to set clear expectations on both sides. Event organisers should also be up front in confirming payment, time commitment and any preparation involved, expected audience attendance and demographics, and if book signing and sales will be available. 

 

Think local

For most live literature events, your local community is going to be your most engaged potential audience.

As Suzy Wilson from Riverbend Books says in her interview with The Bookseller’s Podcast: “The events that often work the best are often when you are working with people from within your local world. Obviously, the big names always draw a crowd, but perhaps the really most meaningful events are the ones you’ve watched the whole process from the beginning.” 

Authors and illustrators who have ties to the community are more likely to attract a crowd. Community Facebook pages and forums are a great place to advertise and promote your event. 

When thinking through an event, consider what partnerships you can form within your local community. Is there a local winery or community centre that you could work with as a venue partner? Or (if you’re a school or library) a local bookseller you can bring in to sell copies of the author/illustrator’s book at your event?

If you’re a regional or rural event organiser, teaming up with other local businesses or neighbouring organisations can also be an effective way of attracting out-of-town talent for promotional tours. 

 

Tailor your event to your audience

When planning your event, think about the audience you’d like to attend and the kind of atmosphere or event format that will best suit them.

Book clubs or ‘book chats’ are likely to work better in a more intimate and informal setting, while an author address or in-conversation is likely to be more formal and structured. Schools events and workshops may require a more planned set of activities, as well as break-out stations and worksheets. Think about the set up of the room, the need for seating, workshop tables, and/or food and refreshments. 

As Chris Gordon from Readings says, when welcoming guests, welcome them, “like you’re inviting them into your home”. If people have a good experience at your event, they are more likely to talk to other people about them and attract new audiences and customers, as well as be recommended to authors, illustrators and publishers for future events.

 

Work together to promote your event

A successful live literature event is one in which everyone pitches in to promote the event. 

Work with your author or illustrator to get to word out about the event through their social media channels and networks. In some cases, publishers may also be willing to promote the event. Providing pre-designed promotional assets and copy helps make spreading the word as easy as possible.

Event organisers should aim to advertise their event through their own channels at least 5-6 weeks in advance through newsletters, social media posts, and printed collateral.

 

Consider accessibility, diversity and inclusion

The best events are ones in which everyone is able to be involved and included.

For in-person events, consider whether your venue is accessible, and make this clear in event advertisements and communications. Do authors or illustrators participating in your event have any specific access needs or require extra support? Is it possible to have your event AUSLAN interpreted? Can you live-stream your event to make it accessible to audiences outside of your local community? Or, for online events, can you offer captioning?

When programming for your event, have you thought about the diversity of your participants with regard to culture, gender, and dis/ability? Will you have an Acknowledgement of Country or Welcome to Country as part of your event? 

For regular event organisers and programmers, we recommend having a formal strategy in place to ensure that diversity and inclusion is an explicit and sustained focus for organisations, tied to measurable targets. 

 

Want to find out more?

Download our Live Literature Event Planning Checklist and Event Planning Guide.

You can also explore the full findings of our Live Literature in Australia research report, as well as some key insights and takeaways