By Christina Katz
I certainly hope so.
Of the thirty-eight chapters in Get Known, one of the most popular as indicated by feedback and questions has clearly been chapter twenty-two, where I discuss steps for starting up a local event.
The local event I started, The Northwest Author Series, is a natural extension of what I do to help writers make the most of what they have to offer. At the NAS, we all learn something about professional writing from the best examples I can find.
But your event doesn't have to be literary; it can be any kind of experience you can dream up, as long as it's in alignment with the unique services that you offer.
In Wilsonville, where I live, I have struck up a partnership with some local organizations that support my work here. How about in your hometown? So long as where you live is not an impediment to what you plan to offer, why not to carve out a presence close to home?
Here's some tips that have come up in response to questions I've been asked since Get Known came out:
Should you affiliate with others, and if so, with how many others? The less well known you are, the more important it is to affiliate with others. And, even if you are well known, if you are not well known locally, that's another reason to look for local affiliations. So if you are not at all known in your area for the topic your event will promote, then look to affiliate with one or two other organizations that can offer you free publicity and possibly even provide help with the mechanics of planning and promoting your event.
Somebody has to steer the ship: No matter how many other individuals or organizations you team up with, somebody has to be in charge of your event or nothing will get done (or it won't get done when it needs to get done). So, if you are planning to be in charge, and you want to make the final call on what's what and who's who, decide that in the beginning and stick to your guns. If that's a deal-breaker for some of your partners, you'll want to partner with the folks who don't mind letting you run the show. Conversely, if you are more collaborative and you want to solicit more input and help in your event, partner with like-minded folks.
Consider how to reach your niche audience: If you live in a small town of less than 20,000 people, like me, there's a strong chance you will be inviting people from elsewhere to come on over and enjoy your event. The best way to find your peeps is to advertise in all of the usual media outlets as well as through specific associations or news lists that reach your audience regionally. For example, for the Northwest Author series, we advertise through the local and regional media as well as writing associations like Willamette Writers. As a result, audience members come from as far as an hour away because they can't find anything locally like what we offer.
Let it grow: Ideally, you will create a local event that grows into something bigger and better over time. The key is to start somewhere with whatever you've got and grow it from there. If you try to do too much right out of the gate and you don't have enough help and resources, nobody is going to enjoy your event, especially you. Instead, start small and grow the event in accordance with the audience's wants and needs rather than try to start with a bang...and possibly fall flat. Grow your event over time in accordance with audience direction and your event is sure to be a hit!
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer's Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.