What Makes a Successful Children’s Book Event?

Once an author has submitted the final edit of their children’s book, they should feel a rightful sense of pride. The months, if not years, of hard work have paid off and the book will soon be on the shelves. In fact though, the hard - and very rewarding - work of promoting the book is about to begin. The reality of children’s publishing today requires authors to become adept at public speaking and entertaining children at events; from visiting schools, holding events at literary festivals to attending book-signing sessions at independent bookshops,

So what makes a children’s book event successful?

Make it visual and use props, especially for younger children and encourage them to ‘experience’ the book. Depending what the subject of your book is, this could be obvious or may require some imagination. Children’s author Dan Smith- writing about the second world war - introduces a short video explaining what to do if a bomb fell on your house to prompt discussion about his book My Friend The Enemy, whilst Chris Bradford, author of the Young Samurai series features a display of samurai techniques. It may take a bit of imagination to bring the book to life visually but it will be worth it. Christopher Lloyd, founder of the What On Earth? series wears a multi-coloured coat of many pockets, from which he produces items related to different aspects of history. Ultimately, at a literary festival or school event, you have an opportunity to create a reading experience for a child; to reach beyond the pages to immerse them in the reality of the world described in your book. One author - Christopher William Hill - literally introduced children to the smells of his book Osbert the Avenger at his recent events, using a box containing various pleasant (and distinctly less-so smells). Picture book authors may find that bringing a ‘story sack’ to an event gives a visual focus to the story and keeps young minds focused.

As well as creating a visual experience, make the event interactive. A hall full of schoolchildren don’t want to listen to a monologue but get them involved and they’ll be captivated. Whilst children often quake at the thought of being put on the spot in front of their peers, they will usually be happy to participate if the whole experience is interactive. The Wimpy Kid Show is a good example, with the whole audience participating, shouting cries of “Zoo-wee-mamma!”, with hands raised in the air. Tom Palmer - author of the Football Academy series - runs a popular event combining reading and football, with children taking part in a football-related quiz, earning points for a penalty shoot-out. The fact that everyone is involved takes away the fear of being singled out to participate.

It seems obvious but the golden rule of creating a successful book event is to enjoy it yourself. Children want to be entertained and if you’re having fun running the event, they’re going to be swept along with your enthusiasm. I recently attended a children’s poetry recital and having never taken my children to a poetry event before, was unsure what their reaction would be. They absolutely loved it and declared it to be their favourite event of the festival we attended. When quizzed further, they said they loved it because the poet, Dominic Berry, made it such fun. There was no big production behind the show but his passion for poetry and performing shone through and the children were completely absorbed in his tale of a poetry-hating dragon. Nerve-wracking as it can be to face a room full of small children, try to enjoy the experience yourself. There’s nothing worse than an author looking uncomfortable and wishing they were somewhere else.

If the thought of standing up to entertain a crowd of youngsters for an hour leaves you feeling slightly overawed, the best advice is to plan an event which supports the themes of your book, grab the attention of your audience and encourage them to get involved. And most importantly, have fun.

Read Book Events for Children’s reviews:
Christopher William Hill (Osbert the Avenger)
The Wimpy Kid Show
Tom Palmer
Dominic Berry

You may be interested in Book Events for Children’s interviews with Christopher William Hill, Dominic Berry and Christopher Lloyd.


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