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How to plan a Live Literature author event

Tips for authors and illustrators who are looking to plan Live Literature sessions of all shapes and sizes.

Topics: Writing tips

Last updated: 25 April 2024

One of the wonderful things about the Live Literature programme is the fact that there’s a great deal of flexibility when it comes to planning your sessions. That said, there are a few important things to consider when you’re making a plan, so we’ve gathered together some handy information and tips to help you get started.

Be sure to ask plenty of questions

If you’ve been booked for a live Literature event, an organiser will have been in touch to invite you to take part. They may already have some idea of what they want the session to look like, or they may come to you with a very loose brief. Either way, this is the perfect time to ask lots of questions. 

Expectations – This is a great conversation to start off with. What do you both hope to get out of the session? 

Audience type – You may want to know the age as well whether it’s in a school setting or not. You may also want to know whether the group knows each other well or if they may be new to each other. For example, in a library event, you may be speaking to the members of a book group or to a mixture of patrons.

It’s also a good idea to ask if there are any safeguarding issues you should be aware of and, if you’re running a school event, you may want to ask whether there are any additional support or behavioural needs to be aware of.

Audience size – It’s also nice to find out beforehand what the expected audience size will be. Obviously, this is far easier to predict for a school or a community group with established members, but it’s worth asking even for other events. A small group may be perfect for a chat or interactive exercise, while it might be a better idea to prepare a presentation or plenty of readings for a larger group.

Format – Check if the organiser has a particular format in mind or if they have feedback from any previous events. Often, the organiser will be happy to let you choose the format, but it’s always worth asking, just in case you accidentally end up on different pages. Do they expect a workshop? A reading and Q&A session? A conversation with a teacher or host? A PowerPoint presentation? Activities? 

It’s great when an organiser comes to you with lots of ideas and enthusiasm but don’t be afraid to push back if you feel that they are asking too much. You’ll know how much you can manage within the time frame and how much preparation you’ll need.

Medium – You should know from the outset if someone is planning an in-person or an online event, but it’s definitely worth double-checking. Might they hope for a hybrid event, to allow people to attend even if they’re not able to be there in person? Do they have limits to the type of technology they can use or things they’d prefer? We have some handy guidance for running online workshops and events, if you need a little inspiration. 

Ideas for making the most of your event

Sometimes, the organiser of your event doesn’t have a firm idea of the kind of session they’d like and you’re free to make suggestions. Here are just a few of the ways you can mix things up and offer great events for different audiences. 

Create a quiz or interactive activity

One great way to keep things lively is to create a quiz or interactive activity to carry out during your event. This could be a simple shout-out-the-answer-style quiz, or a more formal series of questions and answers with a tally and an overall winner. 

Host a webinar

If an in-person event isn’t suitable for any reason, an online webinar is a great alternative. In-person interaction is one of the major benefits of a webinar, so don’t be tempted to overload your audience with slideshow presentations. At the same time, it can be nice to break things up with videos, music, quizzes and questions. We also have some tips for running a welcoming author event online

Bring books to sell (if appropriate)

It won’t always be appropriate to bring books to sell to an author event (find out about why you may not be able to sell books at your event), but when it is, it can be a great addition to your event. Be sure to ask the organiser if you can sell books and set aside time for signing. 

Be prepared and have a backup plan

Sometimes, events don’t go exactly as planned. We all know what it’s like when tech breaks down or things are reorganised at the last minute. Top avoid feeling flustered, it’s a great idea to have a back up plan, whether that’s extra readings picked out from your book or a list of questions you can give to your host to keep conversation flowing. Author Steven Cole also shares some great advice on how to avoid a disaster during an author event.