What do you do when an author event is cancelled?
Yesterday I received an email blast from a bookstore informing me that an author event had been cancelled. I felt a twinge of sympathy, since yours truly — and, indeed, most book publicists — have had the pleasure of having to deal with a cancelled event, whether it be the result of illness, travel delays or an act of God. (Although I did once have an author, who, upon being informed of a tornado watch for the area after having arrived at a library, simply packed up his laptop and decamped for the building’s basement; the staff equally calmly shepherded all 300+ audience members to said basement. That one left me speechless. Truly.)
Last-minute event cancellations are a nightmare. There’s simply no other way to put it. Bookstores have already spent money promoting the event (and time talking it up). This money has now gone down the drain. Further, there’s no way to keep track of who is planning to attend an event, so there’s no effective way to contact everyone to inform them of the cancellation. Lastly, stores are counting on the revenue generated by author talks, since attendees often browse and buy before and after the talk itself. (And that’s just from the bookstore end — the publicist meanwhile has spent time getting the word out about the event and before that time scheduling it.)
So what can bookstores (and book publicists) do in the event of an unavoidable cancellation? First, to get word out about the cancellation, the store posted the cancellation on their web site and also sent out a notice to their subscriber list in an attempt to give people a heads up. I’m assuming they would also have posted a sign in their store to that effect.
In some cases it might be possible to reschedule events, but realistically, given how far ahead of time events are scheduled — at least two months, usually, but up to a year or more in some cases — and how limited an author’s time often is, rescheduling isn’t viable. Another option is arranging for signed books, since many people do, after all, go to readings to get books signed. (The bookstore in this case did offer signed books to interested readers.) Publicists, for their part, should offer to make arrangements to have an author sign — and if possible, personalize — books for a bookstore whose event was cancelled.
What did you (as a book publicist or author) do the last time an event was cancelled? Any event cancellation “success” stories?