Friday, January 17, 2014

Creating a Successful Event

Last week, I told the story of how The Book 'Em Foundation was conceived and how I established the annual Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair.

Now that we're in the final weeks for our third event (to be held on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at Robeson Community College in Lumberton, North Carolina), I've established a system to make it workable. Because I don't like last-minute surprises and glitches, I divided the year into sections in which we focus on a few large components of the event. As we approach the final weeks, all our planning and work through the year pays off as things come together.


As soon as we've wrapped up the last event, we get started on the next one. I begin by revamping the website, (before becoming a full-time author, I owned a couple of computer companies, which has come in handy) and set up the new pages for the following year's event.

The most important part of the new pages is releasing the Registration Form, used by authors who wish to sign and sell their books at Book 'Em North Carolina, and who may wish to participate in panel discussions and solo talks.

Although our Registration Form states that the closing date for registration is September 1 (or until the event is full) we have found that our last two events were full by late spring. We have a certain amount of space allocated for the event and because each author receives at least six feet of space (four feet of table plus two feet on the side) we easily reach 75+ authors, publishers, literary agents, Hollywood producers, and rock stars in a short period of time.


Beginning in early summer, we solicit businesses and individuals for sponsorships. Sponsorships range from $250 to more than $1,000, and we also accept donations. This money is critical for helping us pay for advertisements across multiple states and overhead (volunteer t-shirts, name tags, etc) so that all the money we take in during the event is set aside for literacy efforts.

We also apply for grant funding. Each year we've received a Kiwanis of Lumberton grant that pays for dictionaries that are given to children attending the event, and a Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau grant that pays for additional advertising.

There are NO paid employees - everyone is a volunteer.


In the fall, we begin a series of meetings at Robeson Community College to discuss how we can improve upon the previous year's event, and we hammer out logistics.

I begin speaking at a variety of community organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary Club, and book clubs.

By November, I am hard at work on the Talks Schedule, arranging panel discussions and solo talks, assigning authors and moderators to each talk, and lining up the volunteers needed for each Talks Room and The Children's Corner.

I also begin reaching out to volunteers and volunteer groups and keeping a list of who is committed and what they'd like to do at the event.

I have also entered each title that each author and publisher wishes to sell at the event into a database and posted it online. This usually numbers more than 300 titles.

I have created a seating chart and assigned seating for each and every author, publisher, literary agent, Hollywood producer, and rock star. That seating chart is placed online at


By late fall, I have developed the brochures, flyers and posters.

The brochures are distributed through the Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau to the Welcome Centers along Interstate 95 and to hotels, restaurants and businesses in the area.

The flyers, including a Talks Schedule, are provided to the City of Lumberton for distribution in all utility bills in January, as well as to area businesses and sponsors.

A special flyer is developed for The Children's Corner and will be distributed to school children through Grade 3.

I begin contacting newspapers and magazines and scheduling advertisements to run in the January or February editions (magazines) and in Sunday newspapers. I also begin making television and radio appearances in North and South Carolina, and scheduling more of them to take place in January and February.

By January 2, we are ready to roll out our promotional campaign. All of the articles written, interviews provided, and guest blogs begin to unroll throughout multiple states.


In the final days, I am tying everything together: ensuring that all promotional plans are set to go without a snag, all volunteers know when they are to arrive and what they're expected to do, all questions have been formed for the panel discussions, and all logistics are in place.

I create the signs for each author's table so they're easily found, work with volunteers for signage in and around the event, work with volunteers on an individual basis to ensure everyone knows their jobs, and take care of all the last minute preparations.

Next Friday, January 24, I'll begin introducing the volunteers and volunteer groups who work so tirelessly to ensure that each Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair goes off smoothly and without a hitch. I couldn't do this alone!

This blog was written by the founder of Book 'Em North Carolina, author p.m.terrell. For more information about the event and to download the brochure, flyers, seating chart, book list, and more, visit