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July 22, 2011

Would you pay for an author event?

Posted by Anonymous

I read a piece in the New York Times yesterday about how some indie stores are now charging for store events. You can read it here. As many times I am not purchasing the book at an event, as I already have read a publisher or author-supplied advance reading copy, I realize that I am just like the customer they are referencing who is using a store for entertainment, but not supporting them with a purchase. Sure, I am a member of the media, but I also am a reader, and I have to say that plunking down a fee to hear an author I love would be something I would not dismiss. Below are some select reader responses. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Anne from Austin, TX

I would not be interested in paying a fee for the privilege of hearing an author speak.

As much as I love going to hear authors speak at local appearances, I'm afraid I would not be interested in paying a fee for the privilege. I have often already purchased and read the book, usually a coincidence because I don't know the schedule for author events. In fact, I'm more likely to attend an author event if I HAVE read the author's book. It is usually the reading of the book that makes me curious to hear an author's speaking voice, wonder where he/she comes from, and it creates a curiosity to learn more about the inspiration and the story behind the story.

At our local bookstore many author events are already very poorly attended and I think charging a fee would kill off attendance completely except for the really big name authors whom people are anxious to meet and collect their autographs.

I'm sorry we've come to this position and hope booksellers and authors will find other ways around it.

Frances rom Wisconsin


Got the Reading Group News today and looked at the article in the New York Times about indie book stores charging for author events.

My two local indie stores have charged for a couple of years now. Not EVERY event, though. It's a way to get a handle on how many people to expect. Sometimes they charge a nominal $5 and that includes refreshments (wine or coffee, and dessert). Sometimes they charge $30 and that INCLUDES the price of the hard cover. Mostly they do this for very popular authors who usually draw large crowds. As an added bonus, each ticket (whether $5 or $30) is numbered, and your number gives you your place in line for the book signing.

It's a good thing, I think.

Mary from Avon, CT

I do feel when going to hear an author review a book, it is acceptable to buy a ticket in advance for a slight fee. Often this ticket price allows you quick entrance and many times the price paid is deducted from the purchase price of the book.

My objection is the outlandish fee charged by the author at speaking engagements. Usually the entire talk is promotional in nature and used as advertising their latest book. The fee for this should be minimal. 


I'm a little on the fence about it, but totally understand the fee. If one charges to see some other artist, what is the difference? 

An author gets paid by the publisher to travel, which saves the independent bookstore that fee, and the store charges a minimal fee with hopes of sales. There are no guarantees the attendees will purchase a book and the store has ordered numerous copies, paid for staff and probably provided a beverage and appetizer. It's a gamble, though. I would purchase a book in support of the bookstore for actually hosting such an event, as I have in the past.

Maybe attendees can purchase the book in advance from the bookstore and then receive an admittance ticket to the event with preferred seating. Those purchasing general admission get to sit in the back or stand.

I am fortunate to have an incredible library that hosts author events for free and uses a local bookstore to sell the books the author signs that evening.  

I am, however, guilty of not always supporting my local bookstore. I purchase books from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and give out their gift cards to my friends with Kindles or Nooks. I personally read books in all forms. I use my Kindle, iPad, local library and I purchase hard copies. An actual book is always dependable, though eReaders have their conveniences. If I travel I take a Kindle and sometimes prefer the iPad inside the house (no glare) as I have more print on the page with good lighting. I will purchase a hardcover of the author I love and/or am anxious to read. If I am uncertain about a book, I prefer a trade paperback for the ease of handling. For me they all have their value, but I would support a real book over any of the other devices hands down.

Ellen from Hudson, OH

We often have author events at our library held in conjunction with the local independent bookstore, The Learned Owl. Next week we will host Nayana Currimbhoy (MISS TIMMINS SCHOOL FOR GIRLS) and next month we have Mary Doria Russell (DOC). We never charge! In fact, we provide free refreshments!

Last year we hosted Tony Horwitz (CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC) and he told us how much more pleasant it was to have an event here in northeast Ohio where 250+ people show up. In NYC, author events are a dime a dozen.


As indie shops are suffering from the 'big' box stores, in my opinion they will be shooting themselves in the foot if they charge. Sure, some people come to hear the author speak and not buy the book at that time. They might already have the book or might want to listen to see if they want to purchase. Nevertheless, they are potential customers and I for one, wouldn't want to alienate them by charging a fee to listen.


I’m all in favor of paying to attend an indie bookstore’s event, a great way for readers to acknowledge their support of local indie bookstores! I would not pay for an event at, say, Barnes & Noble.

Donna from Wilkes-Barre, PA

I have very mixed feelings about the trend to charge customers for bookstore events. As a representative of Barnes & Noble, I can confirm that we have never charged any fee for an in-store event and I hope that we never need to do so. But I can completely understand the frustration these independent bookstores are feeling. People are indeed using bookstores as a library --- and the key word here is "used." Every day our retail stores are used for research and meeting space. Customers feel free to monopolize our booksellers' attention asking for recommendations, etc, and then tell us they're going to order the book from Amazon. 

Yet, I cannot help but feel that charging a fee for an event would absolutely deter attendance. Even if the customer plans on spending a few dollars in the store that night, the mention of a fee would cause a knee-jerk reaction. I'm sure customers don't understand the expense (of both time and money) that goes into planning an event. 

It's funny, because just this weekend I found a bag on my desk containing two titles by an author we were hosting that night. Now don't get me wrong, we routinely get calls from customers who can't make it to an event and ask if we can put aside a signed copy. But these were copies of the books that the customer had already owned and he was asking me to have them inscribed for him! 

The bottom line is that with the sales of print books plummeting, and the soar in sales of ebooks, we use in store events to drive traffic into the stores. Any fee would defeat that goal.


Tonight in Southern Pines, NC, The Country Bookshop is having Dorothea Benton Frank and charging $20. I'm not there --- that's still quite a bit of money.

This is the first time I have seen a charge (I’m sure there were others) and
I can understand a small charge, but --- the big but --- the author gets so much more than the immediate sale of a book. Great PR, future sales. The author is also giving back to all the readers that have bought their books in the past. The bookshop also gains future sales, community goodwill, and a write up in the local paper (free advertising).

I feel the practice is shortsighted at best.


I would not like to be charged a fee to attend an event at a bookstore to meet an author. To me, it would be good advertising to host this for free since you would get a lot of people at the bookstore, and probably would sell books to them. I probably would not pay for an event and would just skip it.


I have to admit that seeing authors for free is one of my favorite things on earth. Even though the DC area is a big draw for authors, I already pay to see several authors I likely could see for free. Pen/Faulkner charges for author events, the Historic I Street Synagogue often charges for author events, or offers two tickets with a book purchase.  

It is my belief in those cases that the fee goes to a charity. (Not the author, not the publisher.) I can afford to pay to see an author. A small fee wouldn’t keep me away from someone I really wanted to see. 

But, it would keep me away from someone I didn’t know much about. . .and for me, seeing someone once often makes me take a look at everything the author ever wrote. It would obviously preclude lots of people whose disposable personal income is limited. (That, to me, is the much bigger issue.)

I’ve taken groups of children and young adults to listen to an author. . .and that experience, while priceless, likely would not have happened if I had to collect fees from all the kids along with parental consent. 

I understand the issue that the stores face. I have seen people knocking back Starbucks, with a book from Costco, waiting to listen to an author at our local independent bookstore (with its own coffee shop). But I think author events bring in lots of live customers. Maybe independents, if they have to charge, could have a certain number of free author events as part of the yearly membership price?I don’t have a quick solution. But I hate the idea of charging for author events.  

Tessa from Bayside, WI

I’m lucky to have a couple of great indie bookstores in my city and they bring lots of authors in. Most of these events are free, but I’m always surprised when the author finishes his/her presentation and half the people just leave. They don’t seem to have bought the book. I admit that sometimes I’m one of those people; it’s rare, but there are times when, after hearing the author read a portion of the book, I discover that I’m not interested in it. 

But I know that my booksellers spend money to host these events. They have to publicize them and staff the store in anticipation of a larger crowd. For all I know they have to rent chairs and the sound system, too. And most of the time, they are doing all this preparation on a “guess” that there will be X people in attendance. (Because, while the publisher may be paying the author’s travel and hotel costs, the book seller has to guarantee they will sell X books before the publisher will agree to send the author.)So I have absolutely no problem paying a nominal $5 fee in advance for a ticket to such an event. It helps the bookstore get a handle on the crowd they can expect. Typically they do this only for a hugely popular author, and they always offer refreshments at these ticketed events –-- wine, coffee, and dessert. Once or twice a year they have a truly major event, for a highly anticipated new release; for these events the ticket price is higher, but includes a hardcover copy of the book. I have no problem, at all, with paying $30 for these events (I just bought a ticket yesterday for an event to be held Sept 1). As an added bonus for the patron, the ticket number is your number in the book signing line. If you buy your ticket early, you’re among the first in line. If you have a ticket number in the 150+ range, you can browse at your leisure or enjoy a glass a wine while you wait for your number to be called.

Karen from Minnesota

One of the first times --- sad to say --- I went to an author reading was at a bookstore where Vince Flynn was reading from his first book. My son had to go for his high school literature class, "MN Authors." It was so fun! And I did buy that book and have bought and read others of his since. However, had they charged, I am not sure that I would have been as excited to go. It is one way to interest kids --- and adults --- in reading, maybe even something they wouldn't have read had they not had that first contact with the author.

Recently, my friends and I went to hear Elizabeth Berg --- one of my favorites. It was so crowded, no place to sit or stand! I almost left. (In this case, I would have happily paid a few dollars --- or better yet made a "reservation" --- to have a guaranteed spot to sit and listen.)

My son went on to be a journalism major, and now is an editor for a paper here in the Twin Cities (MN). I read 40-60 books a year --- some are for my book club (10/yr), some I buy, and some I do get from the public library.

I think making reading accessible to everyone is really important. Author readings get people excited about reading something new. I think that charging would be a big mistake.