Looking for a Venue for Your Author Event? Try a Hair Salon!
I was having my hair done at the salon recently and mentioned to the owner, Mamie, that an essay I’d written had been published in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Over the years she’s heard about my publishing successes and disappointments; I figured with this latest news she’d congratulate me, and quickly return to the clip and curl she was finishing on a customer. Instead she left her work station and began thumbing through her appointment calendar. She was ebullient. “We need to celebrate what you’ve been doing,” she said. “Give me some dates when you’re available.”
Mamie thought it would be great fun to invite the public in at the close of business on a Saturday afternoon for “A Celebration of Women Achievers.” The event would be held in honor of not only me but other salon customers who’ve had success as artists and entrepreneurs—a professional photographer, jazz singer, sisters who run an accounting firm and a jewelry vendor. Wine and cheese would be served. The main dish, inspired by the title of the anthology, would be chicken soup. I would sign copies of the anthology and talk about my experiences getting published. The other honorees would talk about their journeys as well.
At first I was skeptical. A hair salon seemed like an odd location for a book signing. In addition, I only had an essay in an anthology, not a published novel or nonfiction book.
However, the more I thought about Mamie’s idea, the more sense it made. The salon has about 100 clients, people unfamiliar with my writing who could potentially become Facebook friends and followers of my blog and Twitter account. Because the customers weren’t part of the local literary community, it was unlikely that they came in contact with writers often and wouldn’t be put off by my literary credits, which were limited to stories in print and online journals, magazines, and the anthology.
Although everyone on the salon’s client list would be sent an invitation, we wouldn’t have to rely on customers coming back. The event would be scheduled to start as the last appointments of the day were ending. Even if those ladies were only mildly interested in the program, the beverages and aroma of chicken soup could entice them to stay.
Unlike other author chats and book signings I’ve done, this one was well attended. Every seat in the salon—the rows of folding chairs arranged in the center of the room and the styling chairs around the perimeter—was taken.
I was the most relaxed I’ve ever been while giving an author talk because I wasn’t the only one speaking. I shared the “stage” with the other women being honored. Mamie benefited because all of us being honored mentioned the salon as we promoted the event through social networking. She further strengthened the relationship she has with her customers by inviting them for an afternoon of food, drink, and inspiring words.
A hair salon now seems like a logical choice for an author event, as does a barber shop or nail salon, especially if the writer isn’t well-known and needs to build an audience. These kinds of businesses serve the same purpose as the town square did generations ago, providing a place for people to gather on a regular basis, purchase services, exchange news and ideas, and form friendships and partnerships. What better environment for a writer looking for a supportive community?
Lisa Braxton is the recipient of a 2020 Outstanding Literary Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for her debut novel, The Talking Drum, published in May 2020 by Inanna Publications. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Boston Globe, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, Vermont Literary Review, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Book of Hope. She is a fellow of Kimbilio, a fellowship for fiction writers of the African diaspora, and an Emmy-nominated former television journalist. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media from Hampton University, her Master of Science degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University and is a former newspaper and television journalist.See other articles by Lisa Braxton