Saturday, October 06, 2012

Author Event Tips: THE READING (of dooooom!)

I've hosted a LOT of bookstore events over the years, and while most authors do fine, there is still a lot of angst about the reading portion of the event. Authors can be shy-boots or nervous-nellies who are amazing at strutting their stuff on the page, but are afraid to read aloud in front of people.

Deep breathing helps, as does finding friendly faces in the audience and trying to talk to them, as does practicing at home. But there is also something technical you can do beforehand to make sure you are totally prepared and ready to bring the awesome.

One of the biggest problems when reading aloud is that when people are nervous and confused, they rush. If you are rushing, mumbling or fumbling, you will lose your audience. This EXCELLENT advice on slowing down was given to me by the very sensible Bella Stander, founder of Book Promotion 101. (For the record, Bella herself got this advice from her son's bar mitzvah coach. So it is not only useful, but approved by G-d!)

* Decide the section(s) you want to read ahead of time.  90% of authors seem to be seeing their books for the first time when they are asked to read. Confusion reigns - what should I read? Where should I start? What who where wha???!  Remember, your goal here is to get people to buy the book, not just read it aloud to them - short and sweet is better than long and disjointed, and it's GREAT to end the section with a cliffhanger "and then what happens?" moment.

* Type this selection (or cut and paste) into a clean document.
This will also give you the opportunity to edit anything you don't want to include - like if there are references to something that the audience won't understand at this point, or story spoilers. You don't want to have to interrupt your own reading to explain what so-and-so meant by such-and-such, and the audience won't know or care that you skipped a bit.

* Make the font BIG - 18 point type or so, and give each paragraph its own page. The big font and space means you'll be able to see very clearly, you'll be able to look at the audience more and keep your notes further from your face, and you'll be forced to slow down to at least go to a new page between paragraphs.

* Now take these pages and put them in plastic sleeves in a loose-leaf binder, and read from THAT. 
The binder and plastic sleeves mean the notes won't get mixed up and you won't have to fumble for the section you want, and it will be ready for you at a moment's notice... and use anti-glare plastic in case there's a spotlight on you at a podium.

Personally, I love it when people read a few SHORT selections, as I tend to drift off/get bored after a few minutes of straight reading.  Luckily, your nifty new Reading Binder can include a variety of selections from the book. Also, if there are fans who know your work well in the audience, you might consider not just reading from the new book, but also giving a sneak peek at whatever you are working on next -- no spoilers of course, but teases can be great fun.

Now go make that binder - don't forget to breathe - and happy eventing!


  1. I'm bookmarking this post for that day when I need it! ;-)

  2. I'm unpubbed, but I've done a couple reading events--two for my MFA program and one at the local library--and that's what I've done, except instead of the binder I use my iPad. It's nice not to have to turn pages, and to have the text big enough that you can glance out at your audience more often!

    1. Yes, the iPad can be super helpful. If I am giving a speech, I always have my basic notes on the iPad.

      However... I have also had my iPad freak out in the middle of a talk - run out of juice or suddenly flash to a different app when I flick the page wrong or something. I'm used to giving talks and I can get back on track easily, but if I were a truly freaked out author, that might be a problem!

    2. True! They can be quirky things.

  3. Reading aloud is the only part of the publicity process that doesn't freak me out. Now we need a post on the talking part.

  4. The binder idea with paragraphs/sentences edited out, in BIG 18 point font is ***genius***
    I owe you. (Not the first time.)

  5. Good advice! I'm horrible at speaking in public. Even just introducing film makers at the cinema I run, or announcing a Q & A freaks me out. I don't know how I'll cope if I ever have to read from my own work. When I read it to myself to see how it sounds I have to put on a phony accent so it doesn't sound like me...

  6. Argh can you please put a Twitter share button after your posts?? Makes it so much easier to share! Lockerz makes a good one (google Lockerz share button for blogger). Just copy the HTML from Lockerz (or whomever) go to you blogger dashboard, to "Layout," click "Add a Gadget," paste the HTML into a blank HTML/JavaScript gadget window, click save, and then drag it to the space below the "Blog Posts."

    Just a suggestion. I love your blog.

  7. Dionna5:58 AM

    Tomorrow is my debut book launch! I've copied and pasted my book selection, as you suggested--short but hopefully appetizing! I also put in the selection red double dashes for pausing, different color font for who is talking, and have been practicing out loud, focusing on fluency and naturalness. Thanks for your suggestions!(Still...SO NERVOUS!)


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