It’s Not About You: 5 Tips for a Great Author Reading or Book Event

It’s Not About You: Tips for Great Literary Readings and Author Events

May 15, 2019

  1. Start with an audience question or poll or a good story. Recently, when I presented on my latest book at our local literary festival, I asked the audience to raise their hands by group: those whose parents/grandparents/children/great grandparents had been born in another country/and/or those who were native American. This assured the listeners that our afternoon event would be about our shared immigrant (or native) history — not just about me and my book.
  2. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Don’t fumble through your book or suddenly dither or decide (in real time; on stage) about what you’re going to read. Make sure your room and your audio visuals are push-button ready. If you tell an anecdote from your own life, use humor carefully and kindly. Please, no mimicked or mangled accents.
  3. Look up! In my teacher education college in 1980s Ireland, one professor drilled and then tested us on how well we scanned our classrooms, while also writing on the blackboard behind us. Look up from your notes or index cards to engage your room. Look left, right and make eye contact with the folks in the last row. Repeat.
  4. Manage the Q & A. Sans a designated panel moderator, it’s your job to ensure that each audience member gets his or her turn, and a free-for-all question and answer (Q & A) session can end badly. Some folks are more long-winded than others. Some folks pose those non-questions that are really a personal anecdote or self-promotion. If room acoustics are a problem, repeat the question from the podium. For those complex or extra provocative issues or responses, table the answer until you are one-on-one with that person.

Irish author, workshop leader in Boston area. Fifth book, “Green and Other Essays” just released. More at