Wednesday, November 20, 2013

3 Steps to Hosting a Better Reading

Merrill Davies, author of The Truth About Katie, talks to us about marketing books through readings and signings.

READINGS: An Important Component of Marketing Your Book

I had anticipated the reading/signing of my new book, The Truth About Katie, for several weeks. I looked forward to it, not only because it was a chance to promote my own book, but because I would have a chance to hear other authors read from their books also. I had practiced at an earlier reading in my neighborhood as well as for my husband and a good friend. My timing was running a few minutes over, but my host said not to worry about it. We arrived in plenty of time, and I met the other authors before the program began.

My reading was first and I thought it went well. The second author was a man and his presentation was passionate and energizing. When the third author was called up, she chose to sit in a chair which had been provided in case we wanted to sit, but she did not use the mike which was also provided if we chose to use it. As she began to speak, I realized that I was not able to hear much of what she said, and as she read her selection (a poem), I understood very little of it. Afterward, I learned that several others in the audience had the same problem. It was a shame because what little I heard sounded good. I realized then that writers are often not schooled in oral presentations or readings. I am fortunate in that I not only taught English for many years, but also have been a member of Toastmasters for over ten years. During my teaching and working through the Toastmasters program, I have had the opportunity to study the skills that are important in public speaking as well as interpretative reading. In the next few paragraphs, I would like to make some suggestions that might be helpful for new authors who are asked (or who would like) to make presentations or do readings from their books.

1. Choose your reading(s) carefully. 
You should be able to state clearly why you chose a particular passage to read. These are some important questions to ask yourself: Does the passage grab the listener and make him/her want to hear more? Does it fit your audience? Does it allow you to use vocal variety? Can you read the part in the time allotted? Will it be better to read from just one section or should you read from two or three parts of the book?

2. Create an introduction for the audience before you read a passage. 
Most of the time I try to give a brief introduction about the book before I begin. In my first book, The Welsh Harp, I typically just read one scenario which has a beginning, middle, and end. I usually don’t read but one passage, so I don’t have any transitions. However, in The Truth About Katie, I couldn’t find one I thought worked well, so I read three different passages—one from the first of the book, one from the middle, and one toward the end—all designed to create questions in the readers mind about what happens later. Because I read three different passages, I created brief transitions (two or three sentences) between the selections, which help to explain what I will read.

3. Plan/practice presenting your reading before you go. 
All your work is wasted if you cannot be heard and understood during your readings. When you get to the location where your reading is held, notice the seating arrangement and think of how you can project your voice to the person who is sitting the farthest from you. If you feel intimidated by giving presentations, I suggest you get in touch with your local Toastmasters club and begin to practice speaking skills in a supportive, positive environment. It may take a while, but it will be well worth it. Meanwhile, practice with a
friend or relative with whom you feel comfortable. Try to make sure you are familiar enough with your reading that you do not have to look down at your book all the time.
Look up at your audience as much as possible. Probably it is best to stand unless you are using a mike.

I have attended many readings where I had not planned to buy a book, but just couldn’t resist after hearing the author read from it. I believe that readings and presentations are good ways to convince people to buy your book. Because of this, I believe that practicing your presentation skills is essential. Just keep trying! You can do this.

Merrill Davies is the author of The Truth About Katie. To find out more about this book, visit the book page on the MSP site.

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