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maestrowork
07-27-2005, 07:06 AM
Here are some questions for those who's done book readings:

1. Do you set them up much like how you set up book signings?

2. How do you usually structure your time? Agendas? Do you talk about your book first, sell it a little, then do the reading? Or the opposite?

3. What do you read? For fiction writers, do you read the first chapter? The second? Do you pick something that is more narrative/descriptive? Or do you pick an exciting scene with action and dialogue? How do you handle dialogue? Do you do the "he said, she said" or do you do different voices?

4. Do you have discussions following the reading?

5. Anything else?

Richard White
07-27-2005, 08:47 AM
Here are some questions for those who's done book readings:

1. Do you set them up much like how you set up book signings?

Almost all the readings I've done were at SF/F conventions I've been a guest at, except for last Friday when we did a reading at a local coffeehouse. I don't know how it was set up, as I was mainly there for moral support/dinner. But since I had one of my books with me, the owner asked if I wanted to read with the others.



2. How do you usually structure your time? Agendas? Do you talk about your book first, sell it a little, then do the reading? Or the opposite?

I usually have 30 minutes to read. I give the audience a quick synopsis about the story, do the reading and try to leave enough time for a few questions. I try to keep the "selling" down to a minimum until the end of the reading.


3. What do you read? For fiction writers, do you read the first chapter? The second? Do you pick something that is more narrative/descriptive? Or do you pick an exciting scene with action and dialogue? How do you handle dialogue? Do you do the "he said, she said" or do you do different voices?

3a-c) I read the first chapter. As a veteran reader suggested to me, if your first chapter's not good enough to read from, why is it your first chapter? Sometimes though, I read the first portion of a short story I've written. I've found I can read about 2500-3000 words in 20 minutes, leaving a little time for discussion afterwards.

3d-e) Hopefully, if I've done the first chapter right, there's narative and dialogue in the first chapter.

3f-g) I do vary my voices as I read, trying to fall back on my stage training to make the reading more interesting for the audience. I do read the "he said, she said"'s though, since I don't usually vary my voice enough to be certain everyone could follow the changing characters.


4. Do you have discussions following the reading?
Usually. It generally depends on the interest of the audience.


5. Anything else?
Relax, have fun and watch your audience. Sometimes you're just not connecting with them when you read. Have a bail out point where you can finish the reading before you actually get to the end. It also works best if you have the script printed out instead of trying to read from the book. Some people like to use podiums when they do a reading. Me, I feel trapped there, so I get out and stand in front of it, trying to make the audience feel like I'm one of them, not the preacher on Sunday morning.

Lauri B
07-27-2005, 04:29 PM
Here are some questions for those who's done book readings:

1. Do you set them up much like how you set up book signings?

2. How do you usually structure your time? Agendas? Do you talk about your book first, sell it a little, then do the reading? Or the opposite?

3. What do you read? For fiction writers, do you read the first chapter? The second? Do you pick something that is more narrative/descriptive? Or do you pick an exciting scene with action and dialogue? How do you handle dialogue? Do you do the "he said, she said" or do you do different voices?

4. Do you have discussions following the reading?

5. Anything else?

Hi Ray,
Usually book readings are set up in series by a bookstore, coffee house, community group, etc.--so check out which organizations around you have regular series and let them know you want to be a part of an upcoming one. They usually will give you guidelines based on what people have done in the past, so you don't have to wing it ("Usually our authors read for about 20 minutes then answer questions for 20" or whatever).

The way it has always worked for me is that the organizer/host introduces me, I do a little intro to why I wrote the book, a quick synoposis of why I'm reading the part I'm reading, and then I read for the time they suggest and I pick a part of a book that I like the best. Why not read what you're most proud of?

Usually audience members love to ask authors questions so if you're okay with having a conversation with the audience, let them know--it's the most fun of the whole enterprise, I think.

PVish
07-31-2005, 01:47 AM
Here are some questions for those who's done book readings:
1. Do you set them up much like how you set up book signings?

Not in my case. I'm a self-pubbed writer who lives in an area where there's only one small bookstore in my county and one in the next county over. Usually local authors are invited to do group signings at the bookstores or the gift shops that carry our books. There's just no room to read at these bookstores. I have done a bookstore reading two counties over; they invited me.

I do a lot of educational readings; I contact principals or English teachers and sometimes read to a whole assembly full of kids. Sometimes teachers contact me and ask me to visit classrooms. I might sell books to high-schoolers, but usually I tell them where they can buy my books. (Reading at schools is a great photo opportunity. The local paper likes to get pictures of a lot of kids doing something--watching an author read--so their parents will buy copies of the paper. In the accompanying story I send the paper I always mention the title of the book I read from.)

Because I write a local column, I also get invited to be a luncheon or dinner speaker by various groups. People call me and ask if I will read from one (or more) of my books. I usually oblige. For this type of reading, I get a meal and a check--plus I sell books afterward. I sometimes do readings for local charities; while I donate my time, I always ask if I can sell books. (I make sure to get a picture and send it in to the local paper. Another great publicity opportunity.) Usually I read for a shorter time for charities.

2. How do you usually structure your time?

In schools, that's easy. I can't exceed the time alloted. Teachers often tell me in advance what they want me to do and how long I have to do it. One of the local schools studies my novel, so I read at the beginning of their study and then return a few weeks later for a discussion.

When I'm a luncheon speaker, I'm usually told in advance how long I have. Then I divide up my time between readings and discussions. Some groups want to ask a lot of questions; others want to be entertained. I use the "monitor & adjust" method from my classroom days. I always have several passages marked in my reading copies that will fit several occasions and time-slots. sometimes I don't even decide what I'm going to read until I see the audience.

When I do public library readings or book festivals, again I have a set time slot. Again I monitor and adjust.

Agendas? Do you talk about your book first, sell it a little, then do the reading? Or the opposite?

I talk about the book first if the audience is unfamiliar with it. ("How many of y'all have read my book?" Watch for show of hands.) Then I read. Then I field questions. After the reading and final questions, I mention that I have copies with me and that I'd be delighted to personalize them. Plus, at my readings I give a slight discount over what the local stores charge. Blatant selling is a turn-off for a lot of audiences. I do have folding poster boards with pictures that illustrate my books, newspaper clippings, etc. that are set up with a couple copies of my books in front of them. Audiences have a chance as they come in to look at my displays and ask questions.

3. What do you read? For fiction writers, do you read the first chapter? The second? Do you pick something that is more narrative/descriptive? Or do you pick an exciting scene with action and dialogue?

If the audience is completely unfamiliar with my book, I read part of the first chapter and then some exciting stuff from the middle; for kids, I read the most exciting stuff and tell how I came to include particular scenes, why i had characters do what they did, etc.

How do you handle dialogue? Do you do the "he said, she said" or do you do different voices?

I always do different voices! And I walk around the audience—I don't just stand at a podium. For one of my books, I actually dress up as the character. Yeah, I read the "he said/she saids," but I write with more action than dialogue tags (unless I have several characters speaking).

4. Do you have discussions following the reading?
Yep! Every time. And every time I learn something new.

5. Anything else?
Don't read to "sell" the book. Read to entertain the audience and to have a good time. If the audience is entertained, they'll buy the book. (Also, email the jpeg of you reading and a brief accompanying story to the newspaper as soon as you get home.)

book_maven
07-31-2005, 02:54 AM
Here's a hint from a book reviewer who attends book readings on both a personal and professional basis: Attend as many readings as you can, and pay attention to the minutiae that makes the readings interesting or awful.

How does the author present herself? Is she dressed sloppily? Does he need a shower? (Don't laugh; I've seen it.)

What are the composite parts of the reading? Do each and every one of them add to the presentation? What specifically do they add to the audience's pleasure? (Remember, it's always about the audience.)

Has the author practiced talking in public or does she stumble, mumble and mutter a lot?

Is the author aware that ten minutes of reading may feel like one minute to him, but will definitely feel like 30 to the audience? (Always, always, always practice the parts you are going to read and time them until you know precisely how long they will take. More reading will NOT increase your audience's enthusiasm to buy your book.)

Can you have a small contest to give away a book or other prize? I attended a reading by a well-known international thriller writer who mid-way into her presentation had a short quiz of five questions about spies. The winner got a small gold box with four chocolate truffles, and the audience had fun calling out the answers. She had people involved, not just being passive.

Make sure your total presentation is no more than 20-30 minutes. (Again, the shorter end is much better.)

The best way you can determine what might work for you is to think like an audience member, not an author who wants to sell books.