View Full Version : Book signing & reading...OMG

04-14-2015, 05:54 AM
I wrote a memoir (retired firefighter) a couple of years ago and have pretty much just stayed on the sidelines to watch it sell, or not. Just recently I've been asked to attend a museum's open-house (they stock my book) and sign copies for patrons who purchase it, but more distressingly, they have asked me to read from my book. Out-loud. In front of people.

This is uncharted territory for me - I have no idea what to read (many of the stories are clearly unsuitable for children, who will probably be in attendance) or how long the snippets of reading should be. Do I just watch for people to yawn and leave, or perhaps stop when the majority have fallen asleep?

Anyone with experience in this area, I would love some advice. I've got 25 days to figure it out.


04-14-2015, 06:28 AM
Full disclosure: I am not an author.

I would say pick a section that is around 5-10 pages long, where you come to a reasonable stopping point.

And then read it aloud to yourself, your family, random strangers off the street (just kidding). But practice, practice, practice, until you pretty much know it by heart.

Your audience (and don't be disappointed if it is only 3 people) will probably be more interested in asking you questions about what your experiences were like.

Then, take a deep breath, and enjoy it.

Good luck.

inquiring minds want to know: are you related to Red Adair?

04-14-2015, 06:38 AM
Though it may not help you, I recently spoke to the drama department of a local high school, and in the course of the meeting I asked if any of them had done any "readings" in front of groups. About half had done so, and the teacher decided that everyone needed to get out and do a reading in public. She assigned them my book and had each of them pick a chapter (the are short, 1200 words or so).

They really enjoyed it.

Perhaps you have a group of "readers" available to you for the price of a visit to your local drama department.... if you don't want to read aloud to strangers.

04-15-2015, 12:25 AM
MM - after writing and editing this book for many years, I nearly have the whole book memorized. I think I'll try to find a few small sections that cover a variety of situations - and suitable for children to hear - and be ready to read them. And no, I'm not related to Red Adair though we're both from Texas.

Thewitt - I know the guys who operate the museum and I think they are expecting ME to do the reading, otherwise I would gladly hire someone else to do it.

It's probably needless worrying. I doubt there are going to be many folks wanting to hear or buy the book. All my friends and relatives already have a copy...

Old Hack
04-15-2015, 10:35 AM
Read one passage, not several. Try to find an anecdote which will be relatively complete in itself, so that your audience feels a sense of resolution. Make sure it's suitable for all ages, if you don't know who is going to be in the audience.

Keep it very short: definitely no longer than ten minutes. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and make a little joke so that your audience doesn't start to worry about you.

Rehearse beforehand. Speak more slowly than you think necessary and keep your voice pitched low. If you have a question-and-answer session after, it's doubly important to do the slow-and-low thing as it gives you time to think about your answer, and it makes you sound more authoritative! Also, before you answer a question, repeat it as there will be people in the audience who didn't hear it, and won't know what you're talking about otherwise.

End your session before people have had enough.

But mostly, try to enjoy it and have fun. Engage with your audience. Ask them questions. Chat a bit.

04-15-2015, 05:55 PM
Thanks OH - good advice. I think I have settled on a "snake capture & removal" story, instead of the expected fire or EMS stories; those stories are a dime a dozen. I tried reading it out-loud, slowly and deeply, but it clocked-in at 12 1/2 minutes (5 1/2 pages long).

This occasion is an all-day open house of a fire museum, with many scheduled events and activities, and I may have to read several times. Should I have a couple of other readings prepared or just stick with the original? (It's semi-humorous, not scary for children.)

06-18-2015, 11:45 AM
This is waaaayyy late, by a couple months so advice is at best moot and probably lousy anyway. But, I'm curious. How did it go? Seriously, what can you tell us about what worked and what were things that caused problems to be avoided.

06-18-2015, 12:53 PM
I'm too late to be any help, but here's my tips for book readings. I'm an awkward, fast-and-mumbling talker on most days, with a Scottish accent so thick you could cut it with a knife, but I like readings. They're a skill that you get better at over time, and there's a definite change in my body language and voice while doing them.

10 minute max.
For novels, I always read the start -- jumping to a cool bit is just confusing and doesn't hook the readers in the same way a good first chapter does.
Print out the section you're reading onto A4 paper in a big font, reading from a book is awkward and microphones like to amplify your nervous fumbling with the pages.
Speak loud. Speak slowly.
Have friends in the front row that you can see and focus on, especially if you're nervous.
CONFIDENCE! Don't hide behind your hands/your hair, don't sit down if you can avoid it, be bold and friendly towards the audience. If you mess up, you can make a joke about it, but please please please don't put yourself down in a reading. Self-depreciating jokes in a reading are hard to pull off well, try and stay positive.

For question-and-answer sections afterwards:

Have a friend in the audience ask the first question to avoid that awkward do-I-put-my-hand-up pause. I like interesting, funny questions, or you can use this as a promo opportunity if you want (e.g. 'What else are you working on?')
Whenever you answer an audience member's question, repeat the question. Audience members tend to mumble their questions and there's a good chance half your audience didn't hear it.

06-19-2015, 06:01 AM
I'm getting ready to do my first reading next weekend and I found this very helpful post from SWFA (http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/reading-aloud/). Just passing it along.

06-20-2015, 11:42 PM
To those who asked how it went: I suppose it went well, all things considered. There was a "crowd" of about 20 folks gathered around a half-dozen empty chairs. I figured they remained standing in order to beat a hasty retreat for the egress, if needed. After a brief introduction from an old friend, I read a single chapter, trying desperately to enunciate clearly and read slowly, but still managed to clock in under 7 minutes. Then, the unexpected happened. They politely applauded and I quickly decided I should leave on a high-note and not take a chance on ruining the moment by reading the other chapter I had bookmarked. Soon after the applause died down, there was an extremely awkward game of chicken, where they stood smiling at me as I stood smiling back at them, and nobody said a word. I blinked first and ambled away from the table, mumbling something about signing books back by the cash register if anyone was interested. Surprisingly, I did sign around twenty copies in the next hour.

The big take-away from this experience? Plan for something - ANYTHING - to occupy the first few moments after the reading is completed. I was really wishing I knew how to juggle...