How to prepare for a successful reading
Once your book is published, expect to schedule events where you read an excerpt of your work out loud to an audience. Reader engagement sells books and one of the tried and true methods for authors are public readings. How can you best prepare for a successful reading?
If you have been to enough author readings you know what doesn’t work.
- The author who does not make any eye contact with the audience but puts their reading glasses on and focuses on the paper in front of his face.
- The author who adopts the sing-songy voice of a liturgical reader.
- The author who doesn’t know when to stop and puts the entire audience to sleep.
If an audience turns out to hear you, don’t disappoint. Here is a list of 10 steps you can take to best prepare for your reading.
- Remember it’s an oral performance. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
- Time the reading so you know how long it is. Longer than 10 minutes and you begin to lose your audience.
- Slow down your reading. Be kind to your listeners. Enunciate.
- Make the right selection for a public reading. Some passages simply aren’t appropriate. Dialogue doesn’t work well if there is nothing more than ping-ponging of he said/she said. Reading the end of the book might be a spoiler. The selection shouldn’t raise questions in the mind of the audience you don’t answer. Find an excerpt that stands alone.
- Edit the excerpt to make it a reading draft. Pronouns without clear referents, references to events earlier in the narrative, and terms or conditions set forth prior to the excerpt deserve revision for your listening audience. In other words, write an adaptation for reading aloud.
- Involve your audience somehow. Get them to participate. Make it a rewarding event.
- Make sure your book is in stock and there is plenty of inventory to sell and for you to sign.
- Publicize the event.
- Begin with a direct conversation with your audience before you introduce the piece you are reading. Show up and be present for those who come to see and hear you.
- Keep it short and invite the audience to ask questions or converse with you and each other about the reading.
You don’t have to wait for your book to be published to do a reading of your work-in-progress. Writing groups, art colonies, independent bookstores, literary organizations, and public libraries sponsor these popular public events. Take the opportunity to give a reading if you can. It is a great way to beta-test your work with an audience who provides immediate visceral feedback.
Reading aloud is also a great way to edit your own copy.