Tips for a Successful Author Reading

On Friday, I had a great time giving a reading at Potions Lounge, a speakeasy bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans managed by Marita Crandle, owner of Boutique du Vampyre. I love reading from my work and, in recent years, I almost always sell books as a result of my readings. Unfortunately, readings are not always well attended, especially at venues such as science fiction conventions. The reason is simply that many readings don’t prove to be memorable experiences and people skip them for other events. Below I present a few tips that have worked for me when giving readings.

Don’t read from the book

This may sound counterintuitive, but allow me to explain. Often at a reading, the first thing I see someone do is pull out a copy of their novel and start reading from it. It seems like a good idea because you’re reading the words as they were published and you’re showing off your book. The problem is that font sizes and bindings often mean you have to hold the book closer to your face than ideal. It also can be surprisingly easy to lose your place, especially if you look up to make eye contact with the audience.

I took a lesson from my days in choir. I print out my reading with a nice, easy to read font on one side of the paper and put it in a notebook. It allows me to hold the book further away, making it easier to look up from time to time and make eye contact. If you want to show off your cover on what you’re reading from, you can print out a nice copy and slip it into the plastic sleeve on the front of the binder. Better yet, bring your book and prop it up on a table while you read.

Go slow

When I’m nervous, I start talking faster. When I talk faster, I stumble over my words and my words become non-distinct. My mom’s family is originally from Texas and when I catch myself doing this during a reading, I summon my inner Texan and slow down. By this, I don’t mean that I drawl my words, but I take my time with each word and make sure I see and say each one in turn. It’s actually quite hard to go too slow during a reading.

Practice beforehand

I spend months and perhaps even years with a manuscript before it’s published. Therefore I must know it inside and out. Right? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I can read it well. Again, taking a lesson from those choir days, it doesn’t matter how well you think you know a story, practicing always helps. A rehearsal session also allows you time to experiment with varying your voice for different characters. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, just work on making sure you learn to read their dialogue as naturally as possible. Some readings enforce time limits, especially if you’re reading during the same session as others. Practice helps assure that your reading will fit. Make sure you practice going slow!

Read a complete piece

I don’t necessarily mean that you should read a novel from cover to cover or even a complete chapter if your chapters are long. However, your reading should have a hook, some development, and some kind of satisfying conclusion. Let your audience feel as though they’ve had a complete storytelling experience.

Lagniappe

This is a term from Southern Louisiana and it means “a little something extra.” Always give your audience some kind of lagniappe. A baker might give you a thirteenth doughnut when you order a dozen. When I give a reading, I try to do something a little extra and fun. The photo above is from WesterCon in Phoenix where I showed a rough cut of the book trailer for The Astronomer’s Crypt during my reading. At Bubonicon, later that year, I read from my new anthology Kepler’s Cowboys and invited fellow contributor Gene Mederos to read with me. He showed off some of the artwork he’d created inspired by the stories. I’ve done Halloween readings where I give out candy. I even did a space pirate reading where we sung sea chanties. A lagniappe doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t even have to cost you anything. What it should do is let the audience know they’re special and appreciated.

Are you an author who has given readings? If you have additional tips, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Versatile Blogger Award

This week, Bell Night presented me with the Versatile Blogger Award. Bell is a writer with a passion for the strange and mysterious who writes an interesting blog containing trivia about well known and historical authors. Thanks for the nomination, Bell. For the rest of you, go check out her blog!

Versatile Blogger Button

As indicated by my link above, the Versatile Blogger Award has its own blog where you can find the rules. Of course, the goal of these awards is simply to allow us to “pay it forward” and recognize other bloggers plus provide an opportunity to answer some questions or cite some trivia about ourselves we might not cover in other blog posts.

My response to this particular nomination comes at the end of a busy week that has involved tracking asteroids, trying to set up a spectrograph for infrared observations before a blizzard came in, and weathering said blizzard at Kitt Peak National Observatory. I’ve just returned home where I plan to accept stories for coming issues of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, discuss some business with one of my publishers, and prepare for Wild Wild West Con and the Tucson Festival of Books which are both happening the weekend of March 8-10, 2013.

In the case of this award, I’m supposed to tell the person who nominated me seven things about myself. These seven things all have some relation to this past week.

  1. The first blizzard I remember happened during a family trip to Fort Tejon, in the Grapevine, north of Los Angeles.
  2. The first observatory I took data at was the Smith 24-inch telescope at Mount Laguna Observatory run by San Diego State University.
  3. I live in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  4. I also have a residence at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside of Tucson, Arizona where I work.
  5. Tales of the Talisman used to be known as Hadrosaur Tales.
  6. My first novel was The Pirates of Sufiro and it was originally released on audio cassette in 1994.
  7. The first convention I attended as a dealer, as a panelist, and as a guest was CopperCon, all in different years.

In the spirit of paying it forward, I’ll recommend some blogs I like to visit. Now, a lot of these folks are busy and I don’t expect most of them to respond to this award meme, but I’d nevertheless be delighted to see their answers if they choose to. Either way, you should go check out what these folks are up to!

  1. Joy’s Live Journal
  2. Author Ryan Schneider
  3. Dark Cargo
  4. Dab of Darkness
  5. Robert E. Vardeman
  6. Stephen D. Sullivan
  7. Ernest Hogan
  8. Emily Devenport