Cherise Castle-Blugh has some tips for authors facing the fears of reading at book fairs.
7 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR READINGS
Here in the Caribbean, in the isle of Trinidad and Tobago, the country hosted the Caribbean Festival of Arts, (CARIFESTA)XIV, a 10 day multidisciplinary festival that brought together the cultural expressions of countries of the region. Apart from a wide range of smaller festivities, this large festival allowed writers from all over the Caribbean region to bring to the stage of BOCUS Lit Fest, a short excerpt from their books and/or other publications. Writers were invited every day to deliver their readings on the big stage of BOCUS, in front of a Caribbean crowd in an attempt to generate greater value and appreciation of the Arts.
Now if you're a writer like I am - I write because I don't like to talk much - then you'd agree with me that reading to an audience can be quite intimidating. But don't worry, it is something you’ll learn how to do well over time, with practice, experience and a few mistakes.
The following are some key takeaways I gathered after my first public reading at CARIFESTA, based on observations and mistakes by myself and other authors:-
Know Your Audience:- This comes with a bit of research. Ask questions. I’m a business writer and so I was worried about what the crowd was like. If the crowd composed mainly of children, that wouldn’t have been an ideal audience. I requested to the relevant officials that they needed to advertise the genre so as to pull the related target audience for my books. It worked! They advertised the schedule of different genres for each day so that people who were in the audience was the target for the genre of the day.
Practice Reading:- As the writer of the book, we may think we know our work like the back of our palms, but we must still practice for a live reading. We’ll find ourselves either adding or eliminating words as we read aloud, because at that moment, it sounds so much better in our heads that we say it out loud even though it's not there. You can practice reading out loud in front of close friends and family and ask them to critique your reading honestly, or you can do like I do, and record yourself and playback. Listen out for any skips, mispronunciations and poorly enunciated words, sentences or expressions. Keep practicing!
Practice Time Management:- At BOCUS Lit Fest, writers were given a time slot of 10 minutes. For someone reading for the first time, 10 minutes might seem like a long while to be standing there just reading, but it really isn’t. Take your time, pace your speech, and read. Pause where you should, and make sure your audience can hear you well. You will need a few seconds from that 10 minutes to give a small introduction about your story or piece. (If it is not done by the announcer). You can choose to do this either before or after the reading - whichever you are comfortable with. Do try not to go over the 10 minute span. I actually saw people in the crowd and the organizers of BOCUS look at their watch as some authors went over.
Choosing What to Read:- Choose a piece that is easy to read, easy to absorb by your audience and won’t exhaust you or your audience. A key point to consider always, is that your audience is there not just to get a taste of the book, but they’re also there to get a glimpse of who you are as a writer. Display confidence and proudness of your work, but be humble, so that it is evident in your presentation.
Be Authentic but Professional:- Be your real self, but maintain professionalism. There are people out here who don’t see writing as a real job. They think we just dabble mere thoughts on paper and that’s that. You are a professional writer/author and no matter the size of your audience, be it one person or one hundred persons, your reading presentation must reflect that professionalism.
Make Eye Contact With Your Audience:- You can have someone in the crowd be your safe person so that when you glimpse at them, you get a feeling of ease. I usually use my son or my husband for that grounding support.
Walk With Books And Be Prepared To Sign Them:- Most book readings encourage authors to walk with books to sell. It’s actually expected. You may just spark some attention from your audience and you’d need to sell at that moment. As a business-oriented person, I’d say to you, “Don’t leave money on the table.” 'After-reading sales' are guaranteed if you deliver a great reading. Personalize your signing after a book talk. Your new fans will appreciate it. Your audience will line up to get your book, share a conversation, and take a great picture with you. You can even get a shot of them holding your book. That's awesome for marketing! A lot of people think it’s a privilege to know the author. Show your gratitude for their support. Don't forget a nice pen!
No matter how daunting standing in front of an audience may be, especially for a new writer in the industry, writers should seek out opportunities to talk about their books and participate in readings. If you want to be a well known and successful author, you need to prepare for these events and make sure you deliver effectively to the audience. Oh and don't forget, make friends with other authors!
Photo: (Reading at BOCUS Lit Fest, CARIFESTA XIV, Trinidad and Tobago
Cherise Castle-Blugh is the Author of THE TIMELY ENTREPRENEUR & Best Selling Author of the book "Startup Legalities" - Book 3 in The Timely Entrepreneur's Grow Your Business In A Snap!Series. She is a key Educator in the field of Business and Entrepreneurship.
Cherise has dedicated 25+ years to helping businesses achieve and protect their success, specializing in leading new businesses in transition or startup phases and helping them create sustainable, functional, operational, and financial growth.