|Still practicing what to do with my hands during photos.|
Over the last six years, I've spoken to 60+ book clubs and given dozens of library talks and readings, and each semester I speak to a captive audience of eighteen and nineteen-year-old freshmen enrolled in my father's English Composition class at UW-Oshkosh. Regardless of audience, I'm always a little nervous before I walk in the room. It used to be worse, but practice and time have wore down the sweaty palms and racing heartbeat.
|I always reserve a front-row seat for my invisible friend Becky.|
Library groups can be hit or miss; if you're not a marquee author, you never know if two or sixty people will show up. Half of them will be aspiring authors wanting to know how you broke in, and half will be there because they got lost on their way to the blood drive. I'm totally joking, of course. (My last library talk was awesome, and I was so grateful to all the folks who braved the cold to come see me.)
Anyway, and here are some tips I've found most helpful:
|Scarves! Glorious winter scarves. And a cat.|
2) Pre-questions: If you're meeting with a book club, send them a question guide before you get together. If your publisher has a list of questions, great! If not, make your own. For ideas, check out a few sample reading guides / "Questions for Book Clubs" from other books like yours.
If you're meeting with a group of students, ask their teacher/professor to solicit questions from the students in advance, to be passed on to you before your appearance. I've learned from experience that most college freshmen,* for example, WILL NOT be brave enough to ask you anything when you pause for Q & A. But having them submit questions in advance has led to some very thoughtful, entertaining discussions.
I'm lucky enough that I also get to read the response papers students in my dad's class write after my visit. This has also helped me become a better guest speaker.
(*Second graders, however, will ask you a question every twenty seconds, so they're good to go.)
3) Give away a book or bag-o-swag. This is another fun way to engage your audience.
4) Choose your reading material wisely: If you're doing a reading, keep it brief and entertaining. Hook the crowd and convince them they need to buy your book to hear the whole thing. Also (most importantly), consider your audience when selecting reading material. This has been something of a stumbling point for me in the past.
What did I miss? Check out this fantastic recent Writer Unboxed post for more tips, and please comment here with some of your own!
Driving Sideways, All the Lonely People, and Mandatory Release. Check her out on Facebook, Twitter, or her badly-neglected blog.