Having recently held an author talk I thought I’d write a little about my experience while it’s still fresh in my mind.
When the call came I was delighted. Afterall I’d been stuck in the house with a new book that I’d not been able to physically get out and market. But doing an actual live event and saying you’ll do one are two entirely different things. One of the downsides of being locked in and not socialising is that you feel out of step, a bit of that confidence you had has been chipped away. And while you’re busy trying to retrieve it other not so helpful thoughts pop up. Do I speak with my mask on, will the audience be able to hear me? Will anyone turn up? What if I the pandemic is still raging?
The talk was booked months in advance. I’d marked it in my diary and promptly forgot about it until two days before the event. It was a case of coming across a scribble and having a vague recollection of … now what was it again?
Normally I would have had this covered well in advance, but life being its old complicated self had thrown a couple of curve balls; a family bereavement, Covid in the household. It’s okay, I told myself, you’ve got this!
On the appointed day I was up early. My three and a half hour journey there planned with military precision, okay Girl Guide precision then. I’d packed sarnies, downloaded tickets on various apps, thrown in a phone charger because my battery doesn’t seem to last long, notepad, pen, post it notes and book for the talk. Tick. I decided I would write the talk on the way ‘to keep things fresh.’
Things went well from bus to train station. I was feeling quite grand sitting on the top deck telling myself ‘Im going to do an author talk’ and feeling quite regal. At the train station I found my platform and had a wee frisson of panic when I couldn’t retrieve my ticket; I stood before the platform gate with mask and misted glasses looking suitably harrassed. A guard came to my rescue and kindly took charge of my mobile. ‘Thanks,’ I said, blaming the glasses and walked off pink faced wondering how many other middle-aged-biddies he would have to do that for in the day.
I spent the journey writing the talk, had a whole table to myself and watched as we sped by the various stations. The talk was peppered with points of interest, a couple of jokes, three readings, a thank you and time for a Q & A at the end. I felt quite pleased with myself and went off to answer a call of nature.
Trains and loos are tricky beasts to tame. Press the button and the revolvng door magically reveals the facilities, made glorious with bright lights. I entered, closed the door and assumed the position and … the door slowly began to open. I am in mid flow, knickers past my knees, still wearing my mask. But, dear reader, as you well know, breathing quickly steams up the glasses. At least I didn’t get to see the onlooker’s expression. For a moment my brain short circuited leaving me sitting there waving majestically until the door rolled slowly back to close. Note to self, next time make sure you lock the door!
At Glasgow Central I managed to negotiate the phone app, yay, passing through the snap-open turnstile and marching purposefully to the subway. Initially I was headed in the wrong direction but a few smiles and enquiries put me right. Tickets and turnstiles later I’m on the platform taking the tube to my destination. I’m ten minutes away with potentially another ten minutes to spare. All the focus on getting there had provided a great distraction from worrying about the talk.
My arrival entailed introductions with the organisers, a glass of water, getting my table set up then lights, camera, action …
What tips would I suggest when your time comes to do an author talk? Always bear in mind, the talks provide an opportunity to connect with your audience allow them to know something about you, how you write, why you write. They are also an excellent way of selling yourself and your book.
So let’s imagine you’ve written a book, got it published and feeling fair chuffed with yourself. This is just the start of your foray into the writing world. What to do next? Well let’s have a look at how things usually stand. Generally, your publisher will expect you to do the lions-share of the marketing. Usually they will support you through the launch, follow through with some light social media marketing for a while and then you are on your own.
This is where you have to step up, be bold and seize every opportunity you can to shout about your book. But where to start? Firstly, consider what genre your book falls into. Is there anything that makes it stand out? What are its moot points or aspects that make for lively discussion? All of this helps you to plan an exciting and memorable author talk, afterall you want your audience to leave with a good feeling about you and your book.
Where to get the gigs? You might want to consider approaching your local library as a starting point or even an independent book shop. Try you local newspaper or radio station and certainly look into local book clubs.
So, let’s say an author talk has been agreed, a date and time set and publicity campaign agreed. Now for planning the talk. My advice - think of it as if you are telling your best friends about your book - its always better to come across relaxed, this allows your audience to relax, safe in the knowledge that the author knows what s/he’s doing and is going to take them on an interesting journey.
Before you start. Ensure you have copies of your book to sell and a pen for signing. Its also helpful to ensure that you have some change and notes on hand too. It’s easier to have the books set up at a table beforehand. Another point worth noting is using post-it-notes to mark the pages of the book you will be reading from. Audience members may sit politely while you try to find the page and point of reference but it just doesn’t look good and certainly isn’t endearing.
At the start make sure you thank everyone for coming together and don’t forget to include the organisers too. To get into the start of your talk you might want to give a brief overview of what the book is about. The blurb is often useful here.
Ensure that you have a couple of readings already selected. Use these to highlight points you may want to make and please, whatever you do, keep your readings to a maximum of four minutes. Anything more and you might loose the attention of your audience - you need just enough to whet their appetite and showcase your writing. Leave space in between each of the readings for questions and if no questions come move on to the next reading.
I generally like to leave space for a question and answer session at the end. You might want to plant a couple of people in the audience with questions just to get things going. A good one is ‘what prompted you to write this book or where did you get your ideas from?’
All in all aim for the session to last approximately half to three quarters of an hour. And do ensure to tell people where they can buy the book and where potential fans can find you. Good luck and most importantly, enjoy.
Books: The House Beside the Cherry Tree
Animals Beasties and Monsters of Scotland
Your experience on this site will be improved by allowing cookies.