Many writers scoff at the thought of public readings. We’ve had clients ring who want to publish a book, and then do nothing whatsoever to promote that book after its publication. Well, here’s the truth: the book isn’t going to promote itself. It’s not going to perform interviews. It’s not going to do the talk circuit. It’s not going to read itself publicly. And if these things aren’t happening, it’s unlikely the book will ever be discovered. Why whould it? Who’s going to know it’s out there?
As far as readings go, the reason they work as both a form of brand-building and book promotion is because it introduces the writer and their writing to the greater public. Readings also engender interest in the writing itself. I’ve often seen people in an audience be so captivated by a reading, they enquire about the book the excerpt’s come from.
Of course, reading in public can be daunting. People imagine worst-case scenarios – from embarrassing themselves to failing to having a panic attack and running off stage.
But reading doesn’t have to be that intimidating. In fact, it’s a simple art as long as you keep it in context.
Here’s some tips to consider:
- Reading in public is no different to reading to yourself. It really isn’t. Think about it – what’s different? You’re reading aloud, whether it’s to yourself or to a group of people. The practice is the same. It’s the environment that’s changed, and because that’s the case, you put pressure on yourself. Just remind yourself: it’s still the same practice. When you recognise the context, it helps you relax.
- Rehearse aloud. Common sense – right? Read aloud. Look for places you might stumble, or for words where you might trip – stuff you can read fluently inside your head can become an issue aloud. Iron out these kinks before they become issues.
- Pick something that’s self-contained, and would stand alone Don’t pick an excerpt that contains references to lots of characters who and/or events that are foreign to the listeners. They’re just going to scratch their heads, wondering who these people are and what’s happening. While they’re doing this, they’re not going to connect with what you’re reading. If you have to stop and explain material, you’re going to break the flow of your reading.
- If possible, find something with a bit of a hook at the end, so it entices the audience to get the book. You want people to be thinking, I wonder what happens next. That curiosity could encourage them to go out and buy your book.
- Don’t read spoilers. Why bother picking up a story if you’re giving away vital plot elements? What allure will the rest of the story hold?
- One hundred words will generally equal one minute – don’t read more than ten minutes. Reading a book yourself and having it read aloud to you – especially in a public environment – are two different practices. You’d be happy to spend hours reading a book on the comfort of your couch. You get restless listening to somebody read, no matter how brilliant.
- Print out the section you want to read in a BIGGER font. This makes it easier to read. Books can (comparably) have a smaller font, and short of splitting the spine books can be hard to keep open.
- If you get nervous, hold something heavy (like a clipboard) behind the printout. This will weigh down your hands from shaking.
Just remember, you don’t walk into the situation and inherit pressure. You put that on yourself. But what’s the worst that can happen? If you mess up, you’re likelier to find the audience sympathetic. Nobody is going to record this for posterity. It’s not going to go on your permanent record. Anybody who is mocking or derisive is a moron, and not worth worrying about anyway. Reading can be – and really should be – an enjoyable experience.