Steve Liskow  

On Readings: Live and In Concert

Appearing at an author's event is a lot like teaching high school, which trains you to take any crisis in stride. Sometimes, the DVD player dies five minutes into your movie. Other days, the fire drill interrupts your test. If you want to survive in the classroom, you learn to roll with it.

It's the same with author events. Sinclair Lewis once said that when people show up to see an author, it's because they hope he'll be funnier to look at than he is to read. Maybe he was right. I've only done three so far, but my limited experience already tells me that the people probably want to buy your book. They're more likely to do that if they LIKE YOU.

How do you make them like you? Well, for one thing, don't hog the show. They want to participate with you, so give them a turn. I like to explain my background in no more than five minutes, give a fifty-word synopsis of the book, then read for no more than another five or six minutes. After that, it's the audience's turn. Let them ask questions, make suggestions, or comment on what you've just read. During this part, I like to get out from behind the lectern and walk among them. Get rid of the barriers.

You're going to get a few weird questions that you've never thought of before. Think about them now and answer them as well as you can. If someone compares you to a writer you hate, thank him or her and move on. So far, my audience has been about 90 % female and substantially older than sixty. If you write mysteries, that's your demographic, so be ready for it. What shocked me the first time was how many of them really WANT you to read the sex scenes. Mine are fairly graphic and I managed to avoid the issue by taking other questions.

I like to have three scenes ready, or maybe scenes from two different stories, but I don't offer to read the last one. If nobody asks for it, I don't force it.

Bring a good roller ball or felt tip to sign books with. Ball point pens leave a groove on the next pages, and the roller ball writes more smoothly anyway. Prepare a brief generic message to include with your signature so you don't have to be creative every single time someone asks you to sign. So far, I've signed every book I've sold, and it was a lot easier to have "Thank you for your support" at the ready.

Especially since it's true.


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