Monday, August 3, 2015

Public Reading and the Voice of the Author Bookstore Speaker

For some writers, the voice of a story ends when it is placed on the page.

"There, I've done it. I've crafted the perfect sentence... Now, onto fame, a new contract, and the Pulitzer Prize!"

However, for the author who wishes to engage their readers on a more personal level and, well, engage with this little thing called sales, it's only the beginning. The written sentence must now evolve into a spoken line via a road trip through every bookstore and venue possible. Hence, the public speaking engagement.

Along the way, the sentence will mature as an audible element of your story - filled with inflection and nuanced glimmers that are craftily designed to speak to each member in the bookstore audience before the signings and sales commence. Each utterance will be crafted to be received on a personal level, for your listener's connection as well as your own.

"She wrote that chapter just for me! I just know it! sqweeeeeeee!"

That's how to sell a book. That, and a promise after the public reading to validate said fan-boy's obsession in order to prompt him to tell everyone he knows to buy your novel by signing the inside cover with the most meaningful, personalized, intimate tidbit of an autograph known to mankind.

Make it a run-on sentence.

Fan-boys like run-on sentences.

"So glad you liked it, [INSERT NAME], be sure to buy the bookmark and prequel and the t-shirt and the audiobook on your way out, great to meet you!"

Well, maybe not every public reading goes that way, but as an author of a marketable novel the bookstore appearance is a right of passage. And it all comes down to eye contact, inflection, voice, volume, and speed.

The elements of an introvert's nightmare.

To prepare for a public reading, even as a seasoned professional, the key is to use the tools at your disposal to practice well before the event.

It's how to get to Carnegie Hall, after all.

Begin by matching your reading selection with your audience- how familiar will they be with your subject? Would they perhaps enjoy a more exciting passage, or one with serious philosophical insights? Only you and your marketing agent can make these types of decisions...

Next, read your selection several times out loud while actively listening. How do your words come across? Look for flat sounds that could put a caffeine bean to sleep and focus on finding your strengths. Vary your speaking voice in volume, inflection, and stress... rise with the action, and fall with the, well, falling action.

Do it again, only this time with someone else to listen and provide feedback.

Then, before the public reading, do it again.

And, surprise, surprise... do it again. your material inside and out, without relying on the fact that you wrote it in the first place. At the bookstore, speak slowly, but firmly, with enough volume to reach the back, but not so much as to grab the attention of the barista at the coffee shop across the street. A good public speaker realizes that the voices in their head may sound amazing when kept inside, but when the words translate into a spoken tongue, they can become confusing, slurred, and muddled without practice.

Once you have your selection down pat, and after practicing it one more time, think of how your presence can influence sales.

As a public speaker, dress appropriately - if you write of Victorian nights and Chaucer-filled days, tweed with leather patches on your sleeves is a proven way to go.

If you write of romance on the high seas... how about wearing a pirate shirt to the bookstore?

Make eye contact with your audience- it calms them, and lets you telepathically suggest they buy four copies of your book. The hardcover one, not the paperback.

Eye contact does in fact draw in your audience, helping them to share your emotions and feelings found within the book. And once they've picked up on this, they won't want to put it down.

Never let them put it down.