Friday, July 27, 2007

Planning an author's event

I attended an informative and entertaining workshop this week, “How to Book and Present an Author’s Program,” which was arranged by the Southern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers Association. The evening was put together by the Speakers Bureau, specifically by the talented Naomi Hirahara, who recently won an Edgar Award for her novel, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN.

There was a great panel of speakers, including:

  • Joan Hansen, who organizes fantastic literary events in Orange County

  • Noel Alumit, author of TALKING TO THE MOON and facilitator of bookevents for Skylight Books

  • Jorge Ribeiro, a Toastmaster International division governor and instructor of English at Cal State L.A. and Pasadena City College

After the panel presented tips and information about author’s programs, Patricia Smiley, who is the author of the Tucker Sinclair series (FALSE PROFITS), gave us a near-perfect demonstration of how to talk about one’s work in front of an audience. Darrell James, who won Honorable Mention in the 2006 Reader Views Literary Awards for BODY COUNT: A KILLER COLLECTION!, read from one of his works.

As someone who is about to launch a book in October, DYING TO BE THIN, I took away some valuable tips about making author’s presentations. Following are a few of them:

  • Work with your contact ahead of the event to learn about the format, seating arrangements, and other logistics.
  • Arrive early to get a sense of the venue.

  • At the beginning of your presentation, acknowledge your host (this can be a library, bookstore, or conference).

  • Personalize your presentation with anecdotes, and use humor as much as possible.
  • Avoid “Um’s.”

  • If you get nervous in front of an audience (and don’t we all!), use a lectern to keep your hands steady. If one is not available, consider investing in a portable music stand to take with you to presentations.

  • Make eye contact with your audience.

  • Come up with a “paper strategy” to avoid fumbling with notes.

And speaking of acknowledging one’s venue, many thanks to the Palms – Rancho Park Library and its gracious librarian, Maggie Johnson, for hosting us!

What about you? Do you have any special things you do to prepare for a successful author's event?


Deb Baker said...

These tips are right on the mark. I stop in early to check out the arrangement. I also like to sit, if I can, on something higher than the audience like a stool. Podiums scare me.

Kathryn Lilley said...

And I loved Joan's suggestion about the portable music stand. I think I'm going to get one, just in case!

Camille Minichino said...

I also have a small portable PA system, available at Radio Shack. It's about the size of a shoe box. I keep it in the trunk of my car (with my extra books!) just in case I'm lucky enough to get a large group. My voice is not very loud, and this helps immensely.

Joe Moore said...

One tip given to me a few years ago by a B&N community relations manager: Whether you're standing behind a podium or sitting at a table, don't take your position as the guest until the host (bookstore manager, event's coordinator, etc) introduces you. Wait off to the side or in the back until you're invited to come forward. It adds an element of importance to the event if you wait until that moment, and it helps to settle the audience down and have them focus on you all at the same time. It's a simple tip but it works. Good luck with DYING TO BE THIN. Joe

Deb Baker said...

Hey, Joe. Thanks for stopping by.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Good suggestion, Joe! I look forward to reading the Hades Project! Kathryn

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


When I worked as a motivational speaker, I often "worked the crowd" before my presentation. I'd go to each person and say, "Hi, I'm Joanna and I'm going to be talking to you today." (Never, "I'm the speaker." That's too intimidating.)

Then, whatever I learned as I chatted with them, I used from the platform. So, I'd say, "You know, Kathryn and I were talking earlier...." They loved it. After all, I cared about THEM. And it made any presentation more valuable and accepted.

Also, don't drink COLD water. It tightens your vocal chords which makes women's voices more strident.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

By the way, my book Using Stories and Humor: Grab Your Audience is all about using personal anecdotes. It's recommended by Toastmasters.


Kathryn Lilley said...

Great tips, Joanna! And I'll be sure to put away the ice water, lol!