Saturday 9 April 2016

5 More Top Tips on Book Talks

My last post looked at book talks in general and some ideas on pre-publicity. Now I'm going to turn my attention to preparing the actual talk and how to set the scene for maximum audience impact.

1. Your session should contain 3 elements

*You and your books - how you write, why you write, what you write. With readings from your books.
*Audience questions.
*Informal book signing and chat.

I suggest for an hour's session the ratio should split into: 25 mins talk, 15 mins questions, 20 mins chat and signings. Obviously the last two can overlap.

2. Set the Scene - including yourself

There is nothing more boring than a pile of books on a bare table. Or a bare table. People like to look at interesting stuff while you are speaking. THINK about your genre. I bring a Victorian top hat and hat box, part of a Victorian tea set, I lay the table with a lace tablecloth, I also have opera gloves, a seed pearl bag and some of my original Victorian books, which I stand up so people can see the covers. I wear a steampunk outfit. I put my books to sell on a separate table away from the talk area.
Start collecting interesting stuff for a table display.

3. Practice makes perfect

If you have never spoken in public before, or feel nervous, WRITE your talk out in full first. Then SAY it - speak more slowly than normal and time yourself. Keep practicing - how do you think actors learn their lines? Some people perform in front of a mirror, or film themselves so they can eliminate any unnecessary gestures. Once you know your talk pretty well, reduce it to one sheet of paper with key words.

Edinburgh Intl. Book Festival 2007
4. Sit or stand?

Stand. Always. You command the room, and can check the back row hasn't dozed off. Also you can walk about and pick up some of the interesting objects as you talk about your books.

5. Q & A

Have some pre-prepared questions to stimulate a debate, in case nobody asks anything. Things like: what do they think about self-publishing - is it just an excuse for poor writing? Do they prefer ebooks to print and why? What was the last book they read that they really enjoyed? Do they think some writers get over-hyped?

Be prepared to divulge all sorts of stuff. Some audiences will ask how much you earn, have you ever got a bad review, etc etc. Laugh it up and don't get insulted. I frequently bring some rejection letters along and read them out to much merriment.

Next week, in the final blog, we'll finesse your technique, look at a few more tips and
 pick up on any comments left by you that need attention


  1. I agree with all this - if I'm given the option, I'll go for an interview rather than giving a talk. I find it easier to respond to someone else than to stand up and just talk about the books etc. (And this is the opposite of when I spoke professionally - I spoke from notes, and not a fully prepared speech, as I prefer the informality, but there was stuff I really wanted people to hear and could repeat if necessary in a lecture.)

  2. Fabulous post, Carol. I'm going to save them all so I can refer back as and when I need them - you're like my very own Yoda! x

  3. Excellent, CarolStar! Really useful stuff! I wonder what I could take with me...a lifebelt? an anchor? A bilge pump :)

  4. Very nice, thank you Ma'am

  5. Great - thanks for this - Im about to start writing a speech in readiness. - I've already written down Why I write -

    so might just ask them to read that before they come, to cut my speech down.

  6. Great tips, Carol, especially the one about having a display of objects and books that inspire you! I wish I had thought of that last year when I gave my first, and last, library talk. As for dressing up in steam punk, or outfit related to your writing, that is a really good idea. I was dressed in navy blue, red and white - French colours, of course, but it was purely by chance! It was a very stressful experience, and there were only four people in attendance - including one man who said he had only come for the chocolate biscuits!


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