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Author Book Readings Do's and Don'ts

Updated: Dec 7, 2019

That picture above is of yours truly, Joylynn M. Ross, president and CEO of Path To Publishing, at Grouchy John's Coffee Company on West Charleston Blvd. in Las Vegas, Nevada. It's where Henderson Writers Group gathers the first Sunday of every month to host three authors for book readings and signings. The event is known here in Las Vegas as "Dime Grinds," where we enjoy 10 cent cups of coffee and priceless literary entertainment. I'd attended several Dime Grinds events as an audience member, and was simply delighted to be invited for a turn behind the mic.

In my over 22 years in the literary industry, I've attended more author readings and book signings than I can count, but I learned the most do's and don'ts for these type of events mainly as a spectator in the audience. I won't list every do and don't I've learned over the years, but below is a list of several that some authors tend to overlook, but can help maximize the experience for both the author and their audience.

DO stand up while reading (Even if you can't stand for the full duration of the reading, at least start off standing, giving the audience a better chance of having a full visual of you and your book. Allow your readers to look up to you . . . literally!)

DO announce to the audience that it's okay to take pics and record you (Give them a special hashtag to use when posting pics and recordings on social media. You can even make it a contest; the person with the most/best posts wins a . . .)

DO ask the audience to tag you on social media posts (Even request they share their pics and recordings with you right from their phone. This makes for great footage to use as promo content, and to post on your website and YouTube channel.)

DO have someone introduce you (Let the emcee or your assistant share the bragging portion of your bio; awards and accomplishments. Then once you take the mic, share the core of what you do, why you do what you do, and how you and your book helps people.)

DO sell your books to those interested in purchasing before your reading (Some people are on a tight schedule--or just happened upon the reading--and if your signing runs over, they may have to leave, especially if you're sharing the stage with other authors and you're last on the list.)

DO use a microphone stand (Trying to hold the mic and book is a juggling act that can become a distraction to the audience, not to mention you risk dropping the mic and/or your book. You'll be scurrying to get the mic back in order and/or to find the page you left off on in the book. It totally breaks up the flow and mood of the read).

DO project your voice if there is no microphone or microphone stand (If there is a mic but no stand and the space is small enough, opt to not use the mic at all versus risk the juggling act. Sorry all you timid, shy, introverts. Reading Day is when you just might have to use your outside voice. Come on, you can do it!)

DO get into character (When reading fiction, talk, walk, and make the facial expressions and gestures your characters would make, or that you're saying they are making. If reading non-fiction, read with enthusiasm, interest, and a leveled tone, depending on the subject matter, of course. After all, you wouldn't read with enthusiasm if your subject is about dealing with grief).

DO alter the text that's in your book during your reading. (There is no rule that says you can't ad lib, remove words, etc., during your read, especially if you're reading from an older title. Perhaps you've grown as an author, and just wouldn't have written the story the same way now that you did then. Read it the way you would have or wish you would have written it.)

DO record both the reading portion and the signing portion of your event (Bring an assistant or friend along. Or purchase a little brochure holder, stick your phone inside of it, then press record. Again, this is great content to have on hand.)

DON'T sit (move around while you're reading, engage and make eye contact with as many audience members as possible. Go as far as tapping someone on the shoulder, making a connection . . . literally. 

DON'T stand when signing books (Now is the time for you to look up to your readers. Besides, even if you sell out of books, it won't cover the cost of a chiropractor.)

DON'T read the same excerpt at every reading (Different people are recording you and going live. Your super fans show up at almost all your readings, so offer them something fresh each time. You are recording yourself and you don't want the same teaser being recorded and shared over and over. Mix things up a little bit.)

DON'T read from printed out sheets of paper or a cell phone (Do you know how many opportunities to promote that amazing book cover you'll miss? The audience is snapping pics and sharing away. All folks will see is 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper or you on your cell phone at your own book reading! That's a missed opportunity to have your book plastered all over social media!)

DON'T call it an "Author Reading" or "Book Signing" when inviting folks to come out and attend (Snoozer! Come up with a catchy name or even a theme. Make it come across as an experience, not just another "author reading" or "book signing".)

And as a bonus, I want to share with you an excerpt from my book, Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success, which includes images of  just a couple ways you can hold your book as not to block your author name or book title, which can ultimately block your opportunity to make a sale.

“Don’t Block Your Blessings (or Your Book Sales)”

Are you blocking yourself from making money with your book?

Remember that picture of you holding your book that you plastered all over social media? Do you know how many people may have taken an interest in your book title or even your amazing cover when they saw that pic . . . if they would have been able to see the actual book cover???

You see, the thing is, nobody could read the full title or see the amazing cover because you were covering it up with your hands. You were even covering up your author name.

It’s easy to get excited and caught up during photo ops and not pay attention to the way you are holding your book. But blocking the book title, author name, and design could block you from making a could-be sell.

Sure, it’s sort of rude and may come across as bossy (or even egotistical) to ask a reader who is excited about taking a picture with their favorite author to hold the book a certain way. So, always have an extra copy of your book handy so that you can hold it, too.

See the two examples above of ways you can hold your book during photo ops so that you don’t block the book title, author name, design, or an opportunity to make a sale.

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