How to do a Book Talk an Author's Guide

Being asked to do a book talk can be a terrifying prospect if not used to speaking in public. How does the author prepare for a book talk? Here is an overview on preparing for public speaking on your book for beginners.

Guide to Preparing a Book Tour

Conducting a first book talk may beg the question, where to begin? Well, there is good news, once you have prepared one talk, the next talk will require less preparation, as the listeners are likely to be different for each talk. No one is going to notice you have repeated portions of your talk. But there are a few things to bear in mind.

Prepare more material than you think you will need. It is better to have too much than to have to pad out thin material towards the end, or worse, run out of things to say. The awaited words from the organiser, ‘sorry to disturb you but time has run out,’ will come quickly and leave the impression you had too much to offer to fit into a paltry few hours!

Prepare answers for the questions most likely to be asked by the audience, which might be:

What are your book influences?
What started you writing?
What are your books about?
And answers to questions likely not anticipated.

Let’s start with the obvious

Tips for Book Talks

You can prepare what you like for the book talk, but when it comes to the question and answer session, you will be geared by the questions asked by the audience. Prepare for the obvious. The last thing you need is to flounder over an answer that should come easily.

If someone asks which authors influenced you, be honest. Don’t pretend you have read the entire works of Dickens, Shakespeare or Homer. If you have not, say so. Personally, my favoured reads are wide and varied, some of which are not considered high literature. Some are easy reads. Having said this, have a list of authors prepared to inform the audience. Reflect upon your own ‘reader profile.’

Guide to Creating a Writer’s Book Talk

And on that matter, what did start you writing? The urge to write often comes from the smallest incident, or might have always been there. Perhaps it began with a childhood hobby or a love of entertaining siblings. Perhaps it began with keeping a diary or completing an interesting school project. Some writers begin writing in midlife or during adolescence. The urge to write might have begun after a life changing event, such as an empty nest or a retirement or simply an impromptu decision made one ordinary day. Again, be honest.


How to do a Book Reading

It is a good idea to include a reading session of your book. Readers love to hear an author reading from his/her own work. Decide upon the excerpt prior to the book talk. Include a section of your book that has an interesting, funny or tense scene, but don’t give away the denouement. Explain the situation before reading it, so that listeners can place themselves into the story. Don’t make the reading too long – 2 or 3 pages will suffice. Practice reading this excerpt before the book talk, to get a feel for when to take a breath or inject expression. Reading to yourself is not the same as reading aloud.

Body Language in Public Speaking

Some tips here some might find obvious, but I have witnessed some off-putting body language by public speakers. These might include the following:

Crossed arms during the entire talk.
Always giving eye contact to the same person or area of the room.
Not giving any eye contact at all.
Not speaking clearly enough to be heard, or mumbling at the end of sentences.
Verbal disposition without room for the audience to chip in.

How to Interest Listeners during a Talk

Body language has equal importance to the words spoken. Try to have an open gesture. Resist adopting a stiff posture with crossed arms during the entire talk; it almost speaks of a defence pose against the audience. Sit relaxed if you can. Uncross the arms and let them relax on your lap. Give eye contact to the audience and speak sufficiently clearly so that everyone can hear. This might be difficult if feeling nervous (covered in another article) but you do not want your body language giving unwanted signals to the audience.

Preparing for a Book Talk

Practice your talk in front of trusted friends or family first. Film yourself. How you appear is seldom the same as how you think you appear to others. If you are unaware of a nervous tic, best get it noticed before the talk rather than carrying on unaware of such physical betrayals. Again you might find a regional accent or vocal cadence interfere with communicating with your audience.

Author Guide to Preparing for a Talk

Being asked to do a book talk can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? Having been asked to do book talks myself, I have learned invaluable tips on how to prepare for an author talk. Try to look relaxed and confident to the audience even if you are not feeling that way. The listeners do not want to see a nervous author – in fact, they want you to succeed. Prepare answers to likely questions asked and try to be honest. Practice reading your excerpt to your book before the occasion. This will help prepare for any issues regarding your accent or when to pause. There is much more to public speaking than this article can offer; keeping checking here as more articles on this subject are added.
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