The day has finally arrived: Your first book reading and signing! No doubt your stomach is aflutter, not just with excitement but with a little apprehension. What if you mess up in the reading? What if you can’t think of what to say when someone answers a question? What if the crowd finds you boring and starts to leave?
Don’t worry. None of that is likely to happen at all. And with a little preparation, you can take the edge off these fears while decreasing the chances of something going wrong.
• Know what you’ll read – If doing a book reading, select in advance which passage you want to read. Practice reading it out loud a couple of times. You don’t have to memorize the text, just refamiliarize yourself with it. Make sure it doesn’t go any longer than 10-15 minutes (If reading a short story from an anthology, just go with a single story.).
• Think about questions in advance – Attend a few book readings by other authors and get a feel for what kind of questions your audience might ask. Then think of some answers to them. After you’ve done a few book readings, you’ll discover that the same questions keep getting asked.
• Dress appropriately – You don’t have to be dressed to the nines but look professional or at least match the part. For example, if you’ve written a nature book, show up in a nice pair of jeans and a button-down shirt; an outdoorsman don’t wear a suit and tie when on the lake, after all.
• Stroll around until you feel at home – Get to the location where you’ll be reading and signing books a bit early. Walk around to get a feel for what the place is like. Familiarity breeds comfort.
• Win over the crowd – When answering questions, get involved in a conversation with the audience. They’ll sense that you care about them and will be more interested in you (and your book!).
• Bring books and pens – Take with you more books than you expect you’ll need (you don’t want to leave any fans disappointed). Sign a few copies in advance. Carry a couple of additional pens in case the ink runs out.
• Remain good humored – If you do misread a passage or use the wrong name, be self-deprecating and good-natured about. It was an honest mistake, and so long as you don’t get defensive, your audience and host will overlook it and maybe share a laugh with you…and the latter is a good thing, by the way (But don’t deliberately make a mistake to get a laugh – it will appear inauthentic.).
Usually the book reading follows a simple format: Introductions by a host, a few introductory words by you, you reading your book aloud, an audience Q&A with you, and then the book signing. When done with the Q&A (because people will begin to leave after that), be sure to thank the audience for coming and the host for having you. When you get home, send the host a thank you letter. Your graciousness will be remembered the next time you have a book to promote.
Finally, don’t forget publicity before and after the event. Plug your book reading/signing with press releases sent to local media and posted on your website/blog/social media pages. Make sure the location hosting your book reading/signing has a placard or bulletin board plugging the event; if you have to create one for them, do so. After the event, send pictures of the reading/signing to local media and post them on your website/blog/social media pages.