Book Talks

Are you a new author who has just been asked to do a book talk?

Speaking about your own book is a lot of fun. Relax and enjoy it.

A talk is a conversation with individuals who just happen to be sitting all together. Make eye contact. Read their expressions. Modify your talk depending on those expressions.

If it’s a big group, be sure to use the microphone. Make eye contact with someone in the back row and ask if they can hear you.

The ideal set up is to have either a wireless microphone that’s pinned on, or a handheld. If it’s not wireless, hopefully you’re on a long leash. When at all possible, I like to walk amongst the audience so that the people in the back and on the edges don’t feel left out.

Because you are having a conversation with your audience, do ask them questions. When I give a talk, I like to ask a few questions right at the get-go so I can tailor my talk to the particular crowd at hand. No two audiences are ever the same. One thing I like to find out is if there are aspiring writers in the room, or students, or librarians etc. If there are writers, be sure to give some writing tips at some point during your talk.

You can also ask them why they came. You may be surprised at the reasons. The answers can break the ice. Also, you’ll find out what they want to know from you by how they respond to this.

Ask how many have read your book. Sometimes everyone has. Other times a few or none have. If everyone’s read the book, you’d talk about the story behind the story — the research, problems, anecdotes, stuff that went wrong. If few have read the book, be sure not to give away the ending.

As to an actual reading. Be brief.  I tend never to read more than three paragraphs, or about 2/3 of a book page. You want to paint an intriguing picture, and then you want to stop. It’s better to leave them wanting more than to put them to sleep.

The key thing people want to know in a book talk is why you were compelled to write it and how you went about doing it/researching it.

A couple other do’s and don’ts:

1. Do ask one of the organizers to mind the time for you. You don’t want to be looking at your watch. If an organizer can give you a signal when there’s 10 minutes left, then 5 minutes, you won’t go over.

2. Do not do power point. Power point is a sedative.

3. Do not be afraid of silence. If you ask for questions and none come immediately, pause. Look at your audience and give them a relaxed and expectant smile. If the first question doesn’t come after 60 seconds, ask them a question. This will get the ball rolling.

4. Do repeat each question in a clear voice so everyone knows what you’re answering.

5. If someone asks a question you don’t want to answer, say, “that’s a great questions” then reframe it into something you want to answer. As an example,when I speak to kids’ and teen groups, invariably someone will ask me how much money I make. I turn it around and ask how much money they think I get from the sale of a single book. Then I tell them and let them do their own math.

6. Don’t talk about awards, honours, sales, blah blah blah. Talk about your failures.

7. Don’t over-prepare. Don’t try to breathlessly shoehorn everything you can think of into your talk. White space and silence and pauses are very effective.

8. Do have fun!