Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dr. Bird's Advice for Debut Author Readings: HOW LONG DO I READ FOR?

Continuing my wordy advice for author's overwhelmed by the prospect of readings.

2) HOW LONG DO I READ FOR? For prose, I'm a big fan of readings where the author spends an equal amount of time talking and reading. This format doesn't please everyone (even I once complained about an author that read the last chapter of his book before talking for thirty minutes, but I didn't quite understand the point then).
But consider this: the attention span of your audience is tricky. If they're already your fan—i.e., they already bought the book—then reading to them for 20-30 minutes might be pleasing or they might prefer to hear the "Making of" story of the book. If you haven't won people over yet (the curious walk-in or walk-by audience member), then reading for 10-15 minutes gives them a chance to go get a copy while 30 minutes is not necessarily how they want to get to know your book.
  • Who is your audience?—in a new area or do you see a sea of friendly smiles? While your anxiety remains the same for these two audience types, your approach might change. Reading to your friends might seem tedious, but talking to them about the book you've possibly been ranting about for five years might seem just as unappealing. Total strangers have no idea whether to care about you or your work.