How do author readings work?
There’s a lot of variation in how author readings work, but they basically go like this:
You’re invited to participate in an event and read something you’ve written. You may be asked to read for a certain amount or time, or read an entire story regardless of how long it takes. What you read from could be a specific story, from any published work you’ve written, or from anything you’ve written – which might include a project you’re currently working on.
Depending on the venue and situation, you may or may not have the opportunity to bring/sell books. Some places (ex. bookstores) will sell your books, either print or ebook, through their own system.
Readings usually involve multiple authors reading at an event, but there are situations where you’re the only author reading. If you’re participating in a multi-author event you may have a fixed slot, or can request to go first, last, etc.
After the reading is over, you’ll have the opportunity to sign copies of your book(s) and talk with members of the audience.
Why participate in a reading?
Readings are a great form of marketing the title you’re reading from, and they’re a great way to promote you as an author. Not only does the audience get to hear your story, they have the opportunity to connect with you as a person.
Having people show up to listen to your story is an awesome experience, and it can be incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to meet with members of the audience afterward.
Should you participate in a reading?
Do you enjoy speaking to a crowd, or are you super introverted and hate being the center of attention? Or perhaps you don’t mind talking to an audience, but the idea of reading something of your own gives you the heebie jeebies?
If you’re really uncomfortable with this type of activity, it might not be the right thing for you – and that’s okay! You can be a super successful author without ever reading any of your stories aloud.
If you’re comfortable (or comfortable enough) with reading to a group, consider the setting. Will you be reading in a quiet area where the audience can hear you well, or in a noisy bar? Is the location convenient, or will it involve a three-hour drive each way?
In addition to considering the setting, consider the situation. If it’s a multi-author reading event, how do you feel about the other participants? Will you be reading from a romance novel, but the other authors are horror writers?
Don’t feel obligated to participate in a reading just because you were invited. Make sure the situation is right for you.
How to prepare
If the venue allows you to sell books, make sure to bring some to sell. Or if the venue will sell your books for you, make sure they have all the information ahead of time so they can stock print copies and/or get your ebook in their ordering system. If you’re reading at a place that sells your books through their system, they will probably request that you not bring your own copies.
Bring a pen! You may be asked to sign copies of your book! If you haven’t autographed a lot of books yet, you may want to think about what to write ahead of time so that you don’t have to come up with this on the fly.
Bring business cards, bookmarks, or whatever materials you have – or prepare some, if you don’t have anything like this put together yet. Sometimes you’ll have an area to set up a display where you can showcase more than one of your books. You could make a banner, print out a giant version of one of your book covers, or do something quirky that fits your book and/or your brand. For example, horror writer Mark Leslie has a life-sized skeleton (it’s fake, don’t worry!) named Barnaby who he takes to readings and signings.
One of the most important things you can do is practice reading ahead of time. If you’re given a fixed amount of time to read, this will allow you to ensure your selection will fit in this time period. If you haven’t read to an audience before, or if you’re not sure which approach to use for this particular story, practicing will allow you to decide how you want to read. For example, do you want to use different voices for your characters? Or read them in more of a narration style?
Readings are fun!
Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of event, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.
And have fun!
Jamie Ferguson has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series. She is a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.