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ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

How to Organize a Public Book Reading That Will Wow Your Audience


Whenever we plan or are a part of an event, we want it to be as successful as possible, right? So, let's talk about a few ways to organize a public book reading that will really wow your audience! We have your full checklist covered, so when it comes time for the reading, not only will you be prepared and find it more enjoyable, but you can really shine!

If you, as the author, are not the one personally in charge of organizing the event, be encouraged to work with your publisher, publicist, or bookstore, library, or other venue and all work together to create a successful production!

After you have the location in mind and have worked with the venue to solidify a date and time for your reading, or if your publisher has set it up on your behalf, now you must think of how to prepare for the event itself leading up to and on the day of, and always make sure to stay in contact with those involved in hosting along the way. Here is what you—the author and speaker—can do to give yourself the best chance for a positive reading.

1. Practice, practice, practice!

For many writers, speaking is not something that comes as naturally or comfortably as it may for other people, it's why they write of course! So, you may need to take some extra time to prepare for your public reading. Rehearse the section you will read multiple times leading up to the event. Pay attention to things your breathing, always taking deep breaths to calm the nerves before beginning and slowing the breathing during the reading itself to avoid instances of the voice shaking or becoming inaudible to your audience. Speak slowly and clearly with enough volume to carry out to your audience. You don't want anyone to miss out on your important message because you were speaking too fast, mumbling, or using a soft voice. Practicing will not only give you an idea of your time and how you need to sound on the day, but it will settle your nerves knowing you are prepared to speak in public.

In addition to practicing what you will read, it's also a good idea to anticipate possible questions from the audience if there will be a Q&A segment following the reading. Brainstorm the usual questions authors are asked and rehearse your answers so you won't feel caught off guard on the day of the event. And if you are asked a question that leaves you feeling stumped, remember to take a moment to breathe and clear your mind before answering, or even have a phrase prepared in case you feel you cannot answer. Something like, "That's a great question, I might need a moment to think about that. Let's circle back in a bit."

2. Be mindful of reading time

Since you have practiced your reading, you should have a clear idea of how much time it will take you to read your chosen piece. If the event coordinator gave you a timeframe you are expected to read for, be mindful of that! You don't want to leave your audience feeling unsatisfied by your reading being too short. And you certainly don't want them growing bored or restless if you read for too long either. Give them an idea about how long you will be reading for before you begin so the audience knows what they are in for. This is also especially important if you are sharing the event with another writer or speaker who will also be reading. If there is only a set amount of time for the event, then you don't want to steal reading time away from a peer or leave little to no time for questions and book signing at the end! Timing really is everything.

3. Be professional

Have you ever attended a reading where the author showed up late? Hopefully not! And certainly, do not let that be you. It should go without saying but be punctual and ready to go by the time the event starts. Arriving early is best—you are the guest of honor after all!

Something else you never want to do is dismiss or insult the audience if asked a question you deem irrelevant and unworthy of a respectful response. Not only is being respectful and courteous the decent way to conduct ourselves as human beings, but certainly toward those who are fans and support you. Respect those who will read your book and become followers! If you are not kind and courteous to them at a reading, then they likely will not support you in the future. Readers want authors they can connect with and relate to. Be that person for them!

Also, while formal attire might not be necessary, paying a little mind to appearance can go a long way in the sense of clean clothes and overall hygiene. You want the focus to be on your words and what you have to offer as a speaker, so don't pull attention away from that!

4. Connect with the audience—and thank them!

Making eye contact with the audience is a great way to connect. Of course, you are reading so you likely can't look at them the whole time you are speaking, but some brief pauses to glance up or use an emotive expression shows them you are united and enjoying your time together. It would be rather mundane for an author to stare at the paper or book and read for thirty minutes straight without so much as an acknowledgment of the audience. This might be the more comfortable thing to do for those who have speaking anxiety, but it will not feel comfortable or engaging for your audience. Of course, after you complete your reading, remember to thank your listeners! Show gratitude and respect for the ones who have showed up for you and support your writing career. If you attempt to connect with them on all levels, they will feel connected to you right back.

5. Promote your event

In the days, weeks, even months, leading up to the event be sure to promote it anywhere of relevance. Utilize your social media channels, your email list newsletter, and ask those in charge of organizing the event as well as the event location to do the same. Promotion can also include flyers and notices in locations around town. Part of hosting a successful reading is ensuring that people know about it, and that those interested will show up! So, work on establishing your crowd in advance.

6. Ensure you have enough books to sell at the event

Whether you have a traditional publisher or are independently published, prepare in advance with how many author copies you will need for the event. A big part of planning a public reading is the opportunity to sell books afterwards to new or dedicated fans! It's a special experience for a reader to hear the work directly from the author and then get a chance to purchase it, have it signed, and speak with them about it. Running out of books could cause disappointment—and ultimately loss of sales—all around, so calculate the estimated number of attendees and how that relates to the number of books needed.

7. Spell your fans' names right

During the signing portion after the reading, your readers are excited to buy your book and have it signed by you! Nothing could kill that joy more than spelling their name wrong. Even if it is a common name, always double check the spelling for an optimal reader experience where they now have a personalized book to cherish forever.

8. Snacks and refreshments are a great touch

Offering a few snacks and refreshments is a great idea to help your readers mingle before and after the event, as well as contribute to the overall ambiance. This is where they can discuss how much they're looking forward to your reading or how great it was afterward! People love the option of having something to consume and relax with during performances, so why not at a reading, too? It is a performance in a sense, after all. This all adds to the welcoming atmosphere you would hope to create for your event.

Now that we have covered all the details, you can prepare by creating your checklist and following along with the steps to success. When the atmosphere is set right, you're prepared and on time, engaging and open, and eager to connect with your audience, they'll have no choice but to be wowed! You'll be on your way to being a favorite author in their household and they'll be sure to spread the word about the spectacular reading. A public reading is a great way to get your name out there and the effects can be long-lasting and contribute to a rewarding career.

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