Pamela Foster, my author friend from Arkansas, does a lot of public speaking. She is a real professional. Today, she gives advice to other authors about preparing for author events, such as book readings, book signings, etc.

Preparing for Book Reading and Signing Events by Pamela Foster

I love to do book readings.

I adore giving workshops and speaking on post-traumatic stress disorder, or about my writing method, or how Grandpa met Bigfoot. But book readings are my hands-down favorite way to connect with people. What’s not to like? All the attention on me and my writing without the weeks of practicing so as not to forget the most important point of a workshop, or staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m. picturing the Power Point refusing to interface with the projector, or leaping from the couch in the middle of The Big Band Theory ranting “Oh no, oh no, oh no. I forgot to print the handouts.”

A book reading is like singing acappella.

But, and you knew there had to be a ‘but’ in here someplace, right? To have a successful book reading, you must promote. If there’s no one there to hear you, it’s not going to matter how brilliant your reading or your writing is. You might think it would be obvious that you want to fill the room with people who took the trouble to get dressed, get in the car, and drive to wherever you’re reading. You might think that. But I am here to tell you, some of us are slow learners.

We all believe our book, our writing is so stunningly beautiful that anyone who hears those magic words floating out into the air is going to stop dead, arrested by the sheer power of our images, and not walk, but run, to buy our book. And we are all wrong.

My learning curve required that I chase an old woman looking for a book on how to worm her cat down a bookstore aisle, follow behind a gentleman trying to find a nurse to help him apply his hemorrhoid cream in an assisted-living center, and read into the ear of a screaming child in line at Natural Foods while his mother darted her eyes about nervously.

But eventually I learned. Promotion of the event is the first and most important step in a successful book reading. I won’t do readings anymore unless the library or bookstore or senior center or wherever it is I’m reading is going to promote. Here’s why. Very soon after a book comes out, I have saturated my fan base. So it’s important to reach different readers. I mean, how many times can I post on Twitter or stage a super-duper fun Facebook event? So, make sure the venue is also promoting your reading. You’re looking for NEW fans.

Once you get folks there, give the audience something worth coming out in the sun or the rain to attend. Yes, you can give away a book. I like to do this by collecting emails and then drawing a number from that email list. But more importantly, whether it’s two old men who ducked into the bookstore to stay dry during a rainstorm, or an audience of a hundred all eager to hear you read, make your listeners feel special. Speak directly to them. Connect with them. I have met some of the best people on earth before and after book readings.

And this brings me to an important point. When I do readings, I want to sell books, of course I do, but my main goal is to develop fans, make connections, get to know people. With my last two books, which deal with PTSD, finding someone who can help me get the books into the hands of those they will help most is far more important than a single sale. So, don’t tally your success based on book sales alone. You’re building a fan base, reaching out to people and that takes time and patience.

I do my best to give people who attend a reading some special insight or secret peek at the book and at me. I read a cliffhanger, never finish the scene for my listeners, leave them wanting more. After the reading, I mingle, listen to people, draw them out. Remember my goal is NOT to sell books. My goal is to build a strong and steady fan base who will anticipate the next book and the one after that.

By now, it’s obvious that my style is to entertain. I bounce around, wave my hands, feed off the energy from the audience. Your style might be completely different. You may be shy and quiet so that folks have to lean forward on the edge of their seats to hear you. That works too. Be genuine. Find your own way of interacting with the audience. Go, have fun, wow your fans. Remember a good book reading is fun and entertaining and even the worst book reading in the world is really nothing more than great material for a terrific blog post.

Twenty-one years ago Pamela Foster married her hero. The author’s husband is a disabled Marine, a veteran of Vietnam, a man who would walk through fire for her without ever acknowledging that he ignited the flames. She’s lived in the redwoods of the Pacific Northwest, on the side of a volcano in Hawaii, in the Yucatan beside the Caribbean Sea, the stark desert of southern Arizona, the jungle of Panama, and now lives in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Foster is the author of novels Redneck Goddess and Bigfoot Blues, as well as Clueless Gringos in Paradise, the non-fiction account of her move to Panama with her husband, two suitcases and two giant service dogs.