5 Lessons Learned about Presenting Your Book

Five days ago I attended an author event at my local independent bookstore. Before I get into much detail, I'd like to say how nice it was to participate in an event just about books. I've been to a few events at local bookstores but I don't go as often as I should, especially as a writer myself.
That admonishment aside, I'd like to share with you a few things I learned at this event, in case I ever find myself presenting my own work to a small group of friends, family, and new readers. Before I get into my bullet list though, it's important to know that this event was for historical fiction (hence part of the draw for me, as that's what I love most to read and write).

5 Lessons Learned about Presenting Your Book

1. Don't talk for more than a half hour if there are multiple authors presenting
2. Choose an exciting passage from your book to share with readers
3. Split your talk into three parts: overview, passage, and q & a
4. Expect to stick around and mingle after the presentation
5. Choose the right pen for book signings
Tick, tock!
Tick, tock!

Watch the Clock


The event began at 7 pm. I was already exhausted from not enough sleep the night before, but I wanted to go to this event because there was an author--and book--that piqued my interest as it was in line with my current research and writing endeavors. (More on this later, because this author was awesome and I want to give her a special shout out.)
One of the presentations went on far too long. Maybe I would have felt differently had I not been tired, but the first 40 minutes of the event was devoted to this one book. 
I enjoy history as much as the next historical fiction writer, but the discussion of the history behind the story took too long. Way too long.
If you're going to present at an event with two other books or more, keep your entire presentation down to 30 minutes or less. Those extra ten minutes were ten too many.

Excite Readers

Did the blockheads finally triumph over Gumby?
Did the blockheads finally triumph over Gumby?

When I got the email for the event, I thought there'd be two books to grab my interest. One was the book I hinted at in the upcoming shout out, and the other was the one that took too long.
As it happens, I didn't much care for the passage from that first book because it wasn't exciting. I struggled to follow and keep myself interested.
In contrast, the other two presentations featured passages that grabbed--and held--my interest. As they presented after the first book, I can't presume that it was my exhaustion that made it difficult to keep up.
For the record, the main character of the first book sounded really interesting. The book might be great. It might be gripping. 
But you wouldn't have known it from the selected passage which, in addition to lacking any action or dialogue (as I recall--I zoned out a bit), was also quite long.
Enough with what I learned not to do. I'm not here to bash anyone, only to provide a reflection.

Break it Up

We're all cracked up here.
We're all cracked up here.

Something that all the authors did was split their presentations. I'm not sure if this is the common breakdown among historical fiction authors, something imposed by the bookstore, or simply coincidence.
Each presentation started with a review of the history behind the fiction and the authorship of the book, followed by a reading, and capped off with taking a few questions from the crowd, or intimate group as it were.
I liked this format, because if you're only going to read a passage from your historical fiction, listeners need a bit of background.
Each presentation allowed for about three questions, which felt like an appropriate amount. 

Mix & Mingle

Are you the person who mixes up all my puzzle pieces? Seriously, we're gonna have beef if you do that.
Are you the person who mixes up all my puzzle pieces? Seriously, we're gonna have beef if you do that.

I noted that the authors stuck around for about 30 minutes or so after the event. I left before that time was up but I know the store closes at 9 pm, and the event ended at 8:30. 
What a great way to get to know readers, and to connect with them on a one-to-one basis. 
This is where my aforementioned shout out comes into play.
I connected with the author of One of Windsor, Beth Caruso. Not only is she friendly, but she was eager to help me along my own path in researching and writing about witch trials. While our fiction is on opposite sides of the pond, I am grateful for her help and encouragement. Aside from that, I truly enjoyed her reading, and I purchased the book. I'll be reading it soon, and hopefully analyzing the craft for my upcoming MFA program. (I just need to finish some of the many books I'm currently reading and then I will dive into One of Windsor!)
Could I have spoken to and connected with the other authors? No doubt. But again, I was exhausted and it was Ms. Caruso's book that drew me out of the house to begin with. 

The Pen Matters

I wish I had that pen. It's beautiful.
I wish I had that pen. It's beautiful.

Imagine you are at a book signing. You're thrilled to be there. Readers heard you share a passage of your book and now they've bought a copy and are asking for your signature!
Use the right pen.
The right pen might be different for everyone. Ms. Caruso used a black Sharpie marker. 
I would use my fountain pen. I suggest ensuring that whatever pen you use is one you're comfortable with, that allows the ink to glide onto the page. You don't want your permanent note to skitter and skip, or dig holes into the paper.
The right pen matters. It really does! You want to sign with confidence and elegance. 
At least, that's what I'd want.

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