15 Tips For A Successful Author Reading

Writing means learning, and learning all the time, for the rest of your life.

In the modern world of publishing, whether you choose the traditional route or self publishing, much is expected from an author. Writing a great novel is only the beginning of the journey if you want your work to have a public audience.

Last week, I experienced some intense learning about reading aloud. And by this I mean what it takes to read your novel or short story in front of an audience. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I won the Audrey Jessup award for short story crime writing from the Capital Crime Writers. Part of being nominated meant reading aloud before the winner announcement was made.

The reading was on June 11th. During the week before the event, I attended the Bloody Words conference in Toronto. A bit of luck, as it turned out, because I heard seven authors read. Then on Monday June 9th in Ottawa, I attended a reading by three Scandinavian authors. That’s 10 readings I could learn from.

Here’s my advice about delivering a great reading:

The advice is slit into  4 sections.

Practice before the event:

  • Don’t leave practicing to the last-minute. Practice every day even for short periods of time. If you can, read to an audience.
  • Practice pausing for commas, periods, paragraph breaks, and starting new scenes.
  • Practice until you can take your eyes away from the words and make eye contact with the audience. This will engage them in your reading. Reading to a mirror will allow you to see if you’re looking up.

Technical preparation:

  • Don’t staple the pages. Stapled pages are noisy when turned and are awkward to hold in place.
  • Number your free pages in case you drop them.
  • Ask how many minutes you have to read. Then prepare for a few minutes less, the exact amount of time and a few minutes more. If other readers don’t show up, you  might be given more time. If the proceedings are running long, you might be given less time, Be ready so you can end with a cliff hanger or a dramatic spot that will leave people wanting more.
  • If you’re reading from printed pages, print in font large enough to read. Remember the lighting could be dark or there could be glare from other lights. If the font in your printed books is small, you can always print the pages you want to read and place your book in front of you while you’re reading.
  • Ask what the setup will be. Is there a podium where you can set your pages? Will you be holding a mic? Will you be standing or sitting?

At the event, before you read:

  • If you’re not first, watch the other readers for what works and doesn’t work. Standing with the mic too close to the sound system can cause feedback, having the mic too far or too close to you mic can make understanding your words difficult.
  • Have your material ready. Don’t start looking for the section you want to read after you’re at the podium. This distracts the audience.

During your reading:

  • Once you are on stage, thank the hosts of the event. This will make your look professional and give you time to let your voice and your nerves settle before you start reading your story.
  • Breathe. This sounds obvious, but breathing will make your speech clear. During the reading, I was so nervous at first, I couldn’t bring air into my lungs. At the end of the first page, when I had to flip to the next page, I moved the mic away from my mouth and took a deep breath. This helped me calm down.
  • Don’t explain your work in the middle of reading. Let your words speak for themselves.
  • Only brief the audience about the story if you’re not starting at the beginning.
  • Speak slowly.

Remember: the audience came to hear you and they want you to succeed, so smile and have fun.

If you have any tips on reading aloud, please share 🙂 I’m always looking for ways to improve.

Thanks for reading . . .

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