Planning for a Book Talk

I have a friend whose first novel was recently published. Now she’s been asked to give talks to several different organizations: an historical group, a library, and a book store. Her questions are: What does she need to do prior to the talk and during the talk?

These are the steps I’m suggesting

1. From the event planner ask…

  • When? Date and time.
  • Will you be paid to give the talk? (Stipend? Travel expenses?)
  • Will you be able to sell your books at the venue? (Or will they have a bookseller there with copies of your book for sale?)
  • Will you be the only speaker or part of a panel?
  • How much time for the talk?
    • If on a panel, how much time for each speaker?
    • Will there be Q&A time after the talk?
  • What kind of a talk? Do they want you to talk about the writing process? About the research needed to write this book? Find out what the audience will be expecting.
  • What will the set-up be like?
    • Casual: comfortable chairs in a circle with speaker seated?
    • Formal: Speaker at a table or dais with audience seated in front.
    • Large room or small?
    • Will a microphone be necessary (and if so, provided)?
  • What will they provide?
    • If you plan on giving a PowerPoint presentation, will you need to provide the necessary equipment yourself or will you be able to use theirs?
    • If you plan on showing a film or images, will you need to provide a projector and screen or will they provide them?
  • How do they plan on publicizing this event?
    • What will they need from you? Jpeg picture of you? Color or B&W? Short bio? Jpeg of book’s cover? Anything else?
    • If sending announcements to papers, which papers? (You may have some they aren’t sending to that you can alert.)

2. What you will need to provide.

  • Visuals
    • A copy of your book that you can place near you so before the talk or after attendees can pick it up and look at back copy, see the print size, and possibly read a page or two.
    • A copy of your book that you can read from. I like to mark the sections I’ll be reading, so this book should be separate from the one above.
    • Maybe some images of the steps you went through to decide on the cover. These can either be shown on a screen or printed and passed around.
    • If giving a PowerPoint presentation, bring a thumb drive with the PowerPoint file. (Do this even if you are bringing your own laptop that has the file. Sometimes things go wrong and you may need to use a different laptop.)
    • Thumb drive that has any images you plan on showing, even if you already have that file on your laptop.
  • Materials
    • Books, if you are the one who will be selling them after your talk.
    • More than one pen, and bring ones that write smoothly.
    • Change, if you are hand selling your books.
      • If possible, bring someone to take the money and make change. (Spouse/friend)
    • Bookmarks that you can hand out and also insert in the books being sold.
      • On the bookmark, make sure you have your name and contact info (email and website definitely, maybe your phone number), book’s ISBN number, and where book is available, as well as an image of the book’s cover and maybe a little info about the book.
    • Business cards
      • These are good if someone asks how to contact you. I don’t have my home address on my cards, but in addition to my name, I have my phone number, email, and website address. I also include the word WRITER and either an image of the book’s cover or of me.
      • I leave the back blank so additional information can be handwritten there. (Where they met me. What we agreed to. Whatever will trigger the recipient’s memory when looking at the card.)
    • Cough drops
      • My throat always goes dry before I have to talk.
    • A bottle of water (in case the venue doesn’t provide any.)
    • Some writers bring candy they can set on the table. (Chocolates or hard candies seem to bring people up to get a piece and then you can talk to them.)

3. Before you arrive.

  • Decide on what you’re going to talk about.
    • Make notes (3×5 cards are good to use. You can put reminders on them.)
    • Make sure you have all of the materials you’ll need to help you with your talk (images, PowerPoint file, equipment you’re bringing, etc.)
    • Practice the key points of your talk
    • Decide if you’re going to let them interrupt to ask questions or keep questions until the end of your talk.
  • Decide on and mark the pages or passages you’ll read aloud
    • Don’t read too much. (I made that mistake the first time. Now I limit myself to no more than 3 – 5 pages.)
    • Pick pages or passages that will entice the audience to want to know more.
  • Decide to have a good time.
    • This can be a fun time. People came to find out more about your book. They’re not the enemy, so relax. Let them know why you loved (or hated) writing this book. Let them get to know you.
Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Planning for a Book Talk

  1. Your local bakery can imprint the cover of your book onto a cake. Magic.

  2. Diane Burton says:

    Your timing is excellent, Maris. I’m on a panel next week at Fanfest (in Benton Harbor, MI). Your suggestions are great.

  3. Excellent prep list, Maris. Some writers use a large mockup of the cover, postcards or bookmarks with the cover on them, and giveaways if you’re willing to spend money. I’ve learned over the years to ask the librarian/bookseller exactly what kind of talk they’re interested in. Sometimes they surprise me.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks for the reminder, Susan. I forgot about the over-sized cover posters and the other giveaways. I’ve used them all over the years. When promoting my “Crow” books, I usually have a Crow on my table. (Plastic, of course.)

  4. Great advice, Maris. I’m going to take notes LOL I also practice (several times) the excerpt I am going to read so I get the pacing and inflection just the way I want it.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I definitely need to practice, Betty, if I haven’t looked at a passage or scene for a while. I get nervous when reading aloud to an audience, so practice helps.

  5. Ariella Moon says:

    A very comprehensive list, Maris, and great suggestions from those who commented. I especially love the idea of imprinting the book cover on the cake! 🙂

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Ariella. I held a book party the year I had two books come out the same month. I imprinted one cover on one cake and the other on the other cake. Only problem I found was people loved the covers and didn’t want to cut into the main image, but they did take pieces from around the edges.

  6. Melissa Keir says:

    Fabulous advice! I also always have candy on the tables for the listeners. It keeps them happy as they much while I talk!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Good idea, Melissa. I have a bag of peppermints that I take if it’s a book fair or something like that. I hadn’t thought of taking it when I’m giving the talk.