Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Your public persona

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So, you’ve written a book. Bravo. You’ve gotten a publisher. Double bravo. Think you’re done? Not even close.

It’s time for Marketing 101; Putting Your Pretty Face Out There.

Yes, many authors seek the literary life because they enjoy the solitude. I could not tell you the statistics on how many authors are natural extroverts, but I’m betting it’s a low percentage. We have rich inner lives. It’s just you, the paper and ink, and whatever gossamer you can spin from the ether. We don’t aspire to the spotlight for ourselves; we want the work to speak for itself.

Well, guess what? People want to see you suffer. They’re coming out to watch you sweat in the spotlight, so you’d better be ready. This might be the difference between a sale and a shrug of indifference, so dance, monkey, DANCE!

    1) First of all, prepare your reading. Choose something ahead of time, and practice. Project the nuances of character and atmosphere in your voice. If you get up to the podium and drone on and on in the same tone of voice, you will lose your audience, guaranteed. You can’t believe that they’ll be enthralled just to see you; they want to be entertained. Try to be relatively smooth, but be yourself. People are generally very forgiving, and if you stumble, they’ll forgive you. After all, unless you’re a name author, they’re probably seeing you for free. But if you bore them, they may not purchase your novel, or worse, not purchase future works. You’re building a fan base, and every person counts.

    2) The audience is made up of bears, i.e. they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Be friendly and accepting. Talk to them. Don’t cold shoulder your way through the signing. You’re not cool enough yet. And again, they are bears, and will rip out your guts if they feel threatened. Don’t curl up in a ball, that’s only effective with actual bears, not metaphorical ones. Treat them with respect, and don’t come between the mother and her cubs.

    3) Don’t simply sign your name. Again, you are not cool enough to rubber stamp each book. Conversely, don’t try to come up with something fresh and inventive for every book you sing. You will drive yourself crazy. Come equipped with a few phrases you can write out – lines from your novel are a good bet. Also, ask for the spelling of a person’s name. Every time. I don’t care if the name is ‘Ted’; if you don’t ask, it will turn out that ‘Ted’ spells his name with a silent Q.

    4) Don’t go nuts. It’s a reading, not an Eric Bogosian monologue. You want emphasis and variety, but there’s no need to jump around with the sheer joy of your genius.

    5) One person in the audience is still an audience. You can’t hope to have packed houses your first time out, but if even one person felt it was important enough to attend, then you owe them something.

There. Now you’re ready to dazzle the world with your words. Hope they like what you have to say.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Corey Redekop

Corey Redekop, author of the critically acclaimed novel Shelf Monkey, is a librarian and freelance writer. He lives in Thompson, Manitoba.

Go to Corey Redekop’s Author Page