Tuesday, January 17, 2012

10 Top Tips for a Successful Author Talk

By Diana Nadin

JH: Today I'd like to welcome Diana Nadin to the blog to talk with us about author's talking. As someone who used to faint any time I had to gave an oral report in school, this was something I struggled with when I published my first book. I still get nervous, but it's now something I can do and even have fun doing. Diana's tips are dead on, and I wish I'd had them three years ago. Especially #9.

Diana has been Director of Studies at the Writers Bureau – the UK’s largest specialist writing college – for the past 20 years. Her job is to make sure that courses are up-to-date; tutors are professional, well trained and empathetic and that students are given the help they need to take their writing skills to the next level. Her weekly blog is at www.writersbureau.com/blog.

Take it away Diana...

If you’re new to standing up in front of people and talking about your book, it can be a daunting experience. But it does get better with practice (honest!) and here are some tips that can help you feel at ease right from the start.

1. Try to visit the library, bookshop, or wherever you are speaking, before the event so that you get a feel for the space and layout. If this isn’t possible, ensure you arrive with plenty of time to spare so that you can check it out.

2. Always plan your talk carefully and practice at home beforehand. The better your preparation, the less chance there will be of something going wrong – so never skimp on this.

3. Learn some breathing techniques so that you remain calm before you start speaking and also so that you project your voice with ease.

4. Speak slowly and clearly – but not so slowly that your audience falls asleep. If possible, during the practice stage, record yourself so that you can listen critically to how you sound.

5. Ensure that you make eye-contact with your audience. Even if you are reading from your book, pause occasionally and look up to make eye contact.

6. It’s important that you include something interesting – or humorous – early on so that you really get your listeners’ attention.

7. Most people haven’t just come to hear you read from your book – they can buy a copy and take it away to read. They are more interested in hearing anecdotes about you and your life, or the writing process.

8. Make sure you tailor your talk to the venue where you are speaking. If you write romantic fiction with plenty of steamy action, it’s probably best not to read out the more erotic bits if you have been asked to speak at a library on a Saturday afternoon and there are children about!

9. If you intend to have a question and answer session at the end it may be helpful to have an anonymous friend with you who is briefed with some query to get the ball rolling. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being met by silence when you ask if there are any questions.

10. And finally, make sure that there are enough copies of your book on hand for people to buy – don’t pass up any opportunity to sell your work!


  1. #10 is sometimes hard to remember! I've gotten so involved in the discussion that I forget to sell the book and then make the mistake of mentioning it at the end, in passing, more as an after thought. I'm working on it though.
    These are great tips. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Diana! Just reading these ten tips helped me relax. I hope to get many chances to use them!