The more detailed want ad: Help Wanted, one Novelist who wants to spend her days talking only to her imaginary friends, in voices no one else can hear.
The fine print: Wanted, one Novelist who wants to spend her days by herself, talking only to her imaginary friends in voices no one can hear but is perfectly comfortable with a microphone and a podium, on radio, and even on tv.
Seriously. Microphones? Radio? Televison?
Who knew the skills to be a successful novelist included a knowledge of how to do make-up and hair for television?
This is called the book tour.
And the truth is I’ve actually come to enjoy it. I’m going to post more later this week about the details of where I’ve been and the delightful time I’m having, but in the mean time … here’s my secret recipe for book readings, much of which is demonstrated beautifully by my friend Leslie Berlin in the video clip linked below. It’s her introduction of me at my Four Ms. Bradwells kick-off reading, so it’s a little preview of the “Dispatches for the (Book Tour) Front” posts that are to come.
But first, the 8 step Recipe for Author Readings:
1. Start with One Great Bookstore. One with loyal customers who like readings. (Note: this one may be out of your hands, but you can often make suggestions to your publicist. My kick-off was at Kepler’s, but I also love Books Inc. and will be doing a kick-off for the paperback of The Language of Light there in a couple weeks.)
2. Stir in Friends, Virtual or Otherwise, often Lured with Refreshments. I’ve found alcohol works best. Cookies are also good. Cookies and alcohol are the best.
3. Add a Dash of Terrific Introduction. Again, this one may be out of your hands. My first reading ever was in Washington D.C., where I knew no one – although the bookseller I didn’t know gave me such an amazing introduction that I think I may have kissed her. But I love to have fellow writers introduce me, among other reasons because it gives me a chance to rave about their work, too. I offer as Exhibit A for why this is a great strategy the introduction my friend Leslie Berlin (The Man Behind the Microchip) gave me at Kepler’s. She also demonstrates suggestions (4), (5), and the first part of (6).
4. And a Healthy Heap of Audience Participation (Before You Start to Read). I’ve always used questions with show-of-hands answers, but enthusiastically concede the mantle on this one to Leslie. (Watch the clip! But read to the end first, so you know what you’re watching for).
5. As Huge a Cup of Humor as You Can Find! Again, I aspire to be Leslie on this one; and
6. The Smallest Dash of Actual Reading. The truth is, most people past the age of five prefer to read themselves rather than be read to. And writers don’t often make great readers; that’s why others are paid to read our audio books.
7. Garnish with one bit of truth universally acknowledged: that a single author in possession of the good fortune of a reading audience must be in want of a first question. I don’t know why this is. Most people who come to readings come to hear the author answer questions the answers to which aren’t in the book, and yet everyone is reluctant to go first. Then the floodgates of questions open up. So consider asking a friend to have a question handy, just in case. A stupid question is the best, to be honest, as it allows others to let go of the idea that a question must be brilliant to be asked.
8. Serve with a Smile! (Really, it doesn’t always feel like it at first, but this is a moment to be enjoyed!)