Creating a Memorable Bookstore Reading
Having not been on “stage” since I played the world’s largest Charlie Brown in college (I’m 6’3”), I approached the bookstore events’ office for my newly published memoir with dread.
But with just a little work, I managed to skate through with ease! And you can, too.
- Develop an introduction for yourself and your book, i.e., a little background on who you are and why you came to write this book. Maybe 2-3 minutes long. Turn it into a story. Before I developed my introduction, I would just say, “This is a memoir about my belief in magic. As a kid, I used to pretend to be Endora from Bewitched.” And the reading that followed it would just sort of lay there. But once I explained WHY I pretended to be Endora, and how I came to write about this, using anecdotes and weaving it all into a little mini-journey for the audience, they got engaged, and the subsequent reading from a chapter came alive for them.
- Rehearse. A lot. I have an elliptical machine in my house and whenever I was on it, I would rehearse my introduction and my reading pieces. I probably rehearsed each chapter 20 times. Familiarity REALLY helps when you’re nervous and reading in front of strangers.
- Perform the material. Don’t just stand there and read. Gesticulate, use expressions, pauses, different voices (if you’re comfortable with them), etc. Nothing too over the top, but the more it becomes a performance piece, the more the audience will enjoy it. And look at the audience as often as possible (this is where familiarity with the material comes in handy).
- If you have actor friends or access to professional performance workshops, consider availing yourself of them. I developed my introduction and the specific chapter excerpts that I read at UnCabaret (www.uncaberet.com), an LA performance workshop, and in private with an actor friend. The advice I received not only made my performance of the pieces better, but helped give me confidence.
- If you’re waiting in a green room (i.e. the break room, manager’s office, etc.) in a bookstore before you go on, ask whomever’s handling the event to leave you alone for a minute or two before you go on. I had one manager of a bookstore yammer on to me right up until the second I went on and I stumbled out to the podium completely unfocused. Take a moment of silence and center yourself. It will pay off in spades.
- Remember: the audience (many of whom, at bookstore events, are friends and family) WANTS you to succeed. They will forgive almost anything. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the work to make it as good as you can!
Biography of Eric Poole: Eric Poole is the author of the new memoir, WHERE’S MY WAND? One Boy’s Magical Triumph Over Alienation and Shag Carpeting. He resides in Los Angeles with his partner of eight years.