4 Useful Tips for Giving an Author Presentation

SilverWood author David Ebsworth offers helpful advice for authors preparing to give a presentation.
SilverWood author David Ebsworth offers helpful advice for authors preparing to give a presentation.

Should I just go for it? The full-blown tee-shirt thing? "David Ebsworth, The Bookmarks Tour, 
2017-18" with a full list of all the venues underneath?

Maybe not, but I spend a lot of time these days doing author talks and, a few years back, I became sold on the idea of doing these presentations about the background to my novels. I’d already dabbled extensively with those depressing author signing sessions in bookstores and also with book fair events at which I could easily and regularly waste whole days for the sake of two sales - and I’d decided I needed a whole new approach to face-to-face reader engagement.

At the time, I received lots of good advice about how to proceed and much of this I now put into practice as follows:

1. First, develop your presentation(s)!
Work out the right presentation - not about the books themselves but, rather, something that will grab general interest: about the background; about the strange but true stories that inspired you; or about the life-changing journey you undertook in the process. In my own case, because I write historical fiction, my favourite sessions are... Five Things You (Almost Certainly) Didn’t Know About the Spanish Civil War or Who Stole Britain’s Missing Sixth Century? or a catch-all collection of true but amazing historical yarns simply called Stranger Than Fiction.

2. Second, decide the format that suits you best
Some folk are good at simply standing and talking, others at using props to illustrate their points, and a few still use old-style acetates. But I’m a big fan of Powerpoint. My only reservations? Well, you’ve got to know how to use both Powerpoint itself and the equipment. Then, you must always carry your own back-up gear (including spare extension leads etc) even where venues absolutely guarantee that they’ve got the best state-of-the-art kit in situ. Make sure, too, that the slides are mostly images, photos etc, and hardly any text. And, finally, you must have rehearsed how to go ahead without the Powerpoint in the event of a total power failure (it happened to me!).

3. Third, Be imaginative about finding good venues
For me these are rarely bookstores (just a personal thing!). But public libraries, anywhere and everywhere, are usually, although not always, appreciative of freebie or low-cost author events. Similarly, local Rotarians or Women’s Institutes are very worthwhile. University of the Third Age too. Stacks of places. Smaller, more friendly literature festivals as well, naturally. And, if you can afford it, try going further afield, far beyond your local patch - but always trying to "cluster" your events so you’re not charging from one end of the country to another. And if you’re registered as self-employed or similar for tax purposes, remember that your mileage, hotel costs, etc, are all tax-deductable. (So, here’s a proposal - that we all share details of venues that we think would be friendly and supportive to SilverWood authors in general? Get in touch if you’d like to be involved , or post in the SilverWood Advice & Support Group on Facebook.)

4. Fourth, follow all the normal rules for stand-up (or sit-down) presentations
Introduce yourself and, if you’ve got an accent, explain where you’re from - nothing worse than audience members who miss half your talk trying to work it out for themselves! Tell folk how long you’ll be speaking for and stick to it. Say if there’ll be time for Q&As. Tell the audience if, at the end, you’re planning to collect email contact addresses (as you should, for your newsletter mailing list). Similarly, don’t be shy about explaining if your books will be on sale at the end. If so, make sure you’ve worked out a price and, if it is in a bookshop, it’s good form to allow the store to put sales through their till at an agreed discount. Provide giveaway bookmarks and other goodies, by all means. Then, during the talk itself, try not to wander around too much - preferably not at all!

But, most of all, relax and enjoy yourself! No point doing all this work if it’s going to make you stressed or ill. Just be yourself - most audiences will love you for it and presentations like this are a fabulous way to spread your reputation and author’s name by word of mouth. Real-life punters are a refreshing change from all those social media pressures.

Now, about those tee-shirts...

Want to know more...?

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for the Transport & General Workers' Union. He was born in Liverpool but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham with his wife, Ann. Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in 2009.

Visit David's website here or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter. Find out more about David Ebsworth's books on his author page here.

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