Sunday, 4 March 2018

6 Top Tips for Successful Book Talks

Speaking to Harpenden Writers

At some point in your literary career, you may well be asked to give a talk about your books. If you are a children's writer, it is expected that you will tour schools doing just that. Even if you are 'just' an Ebook author/blogger you could still find yourself clobbered for a local festival/writing panel. It can be fun; it can be nerve-wracking. Most of how it will be depends upon your pre-prep. In this series of blogs, I'm going to share my tips from 10 years of public speaking (Including gigs at the Edinburgh and Cheltenham Literary Festivals). Look upon any invitation to speak as a selling opportunity. You may shift as many as 80 books in one session. You are unlikely to do that via Amazon/bookshops. And you could get spin-off invites.

Tips on Pre-Preparation

1. Check how long you are 'on'. It is usually an hour. Break that down into: 25 mins speaking, 15 mins questions, 20 mins book signing and informal chat.

2. Check whether you are going to be paid. The rule of thumb is if people pay to come in, you should receive at least 1/3rd of the 'door'.

Cheltenham Literary Festival
3. Make sure you let the venue know exactly what you will need on the day: table for your stuff,  another table for your books, a chair. I keep it very simple. Try not to bring loads of technical equipment. People really react better to just you and your voice.

4. Check who is responsible for the publicity. If it is a Festival, it is up to them to publicize you. Make sure you supply organisers with your bio, title of session, mention of signed books being available to purchase (you want to sell, right?) and an up to date picture. Please. I've been to talks where the writer used a MUCH younger pic for their publicity. C'mon people!

5. Offer to contact local press with an interesting press release. This is often a winner if the organisers are too busy or have far more famous writers than you to focus on.

6. Stock up with business cards and copies of your books. Make sure you have at least 2 pens that work and you can remember your name (if using a nom-de-plume.)

Book talks are really enjoyable occasions, and once you've done a few, you will really start to feel the 'buzz'. I assure you!
My 'Victorian' table


  1. I think your last point is crucial - I’m quite happy with public speaking and certainly enjoy it once I get going. But there are people for whom it is simply purgatory, and however well prepared they are they still hate every minute. I feel for them - in a world where writers have to do much of their own marketing it must be miserable if you’d rather eat your own arm than stand in front of people and speak.

    1. In the 'old days' nobody was interested, it is essential. Social media has made it so.

  2. Great tips, Carol. It’s time I steeled myself and got out to do some talks.


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