Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 1408 - How to give a good author talk

8 tips on how to give a good author talk

Excited kids after an author talk in Pennsylvania USA
I actually don't tire of doing the school circuit chatting to the kids about being an author.  I wish I could do more. I wish that travelling Australia/the world didn't cost time nor money and that I could be teleported easily from school to school to hang with years 3, 4 and 5.  I would do it all the time.  But alas, the schools can't afford to pay for airfares and hotels on top of author fees.  So my author talks are usually local ... or if I get my act together I arrange a few if I am already on the road for another purpose.

I have found that there is a trick to keeping kids interested.  I am by no means an expert as I am new to all this, but I have found a formula that works for me.

  1. Start by asking questions and engaging the kids immediately so you have them focused and on side.  When talking in America I would ask the kids if they could tell where I was from by my accent. I would then ask if anyone has been to Australia.  In Australia I vary the questions depending on where I am talking, but yesterday's talk started with "who likes to read?", "who likes to make up stories in their own mind?", "who likes to write those stories down?", "how do you get ideas for your stories?"  Their minds are now engaged.   
  2. Don't start talking about your book(s) right away.  Find a hook to keep them guessing where your presentation is headed and give them a little piece of yourself. Yesterday my hook was all about a trip I took overseas five years ago, and how that holiday eventually turned into the inspiration for Cheer Chick Charlie.  During that process the kids were hearing a little bit about me and my family which made them feel "close" to me. They are now at ease in my presence. 
  3.  Now it's time to talk about the book(s).  This is where I tell them what the books are about and give a general overview of what they can expect when they read them. It's also a good time to talk about any other bits and pieces like the website, where you can buy it, who the characters are, associated product line etc. This is where I might read a little piece. They are now invested in my product. 
  4. Talk about the process involved in writing your book.  There is a point where they want to learn how they too can be a writer.  I personally tell them how I write and my process. This is where I talk about the planning, the outline, the character development and how I then eventually get it all onto a computer screen. It's important to not only give tips but admit to the challenges and my own insecurities. Now they are inspired to write for themselves,but they are also motivated to read my book (because they can now visualise and understand the process that went into writing it).    
  5. Words of encouragement and wisdom.  There is a point where a few audience members are going to be dreaming of become authors themselves but it all sounds too hard and their confidence is lacking.  This is a great time to whack in a few inspirational quotes or words of wisdom that can help people move forward positively in any area of  their life (whether it be as a writer or not).  Now my author talk has entered their heart and their soul and I'm giving them something to think about and dream about. 
  6. Finish the presentation with something entertaining to lighten everybody up and have them leave smiling and energised.  For me I show pictures of cheerleading events, stunts, pyramids and tosses which has the kids gasping in awe.  But it could be anything.  A relevant You Tube clip, a funny cartoon, some crazy photos.  Anything to make them laugh, gasp or squeal in delight.  Now they are happy, excited and their eyes are bright with wonder. 
  7. Always allow time for questions.  This is the best part.  The questions come in all forms from book related, writing related, to what my favourite colour or movie might be.  I love them all and they are all relevant because each person who asks feels valued and involved.  Answering the questions without judgement validates the entire crowd. Now I have their trust.  
  8. Be prepared for hugs, signatures and the need for some one-on-one time.  After sharing so much of myself and gaining such enthusiasm, a handful of kids will want to be near me.  It may be they just want to touch me, or they have a question they were too nervous to ask in the crowd or it may be they want my "autograph".  This time is precious and special.  I must allow them into my personal space. Now I have their commitment. 

Author talks are a really great way to increase networks, awareness and commitment to your books.  Whether it be for kids at school or for adults via community groups or book stores, people love to meet an author. When an author is personable and easy to engage with, the books become more than just a product to provide enjoyment and entertainment to the reader.  Their's an increased value in owning them. People become invested.

Author talks can be tricky to organise and the whole cost of travel thing can really let you down.  Opportunities will arise though and the trick is being open to the possibilities. 

My author talks yesterday were delightful.   The best news is I have another set of author talks next week.  As I said, I wish there was a way I could do them forever ... 


  1. Good tips - and good for you, to have more lined up...you're on a roll!

  2. Sounds like a really fun part of your job. Great tips too. I remember I had to do a talk at a school once about working at a TV station. I totally lost my audience. They wanted to know if I knew the various characters from Home and Away, not about how I edited the news and weather ...

  3. I bet those kids leave excited and inspired! Congrats on your books' success as well. I love following along

  4. It's easy to see how much you enjoy this. It shines through :)

  5. I would be in the front row, Leanne! When you make it to Brisbane, I want to know :)

  6. Love these tips Leanne. Hope I can do one one day :)

  7. Iv got to hand it to you getting the kids attention is the hardest part of all. They are lucky to have such a positive person in their life :)

  8. How nice to be able to have such a positive impact on such growing and developing minds! I can tell you just adore doing it :)

  9. I loved author visits when I was a kid xx loved this post xx

  10. Sounds like you've found the perfect formula! I would have loved to have you talk at my school when I was a kid.

    #teamIBOT was here!

  11. Wow, I think your formula is perfect. I was engaged and I wasn't even there to hear it! You are doing a great thing for those kids. I love your last point: it is so important to allow time for them to connect with you one on one.


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