Whatever you do, don't read

The Wall Street Journal looks at the increasing number of bookstores that are requesting that authors not read, or read only a little. The article points out that hearing the author read from the book is hardly value added, as presumably most bookstore patrons are more than capable of reading the book themselves.

Some alternatives they explore:

- Having the bookstore owner interview the author
- Teaming the author up with a writer friend or a writer who blurbed the book (potentially twice the audience)
- Powerpoint presentation on some topic related to the book
- Teaming the author up with their editor or agent (I'm presuming this only happens in NYC)
- Having the author tell background stories about the book
- Just having a Q&A

"When some authors read, I'll mutter to myself 'is that snoring I hear?'" said Charles Stillwagon, the event manager of the Tattered Cover, a bookstore in Denver.

Read more here.




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I go to quite a few author events, as I live within walking distance of Books of Wonder, and I have to admit that I prefer it when authors talk about their work rather than read from it. I can read it myself, but it's fun to hear stories about how the book came to be, or how the cover art was chosen, or when the author first started writing, etc.
I love the idea of an author doing something more than just reading, but I also know that I do enjoy hearing a bit of the intended sound of the story straight from "the horse's mouth," so to speak. I see nothing wrong with about 5-20 minutes of the author reading from their work, and then a well-organized talk about something else like their influences, their process, or even subjects relevant to what the book is about.

I've seen the "interview" format go badly. If the bookstore owner didn't do a great interview the first time I attended an event like this, I doubt I'd go back for any others. But then, I've also heard a couple of authors do a terrible job of reading their own work aloud. As a writer, I consider it part of my job to make sure that my work can be read aloud well, especially by me, but not just by me. Partly that's because I was trained to do so by my writing teachers, but now that I'm reading aloud to my daughter, I'm discovering how many kids' books are darn near impossible to read aloud well, which is a subject for another post. :)

I typically agree with this. I know the author is who wrote the book, but some of them are NOT good readers, and it makes it awkward. I like to add my own voices, etc.

However, an author reading a passage from her book got me interested in her book. (I was at the event to see another author--there were four of them there.) So it was like a sampling.

Still, I'd prefer they not read, and just do a talk and have a Q&A, and save time for autographs and pix.
I think if they keep it short - under five minutes - it can be good. Especially if it ends on a cliff hanger.