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 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. :)