12 January 2017


by Brian Thornton

It never ceases to amaze me how many authors are loathe to do readings. Or signings. Or library talks. Or personal appearances of any kind.

I realize that many writers are introverts, who find the writing life, and its tendency toward lots of time spent alone with your thoughts, naturally suits them. For writers of this stripe, I can understand where readings, signings, personal appearances, can take a toll of them. After all, like the lady once said, an extrovert is someone who is filled up by interaction with other people, and an introvert someone emptied by the same experience.

Personally, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an introvert.

But I am married to one. In fact, I'm married to an introvert who is damned good at her profession, which, interestingly enough, involves constant personal contact with dozens, even hundreds of people over the course of any given workday. And my wife is the best at what she does.

So while I can't completely relate, I'm definitely sympathetic to what it must be like for an introverted writer to even contemplate doing something like a public appearance wherein you read from your latest book.

That said, you'd be nuts to pass up on any opportunity to read your stuff, especially in this day and age.


Because writing a good book just isn't enough anymore. Because there is competition out there for your entertainment dollar, and if you've got a roomful of people willing to be persuaded to read your stuff (and pay for the privilege of so doing), you're passing up the opportunity to do more than sell your books.

You're passing up the opportunity to self yourself.

Yes, I'm talking about "branding."

I've been thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately, because tonight, I'm reading as part of the January 2017 lineup for Noir at the Bar Seattle. And it occurred to me that as much as we writers talk about the craft of writing, and we talk about the ins and outs of "branding" ourselves, I haven't seen a really good bit on the dos and don'ts (and there are a LOT of them) of author readings.

So I've decided I'm going to do something about that.

And what's more, I'm going to crowdsource it. I'll be at Noir at the Bar tonight taking notes from the other participants on what, to them, constitutes a good author reading, and collecting amusing anecdotes about what can (and has) gone wrong for them.

I'll post the above, in addition to my own lists, in my next blog post, in two weeks.

Wish me luck!


  1. Great points here--and good luck at the reading tonight. What fun!

  2. Perhaps sad to say, you are absolutely right.

    I guess we all have to channel Oscar Wilde instead of Emily Dickinson!

  3. Mark Twain and Charles Dickens both loved reading their work to audiences. Dickens was also considered a decent actor at the time and had a long-time affair with an actress, Ellen Tierney (?).

    For whatever it's worth, I was very shy when I was young, but ended up a teacher. I also appeared on stage in 40 productions and still do open mic on guitar, so go figure. Maybe necessity unlocks the inner performer.

    Good luck on your Noir at the Bar, Brian. Don't think of everyone in their underwear or naked, though. That can get distracting. Just go out and give everyone the best story you've got. I'm sure you'll have a good time, not only for the hints you'll pick up but for the good stories you'll hear.

    I'm signed up for Hartford's Noir at the Bar on Jan 29. Janice, will you be there, too?

  4. I'll provide your first tip: Always have back-up material.

    I used to do midnight readings of erotic science fiction/fantasy at science fiction conventions. When these were clearly promoted in the programs as adults-only events, I drew good audiences. Once, though, the program failed to clearly indicate that my reading would be of erotic material AND the hotel locked us out of the event room, forcing my reading and the readings before mine into the hallway where one could not control the ages of the audience members and passersby.

    I had no back-up material and scrambled to read erotic stories by editing out the erotic material on the fly. Can you say disaster?

    Now, no matter what audience I anticipate for a reading, I try to have back-up material in case I need to make adjustments.

  5. That's a great story, Michael! No fun at the time, I imagine, but a good one to tell after the fact. :-)

  6. Good luck at the reading, Brian. I look forward to reading the advice in your next post.

  7. Do a great reading, and keep us posted!

  8. Great topic, I look forward to the sequel!

  9. Brian, thanks! I've done one official reading so far and had fun! (But I'm a ham who was a stand-up comic!) Michael, I loved that story!


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