Russel D McLean
By the time you read this, I’ll have launched THE LOST SISTER. Yes, the book’s been available early in some places but tonight is the official release, and let me tell you that I’m excited. Well, nervous. Very nervous.
Thinking about the release, has got me thinking about events. Like, author appearances. And what a strange concept they are. In the end, do we really want to know who it is behind the words on the page? Are we not just setting ourselves up for disappointment?
Authors are not public speakers. Just because you can write words does not mean you can speak them. I have seen authors torturously mumble their way through appearances, come out with statements that were clearly not thought through and generally make a pretty poor impression on the audience. Some of these guys were immense talents, but it did them no favours to make that appearance.
Which is why I think that authors should always think carefully about events. Do you enjoy doing them? If so, you’re probably halfway there. If not, the audience can smell that dislike from miles away. Believe me.
I get very nervous about events. I get antsy and fidgety beforehand. I lose my appetite, and I get a little grumpy. But when I get up there, I love doing them. I love interacting with groups of people. I’ve done big events. Small events. I’ve done events that are about merely being entertaining and I’ve done events for university courses where I’ve had to be a little more cerebral. I’ve interviewed other authors and I’ve talked about myself. And, truly, I get a kick out of it. I’m not perfect, of course, and no one is, but what I’ve found is that the fact that I’m there and I’m passionate about what I’m talking about translates to the audience.
There are certain things that as an author in the modern age you have to learn – voice projection and enunciation help. The ability to communicate through body language and presence. Basic stagecraft that would have been optional years ago seems to be becoming more and more essential. If you have to put yourself out there, you’re going to need to put in the effort. The audience wants to be on your side, but you have to give them something all the same. They’re forgiving, but if you haven’t put in the effort, they won’t forget.
I’m speaking here not just as an author, but as a bookseller who’s worked with a number of authors on events and launches. I’ve seen good. I’ve seen bad. I’ve seen ugly. And I hope it informs what I do when I head out there with my author hat on.
Tonight, I’m putting myself out there and letting a very smart journalist ask me some questions about the book and about my work. I have half an idea what he’s going to ask, but he could very easily surprise me. I don’t mind this. I prefer panels and interviews because I love having someone to bounce off; its one of the things that make events fun and why as an audience member I generally prefer multi-author panels.
In short, I believe that if we have to do author events, we should always try and remember that they are about some form of showmanship. Not laugh a minute, necessarily, but they should be as much about passion and communication as our novels are.
And so tonight, I step out in front of folks in the vain hope that some of them might buy the new book not just because they feel obligated, but because they’ve had a good time. Because they enjoyed what I had to say. Because they had as much of a blast as I know I’m going to…