If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


June Interviews

6/02 Terrie Moran, Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

6/09 Connie Berry, The Art of Betrayal

6/16 Kathleen Kalb, A Final Finale or A Fatal First Night

6/23 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery

6/30 Mary Keliikoa, Denied


Saturday WWK Bloggers

6/12 Jennifer J. Chow

6/26 Kait Carson


Guest Blogs

6/05 Samantha Downing

6/19 Lynn Johanson













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E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez. It will be released on June 21st.


Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).


Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!


Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.


Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.


Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!


Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.


KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!


Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Oral Reading Tips for Nervous Nellies by Susan Van Kirk


Author public readings are a staple of book promotion. In a week I’m going to Left Coast Crime in San Diego, and one of the activities I’m doing is a five-minute reading from my latest mystery, A Death at Tippitt Pond.

I’m fortunate. This kind of promotion doesn’t worry me. For the past fifteen years, I’ve judged at the Illinois regional speech tournament since I used to coach speech contestants in high school. Adding to that, I have forty-four years of speech and communications teaching on the high school and college levels. For me, a public reading is a breeze, but I’m aware that it may not be so for other writers. Believe me, I am sympathetic. If you are planning to do a public reading in the future, I have seven tips that will help you prepare and make you less nervous.

1. Find out how much time you have for the reading. If you get to decide the length yourself, remember people’s attention spans. In my case, I have only five minutes. Yikes! That’s the length of a television commercial break. This means I’ll leave a minute for an introduction and four minutes for the reading.

How much can I read in four minutes? I read aloud from my book and timed it on my phone. Four minutes is about two and a third pages, double-spaced. Not much. By the way, don’t try to time by reading it in your head—it’s goes faster than reading aloud. So now you know the length of your reading.


2. Choose an area of your book for your reading. Pick something that will interest your audience. In my own opinion, dialogue is more compelling than description. You want your listeners to want to read your book, so the more dramatic, the better. Pick something that will make your audience think, “I want to know what happens next.” If your reading demonstrates the tone or atmosphere of your book, great! I chose a meeting between a lawyer and my protagonist which contains a huge reveal. High drama!

3. Edit your reading. You don’t have to read it exactly as it’s written. If there is description that isn’t necessary for your audience to enjoy the story, you can cut that. Cut speaker tags, and anything else that isn’t important to the effect of the reading. If your reading is a bit long, editing will also help on your time.

4. Design an introduction. Read your piece and put yourself in the place of your audience. What do they need to know to understand your reading? What happened just before the reading? Who are the speakers? When did this happen? Once you decide what to include, read it aloud and edit for smoothness and time.

5. Re-read your introduction and piece aloud and time it. If it is still too long or is very close to your time limit, consider editing more. You don’t want to be rushed. Re-read it several times, timing it to make sure you are in good shape. If you find a phrase that is a stumbling block, consider changing it for smoothness. This is YOUR book, so you can edit.

6. When you are sure you have the right length, it is time to consider how you will read the words. If you’ve ever read to a child or grandchild, you know they aren’t too interested in a monotone recitation. (That point came home to me when I listened to my son do a great Eeyore for his daughter.) Print out your final copy, double-spaced. I like to make the font larger. Print on one side only. Find places where you want to pause, emphasize, or change your voice. Mark those to remind yourself. I like to use colored pens.


7. Practice. A lot. The best advice I can give you if you are a nervous reader is to know that reading cold. Concentrate on the introduction because that is where you are most likely to be nervous. Know it well. Also, practice looking up occasionally at your pretend audience. Once you get into the reading, your nerves should calm down because you’ve really prepared, and you’ve got this.

Being prepared is most of the battle, so I hope these steps will help you be less nervous and more effective as you’re selling your books. If you’ve done readings for audiences, are there any suggestions you might add?

13 comments:

Warren Bull said...

Good advice to remember that hearing is a very different experience than reading. You can record yourself and play it back.

Kait said...

Excellent advice. Public speaking holds no fears, reading in public - death defying! My eyes travel faster than my mouth. Next time I'll try enlarging the print - sounds like a trick that would work.

Annette said...

Great advice, Susan! I needed to hear that it's okay to edit.

The best bit of advice (prior to this!) I ever received about reading was to SLOW DOWN. We tend to be nervous and read too fast. Slowing down and taking those pauses really helped me relax and connect with the audience.

Susan said...

That is great advice, too, Warren. I've recorded myself before with passages I've written to see if dialogue sounds "natural." Kait, the longer I live, the larger I have to make the font. Sigh. And, Annette, I just judged speech contest for this year, and speed was the biggest problem. So you are absolutely right about speed and pauses. Making yourself slow down, however, is another story!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Have a great LCC and good luck with your reading!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Great tips, Susan.

Susan said...

Thanks, everyone.

Susan D said...

This is great, Susan, and just what I do.

However, I found, after editing the excerpt from my latest short story for a recent reading, I was quite impressed with the improvement. I realised, hey, my finished story was STILL too wordy. :^0

Susan said...

Hilarious, Susan. It makes you wonder if you should cut your manuscript into five minute sections and see if there is more to edit!

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks for the suggestions. Meeting the reading public is always a bit nerve-wracking!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Susan, I am so grateful for this message and all the comments people are making. Next week, I'll be reading at my first Noir at the Bar, and I've been thinking about how to make that appearance a good one for the listeners. All of these suggestions are so appreciated. I remember Craig Johnson at Murder in the Magic City saying the highest compliment he received on his writing was from the reader of his audio books: that the work lent itself well to being read. I agree with Susan D. Readability is a great way to judge a story's appeal.

Susan said...

Good luck on your reading. Glad to help.

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