There are a lot of shy authors out there. They just want to sit at their computer and write. They might be willing to be active on social media, but the thought of being in public terrifies them. In fact, there’s a name for it: glossophobia.
It’s not that they have anything to be ashamed of: their books are good, even great. They have fascinating stories to share about their writing process, their travels and their challenges. But give a reading…in public..in front of…people? No way. Unless you’re J.D. Salinger, this is not a good strategy.
Several years ago I was at a writing conference. I grabbed a seat near the stage because I was excited to finally see this author in person. I’d been following him on Twitter for a long time. He’s one of those people whose tweets you actually look forward to each day. But I was in for a rude awakening. He was one of the worst public speakers I’d ever seen. He spoke from his notes in a monotone, head down, the entire time. Now and then he’d look up at the audience, as if to make sure we were still there. At first I thought it must be part of his act: that any minute he’d break out into a lively, funny presentation. But it didn’t happen. And I was stuck in a front seat for over an hour.
That experience – and a later pre-conference workshop on book readings led by Porter Anderson – convinced me that there were a lot of authors out there who need guidance.
On May 5, I’m making a presentation, “Public Speaking for Shy Authors” at The Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, but never before at such a large event.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a master’s degree in Speech and Dramatic Art. Over the course of my professional careers (writing is my fourth) I’ve taught workshops and performed to audiences of anywhere from a dozen to well over 2,000. I still get nervous on stage, but I’m not scared. And there’s a simple reason, one I hope every author takes to heart when considering doing a reading, reserving a booth at an author fair, or participating in a panel discussion:
The audience is on your side.
They are there because they want to be there. They’ve read your books or heard about you or have some interest in your genre or topic. They’re not there to harass you (unless they’re friends, because we all have friends who do that kind of thing). They want to learn from you. They want to like you.
Why? Because you have something to offer them: a book that can challenge them, soothe them and inspire them.
But, you insist, can’t I just do that online? Please? PLEASE??? Sure, but only to a point.
An agent once told me, “It’s hard to say no to someone you’ve met.” It’s the same way when your audience meets you. Once they’ve met you, heard you speak passionately about your writing, they will want more. Why wouldn’t they? I said before that I still get nervous. My nerves are because I want them to be entertained, I want them to feel that the time we shared was valuable. And that’s the best kind of nerves.
So this is what I say to authors who are terrified about meeting their readers and potential readers: Don’t be. They’re on your side. They want to like you and your books. And always believe that you’ve written something that could make a difference in their lives.
For information on this presentation and others related to my book topics, contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org