I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a panel on YA fiction at the inaugural Newcastle Literary Festival.  It was great fun meeting other writers and swapping news and views.  One of the topics that came up for discussion was the need for authors to go out and talk about their new books and how difficult this can be, especially if you’re not used to public speaking.  Like me when I first started!  For me, facing an audience was an absolute nightmare.  After a particularly botched attempt, I realised I was not doing my books or myself as an author any favours, and so I joined Toastmasters – one of the best investments I could have made in my career as an author.  I still get nervous, but I think that gives you an edge, hypes you up and that’s all good.  But I know now that I can do it, and this confidence carries me through so that now I enjoy the experience of talking about my books and about my life as an author. And the audiences (students or  adults) seem to enjoy it too.  That’s probably the most important tip I can give you, but there are other things to think about when preparing a presentation.

First up, people like to know about where ideas come from for stories, and what inspired you to write your book – funny anecdotes about research/writing it always go down well.  Tell them a bit of what the book is about and also the setting, because you’ll find a lot of them won’t have read your book and may not know anything about the setting either. Many of my books are based on history, so that’s something else I need to touch on when I’m talking about them, to put the action into its historical context.

    I’ve found it very helpful to use a powerpoint presentation in my talks.  It introduces the audience to the world I’m writing about (medieval England for the Janna Mysteries, the ‘Arthurian trail’ in Britain and France for the Shalott trilogy, the site and history of the Quarantine Station for Ghost Boy, Norfolk Island for A Ring Through Time, etc.)  I include photos of sites I’ve visited, maps, old documents, photographs of the people concerned where available – or paintings and other depictions for eg medieval time – anything to add a visual interest to my talk. It gives my audience something to look at while I’m talking, and gives them a greater understanding of what I’m talking about. I find it also helps to keep me on track!  Your last frame can be a smiley message and your website details etc so your audience can look at that while you’re answering questions.  BTW I learned how to do a powerpoint presentation at a local evening college – well worth the investment, even if the teacher did ask me, at the end of our first session, if I’d ever used a computer before!!  (True confessions: I am a Luddite!)
    For schools, I also take along a notepad showing part of Ghost Boy, one of my first handwritten novels. Students (and teachers) are always fascinated to see all the crossing out and rewriting that goes on, while teachers are especially grateful if you emphasise that even professional writers don’t get it right first time – that it’s important to let the story flow but then you go back and back and keep on editing.  Talking about covers is also of interest to students – eg I show them the original Ghost Boy cover (drowning boy) and the new one and question why they think one works and one doesn’t.  And they can always design their own cover of your book as a classroom exercise – maybe even before you come so they’re engaged with the book beforehand, and you can hand out a free copy of your book for the best one, or book marks to the top 10 or something like that.  Involving the teacher to help you choose is always a good plan!
      Bookmarks are also a good investment.  Often your publisher will give you bookmarks to hand out when your novel is first published, but once they run out I commission my own. Be sure to include your website as well as info on your book + the cover. It’s also a good idea, if you can, to print them with a space for your signature.
     This is by no means a complete list and I welcome your input: comments, criticisms or extra tips, tricks or anything else you care to mention!

A Ring Through Time

A Ring Through Time



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