How to Talk About Your Book

The other night I (Jamey) went to hear Ally Condie speak at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters with a friend. She’s the bestselling author of the dystopian YA book Matched, a book that I enjoyed, and I wanted to hear about her process and to see how she handled her young fans.

Condie proved to be an excellent, engaging public speaker. She’s a gifted storyteller, and she made the audience of a few hundred people laugh many times.

She didn’t read from her book, which I think is a good idea for the most part (although I think it’s also nice to hear the author’s written voice through their actual voice), instead opting to give a talk about how she came up with her ideas, characters, and world.

Condie used a projected slideshow to accompany her talk, which I thought was a nice touch. Now when I read the second book of her trilogy, I can think back to the visuals and understand exactly where she was coming from.

She concluded the talk with a lengthy Q&A, where it was clear that she had been asked the same questions dozens of times, and she had very good, well-rehearsed answers.

So all in all, a very nice author experience. With one caveat: There was nothing unique about the talk. And I don’t mean in the greater scheme of things–rather, among Ally Condie talks, this was the exact same talk she’d give across the country on this entire tour. The slideshow solidified that–she had a script (a good script), and she was sticking with it as she traveled.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with this. She has a short amount of time to convey certain information, and so she might as well share the information the the fans want to know most.

But at the same time, I think you want to give your localized fans a localized experience. For example, Condie writes about a dystopian future. St. Louis might exist in that future–what would it look like? Would the Arch still exist? Would toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake find their ways into the food rations of the Society?

It’s those little touches that make your fans feel special. Condie probably got a speaking fee and sold a few hundred dollars worth of books that night–it’s worth taking a few minutes to research a city in advance and include a well orchestrated shout-out or two. They go a long way.

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2 Comments on “How to Talk About Your Book”

  1. Thats a pretty good idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. scott miller Says:

    I attended Ridley Pearson’s book signing last Saturday, again about 200 present, and he gave a high energy speech for 30 minutes, did not read any passages (as he’s done in the past), but he made a point of talking to each child/young adult present, thanking them for coming (the novel is the sixth in his children series). He also invited his readers to help him write the seventh in the series via interactive e-book and all ideas/quotes from readers that Ridley uses will receive credit via footnote in his next children’s book. A great idea for his series!

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