Monday, June 04, 2007

Other Voices, Other Rooms


Portrait of James Christie,
by Thomas Gainsborough.
Another face I just like.

And yes, I would buy used furniture from that man.

Last year I saw a promo clip of a famous author reading a short passage from his latest work. An excruciating, fingers-in-the-ears experience.

Flat voice, without cadence, without conviction - if I had been a new reader, nothing in the presentation would have invited me to fling dollars at a book-store cashier. If he reads to his kids at bed time in the same fashion, I'm sure they fall asleep really fast.

With new technology and smaller budgets, story telling and story writing converge. Last week, Agent Kristin (side bar) uttered the words that strike fear in some writers' hearts - public speaking - by posting on the promotional value of authorial presentation via voce. Somewhere in his archives, Joe Konrath (side bar) has also provided, I imagine, some useful advice on oral seduction.

Think about it: panels, book signings, book sellers conventions, library talks, radio interviews, talk shows, the Rotary Club, etc.

No need for hysterics.

Public speaking is just another skill. A skill that can be learned by practice.

Do you want to sell your book or not?

29 comments:

Ric said...

Tis just another bumple on the road to success.

Reading yesterday to a sodden group at the local art fair, the words still captivate even in my somewhat odd voice (sounds fine to me - but that's inside my head) on tape I sound very different.

If I had had something to shill, I would have made some sales.

Erik Ivan James said...

Isn't it interesting, though, how much different our voices sound to us in our heads than they do to the others listening? Ric makes a good suggestion.

It is a good idea to tape ones voice as part of our practice. Just standing in front of the mirror to practice the "voice" of our body language is not enough.

Steve G said...

A good writer, a bad speaker. A bad writer, a good speaker. I prefer to be good at both, but would settle for the first.

Bernita said...

Whatever your voice sounds like to you, Ric, I'm certain it did not sound monotonous to your listeners.

Even tapes are not enough, Erik. Live feed-back is best.

Don't think it's an "either/or," Steve.
Not everyone can be charismatic, but we all can be competent.
It's truly not a torture session.

Ric said...

I find it odd that most people can tell who I am over the phone just by saying hello. To me, my voice is not distinctive.

and certainly not monotonous. Especially when reading aloud - push your voice to the limit, emotion cracking and you have them eating out of your hand as they strain their ears not to miss a word.

writtenwyrdd said...

If you have to read in public...rehearse. I figure that I could manage a reasonable job reading my own work, if I had to.

December/Stacia said...

This is where my constant need for validation & attention serves me well--I've always been a good, comfortable public speaker.

Jaye Wells said...

If you look around Konrath's site (the hints section, I believe), you will find a video he made to schmooze the publisher's sales force. It involves vampire bats and lots of corny jokes. Yes, even pros can make bad choices. Cold comfort for those terrified of speaking in public, but worth a gander.

Toastmasters Intl is a great resource for those who want to overcome their fear. Media consultants are also an option.

Rick said...

I'm like December - I actually like public speaking, and am fairly good at it.

I can't quite see reading from my book, though - I'd be a lousy actor, and a worse actress.

Bernita said...

me too, Ric.
Someone once commented I have a laugh in my voice.

And more than just rehearse, Written, find some non-stress venues to practise and get comfortable.
Maybe volunteer talks at Retirement Homes, for example.

And shy types should realize, December, they will not be struck with a ZOT! from on high, if they flub a line or two. People are really quite tolerant. With practise and exposure shy ones might comprehend that.

You're kidding, Jaye - I must have missed that one.
Comments on Kristin's post also include some suggestions.

Bernita said...

If you can do one, Rick, you should have no problem with the other.

Demon Hunter said...

Good post, Bernita. I have a real fear of speaking in public. I guess I do need to get over it I do want to sell books. Thanks for the advice! ;*)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I've been a teacher--and I taught teenagers. Ain't nuthin a reader or writer can throw at me that I haven't seen before. But, preparation is key. I've done readings of my own work, and the most successful ones I read to friends beforehand.

Charles Gramlich said...

As a teacher I "public speak" all the time and it doesn't bother me. But I still get strangely nervous when I speak about myself or my writing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Demon.
Experience helps remove the fear.

Yep, SS, a tough crowd.
Not a good idea to go into a reading stone cold.

I suppose it's partly the fear of sounding immodest, Charles.

raine said...

Public speaking is just another skill. A skill that can be learned by practice.

Oh gawd, just kill me now... :-/

Have done it once or twice, hated it with every fiber of my being.

I think that was one of the reasons I WROTE ideas, thoughts, stories from the time I was a wee one. I do NOT communicate well verbally.
I think a lot of authors may have that problem...

Bernita said...

"I think that was one of the reasons I WROTE ideas, thoughts, stories..."
Probably, Raine.
The thing is - the depth, nuances and complication necessary for stories is not necessary for the usual writer- reader audience.
Most questions can usually be anticipated.
And you can write your script beforehand and bullet point it to keep on tract.

Sam said...

I was reading my book aloud at my first book signing, when the man sitting in the front row started to flash me.
I had imagined almost every disaster scenario but that one...

Kate Thornton said...

I participate in book and story panels through Sisters in Crime and have had to "public speak" at least once a month for more than a year. I will be participating in a workshop this Sunday where I'll be speaking in public. It's easier with practice, but I still need to warm up a bit before my voice sounds better than a shrill croak.

Sam, we had a lady flashing at one of my panel discussions. Creepy.

Bernita said...

Now, Sam, you can't stop there.
You must tell us how you...pardon me... handled the situation.

Kate...not a "lady."
Do tell. Did you all ignore her or did you make some forthright observations?

sex scenes at starbucks said...

See, now, Sam, I'd be bringing that one up every time I read. "All right, where's the flasher? You know you wanna..."

Scott from Oregon said...

Public speaking with flash cards?

In a bookstore?

I miss all the fun...

Ann said...

Then I guess I'm getting lots of practice. I do storytime once a week at the Dayjob. Recently we've started reading chapters of Matilda along with the beginning chapter books, now I just have to work on reading just what is there.

Bernita said...

That would leave them gasping, SS, until the word got around - then you must be prepared for a crew of them...

Obviously just bulbs, Scott...

I can understand the urge to extrapolate, Ann.

LadyBronco said...

Going to school, I have had to become very comfortable speaking in public in a very short time. I'm glad that's one thing I won't have to worry about if my novel ever sells.

Bailey Stewart said...

I'm with Raine, just kill me now. There aren't enough meds available for me to do that, and don't say practice - I suffer from panic attacks, practice doesn't touch it.

Bernita said...

The more you do it, the better you get, Lady B.

The internet is a wonderful think for those who can't bear the idea, Bailey.

Rowan Manahan said...

This brings to mind Jerry Seinfeld's marvellous remark about people being so frightened of public speaking that if they were at a funeral, they'd rather be in the casket that delivering the eulogy ...

I think human beings are bothered by public speaking at a primordial level - probably something to do with looking foolish in front of the tribe.

Not an intellectually challenging skill to learn, but it can be very emotionally demanding.

Bernita said...

Quite possibly, Rowan.
Some cases, I suspect, go back to some authority figure/peers making fun during the primary years.