How to Hold Successful Readings and Book Signings

Writers are frequently cautioned that becoming published is only a beginning step and to cherish the time we have before demands for publicity become paramount.

We don’t listen. Somehow the elusive publishing contract seems the finale, the main goal, the winning touchdown during overtime — game over!

If you enjoy speaking in public, think fast on your feet, and have good friends who will show up just in case nobody else does, then you are in the right business!

I have always adored going to readings held by authors whose work I admire. Knowing they are delivering each word with the exact inflection they intended when the scene was written, gives me chills, and enhances the enjoyment of the work.

Acquisition reading with poster

But when one of my friends who attended the reading of ‘Acquisition’ at the Wilkes County Public Library last night said that of me, it was truly meaningful. She even mentioned becoming so engrossed in the book, she forgot it was me who had written it! Yay. Thank you Laurie Austen!

With good friends Paula Eller and Laurie Austen.
With good friends Paula Eller and Laurie Austen.

Another mentioned the secondary characters and asked if I would read some of the beginning dialog with Vernella, a sassy redhead who holds her own against the main characters of Reece and Amanda. I was happy to do so.

Signing a copy for Jayne Bauguess
Signing a copy for Jayne Bauguess

Those who attended the reading either had books already, or purchased one before leaving. That’s another good sign that the reading went well. One lady who brought her book — received as a Christmas gift — for me to sign, said she was drawn into the story from the first chapter.

Knowing how to present yourself when you are alone behind a podium is an important aspect of being an author.

During Reading of Acquisition at The Wilkes County Public Library
During Reading of Acquisition at The Wilkes County Public Library

Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to attend Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts last October. Thank you Justen Ahren, director and founder of Noepe Center for Literary Art. I am certain last night’s reading would not have gone as smoothly had it not been for the practice and advice I received while there, and even afterwards from those more seasoned authors who befriended me and have so generously shared tips from their own experience.

My First Official Reading
My First Official Reading

For those of you who may be new at this too, I am going to share with you some of what they have shared with me.

— Do whatever you can to help get the word out. Don’t depend solely on the library or book store to take care of all of the advertising for you.

— Arrange to have a friend with you. Any announcements, pictures, things that need attention, can be handled by them and not take you away from your reading and the other guests in attendance.

— Have something prepared to say about yourself as a way of introduction for those who don’t know you.

— Practice what you will read in advance so the words flow effortlessly.

— Use varying tones of voice to indicate when you are changing characters and to avoid the monotone sleep-inducing drone.

— Dress conservatively. Let the words be the star of the show, not your ‘costume.’

— Be prepared for questions.

— Promote your next book if you have one in the works.

— And always have a bottle of water close by, and an extra ink pen!

— Most importantly, have fun — smile, engage with the audience, and be friendly!

Thank you to the Wilkes County Public Library, Jane Seskin, Mark Wiederanders, Margot Douaihy, Nan Elliott, Karen Hunt, Jack Sonni, Jarita Davis, Paula Eller, Wendy Barber, Debbie Smith, family, friends, and everyone who showed up for the reading last night.

What tips would you add to this list?  Share your best ones or even the silliest ones which have helped you get through a reading or presentation.

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   



  1. Congratulations! I’m not at all surprised it went well as you have prepared yourself well for these moments. Again, thank you for sharing and allowing us to live this vicariously through you. Wow, so much has happened in twelve months.

  2. Thanks for sharing these valuable tips, Renee! I must say, my knees would be knocking behind that podium. I’m sure you’ll cool as a cucumber. 🙂 I’m so happy for you!

  3. It’s awesome to be see you blossom and enjoy the fruits of being a published author with readings and signings and all sorts of scary new experiences. Thanks for sharing helpful info and tips with us. 🙂

  4. Congratulations on your successful reading Renee and thanks for the tips! Not something I’ve had to do yet, but given that I don’t like presentations, I suspect I’ll find this hard. In some ways, I think even harder than a work presentation, since the thing you’re presenting is yourself 🙂

  5. Congratulations on the literary achievements and the initiatives. Great post and I love the photographs as well. Best wishes & Happy week to you ⭐ Aquileana 😀

  6. Congratulations Renee! and thank you for the tips! I haven’t even started thinking that far ahead but I suspect I won’t find it easy 🙂

  7. Renee, first of all, allow me to say you look gorgeous! That said, how exciting to see your work published! Congratulations, my friend! I love your tips! I’m sure they’ll make for a successful book reading and they’re so easy to follow! Hugs! 🙂

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Yes, that moment of engaging makes it a conversation and less like a ‘speech’. I bet you could add a few tips to this. Would love to hear them.

  8. Sounds like good advises all the way through. I am not there yet, but maybe one day I’ll get back here and pick up your thoughts about how to hold a successful book-signing.

    1. I was fortunate to be able to meet other writers more experienced and generous with their advice. I bet you wouldn’t need any though, because you are already leading in your field, Otto.

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