Tell A Story: Planning the Content of Your Book Event

I’m a planner. When my publicist and I first started planning events for Chasing the Sun, I was all about the big details: venues, dates, food, drinks, invites and omg what will I wear?! (Haven’t figured that out yet.)

ImageBut a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak about the book at a festival that celebrated Peruvian culture. It was a small, but lovely crowd. And because it was technically my first time doing a Chasing the Sun reading, I got the added bonus of learning a lot about a book event, before my official book event.

And you know what? All those big details matter, but what will matter most—after you’ve obsessed over where you’ll host the event, how many people will show up, what food you serve—is the content. Your talk. What you actually share and give to those who came to see you and hear about your book and learn your story.

This will set the tone and mood for your event, so it’s best not to completely wing it. I’m not saying you should have flashcards or a speech memorized, but take a moment to plan and organize what you’ll talk about.

Think about your audience. At the Peru Fest event I spoke at, I knew that the audience would be made up of either people who were from Peru or people who were interested in learning about Peru. So I focused a lot on why I chose this as the setting for my novel, how I researched, and the roles that a real time/place played in telling a fictional story.

And speaking of! Tell a story. We’re storytellers. People are coming to your book event because they like stories. This doesn’t mean you should spend an hour reading from your novel, but your talk should still have a beginning, middle, and end. For example, I started by talking about the blend of fact and fiction in my novel, shared the real-life events that inspired parts of it, and then spoke a bit about the points at which I moved away from the “real” to get at deeper truths. What I didn’t realize until I finished planning this out is that my talk had a theme that focused on finding truth through fiction. It ended up being the story of how I looked for answers about my own family’s real-life crisis by writing fiction.

Don’t overplan. Though I had a plan for what I wanted to talk about, I didn’t have notecards or lines memorized; I wanted this event to feel as natural as possible. After all, people come to your book event to get to know you as a person. Take the time to really talk to them and answer questions, and be yourself. Just a slightly less scatterbrained, engaging and interesting version of yourself.

That’s the plan, anyways.

What do you enjoy most when you attend a book event?

Author: Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at

6 Replies to “Tell A Story: Planning the Content of Your Book Event”

  1. Sounds like it went well! I’m sure I would have been riveted. I always enjoy hearing about the story-behind-the-story, as well as Q&A sessions (although of course that depends on what kind of questions get asked too…).

  2. Before I did my first pre-pub reading, a friend suggested that I relate the book back to myself on a personal level — tell a personal story. Which is what you did when you told the story about your family. Sounds like your talk went great!

  3. I love the idea of talking about the truth behind the fiction. As a reader I’m always interested in what led a writer to create the story they chose to tell. As a writer I love this suggestion for doing something a little bit different at a book event! And I’m glad to know that you’re worried about what you’re going to wear… I’m already thinking about that and my launch is almost a year away! Thanks for a great post!

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