I don’t know anyone who loves public speaking. Just thinking about standing in front of a crowd to speak is enough to make my palms sweat, let alone the thought of reading from my own work!
As a fiction writer, I have daydreamed about the day I get a book published. I have pictured seeing it on store shelves, and I’ve imagined picking up my book and seeing my name on the cover. What a feeling! It’s every writer’s dream.
With a book deal, of course, comes promotion and promotion usually means readings. That’s right, reading, out loud, in public!
Which leads us to every new writer’s fear: reading to an empty room when no one shows for your event.
I’ve been to several author readings some which have been well attended and some that were, well, not.
At one reading, my friend and I were among four or five people in attendance in the basement of a local bookstore. I remember, not only feeling a little bad for the author but fearing the same thing could happen to me one day.
I recently read an absorbing article in which an author described his experience when no one showed for a reading for his recently published book.
He describes his moment of panic just as the event is supposed to begin, where he considers his options which include drowning himself in the bathroom toilets or fleeing.
The author does neither and instead, reads to the small crowd in the bookstore and even signs a book for one remaining audience member.
The truth of it is, this could happen to any of us, writers, speakers, presenters, comedians, performers.
The author of this article admits that he didn’t tell anyone about the reading beforehand: “I’d posted something about it on Facebook, but that was about the equivalent of shouting the date and time of my reading out my open car window on I-95 in a rainstorm.”
Of course, in retrospect, he could have done more to promote the reading. He could have personally invited friends and co-workers since the reading took place in his hometown. He could have made calls, sent emails and even contacted local media.
But there are also a few things he could have done that night. He could have worked the store and introduced himself to the casual book browsers. He could have taken a slightly more assertive approach and put his book in people’s hands and invited them to sit and listen.
So what is a writer/presenter/performer to do when no one shows up for their reading/presentation/show?
Do what the author of this story did – make the most of it.
He read his book anyway. He caught the attention of students in the cafe and employees of the bookstore. This may not have gotten him any more sales, but it did get him one Twitter follower.
You can read his story here.
Writers, what would you do if no one showed up for your reading? Has this happened to you? How did you handle it?