Giving a Successful Author Talk: Three Ideas

Being on tour for Oleander Girl and Grandma and the Great Gourd has made me think a great deal about what makes a successful author event.

Three things I consider important are:

1. Tell the audience something they wouldn't know just from reading the back jacket of the book, or from reviews and interviews. Something personal. With Oleander Girl, I often talk about how my grandfather was an inspiration for Korobi's grandfather, the loving but stern Bimal Roy who kept a huge secret from her all his life.

chitra at evergreen with grandma book.jpg

At Evergreen Valley College, San Jose

2. Keep the presentation short, enjoyable and appropriate without dumbing it down. Leave them wanting more. I try to be aware of who the audience is, and what the people sitting in front of me would be interested in. Is it a general bookstore or author luncheon audience? Are they writers or writing students? Are they people from my Indian background? I gear my talk toward what would be of interest to them.


At the New York Public Library

3. Be willing to do a question and answer session. People love to engage one on one with speakers, and a question and answer session is perfect for that. It's also good to offer to sign books afterwards, for those people who are too shy to speak up in a crowd. Questions from the audience also make me think of my writing in different ways, and to be aware of what readers are getting out of my books. A question I'm asked often is where I get ideas for my books. I give various answers: Oleander Girl and Sister of My Heart came out of visits to India and what I saw during these trips; Palace of Illusions came out of childhood evenings when my grandfather told me the story of the Mahabharat; Arranged Marriage came out of the gossip I overheard at Indian parties. But ultimately, it's a mystery to me where story ideas come from. 

chitra signing books for kids.jpg

At a middle school in the Houston area