I have attended more author talks than usual in the past six months or so. From Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen to Junot Diaz and Joyce Carol Oates, with a smattering of lesser-known but no less wonderful writers in between.
Every event has been different. Some authors read from their work, some didn’t. Some authors talked about writing, some talked about their underwear. (Ok, one talked about his underwear.)
But they all had one thing in common: annoying questions from the audience.
I don’t mean that the questions themselves were annoying. Many of them were very interesting and got interesting answers.
But the questions were all delivered in a universally exasperating way that has made me realize that question asking has become a lost art.
So here are a few rules to follow when asking a question.
1) Skip the brown-nosing and personal stories. Your fellow audience members don’t care that you thought the author’s interview on Good Morning America was brilliant or once met him in a Starbucks in Toledo.
2) Ask a relevant question. Don’t ask a romance writer about her take on economy or an economist about his first girlfriend. It sounds like you’re trying to stump the author, which is just mean.
3) Speak up. There’s nothing more frustrating that listening to an answer when you didn’t hear the question. And it’s just as annoying when someone yells out “I couldn’t hear!” and makes the author repeat the question. It’s not that hard to project.
4) Don’t try to sound smart. There’s no need to try to impress the author with your skills in literary criticism or talk like you swallowed a thesaurus. Talk like a real person.
5) Have an actual question. Why on earth do so many people raise their hand when they don’t really have anything to ask? If you want to just chat the author up, wait until the signing and do it one on one.
6) Use as few words as possible. We came to hear the author speak, not you. If you like to hear yourself talk that much, write a book and have your own event.
If people just followed these easy guidelines, the Q portion of the Q&A would be less painful for everyone. Especially me.