Don’t Go on TV with Your Fly Open

photo by Claudia Strazza

Therese here. I’m so pleased to introduce you to today’s guest, author Allie Larkin. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Allie in real life (IRL!), and I can tell you she is down to earth, extremely funny, and a true storyteller. Her second novel, Why Can’t I Be You, is as entertaining as Allie herself. It’s the story of a woman who is mistaken for another person, who then decides to slip into that person’s skin for a while before ultimately recreating herself. Said Romantic Times Book Review:

This is a fun and quirky read for anyone who always wondered what it would be like to live life in someone else’s shoes. Readers will likely identify with the main character, and will definitely enjoy the crazy ride along the way thanks to Larkin’s breezy and light writing style.”

Allie’s here to share some of her savviest public speaking tips with us. Enjoy!

Don’t go on TV with your fly open, and other tips from me to you.*

Remember that movie where Brendan Fraser spent 35 years in a nuclear fallout shelter before he was thrust out into the real world?**

Writing a book reminds me of that. The time we spend working on our novels is anti-social time spent in pants with elastic waistbands. Then the book comes out, and all of a sudden our jobs change. After months (or years) of purposeful brooding and solitude, we’re in the spotlight, out in the world, promoting something that probably still feels a little bit private and so very dear.

It’s culture shock, and my first time around, I longed for advice. So here are some tips to help you brave the great big world of book promotion and real pants:

Own your expertise. You are the leading authority on your book. No one else in the world knows as much about your characters or your story as you do. Don’t be nervous about answering questions. You have the answers.

Picture the audience in their clothes. For the love of all that is good in the world, ignore the age-old advice about public speaking and underwear. People in their underwear will either gross you out, leave you feeling more awkward, or make you think, ‘Damn, they look good!’ None of those scenarios will help you speak better in public. Picture the audience as a group of good friends. Chat with them accordingly. And if you need to, practice your reading in front of a group of friends ahead of time.

Banish your verbal tics. Do you like and um your way through life? A few weeks before your book comes out, ask good friends and family to charge you a nickel for every like, um, or other significant vocal tic.

Allie book

Learn your best camera angles. This is helpful for author photos and for photos readers will take at events. I know it seems silly, but when a dear, sweet reader tags a photo of you on Facebook that seems to highlight all the things you’re most self-conscious of, it will bother you. Then it will bother you that it bothers you, because vanity is the devil’s hooha or something like that. This is a fabulous guide, here, and knowing what you’re doing will make you feel less awkward about having your picture taken.

Remember: Spanx are your friend. Even if you’re skinny, they’ll help your clothes drape nicely and keep what should be covered under wraps. Added bonus: Spanx are like a Thundershirt for people.

Laugh at yourself. I have tripped. I’ve dropped my book. I’ve lost my place. One time, my belt even fell off while I was reading. And absolutely none of it mattered in any way, shape or form. Just laugh, and others will join you. Everyone loves to laugh. The audience isn’t expecting you to be perfect. They’re there to make a connection with the person behind the book. Plus, readings are supposed to be fun for everyone, including you.

Most importantly: Check your fly.

* I’m not saying I did go on TV with my fly open, mind you. But if I did, you can bet I laughed about it. A lot. After I spent the day hitting refresh on the news website until they posted the clip and I could be certain my sweater obscured the open zipper.

**Please note: Mention of said movie does not constitute a recommendation.

Do you have public speaking tips you’d like to share? Share away in comments.

You can learn more about Allie and her latest release, Why Can’t I Be You, on her website, and by following her on Facebook and Twitter. Write on!



  1. says

    You have covered the topic well. The only thing I would add is to do it a lot. It gets easier. The more public speaking you do the more relaxed you get. Thanks for these tips.

  2. says

    OMG Allie! That’s too funny! Warning about Spanx: I once was in the parking lot on my way to a reading and my skirt slid down my tights. Luckily, it wasn’t during my reading! YouTube Paula Deen Spanx–she was wearing pants and had the same thing happen.

  3. says

    I love this post because just yesterday, I realized that I had been walking around with my jeans unzipped for about four hours.

    You know what I love about your suggestions? They reveal your humility AND your confidence. Maybe that’s what we writers need to strive for: that balance of humility and confidence. No one likes an arrogant writer, but no one likes an insecure, needy one either.

    You are a perfect example of someone who walks that line with utter charm and balance.


  4. says

    Good post.

    Yeah my wife saw Beyonce fall flat on her face a few years back.

    The amazing thing was she kept singing through out it and finished the song like nothing ever happened.

    The crowd went crazy.

    It’s sad when people take themselves to seriously.

  5. says

    Um, do they, like, make spanx for guys?

    I used to feel like I could handle public speaking. Then I spent a bunch of years purposefully brooding in elastic waistbands. Now I’m not so sure, and have no idea about camera angles. Lots to do. So thanks, for the advice and the laughs.

    PS – Cool website. Ive never met anyone else who listed Island of the Blue Dolphins as an influence. Now want to read your book.
    Signed, A fellow constant Cure listener.

  6. Charlotte Hunter says

    Love the suggestion about paying friends and family to correct the ‘like,’ ‘um,’ and ‘you know’ speaking tics. I had a father who did that for me, and while it drove me mad when I was a teen, it was an invaluable gift.

    I’ve now been a public speaker for many years. I always, always suffer from performance anxiety beforehand, yet I enjoy myself thoroughly while speaking. As you note, and as I can attest, being able to laugh at oneself and allow oneself to have imperfections can make all the difference between an event being a penance or a party.

    Kudos for an excellent post.

  7. says

    My sister-in-law charged my brother a quarter every time he swore when they were dating. The coin jar helped pay for her engagement ring. Always pays to plan ahead. I’m printing this article out and giving it to my daughter. She has to give a speech at graduation and already owes spanx.

  8. says

    I love Stella. She’s most attentive.

    I haven’t done book promo, obviously, but I can relate to the point about culture shock. Thanks for the tips, Allie.

    And congrats on the book! “Fun and quirky” is a huge draw for me.

  9. says

    I think laugh at yourself is the best advice. I’ve had to teach to groups as part of my non-writer job, and once I embraced the fact I was going to embarrass myself, and the world wouldn’t end, it got a whole lot easier. And the embarrassing situations decreased, too. Relaxing is our friend!

  10. says

    Wonderful advice, Allie! Another author who does a lot of speaking gave me this advice and I think it is good as well. Remember, unlike other types of public speaking, the people attending an author event are most likely there because they want to be. They are eager to meet someone they probably already admire, so they are going to be receptive and forgiving. Or to paraphrase Sally Field, keep telling yourself, “They like me, they really like me!”

  11. says

    Allie this is hilarious. Reminds me of my dancing days, when after a dramatic head roll, my fake bun went skittering across the stage with its traitorous bobby pins making it look like an urchin.

    Just as I planned?

    People in the performing arts learn that the only sure way to draw attention to a bumble is to allow yourself to get flustered. When you get uncomfortable, the audience gets uncomfortable. As my bun made its trajectory beyond my peripheral vision, I stayed focused on the rest of my performance and hoped the audience did, too. No one ever mentioned it.

    I think of the way Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the way to her Oscar—had anyone ever fallen so gracefully? She looked perfect AND human—that’s a feat to pull off!

    Thanks for this great post and congratulations on your second book!

  12. says

    And Meryl Streep stepped on her dress. She said so, laughed, and moved on — the perfect lesson.
    Which I tried to remember when my talking hand knocked the wireless mic off my lapel and sent it flying — twice!

    Excellent — and fun — post. Thanks

  13. says

    No spanx for me, thank you! Though a spanks would be okay *winky face* – haw!

    I so enjoyed this post — gave me a big ole smile and i needed a big ole smile — yeah.

    I once spoke at a conference and somehow began talking about how my brain has a black hole and I went on about the event horizon and how time seems to stop but it doesn’t really and the spaghettification of objects as they enter the black hole and how wondrous things are in there but unseen – and when I stopped my babble, I looked out at the audience and all these faces stared up at me as if I were completely IN-SANE — laughing!

    ah well.

  14. says

    You guys are wonderful! Thank you so much! And I appreciate the warning re: Spanx and losing one’s drawers. That would be way worse than an open fly. :)