"...We're living in era where a writer can't just write. They have to be out there. Some would argue that readings are part of a writer's job... Do readers expect their writers to be performers too?" - Ben Myers.
Over the years I have attended many book events, and obviously some were delivered more smoothly than others. But they've rarely failed to be interesting. Audiences welcome the chance to meet a favourite writer, or to hear a first chapter or short story by a name who is new to them. If they weren't interested, they wouldn't have made the journey to the event.
I've also taken part in readings. I've even organised a few. Walking towards the mic can be a nerve-wracking experience as every writer wants their work to be liked, but when total strangers keep on listening to the next bit, and the next bit and the next, and then smile and give a hearty applause, it's well worth any initial trepidation.
Does anyone in an audience really expect a writer to be the next Billy Connolly? I don't think so. And should a writer's mind turn blank, they can always ask the audience what they'd like to know about. Most literary events pull modest-sized audiences anyway, and Q&A sessions work well even with small groups.
Personally, I enjoy reading my work before an audience. Sure, I write for myself - my stories are created to please me ultimately - but it's nice to share the end product too.
I remember one reading which proved a disaster. A friend - who'll remain nameless - had given her short story to an actor to perform. It was thought that this actor, who had been treading the boards for two decades or thereabouts, would be able to wow the audience far more effectively than the trembling author. Not so. Whereas, when the author had read it, listeners had laughed at the right places and felt sad or thoughtful when they were supposed to, the actor knocked all the humour out of it and turned it into one long whine. No-one laughed. The audience offered up an algid few claps and the author swore a blood-oath to read her own work in future.