It’s important to hear voices.
I’ve attended many, many author readings, too many to count, but all in all, I don’t go to hear them read. I arrive on time, sit near the front with a copy of their book, and wait until that glorious five- or ten-minute Q & A session. I ask them questions, I hear other people ask them questions and I bring a notebook and jot down their answers so I can learn from them. I get to understand their voice and their process of writing and compare it to mine, make adjustments, or see where I don’t want to go, if I don’t like their writing. But I copy it all down anyway, because it’s better to have it and refer to the badlands, than walk right into them, without the chance to escape.
Now the key is not to try to copy what they did because, I’m telling you now it won’t work. That’s what they did. You have to do what you do. And that involves similar stumbling, similar wandering in the wrong direction, but your individual path to publication and success is what makes you the kind of author you are. If you follow somebody else’s road map you may not tap into all that you can. You have to keep an open ear for those readings because, sometimes they’ll save you from a major pothole or two in the road to success, but try not to keep your head down and your nose glued to their map.
Use them as a boat uses a wind gauge or a compass pointing you in the right direction, but sailing your own way.
Oh, and have the author sign the book, too… for good measure.