Public speaking: those two words drive fear into the hearts of introverts everywhere. I grew up shy, so I totally get it. My mom used to force me to order my own food in restaurants so that I could participate in public society. My palms would perspire, my voice would shake, and I wanted the floor to swallow me up. However, I am also a person who loves to stomp all over my fears, so during high school and college, I came out of my shell and grew to love meeting new people. When I did broadcast news and teaching, I came to a happy place with being in front of an audience.
Even though public speaking–like marketing, in general–can make you uncomfortable, it will help your writing career immensely. Here are some of the different venues you can speak at, in order to promote your book:
Start small and work your way up. Begin by offering to speak at local writing groups. For example, I have presented at my chapter of the Missouri Writers’ Guild twice. From there, I will contact chapter groups of Romance Writers of America, since my novel, Voodoo Butterfly, is paranormal romance (and my book was a finalist in the Northwest Houston RWA’s Lone Star Contest).
Next, contact larger writers’ organizations regionally, nationally, and internationally. Provide them with a list of possible presentation topics along with some of the printed book swag we talked about last time. Be sure to highlight your strengths. For instance, I have college-level teaching experience so I know how to present lectures and lead writing workshops. As writers, we tend to avoid bragging, but you have to advertise your skills to book gigs and get your name out there.
Since Voodoo Butterfly is a paranormal romance, I plan to attend the Romantic Times Convention, which reaches not only romance writers, but also librarians, readers, book sellers, and the general public.
Think outside the box. What non-traditional places could you approach to host a book signing or author talk? If you have a children’s book about animals, ask zoos and farms in your area. If you wrote a book like The DaVinci Code, ask art galleries and museums if you could lead a tour “decoding” your favorite works of art.
Get engaged with your community. My son’s school studies different careers throughout the calendar year, so I offered to speak in front of his class. His teacher said, “The rest of the teachers in the school would love to have you speak in their classrooms, too.” Or see if schools would carry your books in their libraries and classrooms.
Check out Meetup.com to find organizations who are passionate about the things you write about. Using that site, I’ve already found several paranormal societies. I’d love to speak at one of their meetings about my own haunted experiences. Or, heck, I’d go on a paranormal investigation with them because I love hunting ghosts.
Book Signings/Meet the Author Events
Reach out to friends’ book clubs, local book sellers, and reading groups at nearby libraries. Having the author visit during the book discussion, allows the group a chance to ask behind-the-scenes questions of the author. Plus, people love to walk away with a signed copy for their own collection and/or to give as a present. For those of us who have published eBooks, you can still sign digital autographs using Authorgraph.com. Or sign some swag that readers can bring home.
Many local libraries and book sellers host “meet local author” events; you can contact those places to get involved.
How do you actually go about booking these live events?
- Network, network, network. Let family, friends, and fellow writers know that you speak for organizations or teach classes. Fellow Lit Lady, Margo Dill, says that 90% of her gigs come from her personal and professional contacts. For instance, she spoke to a group of retired teachers (Margo used to be a teacher, so she has connections in this area of expertise) and sold dozens of books at that one event. She has written some children’s books and many of the attendees bought copies of her books to give to their grandchildren.
- Use your online presence to spread the word. Your website should promote your speaking gigs by providing your contact info along with a list of potential lecture topics. Your blog is another great place to highlight your knowledge. Then anyone can Google “author” or “speaker” in your state or in your area of expertise and they will come upon your information.
- Advertise yourself as a public speaker in your print materials. Business cards should promote you as an author and teacher/speaker. Brochures should list the possible topics you could present.
On a final note, don’t be disappointed if you don’t sell oodles of books at a particular live event you attend. You have to view your marketing strategy holistically. Presenting publicly gets your name out there and can lead to more paid speaking engagements and more book sales down the road.
For this week, research some venues where you can offer to speak. If you have stage fright, listen to this podcast to help overcome your fear of public speaking.
Next time we talk about launch parties (woo hoo). Until then, enjoy the marketing journey.