Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Public Speaking Is A Writer's Best Friend

You've written the book. Now what? How do you get your book noticed? After the good reviews, nice blurbs, a pretty book cover, guest blogging, interviews, and diving into social media, what else can authors do to promote their book?

Selling thousands of copies of my first book was no small feat. To say any writer can hand sell their book out of the trunk of their car would be a false statement. To market and sell your book is hard work, to say the least. But writers, fearless writers, can be fearless marketers.

Writers know about platform and branding. Very simply, a platform is your customer base, your brand is your promise. A platform is the people who could, now and in the future, buy your books. Your brand will keep them reading your work. Hopefully.
Writing conferences, securing online presence, and joining networking groups will help a writer build that solid platform. There are a zillion web sites available for writers to promote their books. But, it’s been my experience the best possible marketing tool for the writer (drum roll, please) is public speaking. Meeting your readers, up close and personal.
I know, I know … it’s not what writers want to hear. We’re solitary folk, writing in the privacy of our homes, offices, attics, and basements. So why would we want to speak publicly?

Whether you’re published by a big house, small house, or self-published, YOU ARE YOUR BEST PUBLICIST. Speaking about your book is your best tool--especially if it’s self-published. Although I have an awesome publisher (Satya House Publications www.satyahouse.com) Michael and I decided to take a little advance money and put it toward travel. And travel, we did.

It's about to start all over again this October with the release of Televenge. A much bigger tour this time. From sea to shining sea. Lordy.

Anyway, I’ve spoken at over 150 venues to date, from New York City to Orlando, Florida. You've probably heard me say this before, but we wore out two cars and burned up lots of tax-deductible gas these past few years. Listen up. You never, ever stop marketing your book. You are in control. After six years, I'm still selling Southern Fried Women everywhere I go. How?
After I speak, I sell and sign books at the back of the room. 

My speeches are tweaked for each event. And always, I talk about my book and my future books. Want the real secret? It’s simple. Get the audience to fall in love with you and they’ll flock to your book table afterward to take a piece of you home. Be humble, be kind, be gracious, but most of all ... be genuine.

Smiling as I watch folks line up, I have signed as many as 150 books at one event. I can attest it’s the best confidence-builder in the world. PUBLIC SPEAKING sells books that would otherwise sit in boxes inside your garage, basement, or your publisher’s storage room.


But first things first. If you're doing this on your own, without a publicist (like I did for my first book) you need a press packet or press booklet. A press packet contains an overview page, letters of reference, press releases, book reviews, a sample of your first chapter, and your bio. Actually, you can put anything into a press packet or booklet you want. There are no hard and fast rules. Anything that will open the door to a speaking engagement is fair game.

I prefer booklets, they’re cheaper and you can make them yourself. But they have to look professional. If you can’t do this, you’ll need to find a graphic designer, or a talented friend who can help you. Your press packet will be small at first, but as you speak and add letters of reference, you’ll impress any group leader, president, or activity director. Sign the back of each press booklet as a “signed limited edition.” They’ll be less likely thrown away.

Second, develop one or two speeches. That’s all you need at first. You may wish to seek out a qualified speech coach, life coach, or teacher. Practice your speech on professionals. Not family. Family members will love you and your speech no matter how it sounds. Give your speech to someone who can not only critique it, but also assist you in your delivery. Public speaking classes are available at most local colleges, or join Toastmasters. Enroll, apply, do whatever you have to do to hone your speech.

Southern Fried Women, published June 1, 2006, sold over 2,000 copies in the first year. Not bad for a first book, small press, and mostly regional sales. My book was sold at the back of boardrooms, conference rooms, lunchrooms, and ballrooms. In restaurants, book fairs, banquet halls, country clubs, beauty shops, gift stores, town halls, cultural centers, festivals, libraries and yes, a few book stores. I’ve spoken at book clubs, women's groups, church workshops, assisted living centers, book festivals, writing conferences, a slew of Rotaries, Junior Leagues, and many other civic groups … the list is a long one. There are hundreds of groups out there looking for good, qualified speakers. The trick is, finding them. Use your contacts. Or your family's contacts. Pull in a few favors. But once you've given a great speech and obtain a letter of reference, you're on your way.

Remember, as a published author you have an advantage over a professional speaker. However, professional speakers are catching on to this. At a National Speaker Association meeting I attended in Charlotte, these folks who speak for a living are putting together CD’s, gadgets, booklets, all kinds of things and selling them after their speech. Where? AT THE BACK OF THE ROOM. They know it’s another way to make money, as well as giving their audience something to remember them by.

How do I write a speech and talk about my book, you ask?

There are five attributes any writer needs to be successful: Raw talent, commitment, passion, luck, and unique voice. But YOU CAN APPLY EACH OF THOSE attributes AS A SPEAKER. You’ve heard WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. I SAY --- don’t just write what you know about --- write what you care about. Your writing then has an edge, becomes intense, the stakes are raised, and your characters become larger than life. When you SPEAK the same applies. Speak about what you care about. What matters to you the most?

Sure, we all know it’s easier to develop a speech if you write non-fiction. If you wrote a book about Growing the Perfect Rose, you could develop a speech around organic gardening or composting. In our country, writing a book automatically makes you “an expert.” But you can build your speech around your fiction, too.

Know your audience. Develop more than once speech and make the titles available in your press packet and on your web site. Each speech can be adjusted for any audience. Choose wisely the speech that best fits the group. I have several speeches that I carry with me. Be a good judge of character of any group, just like you are of an individual. Be prepared to switch gears. If I walk into a room and feel the atmosphere of the room would respond better to a lighter or different speech, I’ll switch to another speech and they are none the wiser.

Unless you talk to other writers about your process, experience, and tips on writing … what do you speak about? How do you develop a speech and draw your book into your speech? And how do you market it? Motivational? Inspirational? Educational?

Draw from life experiences. My speech, Out of the Dark, is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. I talk about coming out of a religious cult, and how that affected me as a writer. I grew up in church, so I talk about why my stories are filled with religious threads.

Southern Fried Women is written about what else? Southern women. And so, I developed a speech called What is a Southern Fried Woman? I’ve given this to many women’s groups. A speech about women born and raised or transplanted to the South. It’s funny, lighthearted, and compels those who hear it to remember their growing up years.

Later, I wrote the speech, Keeping the Southern Accent in Southern Literature. I have a lot of fun with this speech. It’s a blast and folks relate to it in a big way.

When I speak to business groups, and depending on what they ask for, I give a speech called, Reinventing a Life from Office to Author. How I transitioned into a writing career after many years in the medical field. Retirement Homes and Assisted Living Centers often request The Music of Southern Fried Women. I read excerpts from Southern Fried Women and sing some of the old timey church songs I grew up with. My husband accompanies me on the guitar. They love it!

And of course, I speak at Writing Conferences. I talk about The Voice of a Woman. My favorite is Publicity, Public Speaking, and Pulling Your Hair Out.

As an event speaker you not only meet the nicest folk, but the opportunity to sell and sign so many books is a real shot in the arm to your confidence. It’s thrilling to see a line of folks waiting patiently for you to sign their copy. Whereas, at a bookstore, you might, if you’re lucky, have five or ten people show up. Maybe. But when you’ve been requested to speak at an event you have a priceless advantage. You have a captive audience 

One important note to remember: If you’re self-published, you can pocket the profit from book sales. If you’re not self-published, you’re still making money, and you're continually building your platform. Michael and I funded our last book tour from book sales at the back of the room! But EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE is the most important thing you're after.

Here’s another tip: Civic groups (non profits) have many fund raising projects. When negotiating an event, I often donate a percentage of book sales that day toward their event. It cuts into your profit a little, but the reward is tremendous. Word of mouth is also your best friend. If you’ve developed a great speech, soon you’ll have folks calling you to come speak because they know you’ll not only entertain them, but give to their efforts, as well.

Attend a meeting at your local Rotary! Anybody can go to a meeting or two without joining. Ask a Rotarian what would be the possibility of you speaking at one of their weekly meetings. Rotaries, as well as other civic groups need good speakers who are not out to sell them insurance or aluminum siding. They want motivational, inspirational, and speakers with a message. Small groups mean smaller sales, of course. But word spreads.

SPEAK locally first, and then branch out regionally. All it costs you is TIME. Time to research your markets and the tax-deductible GAS to get there.

Okay, if you sell 50 books at the back of the room and your book sells for $15.00, that’s $750.00 for about 2 hours work. If you really want to see your profit, deduct YOUR cost for each book, your sales tax, your expenses to get there, and donate 20% back to the group. That takes the profit down, but even $500 is a great profit margin. And what else? Once again, you’re building YOUR PLATFORM.

For my first book launch in 2006, I teamed up with my local Literary League, and donated 50% of the profits to their scholarship fund. I RECEIVED A TON FREE PRESS, TV TIME AND RADIO SPOTS.

Your best opportunity for speaking opportunities is NETWORKING. Join your local chamber. Go to a meeting of your Red Hat Society Ladies, Garden Club, and Book Clubs, Schools, anyone you know who belongs to a group who utilizes speakers. How about your church? There are a host of networking groups you can join. The Internet is great place to gather contact information for civic groups. But don't spam. And don't push. If they say no, then move on.

Writers must be overcomers. It’s an old church term I’ve heard for years. We have to overcome fear: the fear of public speaking, the fear of promoting ourselves, and the fear of failure. It's important to me that the hours and hours I spent on my passion are not wasted. Not only do I want my work published, I want it read. Every day presents new challenges in my writing career, but public speaking is no longer one of them. 

If it worked for me, it can work for anybody.
Blessings to you and yours.


B. J. Robinson said...

Thanks for the excellent advice and tips. Blessings, BJ Robinson

Pamela King Cable said...

Blessings to you, BJ. I know you are one author who works hard to promote your work. Kudos to you, my friend.