While I wait for an agent to snatch me up for representation, I’m devoting some time to the study of marketing. I realize, once I actually sign a contract with a publisher, that most of the marketing will fall to me. Unfortunately, I’m not a marketing-savvy person. I think I’d rather poke myself with a fork than try to sell my own book. But it’s something I must learn to do, so I’m going to share my learning efforts with all of you. I’m also blogging on this topic over at Melody Steiner’s site, so hop over there every Saturday and check out what I wrote.
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Today’s topic is public speaking. I’ll admit, I’m pretty good at it. I actually enjoy doing it, despite my shyness and fear of crowds. I don’t get asked to do it a lot, but when I do, I jump at the chance. It’s a dandy way to sell books, too. After an audience hears you speak, they feel they know you better. When they know you, they want to know you more. They buy your books (if you’ve got them available at a back table). This all hinges on you having something to say and an engaging or entertaining way of saying it. If you bore them to tears, kiss the book sales good-bye. You also need to walk into the situation with the goal of bringing worthy content to your audience (as opposed to selling a truck-load of books at the back table). I’m not sure what advice I can give on public speaking, since it comes fairly natural to me. I try to be myself and interject enough humor to keep the crowd engaged. (If your jokes aren’t funny, don’t tell them. That doesn’t work well at all.) The one bit of logic I hear all the time, and will therefore pass on to you, is this: IF you don’t enjoy public speaking, don’t do it. Find a different way to market your books. If you enjoy it, then go for it.
How do you find speaking engagements in the first place? That’s the $100,000 question. You could advertise on blogs, on church bulletin boards, and on the radio. You could make phone calls to ladies groups (or men’s groups, or kids groups) at local churches and tell them you’re available. You could print out flyers and staple them all over town. Oh, the library would be a good place to staple one of those. You could schedule a book signing at a local book store and use it as an opportunity to speak (providing you have someone show up for the book – that’s a bummer when you’re there with only the book store staff). You could call civic groups (like the Lion’s Club or Elk’s Club) and volunteer to speak on a topic that would interest them. There are quite a few ways of drumming up public speaking engagements, but they take time and effort. Again, if you’re not comfortable with all that, find a different method.
Jack Cavanaugh said this: “When you’re writing, you’re not marketing. And when you’re marketing, you’re not writing.” Find a happy balance that you can live with and don’t feel guilty about what’s not getting done.
Anyone have more to share on public speaking as a marketing tool? Please share your expertise with the group.