Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wait a Minute. You Want Me To Give a Talk? by Betsy Ashton

My last couple of posts have been about writing and publishing. I want to take up one more topic, one which can scare a writer more than anything else. Standing up in front of a group and giving a talk about your book. If you aren't in Toast Masters, or you haven't spent a career giving presentations to clients and management, here are a couple of rules to follow.

  1. Thank folks for coming. That's right. That your host, your audience, and anyone else who matters. It makes people feel you are honored they are spending precious time with you.
  2. Know what your book is about. By that I mean, tell me in 15 words or less what it is about. I'd suggest you think about writing it in a Tweet, but tweeting has taken on a different life lately. Still, if you can't tell me in a couple of sentences what the book is about, you can't expect your audience to wave a magic wand and divine why they want to read it. Most people call this the elevator pitch: how much can you say about your book in a ride between three floors. That should be your opening.
  3. Give the audience a slightly longer summary of the story. Keep it simple. Use as few names as possible. If you have two main characters and a host of secondary characters, focus on the interaction, the conflict, the romance, etc. between these characters. Secondary characters are, well, secondary for a reason. They matter in the book but not in a book talk.
  4. Be sure you know what your genre is. Mushy genre bending can confuse a reader. I have never know what a stand-alone romance in a series is. It's either a book in a series or a stand-alone. All books in a series should be able to be read out of order. 
  5. Prepare a couple of selections you want to read. These should be no more than 5 minutes long. One should be the hook at the beginning. One could be a teaser to draw the listeners in so they want to buy and read the book.
  6. If you are giving a talk at a library or a facility that has a collection of books for residents, offer to give away a copy. You are looking for readers, and libraries provide access to readers. Fear not, libraries will either buy more copies if they have a lengthy waiting list or readers will listen to their friends and not wait. They'll go to Amazon or their local bookstore and order the book.
  7. Ask if anyone has any questions. If no one volunteers, lead the discussion with your own questions. Pick some activity that is central to the book and ask if anyone has done it. A friend has a book where backpacking is important. She asks if people backpack. If she gets some comments, she continues. If not, she has other questions in her arsenal.
  8. Thank people for coming. Again.
  9. Tell people you have books for sale at the front or back of the room. Seat yourself at the table with pens at the ready. Have someone else handle the money. Assure your readers you take checks, cash, and credit cards. Get the Square or the PayPal app so you can rack up sales on your phone or tablet.
  10. Hand out book marks or business cards with your contact information.
  11. Be sure to thank each person who stands in line for coming and buying your book.
  12. Enjoy the hell out of the process.

There. That wasn't so bad. It's fun. You get to brag on yourself. After all, you have done something that many in the room haven't: you've written and published a book. And now you are an author.


Jannine Gallant said...

You sound like an old pro, Betsy! I've actually only done one talk/reading. It's a little nerve-wracking with all those eyes staring at you, but I survived. Great tips!

Margo Hoornstra said...

You make it appear so easy, Betsy. Piece of cake, right? Even presenting myself in that way when friends and family ask about my books is hard for me. Thanks for the wonderful advice. I'll be sure to put it into practice...someday!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Great info, Betsy. Thanks!

Andrea Downing said...

Betsy, the only thing I;'d disagree with here is in No. 4. Yes, definitely say the genre, but my feeling is if the book is part of a series people want to know if they can read one and it'll 'stand alone', i.e. make sense without having to read the others. I once read the first of a series and basically it just ended with hanging threads, very frustrating and made me feel like it was just a rip-off. Some great suggestions here though, thanks.

Diane Burton said...

Great list, Betsy. That makes it very easy to follow. I've done presentation and/or talks about my books but never as good as following your list. Thanks so much.

Leah St. James said...

Fantastic outline/blueprint, Betsy. I especially find No. 7 (the tips to get the discussion going) helpful. When I'm in front of a group, the center of attention, my brain tends to freeze, the old deer-in-headlights thing. Having a plan to move past that frozen moment is tremendously comforting!

Alicia Dean said...

These are excellent tips!! The first few times I spoke in front of a crowd, I was a jumble of nerves, but it's much easier now. I never thought about this list of suggestions, though. I'll keep it handy!