In light of my post on how to best pitch your seminar to the Ms. Head Bananas of the world, I thought I’d talk a bit more about seminars and public speaking, in general.
Promotion is key to gaining a readership, and one of the effective ways of doing this is public speaking. It’s not for everyone and can be an acquired taste. But it also makes an impact because it’s the only place where potential readers can see you in all your gorgeiosity. They can see your passion and your humor – and trust me, this goes a LONG way to making a sale. I’ve seen great speakers sell out of really crappy books. Conversely, I’ve seen really crappy speakers not sell a single copy of a fabulous book.
So the advice here is, do public speaking if it really floats your boat.
Why Do a Seminar?
Well, for starters, you do a seminar because you have information to impart, and it’s pretty easy to find a place that will give you the platform in which to get that message out. Bookstores are a logical choice, since they’ll sell your book for you after you’ve spoken to your adoring masses. But there are plenty of other places, as well. Consider your readership and figure out where and how to gather them together in a single venue. A captive audience is one who will buy your book.
Topic seems to be a sticking point for a lot of authors – what is my message when I write romance/fantasy/SF/mystery/thriller/historical fiction? I’ve often used the example of Mr. Two Surfer Dudes because he’s a shining example of how to take something from seemingly-nothing and create a wonderful platform for his books. Now that was a gent who really found his inner hambone.
Your message is key. It should teach something, enlighten, or inspire. Nonfiction is pretty much a no-brainer in the seminar department – but even nonfiction writers can miss the mark. They are so close to their book that, oftentimes, they fail to see the marketable qualities that can be pulled out and discussed in a seminar. This is why it’s vital to discuss this with your editor and/or their marketing guys. They have ideas bursting out their pores.
Booking an Event
Bookstores and libraries are more apt to book an author for a signing if they have a talk because they have more to promote than just your book. Which poster would entice you to attend a book event:
Come to a booksigning for Alana Banana, author of If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Time For Margaritas
Come listen to author Alana Banana discuss her book, If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Time For Margaritas – a humorous look at bar drinks from around the US. Alana will discuss which cocktails are better, why a single cocktail will add years to your life, and why rum is considered nectar of the gods.
The second blurb is meant to pull in readers who would be interested in a book of this nature, along with learning something.
Consider your book, even if its fiction. Is there something you can pull out that would make for an interesting talk? Back when I doing promotion for Donovan’s Paradigm, I wanted to get readers thinking because that’s an extension of my book. So I had a talk that asked the question, “Do you think your doctor’s beliefs influence the way they treat you?”
It was an intriguing question that brought in readers to hear what blasphemy I had to say. It made for a lively give and take with the audience, which I adored. And they always bought the book.
Many authors would rather swallow hollow-point bullets than speak in front of an audience, so perhaps doing Skype talks or blog interviews is more your thing. The important consideration is to allow readers to “see” you, to get a feel for who you are. You may not think you’re terribly fascinating (ask my kids; they think I’m as dull as an English muffin), but your readers don’t, and they appreciate the opportunity to hear what you have to say.
In this business, shyness is a buzzkill.
Analyze Your Personality
Writing a book is no longer a matter of, “If you write it, they will come.” They won’t. With all the distractions in our lives, it’s easy to get lost among the white noise, which means that we all have to work harder to be heard. That also means that editors love an author who isn’t afraid to get out and show their pretty faces.
Take the time to analyze yourself; what kind of promotion are you comfortable doing? Personally, as hambone-y as I am, I will bathe in engine grease rather than do a booksigning event because it’s so hit or miss.
Even if I have a great talk planned, there’s no guarantee that anyone will show up. To counter that, I contact my potential audience. In Donovan’s Paradigm’s case, I sent out flyers to local nursing groups, alternative care clinics, and doctor’s clinics. The last thing I wanted to do is talk to the one guy who came in for the free water and cookies. At that, planning doesn’t equal success.
But dollars to doughnuts, I can attest that I always sold far more books after making public appearances. Yeppers, it’s that important. So if you feel you have a hambone just waiting to surface, give it some meat to work with and think about what elements of your book would make for a wonderful talk.