I’ve long insisted to the beagle that she makes for a lousy public speaker, but she persists anyway. Additionally, she knows next to nothing about how to get a speaking gig, so she tends to frequent the bars instead. Don’t let this be you. A lot of you are looking to book speaking engagements as a way to promote your books. From YA writers, who speak at schools, to black-hearted, soulless editors, who speak at writer’s conferences and writer’s groups, the first step is the Query. Yah, you read that right…another *&^% query.
“Here’s what I can offer you…”
And this query is just as important as the query letter you wrote to your agent or publisher because it boils down to someone has something you want. And this is where querying about speaking gigs gets dicey.
Never Beg: Most writers view this process as “Please, will you book me? I’m really really cool, and so is my book.” In essence, you’re begging. Never beg. You’re better than that.
Tepid: The other viewpoint authors take is one of a simple introduction, which comes off as tepid. “My name is Really Cool Author, and my children’s book, First Class Jeans is engaging and funny with the adventures of Jeanie, a well-used pair of jeans, who travels the world and talks about her experiences.” Ok, it’s a cute idea (totally made it up), but this is a new author without an established platform, so there isn’t a clear idea as to why a school should book the gig, other than teachers might enjoy a freebie hour off from teaching Social Studies.
What Can I Do For You?: Instead, new authors are more successful in booking gigs when they take the tact of “What can I do for you?” If you present clear ideas about your fabulosity, a school, library, hospcoffee shop, bar, etc. will jump in front of a speeding train to book you. Venues are basically looking for a reason to say yes, so a letter of simple introduction isn’t going to convince anyone.
You need something more. You need a solid pitch.
When I first started out doing writers conferences many moons ago, I knew that I wasn’t the only editor wanting to do seminars, so I took the tact of perfecting my pitch.
- Introduction: Because I’m a household name only in my mother’s mind, I need to let people know who I am and what kinds of books we publish.
- List of seminars: This is the “what can I do for you?” element. Instead of asking them to please, please, please consider booking you because you have fresh breath and laugh at everyone’s jokes, give them a reason why they should by including a list of your seminars. Yes, I said LIST. I found that people love having a choice (and are more likely to book you) because you’re showing that you’re not a one-trick pony. You’re varied and expansive. They know their audience better than you do, so giving them a choice increases your chances of scratching their particular itch.
- Seminar Content: It’s not enough to just give them a list; you need to give a good description of those seminars, which means your seminars need to have great substance and meat for thought. Start by giving them a quick one-line description, then include bullet points over what you cover, and finish up by showing what their audience will learn. This is key because they now know how fabulous you are. The more info they have, the better able they are to decide which talk is appropriate for their audience.
Over the years, I’ve collected 10 different seminars. Here’s a sample of what I send out to writer’s conferences
My name is Lynn Price, and I’m editorial director of Behler Publications – an independent trade press that is focused on nonfiction. I’ve been speaking around the country for five years on a variety of topics, which are based on my award-winning book The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. I hope you find my subject matter of interest for your conference. In addition to doing seminars, I also sit in on pitch sessions, as I’m always looking for fresh, talented voices.
Seminar 1: “I’ve Written The End – Pass Me the Maalox”
- The Hook – what is it, and what does it do?
- Writing your Synopsis – “Oh God!”
- Elements that go into writing a no-snooze cover letter
- Submission guidelines – pay attention!
- Making your writing recession-proof by understanding your readership
- Promotion plan – whaddya mean I have to promote?
- Manuscript formatting
Three things people will learn by attending my seminar:
- They will learn the elements that go into creating a short but detailed query letter.
- They will learn details what editors are looking for in the submission process.
- They will learn the importance of understanding marketplace and the fallacy behind “If I write it, they will come.”
Seminar 9: Writing Memoir/Biography – Make Them Care
This covers the difference between writing something that has a small audience and capturing an editor’s attention.
- What makes for a big story?
- The “Who Cares” Factor/What’s the Point?
- Who are you, and what is your hook?
Three things people will learn:
- Authors will learn to study the marketplace and trends.
- Authors will learn to think about their hook and work on their platform.
- Authors will understand the importance of having a message.
Lynn Price’s Bio – Behler Publications
Along with being the editorial director for Behler Publications, Lynn Price is the award-winning author of Donovan’s Paradigm, and The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. Since 2003, Behler Publications has been publishing best selling and critically acclaimed nonfiction about everyday people who end up doing extraordinary things due to a pivotal event that alters their perspective about life. Behler looks for books where readers say, “I’m a better/more thoughtful/smarter person for having read this book.”
Bestsellers include Jan’s Story by CBS journalist Barry Petersen; Throwaway Players: The Concussion Crisis from PeeWee Football to the NFL by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers president, Gay Culverhouse; and Los Angeles Times bestseller KTLA: News At Ten With Stan Chambers by former Los Angeles news icon Stan Chambers.
In between her editing duties, Lynn is the irreverent voice of the Behler Blog, and employs two unreliable rescue beagles to serve as her secretary.
Now I’m not saying you need ten different seminars, but you should have several. Again, choice increases your chances that one of your seminars will attract the guy reading your pitch.
It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or nonfiction; there is always something you can pull from your book that will pique someone’s interest. After all, if Mr. Two Surfer Dudes could make lemonade out of what could have been rather lemony, then you can, too. Dig deep and use your marvelous imagination.
Consider your speaking gigs thoughtfully. Introduce yourself, give them a list of your seminars, and include a general rundown of what each seminar covers, and what audiences will learn. The added benefit is that you’re forced to think about your seminars with a focused intent with a intended outcome – that the audience will walk away with a lasting impression.
And before you sit back and cry, “Yabut, I’m a new writer!” I say so what? Just because you’re new doesn’t mean you’re unworthy. That’s the beauty of your seminar outline. It shows event planners exactly how marvelous you are. Go with confidence! This approach is the difference between hopey hopey to BoOya…gotta speaking gig. And speaking gigs not only sells books, but it puts you directly in front of your readership…and that’s about as delicious as it gets.