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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stump* Speech


   Whew, you think. The novel is done. You just typed THE END . . . except you're not done. It's not The End, really. Now comes the hard part for many if not most writers: Marketing your beautiful baby. And that’s a job not just for the newly published who either self-published or managed to attract the attention of a publisher. More and more big-name publishers are requiring their big-name author-clients to market their own creations. (Anyone remember seeing James Patterson on TV in the last few months?) The ultimate goal of marketing is, of course, to garner and increase sales. However, the other side of the coin is: Successful authors need to connect with their readers. Actually, they must connect with their readers. That means authors doing readings at book clubs and libraries, book signings, and, if we’re lucky, media interviews. All of those tasks require (gasp) public speaking.

   For me, and a lot of other writers I know, the prospect of public speaking is terrifying. Our normal milieu as we create our stories is quiet and solitude in front of a computer or with pen pressed to paper. We’re watchers . . . we observe the behaviors of other people and take copious notes for future story/character ideas. Being the watch-ee takes us totally out of our comfort zones.

   That’s where a “stump speech” can come into play to reinstate some degree of confidence. Authors who are on the stump for sales need to spend time developing a speech that can be easily modified for their diverse audiences. What follows are a few processes I use to calm my racing heart when I’m about to go on display in front of strangers.

   The first thing I did for DEADLY STAR was to write a flexible stump speech. When I'm asked to speak, I start with an anecdote geared to that audience…I try for something that involves finding myself in an awkward situation. Then I go into a brief bio, including why I use a pen name and how I chose it. Then I follow up with something about how the story developed, the characters, and I read two or three excerpts. I print out my speech in large, bold, double-spaced type and practice reading it. That helps me with timing the length of my presentation and makes me familiar enough with the script that I don’t have keep my head down to read it word-by-word and line-by-line. I can wing most of it, ad lib a bit, and actually make occasional eye contact with someone. Caveat for public speaking: It’s important to really know your story, because the Q&A will turn up some surprising questions.

   If I can, I stop by the bookstore or library where I’m going to speak and get familiar with the space. I tend to tremble a lot when I have step up to a microphone in an unfamiliar place in front of people I don’t know. Another trick is to attend someone else’s reading, often if possible…that takes a lot of the mystery out of the event.

   These concepts for easy public speaking look over-simplified, but they're really not. A fellow Sisters-in-Crime member came up with seven quick points for dealing with the scary thought of having to speak in public (and she’s very good at it):

1.      Research your audience
2.      Plan
3.      Practice
4.      Know your stuff!
5.      DON’T worry.
6.      Get big.
7.      Love it and embrace it.

I’ve got my stump speech down and am confident I can adjust it as necessary. How are you doing with yours?

That’s all for now. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Cj

P.S.: The artwork is off of my Facebook page, and I think I need to incorporate it into my stump speech.

(* “Stump” is another word for “campaign” – like politicians do when they’re trolling for votes.)

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