cj Sez: Other than the deep, time-constrained editing that happens, one of the hardest parts of the writing process comes when you’ve typed THE END on the last page of your manuscript and sent it off for publishing: the task of marketing your beautiful baby. Going “on the stump”* for sales will almost certainly include some public speaking.
|(The 'toons are from Facebook.)|
For me, and a lot of other authors I know, the prospect of public speaking can be a bit scary. Our normal milieu as we create our stories is 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 completely out of our comfort zones.
Whether traditionally, indie-, or self-published, the task of marketing accrues to all authors. In today’s literary world, big-name publishing houses are requiring their equally big-name author-clients to help market their own brand and creations. (Anyone remember seeing James Patterson on TV in the last few months?) The ultimate goal of marketing is, of course, to garner attention for your work and increase sales.
Like James Patterson, authors need to connect with their readers. Actually, they must connect with their readers. That means authors do readings at book clubs and libraries. They do book signings and media (TV/press/radio) interviews. All of those tasks require (gasp) public speaking.
That’s where a formulaic “stump speech” can offer a degree of confidence.
The first thing I did when my first novel, DEADLY STAR, was handed off to the publisher was to outline a flexible stump speech. I start with an anecdote. Then I give a brief bio, including why I use a pen name and how I chose it. I follow up with something about where the idea for the story came from, the research involved, the characters, and I read a couple of short excerpts. I flesh out my speech outline with a few comments below the bullet points then print it out in large, bold, double-spaced type and practice it. That helps me with timing the length of my presentation and makes me familiar enough with the flow 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. The more often I speak, the easier it becomes, so I’m looking forward to an upcoming presentation.
Caveat for public speaking: It’s important to really know your work, because the Q&A will bring some surprising questions—always.
Other than participating in panels at conferences, I’ve never had to speak at an out-of-town gathering. But if that happened, I’d try to stop by the venue and get familiar with the layout. Another trick for newbie speakers is to attend someone else’s presentation if possible…that takes a lot of the mystery out of the event.
A fellow Sisters-in-Crime/Guppy member came up with seven quick points for dealing with the scary thought of having to speak in public (and she’s so good at it, public speaking seems second nature to her):
1. Research your audience
4. Know your stuff!
5. DON’T worry.
6. Get big.
7. Love it and embrace it.
I’ll be including parts of my stump speech in my presentation on opening lines in the next few weeks. 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.