These days writers must sell themselves, it’s a given. We’ve got to look for and latch onto any opportunity to self promote. Book talks are an excellent way to do it. Senior citizen groups, local service clubs, libraries, schools, and writers groups all have a frequent need for speakers and we must serve – if we want to sell, that is. Of course the first step is informing everyone by phone call, letter or email of your availability to speak. Then, as the dates pile up, you’ll need a plan.
1. Be prepared. Some writers can “wing it,” but if that idea starts an alarm clanging, tuck those wings away. You don’t want to flounder around for direction or blather endlessly about how you’ve wanted to be a writer since infancy. Make an outline, highlight your notes to easily find your place should you go off topic, and use a large font. Angela Hoy, the publisher of WritersWeekly.com and author of more than a dozen titles, uses an outline only, and writes it on numbered note cards to keep her presentations moving forward.
2. Rehearse your delivery in front of the mirror, or some stuffed animals, or at the kitchen table. Do it several times. Monitor your time and pacing.
3. Contact your book talk coordinator to firm up arrival time, how many people to expect, the setup of the room you’ll be in, and the length of your talk. Make sure she knows you’ll have books to sell after your talk.
4. Offer some freebies; bookmarks, a door prize, or an amusing short story you’ve written. Always have business cards on hand.
5. Discuss your fee. When you’re very experienced you can command the big bucks, but if you’re just beginning asking $50 – $100 may be the way to go. My first book talk fee was $75. I belong to a mystery writers group that pays $50 for a non-member speaker. Work it out with your event coordinator.
1. Don’t assume everyone knows who you are. Tell your listeners, briefly, a bit about yourself. The ones who know you will smile and the ones who are just getting to know you will appreciate it.
2. When you fumble around with your notes, you’re telegraphing carelessness, nerves or both. Go back to number one in the do’s and begin writing your outline.
3. Don’t ignore the curiosity of your listeners. Let them talk. Sometimes I’ll have a Q&A halfway through my program. It’s a good way to provoke further interest in what you’re telling them, and allows a little breathing room – for you.
Savvy presenters employ humor at regular intervals. It doesn’t have to be your own material. Try some quips and quotes by Will Rogers or Mark Twain. They still apply quite easily to a number of current topics, and will loosen up the room. Bring along a visual aid or two. It keeps your crowd from staring at you for your whole presentation, or worse, nodding off.
I don’t do Power Point. Instead I bring a fuzzy blanket, stuffed animals, a tea cup and a toy snake as an aid to introducing the subject of my talk, homicidal humor in cozy mysteries. I’ll pass out quips, quotes and jokes and let my attendees read them. Audience participation can be magical.
Read from your book towards the end of your talk. This will get your audience thinking in the right direction. They will love listening to you, and can thereafter claim bragging rights with their friends. They’ll be more likely to buy your book from you on the spot, too. A quick note: have a cash box with small bills as well as a receipt book. You might even ask a friend along to take care of the money while you charm your listeners.
Remember the reason you’re there and who you’re talking to, potential followers. You want name recognition, book sales, and an increase in your fan base. Make the most of your time and look at each attendee as someone who’s come to be delighted and informed. Answer questions honestly and smile while you do it. Word of mouth has proven to be the single most effective way to get a buzz going for your book.
Rock that talk and your books will find many happy homes.
Susan is a freelance writer, speaker and the author of the Minnie Markwood mystery series. Find her books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Untreed Reads and Mainly Murder Press or ask your favorite book store to order it. Visit and comment at her blog www.sundwallsays.blogspot.com