Talking About Your Book: You Can Do It!

Saturday, January 17, 2015
As a volunteer coordinator with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I look for ways to support the published children’s authors. Right now, for example, I’m working on a list for a couple events where I need children’s authors to talk about their books in front of librarians.

But getting authors to jump on an opportunity like that is not always easy. And not just because of time or financial constraints. To be honest, I think oftentimes it’s because…well, they’re writers.

They ponder and plot and wonder and write. All by their lonesome.

And for most writers, that’s exactly what appeals to them. Writers love being alone with their characters and their settings and their conflicts and their commas and…yeah, you get the picture.

But eventually, if the writer is lucky, he or she ends up with a book contract—Oh! Frabjous day! An author is born! Now it’s time to sell that book!

And here is where the sticky part comes in: many writers are not comfortable selling the book. Because selling the book takes a completely different set of skills from writing the book. Namely, selling the book requires an author to get out there and talk about the book.

Now, of course an author can tweet or post pictures or share links or write brilliant blog posts about the book. Those are necessary online marketing skills that help sell the book. But at some point, one must go out in the actual world. The world beyond the neighborhood bookstore, beyond family and friends. Sooner or later, Mr. or Ms. Introverted Author is going to have to stand up in front of a crowd of strangers.

And talk about the book.

So perhaps it would be a good idea to work on those speaking skills now, before you—Oh! Frabjous day!—sell that book you’re writing. And I have a couple ways for you to start:

Are you a member of a professional writer’s group, like Romance Writers of America or SCBWI? Volunteer at the writer’s conferences. Sit at the reception desk and welcome people who come in the door. You’ll meet a lot of people, and you’ll get used to the idea of speaking to strangers about something you love. (Chances are good that you’ll talk about what you’re writing.)

Do you have children in school where you can volunteer to read at a Storytime? Teachers love to have guest readers come in, and you’ll get the experience of dealing with the trials and joys of what might happen at a school visit.

When you attend a big event, challenge yourself to sit with people you don’t know. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Take note of the speakers you liked. What qualities made their talk engaging or compelling?

Great speaking skills are invaluable and you can develop them the same way you developed writing skills: practice, practice, practice! And then when an event comes ‘round your neighborhood, perhaps a convention packed with librarians, you’ll be ready. (And I’d be honored to add your name to my list!)

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

There are also senior communities...Some of those old people can't hear too well, so if you stammer or sound stupid during your talk, they won't be heckling you. Some of those elderly folk can't see too well, either, so if you have a bad hair day, they won't be gaping.

Seriously, there are senior groups and small-community meetings that would probably be thrilled with hearing from an author. AND the risk is smaller with groups like that, since they're probably not filled with a bunch of writers...

For someone with a mouth like me, the talking is the easy part...It's the writing that's hard.

Thanks for this post, Cathy. This is another reminder of all the different hats writers have to wear.

Debra Mayhew said...

Sometimes I wonder if we're so busy working toward that contract we don't plan for what will happen when we get it! Thanks for the reminder to start preparing now. The more we put ourselves out there, the easier it gets.

Margo Dill said...

Plus, you are making contacts that might want to buy that book! ALWAYS take a newsletter sign up sheet with you to any talk you do, get people to sign up with email addresses and then add them to your contacts. THEN let them know about your book when it comes out.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Great advice, Cathy.

Suzanne Pitner said...

That's good advice about helping at conferences, Cathy. Now that I think about it, the first place I ever talked to strangers about my novels was my first meetings with fellow RWA writers. Being in RWA or SCBWI is all about making those connections and coming out of our shells, don't you think?

Cathy C. Hall said...

Great advice from y'all as well!

And yes, Suzanne, joining those organizations can make all the difference in the world!

Marilyn said...

My first writers' conference helped me so much! I made some good friends that weekend, and by the second conference I was hooked. In fact, I think I met Margo Dill at conference #2. :) BTW, Margo, I hope you are planning on going to the conference in Cape G. in July.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

All good advice. Joining RWA was the single best thing I did to really jump-start my career. SCBWI was great, too, when I was member---I actually met my critique partner during WIK! Those connections are important.

I noticed that you quoted me at the top of your post. *ahem* It's tough to jump into those waters. They may not be shark infested, but there's always the fear that one will sink.

Thanks for some great advice.

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