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