Your Speaking Gig Should Also Market Your Books/Business

Sunday, June 05, 2016
Last Saturday, I had a speaking gig at Saturday Writers, a very well-populated local writing group in the St. Louis area. They asked me to speak about dialogue. As I prepared my presentation, I realized I don't have as many opportunities to speak or market my books as I used to--I also have a full-time job and a 5-year-old. So, whenever I do receive a speaking opportunity, I need to make it work for me. Also, I want it to go well and be useful for the writers attending. So here are six tips that helped me:

1. Newsletter sign-up: I have a newsletter list on Mail Chimp (although I'll admit I don't send newsletters very often), and I am trying to build it. Speaking gigs are a great way to do this. Usually, I invite people to come sign my newsletter list after I speak; but this time I passed around the sign-up sheet (which is just the person's name and e-mail) while I spoke. I received many more sign-ups this way.

2. Giveaways: I told the audience that if they signed up for my list; at the end of my talk, one of the new sign-ups would win their choice of one of my books. If you don't have books to giveaway of your own, you can always give away a journal, a service such as a free 30-min consultation, or a $5 gift card to Starbucks.

3. Work in what you have to promote: This should probably be tip number one, but it is so important. I had to have examples of dialogue and dialogue tags I was discussing, and I used examples from my novels (along with other authors). This way, the participants could get a feel for my writing and give me a small chance to talk about my books, without too much self-promotion. Figure out some way you can do this at your speaking gig without coming across as too pushy.

4. Give the audience a break: This wasn't even my idea, but at this writing group, they work in a break in the middle of their meeting, and that fell in the middle of my speech. It was perfect because it gave some audience members a chance to come up and ask me questions and to buy my books. I was very lucky to have writers hosting me; so before the break, they made an announcement that my books were for sale. Many times, this happens at the end of your talk too; but the audience has to be somewhere when your talk is over, and there is no time. So a break in the middle (if it works for your format) can be a great marketing tool.

5. Questions and comments: I invite questions and comments throughout my presentation. If I say something that people want to discuss, I think it is important to allow them to stop you right there and ask. If you are giving a keynote at a banquet, this format doesn't work. But otherwise, allowing questions and comments at any time creates a discussion and dialogue that makes the audience more comfortable with you. The more comfortable they are with you and the more they like you, the more they might be willing to sign up for your newsletter, buy a book, or hire you to edit their manuscript.

6. Writing exercises: This is just kind of an extra tip--so maybe I should have said 5 + 1, but I think you should always work in an opportunity for a writing prompt or exercise. There are a few reasons: First, it allows the writers to put into practice what you've been discussing during your presentation. Also, it creates more of a workshop atmosphere, instead of you lecturing them for an hour. Next, if your presentation goes quickly and you have a lot of time left at the end you were supposed to fill--a writing exercise and sharing fills up the time productively. Finally, it gives you a chance to go over what you've said and decide if you forgot anything or need to emphasize a point again.

Speaking gigs are part of the writing life--there are a lot of blog posts out there about how introverted many writers are and yet, marketing and speaking are a big part. Hopefully these six tips will help make these gigs work for you and your career.

Margo L. Dill is a published children's author, writing teacher for the WOW! classroom, freelance editor, and teacher. To find out more, please visit her website at


Donna Volkenannt said...

Thanks for the tips, Margo. I agree with them all, especially #6. Writing exercises give attendees the opportunity to express themselves as well as putting into practice what they've learned.

Margo Dill said...

Thanks, Donna! :)

Walter Mason said...

Great tips. I always feel too shy to bring an enewsletter sign-up list, though I know I should. I will definitely do it next time!

Margo Dill said...

I think having a prize for one of the people who sign up is kind of an incentive!

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