Giving talks is a great way to earn a bit of extra money and get the attention of potential readers. A lot of writers will be horrified at the thought of standing up in front of people and giving a talk. I’ve had some experience, because I used to be a trainer, but it’s still scary – if you do it cold.
Think about your story or your book for a minute. Do you think it’s good? Is it interesting? Is it exciting, or heart-warming, or surprising? The answers should be ‘yes’, because you wouldn’t be promoting your book if you thought it was boring or badly written.
When you are with someone who is interested in your book, can you talk to them about it? I’ll bet you have little anecdotes about how you got the idea, where your characters came from, how you almost gave up but were inspired to finish it. If you can talk like that to one person, why not several? Why not a whole room full? Just remember to speak slower.
Your book may touch on a subject that you can talk about too. I write local history. I started my first book by making notes from Google searches and visits to the library, researching the story of Alina de Braose in the early 14th century in Gower. There wasn’t any book about her so I had to piece it together like a jigsaw. It didn’t occur to me to make it a book until I had time on my hands after having a stroke.
I wrote it because I was excited about the story. Years later, I’m still excited. So excited, that I talk without notes for about 45 minutes and then answer questions (I do have notes in case I get stuck, I’m not reckless). I printed some A4-sized pictures about my story and put them in clear plastic pockets in a ring binder. I show the pictures to illustrate my talk and remind me what comes next. The next stage is to get them into Powerpoint and use a projector and a screen, but I haven’t got there yet.
The other genre I write in is science fiction, which doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of talks, but think of your book launch. If you were to do a real-world book launch, you would need to give a talk. What would you say? I’ve given you some ideas already, and you can read short passages from the book as well. But once the book launch is over, then what? Well, think about this statement from writer and entrepreneur Jeff Goins: The secret of success is not invention, it’s iteration. He suggests you launch each of your books once a year!
I am amazed at the groups out there who are looking for speakers, especially if you are free. I didn’t originally charge for the talk, I sell my books at the end at a discount price to encourage people to buy at the talk. Now I tell the organiser that if I don’t make £20, I need my fee made up to £20, just so I’m not working for nothing. Sometimes I sell five, sometimes twenty-five. It all helps, and I have a great time. And so does my audience, because enthusiasm is catching!
The only drawback is that you need to have print books to sell, which I do, so I have to make sure I have enough stock without spending too much money. With more and more public places having wifi these days, if you asked the organiser to tell people to bring their ereaders, maybe people would be persuaded to buy your ebook after the talk, it’s worth a try.
I’ve not sought out bookings yet, I get recommended by someone I’ve talked to, but I’ve done quite a few. Now I’ve got some experience I plan to actively pursue it. I have leaflets about me and my books, with contact details, and there is often at least one person who offers to pass it on to the secretary of another group they attend. Other groups have said they will ask me back, because I can do three or four different talks.
So, what can you talk about?
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz