QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Forgotten Networking Skill

Money. It doesn’t matter what you write, most writers dream of making money from their craft. The obvious way is to sell your articles, short stories, novels. The more you sell, the more money will land in your bank account. Simple enough. But there is another way to make money that writers often don’t think about. Public speaking. Conducting workshops, visiting schools, speaking at conferences are a great way to not only earn extra income, if you do a great job, your readership will grow.
Now obviously the organisers of major national conferences won’t invite you to be a keynote speaker if you don’t have a track record in public speaking. This is why I recommend you give this serious thought even before you land an agent or book contract. The sooner you start gaining experience the better.
The following suggestions will help you progress from being a novice speaker to becoming a pro:
·      If you’re new to public speaking—or if the idea of speaking in public leaves you scrambling for the bathroom—you might want to sign up for a public speaking workshop or Toastmasters®. If you have a group of writers in your area, you could meet once a month and have someone present on a topic of interest to the group. Rotate the speakers each month so that everyone has a chance to present. This way you get to practice your public speaking skills in a non-threatening environment.

·      If you have children in school, let their teachers know you’re a writer. Even if you don’t write kidlit, the teacher might still be thrilled to have you share your expertise with the class. But be prepared for the inevitable question: Did you write Twilight? (Or The Hunger Games?).

·      One advantage of being a member of a writing organization in your community is that you’ll hear about upcoming conferences planned for your area. The conference organisers might approach the organizations, seeking individuals interested in being presenters or moderators.

·      Be willing to speak for free. This is especially true early in your career. In this current economic turmoil, schools don’t have a lot of money to pay for author visits. In this case, check if the school will permit you time to do a book signing (if you write children’s books). The other benefit is you’ll gain experience for your CVS.

·      Consider participating in a panel discussion. This involves a moderator asking a group of experts questions on a particular topic. Panels are great for two reasons. One, the audience gets the benefit of a variety of perspectives. Two, if you’re shy, being on a panel isn’t as intimidating as speaking on your own. On the downside, battles have been known to ensue between panellists, so if confrontation isn’t your thing, stick to non-controversial topics. If you’re joining a panel created by the conference organisers, see if you can contact the other panellists and moderator ahead of time. This way you know everyone has the same expectations and there won’t be any nasty surprises. I speak from experience.

·      DO NOT heavily promote your book(s) during the presentation. It’s okay to mention the titles in your introduction. But do not mention them every other sentence (yes, some presenters actually do that). It’s annoying and won’t sell your books. People will want to check out your books if they feel you’ve done an outstanding job educating them on the planned topic. Feel free to use examples from your books, but balance things out by including examples from other authors’ books, too. The audience will respect you more for it.

·      DO NOT bring your personal problems with you when you present. We all have rough days, but the worst thing you can do is attack a member of the audience who asked you a question. Yes, I’ve heard of this happening. Not a great way to encourage people to buy your book.
Does anyone else have suggestions, based on experience as a presenter or audience member, as to how to make the experience positive for everyone? Horror stories are welcome, too.

Stina Lindenblatt writes young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative 


Christina Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Lee said...

Stina, these are GREAT suggestions! I've already had offers from local schools and I'm not published (yet). But my freelance column for a local newspaper helped! :D

Shain Brown said...

Thanks for the suggestions. It has given me a lot to think about.

DRC said...

Public speaking is something that I've considered, but only for future events. I want to get my book published first. It's horrible when impressed people ask if you're published yet, and you have to answer 'no' despite being so close and having finished numerous novels...lol

One thing that annoyed me at the last conference I went to was when someone in the audience was a personal friend of a panel member. I think it's great when people from the audience get to air their views, but then there's a point when panel member and friend spark up a whole debate between themselves, allowing no one else to join in, and neglecting the rest of the topic...

Porter Anderson said...

Stina's Twitter handle is @StinaLL

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

I loved this. It's timely for me. I just volunteered to speak t=at our local writers guild in November and signed on to speak at a womens writing retreat and a community college conference. I have next to zero experience speaking so I'm wondering "What was I thinking!" Oh yeah, I was thinking I'd love to learn how. Jumping in feet first :) Now reading and practicing too.

Claire Merle said...

Great post! Love the advice about not bringing your personal problems with you when you're public speaking! Made me laugh, but you're right and it can be true on many levels -- attacking audience members is just the extreme.

The Daring Novelist said...

For decades now, school visits have been the main source of income for most children's book writers. (Of course, school visits have their own sets of problems and issues.)

George Anderson said...

Great post; thanks for the suggestions!