The Author Presentation…for Newbies

Hello, SEers! Mae here, sending out a thank you for hanging with me today as I take a look at author presentations. I’ve done several book signings, all with other authors, but recently did my first speaking presentation. A Federated Women’s Club tracked me down through my local library and invited me to be a guest speaker.

I was flattered.

I was jazzed.

I was gulp nervous.

Actually, the event went extremely well and I managed to gain exposure as a result. Since I’d never done a solo presentation before, it was pretty much a guessing game on how to prepare. I was slated to speak the end of October on the topic of my choice. The woman who contacted me hoped I might slant my speech toward the paranormal given the time of year.

I had little problem with that.  🙂

I’m not an expert, but learned a few things you might find helpful if you’re a newbie to author presentations—like me!

Know the location
I did a dry run the day before, so I would know how to reach the location and also the amount of time it would take me to get there. This helped me gauge how much time I would need for set-up.

Know your topic
I don’t mean just your speech, but know your topic inside and out. The last thing you want to do is verbally fumble when someone asks you a question. I chose a topic I’m comfortable with—Using Myth and Folklore in Fiction. I started by touching on the differences between folklore, myth, urban legends, and creatures from cryptozoology. I didn’t want to hard sell my books for the whole twenty minutes I was slated to talk.

Visuals help
Because I didn’t have a projector, and thought it would be boring for someone to sit and listen to me rattle nonstop, I created a flipboard with large (11” x 14”) printed images. I shared several spooky urban legends and had pictures related to each. I also chose pictures from folklore, fairytales, and cryptozoology. Each page section segued into the next which eventually led me to…

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Tie in your books
Okay, so the end result is to sell books, right? I was asked if I charged a speaking fee, but declined, asking instead if I could bring books to sell. I spent 10 minutes talking about urban legends and creatures like Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil, then spent the next 10 minutes sharing the legend of the Mothman and the history of Point Pleasant, West Virginia—the key elements of my Point Pleasant Series.

Practice!
I was asked to speak for twenty minutes, but until you write out a speech, work with your visuals and time yourself, you won’t know if you’re under or over your limit. I used a timer app on my iPhone to practice, ensuring I stuck within a a minute or two of that limit.  

Bring swag
A great opportunity for marketing! I played off the Halloween theme and gave everyone goodie bags. Each bag contained three postcards—one for each book in my Point Pleasant Series—two business cards, and several bite size candy bars. You can see my postcards below. Each of these had the appropriate book blurb on the back, along with my website. I use Vista Print for my swag.

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Go with the flow
I was given a microphone when I arrived—something I didn’t expect—but it allowed me to move around more comfortably, especially when working with my visual props. During my presentation one of the outside lights (visible through a window) started flickering like a strobe. It distracted people at first until I played off the eeriness of it. It was pitch black outside and I was talking about the Mothman. That effect ended up as great atmosphere.

Use mistakes to your advantage
The first time I ran my postcards for A Cold Tomorrow through Vista Print I missed catching an error. It was my own stupid fault. I created the card, and put an apostrophe in the wrong spot. I was mortified when I realized what I’d done. How could I—as a writer—hand out book promo material with an error? In my mind, I could hear people mumbling. “She can’t even handle punctuation. How is she going to write a book?”

But I’d paid for those postcards, didn’t want to waste the money, and—dang!—they were eye-catching. I also took into account the mistake wasn’t glaring (like a misspelled word).

I decided to have some fun with it. I bought a $10.00 gift card to a local gift shop, and at the end of my speech told the ladies to look in their goodie bags. I explained I’d overlooked a small error on one of the cards, and whoever could tell me what the error was, would win the gift card. This way I still got to use my cards while acknowledging the mistake and turning it into a game. We had fun with it—turned out it wasn’t an easy catch—and the evening was a success. Below, you can see the basket I put together, complete with Halloween spiders and black cat ribbons.

Halloween Goodie Basket

What did I gain?
Experience for certain. It was my first time doing a solo presentation and I had a blast with it. Now I have a canned presentation and topic that I can take to other venues.

Several ladies came up to me afterward to say how much they enjoyed the presentation. One told me I’d introduced to a whole new genre of fiction.

One member asked me for additional business cards. She belonged to two other groups she felt would be interested in hearing me speak. I’m hoping those pan out.

I took a newsletter sign-up sheet and gained new followers.

Black cat in a pet bed with an invitation to sign up for author, Mae Clair's, newsletter

The literary branch of the club is going to use my Point Pleasant Series as their next read/review selections.

There were 31 people in attendance that night and I sold 15 books. At $10-$15 per book, I didn’t think that was too shabby for a twenty minute speech.

I’m new to the author presentation concept, but I hope to get better and gain more recognition as I go. Most of all—I had fun! I can’t tell you what a rush it was to have the whole thing go over so well. If you ever have the chance of doing a presentation, go for it.

I’m sure many of you already have, quite more successfully than I have. But as a newbie to this idea, I can’t wait for the next go-round.

What are your experiences with author presentations? What tips did I miss? If you haven’t done one, is it something you would consider doing? Let’s chat!

Bio banner for author Mae Clair

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62 thoughts on “The Author Presentation…for Newbies

  1. First, congrats! Second, these are some awesome tips. I LOVE what you did with the typo. I’ve done that when I taught at University and 6-8 grades. (Hey, we’re not perfect.) I told the class if they spotted the typo, they’d get an extra point on their homework or something…I can’t quite remember. But I do remember being mortified and overworked and it slipped through so, hey, why not use it? Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.
      I bet your class had fun with the game and scrambling for that extra point. It’s amazing how small things can slip through unnoticed, especially when we’re multitasking. I’m just so thankful I caught it before giving any of the postcards out. I have a few left over and I’m using them as colorful bookmarks, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Robbie. Thanks so much. I did live TV once and may do it again this spring, but that one really takes working up my nerve, LOL. I think I have “stage fright” before every presentation (no matter what kind) until I get started. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you’ve been bitten by the bug!
    I started doing talks (2 hour long PowerPoint presentations) several years ago related to my non-fiction books, and these days I do one almost every month. I absolutely love doing them and always sell a heap of books – and these are £20 hardbacks.
    I’d love to do talks related to my fiction, I just can’t figure out where to find an audience. I really must put my mind to it. I just hope if I hit a snag I will find a solution as inspired as yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! Deborah you really are a pro at this–two hour talks! Even if you’re speaking about nonfiction, your schedule is amazing. I would love to do talks like that, but I admit two hours would be a huge challenge (I could pull off an hour tops, I think). I know fiction is different, but much of my fiction is mired in history and fact, so I could have a blast. I’m thoroughly envious that you have found such an awesome way to connect with others. You go, girl! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, but I have a vast topic to talk about – training horses is a subject that consumes lifetimes. And I do put a coffee break in at half time to recover a bit.
        I have a series of talks and I’m always adding new ones on different topics. I currently have a series of 3, soon to be 4, and once I’ve done one, most clubs book the series.
        My worry always is what would happen if the tech failed, as it did for Marcia. Don’t think I would cope well with that!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, that does sound like a wonderful topic. Horses have always fascinated me, but other than having gone riding once or twice, I know absolutely nothing about them.
        Adding topics is the way to go, I think. That’s something I hope to do as I become more experienced in this whole arena, LOL!

        Like

    • Hi, Marje. I had an amazing time doing my first presentation and can’t wait to do another, Thanks for checking out the post and commenting. I was delighted to have found a way to use the postcards and not come off looking like an idiot, LOL. I’m glad you enjoyed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats, Mae! I know how challenging it is to talk in front of a roomful of people–especially about oneself. No matter how prepared I am, I still have to step out of my “comfort zone.”

    Thanks for the encouragement, inspiration, and advice. Pinned & shared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Linda. Thanks so much for the pin and shares. And I’m glad you enjoyed the post and found it helpful. Talking about ourselves is one of the hardest things we have to do as authors, and yet it’s so necessary for promotion. I think authors are always challenging their comfort zones, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on your success, Mae! Now that you’ve done it and broken the ice, open yourself to more clubs or organizations that you can talk to. It is a fabulous opportunity to sell books!!! Way to go! I’m so proud of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad to hear that! I love Vista Print and have created a lot of great swag on there.
      As for Raven—she”s always ready and willing for a photo op, which I turn into marketing, LOL. I think she should be my spokes-feline 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kudos, Mae! Thanks for sharing your first solo author presentation with us. I’ve learned so much and look forward to giving an author presentation myself one of these days. I’ll be sharing your post and saving it on one of my Writing/Blogging Pinterest Board for future reference. Thanks is hardly enough to say for this sensational share. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, your comments just blew me away, Bette. Thanks so much for your interest in my post and for sharing. I hope it helps many newbie presentation authors. I really had no idea what I was doing going into this, but I picked up a lot from the experience.

      And I think you would totally rock it if you did a presentation. I had imagined you a pro at these 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Way to go, Mae! It sounds like you and your audience had a great time. I’m such an introvert it takes a lot for me to even go to my local writers’ group meetings once a month. I know, pathetic, lol.
    I’m saving this post in case I ever get brave enough to give it a shot 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I bet if you did one presentation, Jacquie, you would want to do another. As an introvert I always have moments of “stage fright” before any presentation I do (I do a number of them for my day job too), but then once I start, I’m normally fine. I’ve definitely had to step out of my comfort zone a time or two, LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve done my fair share of author prestentations and workshops, and I’m great at answering questions, etc., (I taught for a while, so I like that part), but not so good at selling myself. You’re so good at this! A natural, and it never feels pushed. You gave me lots of ideas. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great post, Mae. Well done on your first presentation and i’m sure there will be many more to follow. So many organisations and groups are on the lookout for speakers and the word gets around. The fact that someone asked for business cards means you’ll be invited by another group she is in. I enjoy doing them. I cart along my ‘show and tell’ bag which contains all sorts of things related to my books set in Afghanistan so audience members can try on clothes (including a burqa) and check out the handiwork Afghan women do.
    I must get organised with some swag though.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mary, what an excellent idea with a “show and tell” bag. Highly inventive and I bet it breaks the ice and gets everyone talking.
      I’m learning so much from other authors, like yourself, you have done presentations before. I really had no clue how to approach it or what to expect, but now that I’ve taken that first step I’m eager to give it another whirl 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mae, this is fantastic. High five to you! I think it’s pretty cool that I was smiling through the entire post. What an amazing day for you and an absolute treat for all in attendance. Thank you for sharing this experience with us and the fabulous tips and advice. I loved how you turned the card typo into a positive outcome. Brilliant idea. Go you!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Sounds like you had a great first presentation! Great ideas, and the time of the year was tailor-made for the Point Pleasant books (or is it the other way around?) I recently renewed my membership to our local Sisters in Crime chapter. They do a lot of author presentations and panels, so I’m planning on going to a few of them and taking notes; I’ve got one tonight. This way I can get a feel for how these things go. Haven’t even thought about the workshop I’m doing in spring (how’s that for procrastination 😀 )

    Liked by 3 people

    • I procrastinated too, Julie. I had the presentation scheduled five months in advance, and put it together the week before I was scheduled to speak. I didn’t mean to wait so long but book deadlines kept me from focusing on it.
      I want to check into Sisters in Crime in my area. I would love to get involved with them. Kudos to you for all you have planned!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Darlene! Yes, I had Q&A at the end. My first presentation, but I can see why authors love doing them. I could easily become addicted, LOL. The goodie bags were fun to put together and a way to ensure everyone in attendance left with swag–and some Halloween treats!

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    For several years, I’ve been blathering on about building a local readership via Meet the Author events and local shows. If you’ve been hesitant to try this, you definitely need to read Mae Clair’s post on her first solo speaking engagement. A great success story, with some super tips! Check it out!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Yay for you, Mae! I’ve been encouraging my blog followers to start building local readerships for several years, and this is exactly why. When you meet readers face to face, it creates a wonderful form of publicity you can’t get any other way. It’s inspiring, it’s profitable (both then, and later when they look you up online and buy more books), and most of all, it’s FUN! Your tips were great ones, both practical and creative.

    About swag. You did an outstanding job! I take freebies with me to every event (and I’m currently scheduled to do two a month for most of next year). But I usually display them in baskets and containers on my signing table. Less exciting than you cute Halloween bags, but it saves me time, since I do so many events. I have postcards, bookmarks, brochures (so people who belong to other groups can see what types of presentations I can do, and contact me), and the biggest hit of all, little tin sample containers of my custom-blended teas named for characters in my books. All of these go over well, but the teas are a really big hit. They cost a bit more, but the reader has a cute little tin box with the name of one of my books on it, which they can keep for paperclips or the like. Swag is good. The readers love it, and it continues to advertise you and your books long after the event is over.

    Your approach to your slightly flawed postcard was an inspired stroke of genius! I love it! And using the faulty lighting issue to your advantage was genius, as well. I think it’s critical to be prepared for the unexpected–sometimes, truly disconcerting–things that can pop up. Think on your feet, and be creative, and you can turn a negative into a plus, just like you did on both of these things.

    Once, I was scheduled to give a PowerPoint slide presentation on using the habitat and wildlife of central Florida as a setting for a romantic suspense novel. The venue provided the slide projector and assured me everything was ready to go. Sadly, when it was time to set it up for my presentation, it didn’t work. At all. There were 55 women in the audience, and I had no presentation. Oooops. I laughingly asked if anyone had a cane and a top hat, and said I could do a few minutes of the “old soft shoe,” to entertain them. After a few more chuckles about our situation, I then asked if they would like to hear a reading from my latest book, and offered to do an extended Q&A session on anything they wanted to know about me, writing, self-publishing, wildlife (our original topic), or anything else. It went great. Those women were a terrific audience, and afterward, I sold 53 books in about ten minutes.

    All this is by way of saying Meet the Author events are what you make of them, and for myself, they are a fun way to meet new friends, make new readers, learn what readers want from a book, have a good time, and oh, yeah . . . promote my work. I hope you have many more opportunities to do these, Mae. It’s one of my favorite aspects of writing, and so much more fun than most forms of marketing. Go for it! You’ve got the knack!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Marcia, you are a pro at doing presentations! It speaks highly of your skill that you are booked at so many through the coming year. I would definitely love to connect with more groups and venues. Aside from selling books,I found it a lot of fun to talk about a topic I enjoy discussing. Now that I have the first one behind me, I’ll be looking for more opportunities.

      I love your idea of the flavored-teas. Is there a specific website you use? I wouldn’t mind checking into those.

      OMG, I think I would have panicked about the wildlife presentation when it didn’t work, but you found a way around it. I hope I’m never in that position, LOL, but as you said, sometimes you have to think on your feet. I’m already looking forward to doing another presentation. They could easily become addictive!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Well, I’m addicted to them, for sure! 😀 And when I meet a reader who tells me how much she loves a character of mine, or that a certain scene made her cry/laugh/shake her fist at the sky, it sends me home, inspired to write the next book.

        I use Adagio.com for my tea blends. I’m a confirmed tea drinker and their teas are divine. When I found they are set up to let you mix up your own combinations, and label them with your own images, I was hooked. I have things like Sarah’s Favorite Earl Grey (with the cover graphic from Wake-Robin Ridge on the lids and bags), or Willow’s Raspberry Mint Cooler, etc. The lids on the tin are wide enough to display the name of your tea blend, and the title line from my book covers, though that would vary, with your cover design. I have twenty custom blends now, and I bring a basket full of the tins, People rummage through and grab flavors they think they’d like.

        One thing, I don’t make any money on the teas. They are strictly a promotional expense, but one I think is a lot of fun, and worth the cost, because it leaves a tangible reminder of my book in the hands of a reader. Bookmarks and postcards are great, but more fragile and apt to get lost easily. These little tins are fun to keep on a desktop, with paperclips or push pins in them. And if your readers really love their sample, they can order a bag of it from Adagio. Again, it’s Adagio’s tea, not mine, so I don’t make any money on that, however, it can translate to points which I can use later when making a purchase. Hope that helps! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Definitely a huge help, Marcia. I think the teas would be great at a book signing where people are sometimes reluctant to approach a table no matter how much swag an author displays. And the creative spirit in me loves the idea of making custom blends for people in my books (I have a lot of tea drinkers, LOL) Thanks so much for the info. I will definitely check Adagio out! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Because you’re used to doing presentations you’d have no problem at all. Students or a book club would be fun.
      I do presentations throughout the year on my paycheck job too, and I think that helped with doing this.Even though, no matter how many times I do a presentation, I’m always nervous until I start speaking, and then I’m normally fine. I guess it’s a form of stage fright.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. What a great post, Mae! It sounds like a wonderful experience, and you managed to use the typo and the strobing light to your advantage … well done! I’ve never done a presentation, and would if asked, and would also be extremely nervous, lols 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was nervous too, Harmony, despite the fact I do presentations off and on for my day job. I think it’s just part of my personality to “sweat the small stuff” until I get talking. Then I’m fine. I’ve actually done live TV before too–definitely out of my comfort zone, but I always seem to be pushing that boundary. I’m sure you would do great.
      And yep, we had fun with the strobe light and the guessing game. I was so thankful the money I spent on those postcards wasn’t wasted!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. That’s impressive! Congratulations on your presentation 😀 and thank you for sharing your experience with us. Using the punctuation mistake to your advantage was really smart in my opinion. Something for me to take note of in the future for anything I do, instead of automaticallg freaking out.

    Liked by 3 people

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