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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!