Giving an Author Presentation

Hi, SEers! It’s “Mae Day” on Story Empire. I want to thank you for joining me for a post about author presentations. I’ve started doing a few in my area, and hope to do more in the future. The small number of invitations I’ve received thus far have come through networking.  Someone heard me speak to Group A, recommended me to Group B, who recommended me to Group C. I’ve now reached the point where I’d like to start seeking out organizations, rather than waiting for invitations. It’s a whole new level of work and promotion but it is rewarding.

Advertisement for tea and stories with author Mae Clair focus on creepy creature in the front and the word MothmanThis was my most recent event. The venue did the web ad on the left. Isn’t it fabulous?

I’m by no means an expert—still a newbie—and, because I’m an introvert, I get extremely nervous before an event. I can’t tell you how many friends and family members I asked to say prayers that I didn’t screw up.

The event was held at a local historical society in my area. The venue was fabulous. An old home built in the 1800s, supposedly haunted. Thankfully, no ghosts appeared, but the event was sold out. No pressure, right?

Sidewalk sign advertising tea and stories with author Mae Clair--sold out

Once again, I came prepared with swag bags.

Each bag contained:
A postcard for each of my books (teaser photo, tag and book cover on the front, blurb and my website on back)
An author bookmark
Two business cards
Several chocolate treats
An individually wrapped packet of tea (I chose lavender and Prince of Wales).

I also added something new I hadn’t done before, including a slip of paper with two lines—one for a name, the other for an email address. During the presentation, I mentioned my newsletter and invited people to sign up by turning the paper in at the end. I came prepared with a vintage box for people to drop them in. And because I worried not everyone would have a pen, I bought a box of stick pens ahead of time (60 for $5-something) and included a pen in each bag.

Did everyone sign up? No.

Did everyone buy books? No.

But based on the amount of books I sold, I made approximately $100 per hour. I was happy. I can’t live on that, but I made connections, had a blast, and got my name out in the community. Not a bad day of book sales.

Long table with a display of books by author Mae Clair

In addition the venue was utterly gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want to speak here:

Every time I do one of these events, I learn and improve. This time around, in addition to my swag bags, I brought two 11″ x 17″ portfolios  to illustrate my talking points. I had a total of 20 photographs I used throughout the presentation. If you haven’t done a presentation before, below are a few points I found helpful.

USE VISUALS
I spoke for approximately 50-60 minutes, broken out in three segments, starting with an introduction about myself. I followed that with two folktales from my home state, then focused the bulk of the presentation on the Mothman. I used visual photographs to illustrate key points throughout the presentation. The audience loved them! I keep the photos in two separate portfolios purchased off Amazon for approximately $27.00 each. Now, the presentation is ready to use over and over again. The different business cards in the front allowed me to keep track of which came first and which was second.

These  will also stand on a tabletop or easel, but I preferred to hold them and move around to the different tables at the event.

Two black portfolios with business card slots in the front. Business cards for author Mae Clair in slots

KNOW YOUR MATERIAL
I’ve written three fictional books on the Mothman (my Point Pleasant Series) and can talk for hours about the legend. But I didn’t want to stutter, or hop from point to point without fluid logic. I spent several days cobbling material together in a time line that made sense, wrote a speech, then practiced my delivery over and over. Again and again.

Did I veer from it? You bet. Ad-libbing is part of making a presentation seem natural. I encouraged audience participation with leading questions. I added humor and asides in several spots that brought laughter (thank the stars). Most importantly, I knew my material. Even when I veered off course, I instinctively knew what came next. I’d drilled it into my head, and had photo prompts to remind me.

The prep paid off. After the presentation, I had multiple people tell me how much they enjoyed it. Three separate individuals told me I was “an amazing storyteller.” Consider me gobsmacked! Another told me she was a teacher and was riveted by my presentation. She liked that I didn’t stumble around using “um” or “uh” (that comes from practicing delivery to eliminate fumbling pauses). She told me I had an amazing voice and could listen to me “talk all day.” Stunned the heck out of me, especially because I was worried about losing my voice during the presentation. Talk about prayers being answered!

menu for tea eventKNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
My presentation was for an historical society. I didn’t know what age/gender mix I was going to have—turns out I had everyone from teens to seniors, men and women both—but I knew they had an interest in history. Fortunately, folklore and urban legends fit perfectly into that niche.

I really have to applaud the organizers of the event who outdid themselves—not only for the amazing tea and menu, but also on the themed decorations. There were “moths” everywhere, framed photos of the Mothman on the walls, black leafless trees on the tables, even tiny Mothman figures sticking up from delectable cookies.

Would I do this again? Absolutely.

Will I be nervous again? Absolutely.

Will I ask for prayers again? Absolutely! Absolutely!

But I hope the more experience I gain, the easier these will become. If you have an opportunity, I encourage you to step up to the plate and give it a go. As an added bonus, I was able to send photos to my publisher for use in publicity. I closed the presentation with this photo of me and “my guy.” 🙂

Author Mae Clair with statue of the Mothman in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Locally, I’m hoping this event will spur another as the last one did. Once I finish with my current book deadline, I may even start searching for new venues and organizations that feature guest speakers. Just, nothing too large—yet.  🙂

What are your thoughts about these types of presentations? Have you done any? Would you if the opportunity arose? I know a few followers of this blog who do these as a matter of routine. For myself,   I hope they become easier with time.

Whatever your experience (or non-experience), I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Ready, set, go!

 

bio box for author Mae Clair

 

51 thoughts on “Giving an Author Presentation

  1. This is great, Mae! I love that you share your experience with author presentations. Great ideas about the swag bags (and the tea 😀 ). I haven’t done any presentations (I am really anxious to get my cover finalized so I can at least start doing some for our Sisters in Crime chapter, which does presentations at libraries, etc), but I do have 2 workshops to plan for at next spring’s Writers’ Institute. Not quite but sort of the same-ish. The more you do, the better/more comfortable you’ll be. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I need to do one of the workshop panels like you’ve been doing. There’s a bookstore in my area that holds a mystery event every September and invites local authors to be on the panels. By the time I remember, it’s always too late. I haven’t even gotten an opportunity to attend as a guest yet, but I’d like to. I think I need to great a reminder notice for it in June or July! That’s great you’re going to have two workshops coming up. And oh, I can’t wait to see your book cover! You must be getting close now!!

      Liked by 1 person

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    • So glad you found it helpful, Bryan. Every time I do one of these, I learn a bit more and build on my experience for the next time. It’s a learning curve but every little bit helps, and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with others!

      Like

  4. I enjoyed your post, Mae. I do a lot of training presentations in my day job and I know that preparation helps and so does practice. I always have slide packs for my work presentations but I also veer from them. That is part of presenting and talking to people. I have do author talks too and found the same methodology works well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Practice is key. I do a few presentations for my regular job and occasionally will teach a class, but for some reason I find author presentations more nerve wracking. I hope to get better the more I do them.
      Thanks for sharing, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a cool experience Mae. Congrats! I love your swag bags and pictures to share. I can’t imagine myself ever doing this, but I’ve learned never say never. What a great poster and audience for you. This is a lecture I would have enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a time I couldn’t see myself doing this either, Denise, but I consider it one more step in my journey to being an author. I bet if you did it (or something similar) you’d loved it. It was a lot of fun, but I was a ball of nerves for a few days leading up to the event, LOL!

      Thanks for all the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. WOW! And all this from the gal who was hesitant to try an author event? You ROCK, girl!! This looks like such an elegant and interesting approach to engage people in learning more about you, your books, and lots of other great stuff. Providing touches of history and legend is perfect for making a connection with your audience, and I’m SO saving this post for future reference.

    My nature talks are centered on a PowerPoint presentation because that’s a good way to show the beauty of wildlife and habitats, while telling folks some things they don’t know about the critters that share our neighborhoods. And it relates to my books from the standpoint that I do include lots of nature in the settings of my stories. But to do a talk more directly related to specific stories is quite different, and I’ve been pondering how to approach that in a more original and entertaiing manner. This post has given me some great ideas! Even your table setup is gloriously elegant, and I’m going to refer to that picture for my next event. It’s a good place to start “dressing up” my act a bit.

    LOVE this post, and I especially love that you are enjoying your presentations yourself! Nothing is better than meeting readers face to face, and getting direct feedback from them. It’s a learning experience that goes both ways! Best of luck going forward with these! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Marcia, what a lovely comment! You are so versed in giving presentations, I’m glad I was able to share something you found helpful. You are a pro at this stuff.

      When I did the presentation, I spoke about the actual history and myth related to the events in PP and also shared my personal experience while visiting.At the end, I closed with a little over 5 minutes about my books. By that point, I had enough people interested in the legend, that a few purchased the entire series.

      I can see you drawing on the legend of Old Shuck or even the history of the Carolina mountains and lifestyle for your Wake Robin Ridge series. I can also see you tying in a lot regarding wildlife with Swamp Ghosts (including rare albino alligators).And I’m sure there are numerous accounts of someone being helped by someone they later considered an actual angel (Hunter’s story and your Emissary novellas). You’ve got lots of possibilities for tying in your series!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Mae. For a the first couple of years, I did a Swamp Ghosts presentation that featured many of the animals and habitats in the series, including leucistic and albino reptiles. I’ve also done talks on self–publishing for beginners, and on 100 years of writing, Then & Now, which was really well-received. It was part of the museum’s Smithsonian exhibit. But for the last year, I’ve focused largely on the central Florida wildlife presentations, partly because I love sharing the info with local residents (many/most of whom aren’t from here originally) and partly because it’s an interest of mine. I always mention my books at the end, of course, but haven’t been spending a lot of time on that. Now I realize I need to get a new writing/book-related presentation put together soon. And I want to “gussy it up” a bit. Yours is definitely more elegant!

        Of course, I do two teas a year, spring and fall, one at each of my favorite venues, and those are always a bit fancier. My part at them is to do a reading followed by a Q&A, and then to schmooze at all the tables. They are definitely more focused on my books, so at least I’ve been good about those. LOADS of fun. Your second photo of the tables and room looks very like we do them at DeBary Historic Mansion, but it’s less formal at the little school house museum. Space is at a premium there, since it’s all in one classroom, but they still set pretty tables, and it’s great fun. So there are those. And I visit with private book clubs, usually hosted in a member’s house. Those are fun chats, gathered in the living room, and focussed entirely on whichever book of mine they read that month.

        But I’d like to do a larger, totally book or writing focused one with info relating to setting and characters and legends, and do it more beautifully, too. Yep, Ol’ Shuck would fit in great, as would the Brown Mountain Lights, and a couple of other Appalachian tales. You’ve given me so many ideas. These talks are the ONLY kind of marketing I’m good at, and I need to dress them up a bit more!

        I WANNA BE MAE CLAIR WHEN I GROW UP!!! 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! Now THAT is funny! 🙂

        I would LOVE to address a book club. I found out Eclipse Lake was a selection at two of them but I only heard through word of mouth. I definitely need to put more feelers out. Now you’ve given me ideas to play off of too. I’m still on a learning curve with this type of promo.Thanks for sharing all the nifty ways you’ve done yours. I want to seek out book clubs for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a FANTASTIC post, Mae. First of all, congratulations on the speaking engagements. They always lead to book sales and hopefully new fans that will anxiously be awaiting your next release. You did everything right. Your materials are beautifully done and very professional. Way to go!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jan. I’m hoping this will open other doors. Believe it or not, since I posted this, I’ve already received another invitation to speak. Unfortunately, the date is a conflict for me, but I’m thankful for the opportunity nonetheless. I know you have done a lot in your community. I’d like to aspire to do more! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Cheers to you, Mae! This is so awesome. I haven’t done a presentation with my work, but have done many over my career in counselling. Always nervous, but I think I’m easing up. Your experience is inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing. Again, cheers to you! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m totally stealing the tea in the gift bag idea.

    I have given presentations, and I don’t get too stressed over them. In the past, I would have. (I’m an introvert, too.) But after teaching college writing courses, I don’t think there are many audiences that would concern me. (If you can capture a distracted teenager’s attention, you can probably capture anyone’s.) I love what you shared here today. Preparation is critical, and from what I can see, you were ready for any contingency. So happy it was a success. And thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    BTW, I love the picture of you with Mothman.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hopefully, I can get to the point where I’m comfortable like you, and don’t stress over these. You’ve got a great background for doing presentations. Me? Not so much. I do them on my day job, but for some reason this type of situation always has me nervous. It’s a combination of excitement, looking forward to sharing, and nerves. I do try to prepare to the nth degree, LOL. I think a lot of my nerves come from anticipation. Once I get going I’m usually okay.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post–and the tea idea :). I think from now on, I’m going to forgo chocolates in the bags and just stick to tea. Much easier. I had forgotten about that photo of me and “Mothy.” I found it while looking for pictures to use. One of the teens was so riveted by the idea of the TNT and the Mothman Statue, she’s planning a trip to Point Pleasant!

      Liked by 2 people

      • There’s no higher praise than inspiring someone to take a trip. That’s wonderful!

        It’s been a while since I did a presentation. I’m sure I’d have some butterflies, at least until I started. But I’m getting to the point where I’m too old to care. What’s the worst that could happen? A heckler? Rip my pants? Gushing nosebleed? Projectile vomiting? None of that would permanently scar me or mar my career in any manner. Well, maybe the projectile vomiting. But usually the audience is there because they want to be, so they’re friendly and forgiving. That’s an easy group to speak to. If you remembered that (and had some well-deserved confidence in yourself), you wouldn’t get too nervous anymore. Heck, you might actually get excited and look forward to these. I think you have a real knack for this kind of platform.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. This looks like so much fun. I haven’t done a presentation, but I would be open to doing a few. Good tips and ideas for attracting readers. Even for those who don’t buy, people love to collect things. And who knows? They might pass along your information to others who become dedicated readers. Happy for you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is definitely the hope, Joan. Even for those who didn’t purchase books, hopefully they’ll talk about the presentation to others who might be interested in seeking out my work online. It was fun day and I would definitely do it again. If the opportunity comes along, go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It was indeed a lot of work, but now I have a presentation I can use again with a lot less effort.
      Thanks for the cheers. It was a fun day. the more I can get my name out in the local community, the more I consider it a plus!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Well done, Mae. The whole thing looks and sounds fantastic. I haven’t done anything like that and can only admire your bravery and ability. Best of luck with everything 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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