Diary of a Hype Hag—Public Speaking
Yesterday I spoke to a large women’s group (about 120). Big groups are my favorite because I feed off their energy and they tend to be more generous with their laughter. (They also buy beaucoup books.)
After I finished speaking a woman raised her hand and said, “If the writing doesn’t work out, you could always be a comedian.”
My secret? I steal jokes.
Well sometimes. Also I’m a pretty fair storyteller. A so-so joke can become great if it’s told well. I tweak the joke to make it mine. Instead of saying, “a penguin walks into bar” I’ll say, “I was at a writer’s conference and I walked into the bar…”
A lot of authors loathe speaking, but you’ll miss out on all kinds of promotion opportunities if you can’t deliver an effective speech to an audience. I get lots of invites because I have the reputation of rocking a room. That’s also why the divas are so popular. We deliver a good time.
Public speaking can be taught. One of my author friends used to squeak out a talk and be terrified the entire time. She joined Toastmasters and after a while she was unflappable, not to mention funny.
Here’s some tips for author talks.
1. Don’t make your speech an informercial for your book. Of course, you’ll want to mention it and read from it, but the main purpose of your speech is to entertain your audience. (For instance, I talk about the peculiarities of small Southern towns, a topic related to my book.) Do that and you’ll sell more books than if you were to blab about your work the whole time.
2. Don’t read from the book for very long. More than five minutes is way too much. Choose a self-contained section that doesn’t require a lot of explanation. For my second book it took me a while to find just the right piece.
3. Don’t praise your book. If you want people to know that the NYT said your novel was “riveting” include that info in your bio and maybe the person who introduces you will mention it.
4. Practice makes perfect. I’m a decent public speaker because I’ve done hundreds of gigs, and I adjust my speech according to my audience’s reactions. If people aren’t looking at me and smiling (or laughing!) during a story, I dump it or change it.
I found a cornucopia of articles on public speaking.
On another note, here’s a good blog about writers’ scams.