Whether you publish through a mainstream press or whether you self-publish, the bulk of the promotion job falls upon you, the author. One fairly easy way to promote your book is to volunteer to do a presentation on some subject relevant to a group’s interests.
For example, my friend Donna Freedman has offered to speak to a large writer’s group about strategies for creating popular, readable blog entries. Because the group’s main thrust is not craft but marketing, members will be very interested in what she has to say — and we hope, in her new online course on writing a blog people will read.
And just today, I talked to a business group about donating directly to breast cancer research centers rather than to self-perpetuating organizations that function as middlemen. Members of this group are active in public service and donate generously to worthy causes, so I knew they’d be interested in the subject. And speaking about the Susan G. Komen foundation and similar institutions gave me an opportunity to plug my upcoming book on the decisions women face after they receive a breast diagnosis.
A successful presentation can’t just have you step up to a podium and plug your book. You need to offer more than that.
Bearing that in mind, it’s pretty easy to create a public presentation that works, if you follow a few basic rules.
• In thinking about your angle, consider your audience. Today’s talk, reproduced at my Funny about Money site, addressed a group of small business owners and executives. They’re committed to charitable works and, since most of them are middle-aged, they’re interested in health-care issues. Those who are not women have wives they care about, and so they can easily be engaged by the hot topic of breast cancer.
The material I put into today’s presentation may not go into my book at all, since its topic primarily concerns the kinds of choices women have to make, often on short notice and under a great deal of stress, about any number of proposed breast cancer treatments. It actually is based on information I came across in my research for the book. In thinking about it, I realized it would probably interest group members more and make them less uncomfortable than a frank discussion of what goes on inside the operating theater. For a different group, a different aspect of the topic might fly just as well or better.
• Prepare your presentation thoroughly. Check and double-check your facts, and be prepared to answer any questions audience members may ask. Be sure to cover all the ground, even if briefly, within the time limit you’re given. Respecting that time limit is part of your preparation — don’t neglect this key aspect.
• Write out a script and rehearse it, preferably in front of a mirror. You should practice delivering your presentation several times — at least three, and maybe more. Ideally, your presentation should be memorized. Of course, sometimes that’s not possible — too little time is given for preparation, or you have to present complex data that’s hard to remember accurately under the stress of public scrutiny.
• In any event, do not read your script to your audience. Deliver your presentation as though you were speaking to a small group of friends, as off the cuff as you can make it appear. If you need a cheat sheet, list the main points in outline style and let these remind you of the content that you’ve rehearsed. Print out your notes in 18-point type, so you can read them easily under any lighting conditions.
• If you use PowerPoint, for hevvinsake DON’T read the captions and notes in the slides to your audience! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..
• Watch a few TED Talks, studying the style and demeanor of presenters. Note how the speakers move and how they engage their audiences.
• Provide useful information, preferably in the form of a handout. In my talk about the controversy around the Susan G. Komen foundation, I provided a one-page list of cancer research institutions to which anyone can donate. This is worked into the blog post, but it was offered separately to the group members, as a take-home.
• Try not to be crass about plugging yourself. Instead of reminding listeners repeatedly about the wonders of your new book, mention it in your bio and — ideally — get the person who introduces you to remark on it. Use your time to provide valuable and interesting information.
• But make it easy for audience members to find your book. Have a website that’s easy to find, preferably as your name — JoeBlow.org or some such — and place a link to Amazon or your own store so readers can buy. Bring business cards that carry your book’s title and a link to your website on Amazon (www.amazon.com/author/JoeBlow). And if you have copies of the book, bring a stack to the meeting, hand them around as a show-and-tell, and let audience members buy direct from you.
• Look for the right audiences. This of course depends on your subject matter. A church group might be right for a discussion of some moral issue or — say — of philanthropy. Business groups are interested in a wide variety of subjects that bear on daily life and the well-being of members’ cities and commerce. Do a subject search on Meetup.com for groups that meet to talk about or participate in whatever your book concerns.
• Don’t be shy about asking. The worst that can happen is they’ll tell you “no.” But you won’t get an invitation to speak if you don’t ask.
• Speak early and speak often. You don’t have to wait until your book hits print to speak on your subject. If you have some expertise that you’re working into a book, begin giving presentations before the book comes out. Then when it’s published, you can go back to the group, remind them of your existence, and proudly announce publication.
Once you have a presentation that works, recycle it. Look into massaging it to fit the interests of other groups, work it into your newsletter and send it out to your subscribers, or revamp it into a post for your blog.