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Writers, CONNECT! with Your Audience
by Linda C. Apple

Gone are the days when writers could enjoy the comfort of their creative space pounding out a manuscript, or article, sending it to a publisher, and then beginning a new one. Now we also are expected to help promote and sell our books. Not only that, most editors and agents want to see evidence of your promotion power before they will even consider accepting your manuscript.

So what do you have to show them? A blog? A website? That’s good, but it isn’t the best. What really garners their attention is your speaking platform—yes, you read me right—speaking.

I hear you groaning. That isn’t surprising. Most writers I know would rather hold a snake than a microphone. And that is unfortunate because nothing connects you with potential book buyers, editors, publishers, and agents, more than public speaking. Speaking creates interest in your writing and gives you credibility as a writer.

Still, when I encourage writers to give speaking a try, they give me all kinds of reasons why they couldn’t possibly stand in front of an audience. The two most popular reasons are 1- Not knowing what to talk about and 2 - Absolute fear. So, let’s address these two things.

Choosing a topic.
The subject of your book can spin off many topics that are loosely related to your storyline. Let’s say your book is an historical romance set in New Orleans. Are you limited to only speaking about your storyline? No. Let’s look at possible topics that could come from your novel.

On a personal level you could speak about why you write romances, authors who may have influenced you, what you learned from their style, how or if you used this knowledge in your writing. You could address how you tackle writing while living your life.

On a technical level you could talk about how you researched for your novel and why you chose New Orleans. Tell any interesting history or people you discovered and how you incorporated it in your story. What did you learn from the culture? How the culture remained the same and how has it evolved. What did they eat? How did they play?

Now here is where we leave the writing box! The idea is to get in front of as many people as possible, not just writer’s groups. Who else would be interested in New Orleans? Well, almost everybody, especially during Mardi Gras. Historical groups, cultural diversity groups, music clubs, garden clubs, even culinary outlets would welcome a presentation on what you learned while researching. While speaking on the birth of New Orleans jazz, or the secrets to amazing gumbo, or the ghosts of the bayou, or the famous herbalist and Voodo queen, Marie LaVeau, you can refer to something in your novel. When you finish get ready, you will sell your books.

Overcoming Fear
To begin with, just forget picturing people naked. Bad advice! Remember these things:

Fear is a mind-problem. Re-adjust your thinking and your focus. It’s not about you, it is about your audience. You are not a contestant on American Idol. There are no judges watching you trying to find flaws. Quite the opposite. The people who come to hear you speak are interested in what you have to say and what information you can give them. They are rooting for you, because your success fulfills them in return.

Fear also stems from being unorganized and unprepared. Stress feeds fear. When you are contacted to speak, find out a little about the group and their needs. Ask how long you have for your presentation. Don’t forget to ask what kind of microphone you will be using. If they have the cordless type that has a battery pack, you should wear a belt or jacket to hold it. Find out the location of the event and in what room it will be held. Also, be sure to get a cell phone number in case of an emergency on the day of the presentation.

Choose what you plan to wear a couple of days before the event, including all of your accessories. I confess I learned this the hard way when I waited until the morning of my presentation to choose my ensemble. My closet looked like hurricane Katrina blew through it and I was frantic.

After picking out what you plan to wear, put it on and walk around the bedroom pretending you are speaking. Are you comfortable in your clothes?

The night before you leave for your speaking engagement, put everything you intend to take like notes, visual aids, handouts, etc. in one place. I usually put everything in my car the night before I leave. However, when I’m riding with someone else, I’ll put my keys on top of my pile.

Fear of making a mistake is paralyzing. Let me put that fear to rest by assuring you that you will mess up. We all do. Even those of us who use Teleprompters mess up. The important thing is how you recover from that mistake. Remember, the audience is pulling for you, so laugh it off and they will too. Then move on.

This quote by Alexander Gregg says it best, “There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get you subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”

Public speaking isn’t hard. Really, it isn’t! Now grab that mic and connect!

You will find more in-depth information and ideas in Linda's book, Connect! A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers.

© Copyright 2011, Linda C. Apple

Linda AppleĀ is an inspirational writer and motivational speaker. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her husband, Neal, and near their five children, three children-in-loves, and six grandchildren. Her current work in progress is a parenting book titled, NOW WHAT DO I DO? Help For When Teenagers Become Teenstrangers. Please visit her website: www.lindacapple.com. Learn how easy it is to write those Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort stories in Inspire! Writing from the Soul.

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