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6 Tips on Getting Comfortable Talking About Your Book

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In this business, talking about our books with a sense of ease is not only a skill, it's a necessity. "Oh dread," you say? "I'm embarrassed, shy, feel dumb." We can all relate. But the truth is, if we want people to read our books, we have to talk about them. No matter how brilliant and innovative a publisher and/or publicist might be, authors must be great orators when it comes to selling.

 

At every turn, there's opportunity to discuss a book—at signings, seminars, even during casual conversation.

The most important hurdle is to change perception. Instead of looking at public speaking as a daunting, horrifying event, we can try to view it as an exciting challenge that can lead to a successful experience and increased sales. In my book, Meditations For Actors: For the Actor Within Us All, I offer more than two dozen positive tools to help you ground yourself and achieve goals more effectively and with greater ease. Especially when it comes time to performing. For my fellow authors, I'd like to share a few key tips for becoming more comfortable with public speaking.

 

Tip #1. Remember to breathe. "Breathing is instinctual," you say? Not when you're terrified! Knowing all eyes are on you and everyone is waiting for you to deliver the goods can be utterly paralyzing. The body's initial response is to hold the breath. Even having been on the stage hundreds of times, I still have to remind myself to breathe. One or two deep breaths can thaw you from frozen stage fright. But don't worry. If you forget to breathe, the worst that can happen is you pass out!

Tip #2. Make eye contact. Whether you're addressing one person or a crowd of a thousand, try to direct your energy, through your eyes, to whomever you can. When eye contact is achieved between speaker and listener, a connection is made. It's the unspoken way of conveying, "I'm here for you." If you're strangers, eye contact can automatically create a more familiar rapport. For those we know, it sets everyone at ease and sends a message of mutual participation in the moment.

Tip #3. Prepare. There are many steps in preparation and it's possible to see them as fun. Remember what it is about your book that made you write it in the first place. Read it again. Know everything about it inside and out and own being the expert that you are. Next, hone in on what you believe to be the most important elements of your book, and then jot those down. Read your notes aloud and say them again and again and again. Practice speaking into the mirror (a guaranteed good laugh!) and rehearse with your spouse, dog, neighbor-anyone who will listen with a supportive, encouraging ear.

Tip #4. Speak up. Why not make sure that you're heard correctly? (I learned this the hard way. An actor once approached me after a short seminar and said that he recommended taking Valium before going on stage. He thought the title of my book was Medications for Actors!) Be proud of your words. There's nothing more distracting than a mumbler. When you speak up, your audience will feel more secure. Hence, so will you.

Tip #5. Keep your materials organized. If you plan to read from your book, I suggest you earmark the pages in advance. Searching for a specific page while everyone waits can be unnerving. After you have done your preparation and then organized your supplies, you no longer need to worry that a small unpredictable distraction may throw you off your entire agenda. For the more footloose, you now can allow yourself the freedom to improvise and play around with your audience without veering too far from your charted path. Being confidently prepared and well organized will relieve much performance anxiety and permit a far more pleasurable experience.

Tip #6. Find a common denominator. This may be the most challenging aspect to getting in the groove of comfort, but it will also be the most compelling bit of information when it comes to engaging your audience. For example, in my case, I'm most at ease discussing my book with a group of thespians who practice yoga and who live in Hollywood. Hypothetically, however, if I were speaking about Meditations for Actors to a crowd of chefs who are practicing Mormons living in Salt Lake City, I might have a hard time getting their attention. Hence, the situation would make me uncomfortable (as well as potentially boring my audience to the point of sleep). My mission then would be to find a common denominator.

This commonality can be in theme (emotional or moral), locale, profession, age, and a host of other specific similarities. So, returning to my illustration, in order to reveal common denominators, I would: (1) Talk about Emeril Lagassi-the famous showman TV chef-and what he must do to deliver his best performance, (2) Discuss meditation as a spiritual form of grounding oneself so as not to alienate or offend the devout beliefs of my audience, and (3) Point out the growing theatrical, creative, and cultural aspects of Salt Lake City and how my book applies to those involved in that growing trend.

Although that crowd may not stampede to the nearest Barnes & Noble to buy my book, at least I've designed my presentation to include and hopefully interest this particular audience. Discovering and exploring the common ground will absolutely put you and your listener more at ease.

Ultimately, the most important thing when it comes to speaking publicly is to relax and be yourself. The truth is, the more your audience is interested in you, the more apt they are to read your book.

Carra Robertson, author of Meditations for Actors: For the Actor Within Us All  and the soon-to-be-released e-zine "Actorstuff." Robertson is an acting coach and motivational speaker.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

The 411 on Book Signings

 

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Book-signing engagements at bookstore chains, independent stores, and libraries can be important, or even crucial, ways to sell books. By experimenting with various approaches, I have come up with a system of sorts for making the most of them.

My system is designed for most of the independent bookstores which use the casual approach to book-signings. That is, they provide authors with a table and chair near the front of the store, leaving the writers to make their pitches to individual customers as they pass by. This is in contrast to stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders, which prefer more structure, with a table and rows of chairs in a suitable area of the store, a talk, a Q&A session, and then a signing.

The Proactive Approach

Since independent bookstores are mostly in shopping malls, the book-buying traffic is transient. If you just sit at your table and wait for something to happen, not much generally does. What you should do is become proactive rather than reactive, which involves training yourself to approach customers as they come into the store. You want to politely ask if they will permit you to tell them about your book.

No one will be offended by that query and, in most cases, you will be gratified by the friendly and cooperative response you get. Some customers may say that they’ve come in to look for a specific book or that they’re in a special hurry. Others will state politely that they are not interested. But there will be a goodly number whose eyes will light up and who will be glad to listen.

The number of book sales at any given event tends to be inversely proportional to the book’s retail price and it also depends on the genre. For a soft cover book retailing at $10 or less, the success rate will be higher than for a case-bound volume selling at $30. Also, a book in the "how-to" category will usually do better than most other nonfiction.

Once you get into your stride with the proactive approach, you’ll be talking to people almost all of the time. Allowing for signing and personalizing, you will typically deliver your pitch 40-50 times per hour. Depending on the traffic and the location of the bookstore, it’s reasonable to achieve an average rate of one signing in 8-12 pitches with a virtually unknown hardcover novel or true story that retails for $24.95.

Spurring Sales into the Thousands

When you’ve used the proactive approach for a while, you’ll establish your own averages. Knowing the time you will have at your disposal and making allowances for the weather, you’ll be able to forecast your total sales for any given session with reasonable accuracy.

If, like me, you’re one of the lucky ones with the freedom to spend as much time as you like at a book-signing event, it makes sense to lengthen your sessions. Even if it takes you only an hour to reach a store, you’ve invested two hours in travel, which alone justifies a longer signing session. In fact, there’s a lot to be said for making it a whole day. Your feet will get tired, but with the proactive approach you may sell 25-50 books. An investment of eight hours per week of your time–in single sessions or split between two or three promotions a week–will result in the sale of 1,000-2,000 books over a 12-month period from your personal signings alone, exclusive of sales made by the bookstores. And if yours is a soft cover or a "how-to" book selling for $10 or less, you can expect to sign 3,000-4,000 copies over the same period.

Those numbers begin to look worthwhile, don’t they? And the store managers will love you.

A Non-Seasonal Cycle

When I started my signing rounds with Waldenbooks (an independent bookstores in my area), I was content to go anywhere that the very helpful New England scheduling chief decided to send me. I soon realized, however, that out-of-state excursions involving overnight stays and restaurant bills were costing me more than I could hope to recover. Soon I began limiting my signings to locations that would permit me to return home the same evening. When I had exhausted the list of stores located within that radius, I simply started at the beginning again. The area Community Relations Manager supported me in this, and since each visit resulted in a goodly number of books sold, store managers have, without exception, welcomed me.

I don’t limit myself to standing at my table anymore. When traffic slackens and few prospects are arriving, I wander around and introduce myself to anyone who is not already engrossed with some other book. Sometimes I walk outside the store and chat with passersby. On the one and only occasion that I’ve been lucky enough to sign four copies of my book for a single prospect, it was for a woman who said she’d had no intention of entering the store until I walked outside and invited her in. It’s amazing how receptive people are to a polite and friendly greeting.

It seems to be universally accepted that book-signings, like book sales, are seasonal. Late fall is said to be best, with winter and spring good and summer flat. This assertion applies more to structured signings than to the free-ranging approach, and I’ve actually found that summer signings work well. Let’s say that one out of every two people who come into a store strikes you as a reasonable prospect. If the nature of your pitch is such that you can talk to only 40 or 50 people an hour, you want a traffic flow of between 80-100 people an hour. These numbers are frequently achieved during the summer months as well as at other times. A significantly heavier flow doesn’t do anything for you, and a crowded store is not necessarily the best environment for your purpose. Also, summer book-buyers tend (on average) to be somewhat more serious and more purposeful.

Keeping Score, Surviving Setbacks

My own experiences regarding summer buyers bear this out. My book, a case-bound inspirational biography called The Thirteen Club, had only just come off the press in April. I visited the Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut stores on the first Sunday in June and sold 21 copies in four hours (spending two hours at each store). Early in August, I sold 22 copies in four hours, devoting two hours to both the Chestnut Hill and Natick stores in Massachusetts. On the 23rd of the same month, I signed and sold 14 books in a 2-hour session at the Marlborough store. While those are not big numbers, they compare quite well with the signings per hour I’ve achieved at other times of the year.

As I gathered experience and put in more hours per visit, my signings-per-session increased in number. By late fall, my score was typically more than 25 signings per visit, and it later reached as high as 50, although the average success rate per hour did not change very much.

The signing rate, like most other phenomena in life, is far from uniform. There will be times, especially at the beginning of a session, when the better part of an hour will pass without a sale. One after another of your promising prospects will tell you that they "will think about it," or that they have to rush off now, but will definitely come back in a little while to buy your book. They don’t and won’t.

It’s easy to become very discouraged by this train of events. You’ll ask yourself what on earth you’re wasting your time for. You will tell yourself that you’re just off color today, and that it would be wise to go home to save yourself further frustration. But that’s simply not the answer. Instead, take this type of setback in your stride and work yourself past the mistaken notion that all is lost. If you just hang on, the averages will come out right in the end. They always do.
Furthermore, even if you don’t enjoy book-signings as much as I do, you will find that proactive sessions serve as confidence builders. They tell you that when all else fails, you have at your disposal an infallible way to sell your books.

Sidebar

Library Signings: It’s Good to Have Friends

The library signing is a special case. Since, in this hallowed environment, authors can hardly wander the aisles and strike up conversations with the patrons, signing sessions must be structured as organized talks. And since attendance at such talks is often quite poor, many authors feel that library book-signing sessions are not worth pursuing. This is not entirely true.

As Jerry Labriola M.D. (the author of Famous Crimes Revisited and Murders at Hollings General) puts it: "What you do is identify those libraries that have ‘Friends-of-the-Library’ groups, because their staffs and Friends Groups, working together, can better promote your presentation." Also, Friends come to meetings not just for your talk but also for lunch and any other scheduled social activities, so you have what amounts to a captive audience.

Howard M. Layton, a chartered electrical engineer (FIEE), came to the United States from England in 1955. He founded his own Hi-Tech manufacturing company and has since authored 15 U.S. engineering patents and co-authored several others. His book The Thirteen Club, which marks his debut in nontechnical writing, tells the story of how he met Narcissza, an immigrant from Hungary, married her, and embarked on their joint rocky journey to business success.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

 

 

Hearing from God When Writing Your Book

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What a massive endeavor – to consider writing a Christian book to assist God’s people in moving forward in their lives.  Although excited with the prospect of writing and publishing your book, at the same time you feel overwhelmed with the task before you in representing God’s heart through the written word. Everything inside you reminds you that you are a needy person…needy to connect with God. You may have no trouble talking to God, but how are you at listening? The real issue is hearing from God in prayer. This article will not discuss much about how a Christian writer should pray. As you are in the process of writing your Christian book, we are going to talk about how to hear...how to hear God speak to you, not so much how you speak to him.

Everyone can pray. Most everyone does pray already. It may not happen often, but everyone knows how to pray. Normally people pray when things are going wrong.  Their prayer goes something like this: “Oh God, HELP!”

altSo we know how to pray in one sense. But in another sense, we feel awkward at times, asking God to help us develop story lines, characters or thoughts on our Christian book that we want to publish. We may feel distant from God, ashamed due to some sin in our lives or the way in which we have been living.  We also have history in praying, a history that usually includes a feeling that prayers have remained unanswered.

All these collective thoughts contribute to a weak prayer life, and when we do pray, we really don’t expect our prayers will be answered. And if we are not expecting an answer, then we don’t really listen for His voice speaking into our hearts and minds. Sad, but all too normal.

 

What are the reasons we don’t pray, and that the prayers we do pray don’t seem to yield many answers?

 

We’re too busy, too tired, and have too many competing things on our mind. We are definitely too unfocused. And we are too full of sin. We find ourselves too reliant on our own understanding, too reliant upon others views and too consumed doing other “good” things. We don’t grasp the incredible opportunity prayer affords us in connecting with God and don’t see what is at risk in us not praying. We feel that our last prayers didn’t get answered and don’t really know what to pray in our confusion. The pull of others and their demands on our life is never ending. Honesty would say we don’t trust God will answer soon, even if we asked. In fact, we are too full of guilt for not following through with something God told us last time we asked. We are too comfortable even in our discomfort. Sadly, we would rather choose our Plan B which might be somewhat sure, rather than relying on prayer. Some don’t really feel connected to God, and may not even be sure they are in a right relationship with God, so why would He answer? And then if we do bother to pray, and even think God will hear us, we aren’t sure we will clearly hear Him speak the answer we need. DID WE COVER ALL YOUR REASONS IN THIS LIST?

 

Why is it difficult to hear God?

 

Allowing some sin to remain in our lives is one of the biggest reasons. Not choosing to obey God in what he already revealed is another. Rebellion through being self absorbed in our own methods comes to mind. Not staying connected to the vine of Christ’s life short-circuits us. Harboring (giving a safe place) to unforgiveness sabotages our prayer life. Not honoring your spouse affects your ability to hear God. Lack of confession and repentance puts a wall of self righteousness up between us and God.

Let’s look at what Scripture says about these reasons:

altSin – not choosing to obey God in what He already revealed.
Rebellion – doing things the way we want them done, not His way.
Isaiah 1:15-20
When you spread out your hands in prayer ,I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD."Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
NIV

altActs 28:26-28
"'Go to this people and say,
‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’  
"Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"   
NIV

Not staying connected to the vine.
John 15:5-11
 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.”
NIV

Not honoring your spouse.
1Peter 3:7
You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
NASB

Lack of confession and repentance.
1 John 1:8-10
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
NIV

Psalms 51:1-4
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned  and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak  and justified when you judge.
NIV

Preoccupation with our self, our desires, our needs.
James 4:1-3
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
NIV

Not seeing that this world should revolve around Him and His agenda and not our agenda .
Rom 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
NIV

alt

Seven Things To Do That Will Allow You To Hear God

 

  1. Get to know God’s expectations of you. Life is about God’s agenda, not yours. When writing your book, ask God what his expectations are for your day, week and month of writing. Get in the Word as regularly as you have regular needs – daily. Serious understanding of how to proceed comes to those who get serious. Ask for Godly help.
  2. Ask God to help you see all your sin, as the destructive and obstructive force that it is. God is not mocked. For us to consider writing a Christian book, and not deal with the issues that are on His heart concerning our lives, is absurd.
  3. Agree with God about your sin. Know that it separates you from God, and has ramifications in your personal circumstances as well as in your writing and publishing life.
  4. Renounce and choose to turn away and destroy the sin in your life, through the power of Christ. Get the truth about Christ’s ability to free you from the sin in which you feel entrapped. Take the risk of standing on the truth through belief, trusting that He will give you the strength to make the changes needed. Starve the life out of sin’s growth by not feeding or fueling the part of your life that’s drawn to that wrong activity. Seek Godly, committed help from trusted friends – in other words, don’t rely on your mere strength and resolve. And finally, commit to regular measurable audits through accountability.
  5. Honor Him in thanksgiving, declarations of truth, and worship. Be prayerfully thankful for all He has done and is doing in your life. This applies to your personal, family, occupational and Christian writing life. Read the scripture out loud. Declare your own paraphrased version. Redeem the remnants of time in your daily life by worshiping God in song and meditating on His word. Take your time captive. Let time in the car by your mobile worship center. Children’s nap time, office break time, etc. are also great opportunities. Finally, be strategic and purposeful and make this time non-optional.
  6. Make the soil of your life prepared to receive God’s message to you. Just like in planting, nurture the soil of your mind through a good weed and feed program, the soil of your spirit through the refreshing water of the Spirit of God, and the soil of your will by breaking it so it can be submissive when the word comes.  Let God’s Word actually change your viewpoints, your method of processing information, and what you allow into your mind. Adopt His truth as truth, rather than your truth and experience alone as the ultimate measuring stick. Allow your affections and desires to be transformed through understanding life through God’s perspective found in His word. The soil of your will must be broken up and refashioned by you deciding to bring your life in submission to the truth, whether you feel like it or not. Do what you don’t want to do, so you can become who you really want to become as an individual and as a Christian writer.
  7. Be alert to recognize the voice and leadership of God when He speaks. We have to discipline our ear. This happens by spending time with a person – in this case God. We must separate and recognize different competing voices. It is critical to recognize the authenticity of His voice in the middle of all the competing voices presenting themselves to us.

As you read through this brief article, you see that hearing God for the development of your Christian book is no different than hearing God for your daily concerns. We must clear the clutter of life, the sin in our life and other competition in order to hear Him speak and lead us in this critical area of Christian writing.

altWhat a privilege to be a Christian novelist, a Christian self-help writer, and to publish a Christian book! But publishing a book, writing and editing your book, and developing your storyline are all things that need to be immersed in prayer. Knowing how to hear from God when He speaks is critical to capturing His thoughts for you to share with His people through writing.

You must become as focused on hearing God, and in preparing your life to receive His insights through prayer, as you are at the mechanics and focus you give actually writing your Christian book.

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