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by Patricia Fry

How Do You Get all of Those Speaking Gigs?

(From Patricia Fry's Publishing Blog:

I do quite a bit of public speaking. I present writing/publishing-related workshops at writers' conferences and book festivals throughout the U.S. And I'm frequently asked, "How did they find out about you?" or "How did you find out about them?"

While some authors sit back and wait for opportunities for book promotion and exposure to present themselves, I go out in search of those opportunities. Of course, my expertise is in the area of authorship, freelance writing and publishing. So I read writers' magazines and newsletters in hopes of finding out about upcoming events. I do a Google Search in order to locate pending events for freelance writers and authors. If I want to locate an event in a certain area, I might type in, "book festival" or "writers' conference" and "Arizona" or "California" or "Seattle."

I study the information related to this event and, if it seems appropriate, I'll email the director and ask how to apply to be a speaker or workshop leader. I have a resume already prepared listing my qualifications as an industry professional as well as a speaker and I'm always ready to make workshop or speech topic suggestions.

Sometimes I fall into a sweet speaking deal with little effort on my part. Someone reads one of my articles somewhere, they've heard me speak, they stumble across my Web site or they read a review of one of my books and they contact me with an invitation to speak before their group. Sometimes they contact me because of my affiliation with SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network).

So you see, there are two main ways to get speaking gigs: you can go out in search of an opportunity or you can grab the opportunity that unexpectedly comes your way. If opportunities are not knocking at your door, perhaps you aren't getting out enough. Still, I meet authors who prefer to hole-up in their offices; never venturing out where they will be noticed.

What are the benefits of speaking in public? I think they are many and far-reaching. It's an opportunity to sell books on the spot. If your message is clear, concise and useful, members of your audience will buy books. It is good exposure for you as a professional in your field and for future sales of your book(s). Also, not only will you be in front of an audience of, presumably, anywhere from two people to 200, you potentially reach thousands more by placing announcements about your presentation in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, your blog, on related Web sites and so forth.

Where do you find speaking opportunities for books like yours? Just about any author, who has some public speaking skill, can land speaking engagements at local civic club meetings, in bookstores and libraries and venues related to your book. If your book is a how-to on making living wreaths, for example, you could probably arrange to give demonstrations at nurseries throughout your state and beyond.

Maybe you've written a book on animal behavior. I'd suggest that you contact pet stores, animal shelters, veterinarians' offices and breed clubs everywhere and offer to speak.

If you have written a historical novel based in early Pennsylvania, for example, contact the various Chambers of Commerce in that state as well as libraries, museums, schools, civic organizations and historical societies and volunteer to come and tell your story.

Once you've landed some engagements, be sure to alert local newspapers of the event so you'll have good coverage and draw a large audience. And be prepared to sell books on the spot. Bring change and open a merchant account so you can take credit cards or you may lose potential sales.

We're marching toward spring. If you start now contacting appropriate venues for your speeches, you'll begin the new season with plenty of reason to celebrate: sales and exposure.

If you are not comfortable speaking in public and you would like some motivation, guidance and skills, join a local Toastmasters Club. Find a club near you by visiting: Or look in your phone book or contact your Chamber of Commerce to locate a local club.

I'd love to hear from those of you who are actively speaking on behalf of your books or who are motivated by this blog entry and are taking the steps necessary to start seeking appropriate speaking venues for your book topics.

SPAWN had a booth at the first Ventura Book Festival in Ventura, CA in Spring 2006, and it was a big success. I gave a workshop on book promotion while there. Why? Because they offered this opportunity and I took advantage of it. They had readers and workshop leaders. I met one exhibitor who was disgruntled when he didn't see his name listed as a reader. He wondered why. I asked if he had signed up to do a reading. He said, "No. I didn't know we could."

About two dozen others knew that they could because they read the application and the exhibitor information. This is another good lesson for authors-search hard for those opportunities; don't just assume they don't exist.

See my most recent books in the left column of this page.

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