Monthly Archives: June 2015

Marketing a Book – #8 Public Speaking

Marketing a Book – #8   Public Speaking

probusIn my last post, I blogged about a book signing experience then ended by announcing an invitation to speak to a chapter of Probus, an association of retired former Rotarians. That event occurred on June 15, but it took some time to reflect on the experience. This was the first opportunity to present elements of my writing to the public as a presenter and merited considerable reflection. rotary

The invitation came as the result of an interview published in our local newspaper, which was the subject of an earlier post. The request was fairly specific, asking for a presentation on how I wrote an autobiography. The presentation had to be focused and address some specific points in one hour.

· What motivated my writing?

· How was the work of writing structured?

· How was the content generated and developed?

The venue was small and the audience numbered about twenty-five individuals. A PowerPoint presentation was saved on my hard drive and backed up in Dropbox. The hall was equipped with a newly installed 42 inch flat screen television with HDMI input ports, on screen instructions and a person in charge of the AV equipment with a minimum of knowledge about the system was there to help me set up. In fact, today was the first time it had been used in a presentation like mine.

I knew that AV equipment always needed setup and every system was different, so I arrived at the hall about thirty minutes prior to the time my presentation was to start. By the time, zero hour arrived everything was connected to my laptop and few PowerPoint slides prepared to illustrate the presentation were set at the introductory slide. I was ready to launch.

The presentation was titled, A LEGACY OF EXPERIENCE: Memoirs Speak Across the Generations: What do You Want to Say and to Whom? It touched on all the points as per the request, but also included some basic ideas about memory in general and autobiographical memory in particular. It was equally important to explain the nature and origin of self-image and self-esteem, two factors which influence how we remember the events of our lifetime.

Since my audience was essentially Caucasian and Christian and much of my writing is informed by basic ideas in Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism, it was important to explain the elements of those philosophies which shaped my thinking and writing. This audience, and perhaps most audiences I might face, need to see a shift toward Eastern philosophies as a move toward fundamental human values, not a repudiation of their fundamental belief system. The last thing one wants is to offend his audience, an issue that occupied my thoughts as I prepared for this event.

Once the basic concepts and philosophies supporting my writing were stated, the remainder of the talk focused on a structured approach to memoir writing. The concept of building an autobiography on the symbolism and structure of a Zen style garden was carefully unfolded for the audience. Each of the six elements found in such a garden was explained in terms of how it relates to the different aspects that form the narrative of a lifetime. In Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment, I use this specific structural organization and symbolism to document my own life narrative in order to illustrate how that structure is applied in practice.20150523_162505 (2)

Years of experience in the classroom hones one’s observational skills. It is possible to gauge the interest and focus of an audience during a presentation (lesson) by body language, and following it by the number and quality of questions and interactions from the audience. One also learns how to pace the rate of speaking, modulate the voice, and move smoothly from the front of the hall into the audience and back again as needed to maintain contact with the audience. The power and efficacy of a presentation is also enhanced by appropriate eye contact and through the body language of the presenter.

An experienced presenter, like an experienced teacher, carry an evaluation rubric based on the above points in their head. Also, they become adept evaluators of their own behavior as a presenter (teacher) while they are speaking. While it may appear immodest to the reader, I felt pretty good about the whole event based on an evaluation of my behaviors, presenting style, and audience reaction before and after the presentation. I am comfortable making this judgement since, as a teacher, I always told my students that “I would fail my own mother is her performance warranted it”, and have always rated my own performance by a rigid and high standard.

After eight years in retirement, one always wonders if they still have the skills that made them successful as a presenter of information. This first event in my new life as an author and public speaker was an important one. I learned “I’ve still got it,” whatever “IT” is and am confident there is a future for me as a public speaker. At the age of sixty-nine (this August) an enthusiasm to make new beginnings and take on new challenges not only exists but thrives. My next challenge is to generate some more opportunities to speak publicly. I’ll let you know how that works out in a few months.

As always, your faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author

http://www.lalanweiss.com

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Marketing a Book #7 – A First Book Signing Experience

Marketing a Book #7 – A First Book Signing Experience

The long awaited first book signing event has come and gone. If life has its anti-climactic moments, this was one of them.

I contracted for the book signing event at the end of March (’15), about five weeks after the official release date of Through a Lens of Emptiness. 20150523_162505By then, the first available in-store event date was May 30th, not exactly prime book shopping time, but not the worst. At least it wasn’t a date in mid-July when most families are on vacation and the store will be essentially empty. As I was soon to learn, along with the time of year, the weather is another important factor in modulating the number of people frequenting bookstores on a given day.

The weather forecast for the day of the event predicted an advancing cold front with the possibility of heavy rain and thundershowers. The only question was timing. By noon on Saturday, May 30th the cold front had not yet arrived. It was generally a warm sunny Saturday on the last weekend in May and the traffic in the bookstore would likely be sparse. Unseasonably cold with drizzle would have been better. However, hope springs eternal and a positive frame of mind was the order of the day.

The signing was scheduled to begin at noon and last until five. My table was set up near the store entrance and ready for visitors by 11:45. 2015-05-30 13.20.48Over the span of the event, I spoke to three people, one of whom bought a copy of my book. I’ll discuss those contacts later in this post, but first here are some observations about book signings that may be useful to the reader

1. When traffic in the store is low few people will come over to your book signing table.

2. When you are an unknown author, don’t expect too many visitors.

3. If your book is a non-fiction niche item, it might not draw much attention without a clever attractor.

4. Most people who come into a bookstore have a specific target book or genre in mind and will search for that target rather than investigate your offering.

5. Those who come over to talk to you usually have a leaning toward the content of your book already.

6. There are many books for the bookstore visitor to consider and distract him or her from your book. The only difference is that you happen to be standing near your book, but it is no different from the bookstore browser’s point of view.

7. Another negative for signing event relates to what else is available for purchase in the store. If it has many gift items available for purchase as well, they will be a distraction for sure.IMG_20150530_203025

There were three interesting visitors to my table that afternoon. One visitor was a regular follower of Buddhist teachings and was attracted to the word Emptiness on the book’s cover. She actually bought a copy and took a business card with her. Before leaving my table, she spent some time talking to me about the importance of mindfulness in everyday pursuits. The second visitor talked a bit about the book and took a business card and exited the store. She was observed contemplating my business card and returned for further discussion, but did not purchase a copy at that time. The final visitor talked with me a bit and was also interested in the fact that we lived in the same rural neighborhood.20150530_203854

It doesn’t sound like a very productive book signing, but I got more out the afternoon than the sale of one book. The person who bought a copy of the book suggested another well-established independent bookstore where a signing event was a possibility. It might also be possible to couple the signing event with an author talk. The individual who gave my card and book such careful consideration suggested that a nearby regional library system might accept the donation of a copy of my book and give me the opportunity to speak about it too.

I also appreciated the chance to face the public and field some simple questions about my book and refine my answers. The traffic was light so there was ample time to review each interaction, the sense of the question and the strength and clarity of the answer. By the end of the session, I had a clear vision of the best phrases to describe Through a Lens of Emptiness.

· Through a Lens of Emptiness is about a journey of self-discovery in search of contentment.

· Through a Lens of Emptiness is about building a legacy of experience, wisdom, and insight to share with others.

· Through a Lens of Emptiness looks back at the meaningfulness of a lifetime.

When one is engaged in the process of writing, being able to step back and view your work dispassionately and critically is essential. The same is true for understanding the dynamics of interacting with the public and presenting key points related to your book as simply and succinctly as possible. As the marketing process progresses, there will be more, and hopefully better opportunities to present in public. I intend to seek those opportunities as much as possible. As I write this post about my first book signing, I am already seeking to book a second in the fall. I hope to schedule one in late November or early December when books are on the gift lists of many, the weather is not so nice, and the bookstores are full of people.

I have been fortunate to receive an invitation to speak to a group of retired professionals about my book. They are interested in the legacy aspect of my writing. I will blog about that experience too.

Until the next time,

As always, your faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author – Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment

Please visit my author website and my Facebook fanh page too.

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