Tag Archives: Writing

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


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Marketing Services – Books Don’t Sell Themselves

Marketing Your BookBuying Marketing Services – Books Don’t Sell Themselves

The publisher, iUniverse, has published my book. They provided all the editorial and production service covered by my publishing agreement with them and they have been most satisfactory. I have blogged regularly, posting progress reports and reflections on the processes involved as they unfolded. Now books need to be sold in a highly competitive market. An audience for Through a Lens of Emptiness is out there for sure, but the target audience for a book is both ephemeral and elusive unless an author can reach out to it. This is a daunting task for a début author, so all the support he can get in this endeavour is welcome. Unless he is particularly well connected with individuals that know the ropes, purchasing useful services are essential.

I’ve tried to build a bit of a following on my own over the last two years through blogging and the twitter-sphere. I’ll discuss that experience in the next blog post. I provide the following reflections with an understanding that which supports an author purchases are determined by $$$ available and not the desire to purchase quality services. Please note, I never name the support services purchased nor the prices paid in that everyone’s choice in services and service level will vary. The only service I will name is Google Ads, since everyone who uses the Internet knows what they are and who supplies them already.

I was informed about marketing services available to me through a marketing representative from iUniverse. These services were carefully explained to me, all my questions were answered in full, and there was no pressure or push to purchase any of them. I had time to think over the possible offerings and made my choices in my own time. The information available on the publisher’s web site provides some information about what is on offer, but direct contact with a knowledgeable individual was essential.

Google Ads looked like the best bang for the buck. This service allows me to define my target audience by age, interest, la gauge, and geographic region. The initial agreement for these ads covers the first three months of marketing. This means that for three months, informing my target audience that Through a Lens of Emptiness is available for purchase will be assured because of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

The second service selected purchases the services of an professional author publicity services to help me create a social media presence. This service is the more expensive of the two, but it is a pragmatic way of filling a big gap in my knowledge and experience. I have been finding my way through the nuance of using blogging and twitter to build an audience and establish a profile, but I still am wondering in the wilderness. Using Facebook to create an author well developed author page remains obscure. I look forward to the support I will receive and the knowledge to be gained from the experience.

The marketing ball is rolling and should gain momentum after I submit the extensive questionnaires that provide the necessary information for these service to move my marketing process along to the next stage.

In my next post I’ll reflect on my experiences with twitter and blogging.

Until my next post, as always your faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author of Through a Lens of Emptiness , now available through Google Books, Amazon.com, and the iUniverse Book Store.

Visit my author website at www.lalanweiss.com

Are professional marketing services actually necessary? Do you use an Twitter based Marketing services? Please comment……..

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What A Difference 33 Months Can Make

I started to review my blog posts and was horrified at what I saw; not by the content, but by the technical aspects of the writing. After several rewrites of a manuscript containing approximately 66000 words, extensive editing and finding the correct technology to support my dyslexia, I read my posts with eyes and brain wide open. There is nothing like 33 months of writing and rewriting to sharpen one’s editing skills.

The only encouraging finding is that grammar and word usage have improved with time. Nevertheless, many of my blogs were written on the fly, thus proving once again that haste makes waste. The waste in this instance is the waste of the power of language. The upshot of all this introspection is an overwhelming urge to edit all previous blog posts. I may even consider deleting a few of them.

Its time to get to work, so if you will please excuse the brevity of this post, I have some ‘fixing’ to do.

L. Alan Weiss – author of Through a Lens of Emptiness

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The Beginning of a Look at Emptiness

I’ve been thinking about the idea of Yin/Yang relationships in the context of my writing, and reading some Taoist literature to guide my thinking. As I read, I was struck by the idea that emptiness and fullness are an important and useful Yin/Yang inter-relationships and began to think how  this idea might be applied.  The phrase “looking at something as half empty or half full” suggests that the concept is part the psyche already, so I considered the relationship of emptiness and fullness in the context of this blog. How did the emptiness/fullness concept relate to idea expressed in the title of Anselm Kiefer’s work “Everyone Stands Under his own Dome of Heaven”.

A brief discussion of the Taoist idea of emptiness is in order. The basic idea is that something that is empty like a cup, becomes useful in its ability to contain something, or the emptiness of a blank piece of paper becomes useful to the writer who has something to write. This notion is contrary to ordinary experience,  since we usually look at something that is full, being full of a material that can be utilized. The motor oil inside a bottle is useful for lubricating an engine, or the olive oil inside a bottle is useful in the preparation of food; but the use of each content is inherently different. The common factor for each of these materials is that they required an empty vessel to contain them.

The skeptic might look at this argument and insist that it is the product that is useful, not the container, but they miss the point. Consider what happens when an engine runs low on lubricating oil, in other words as the emptiness/fullness balance shifts toward emptiness. The workings of the engine are at risk in that case. By pouring some of the oil from the full container into the engine, lubrication is restored and the engine becomes useful again as it is no longer at risk. The balance between emptiness and fullness is critical, since low oil can result in friction that will destroy the engine, and too much will cause the  substance to overflow contaminating the environment. The balance between emptiness and fullness of the lubricating system is critical in the same way that any Yin/Yang balance is critical.

Consider the case of the container of olive oil; the contents are seen as useful, not the initial emptiness of the container. In fact, the contents of the bottle of olive oil is useful, unless  a salad dressing preparation requires it. The balance between two much olive oil and too little is critical in the preparation of the salad dressing since the balance between the oil and the other components of the salad dressing makes all the difference to the taste. A small bottle of olive oil even becomes more useful as it empties, since it can be refilled with more oil from a larger bottle.

Taoism is all about the essence of the Tao the right  path to follow. The Tao (way) of the container is determined by the choice of the artisan or manufacturer. There are many ways to alter the container’s shape or the materials used to make its designated use, but the Tao of a container is to hold something. One can pour hot tea into a glass, a cup, a mug, or a thermos. Each of these different containers can hold the tea, and each of these containers can be used to drink the tea, but each will have a characteristic that makes it more or less useful for the purpose. The common nature of these containers is that they are capable of holding hot tea. The common nature of their emptiness is that they can hold many different things. They can hold sand, sugar, flour, salt or cold liquids equally well. They can hold safe substances or dangerous substances equally. The Tao of these containers is the ability to contain a substance, not the substance they contain.

I hope the emptiness of this blog post when I clicked “new post” has been filled with useful word and ideas. Until then . .


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The Intensity of Work

I have been writing with an intensity that I had yet to experience. Since my last post five days ago, every spare minute has been spent working away on my rewrite. My focus has been on clarity, clarity , clarity. The sections of my book that have occupied my time these days are those that set the stage, so to speak. These are very important sections to say the least. You may recall that my book is a work of non-fiction, but I have not said much about it.  The book is comprised of  three main sections that fit within a developmental sequence. While each section is distinctive in character, and could stand on its own as an extended essay, they lead nicely one to the next, from start to finish.

The first section sets the conceptual base and philosophy for the second. The second section is an extended analysis of important elements looked at through the philosophical lens of the first, and is somewhat confession like.  The final section is a synthesis of ideas provoked by the first two sections of the book, which is essentially revelatory. This all sounds a bit heavy, but I am striving for the feel of a series of extended chats between acquaintances that get to know each other better over time. I cannot help but think of a Dickens’ title as I write all this, “Great Expectations” indeed.

The philosophy that initially directed my writing has matured over the last eighteen months in ways I could never have anticipated. I certainly believed in my message from the beginning of my project, but as I became more and more committed to producing the best book I can, my initial philosophical motif grew into a surge of thought that revealed a greater theme than the original.  That original philosophy has developed into the modus operandi for confronting each day and each task. The act of writing has become transformative. At the age of sixty-seven, that was a bit of a surprise. Old dogs do learn new tricks after all.

My writing project was originally just another challenge to be faced in a lifetime of taking on challenge. If you have been following my blog, you may recall that am a mild to moderate dyslexic who has a serious spell check and “Grammarly” addiction ( Grammarly is a commercial grammar checking service available at www.gramarly.com.) The project has evolved and become much more, now driven by an intense desire to communicate my ideas to others. Writing has also become a therapy for the literarily  challenged (me). If I were still a practicing special educator, I would have my students write, write and write some more. Of course they would need support to write correctly, but I am certain that the exercise would cause a few writing and language based neurons to make some new connections.

I took a break from writing to write this blog, but forty-five minutes is all I can spare. I was on a role today, and I want to get back to what I was doing before I lose the thread. I have been thinking a bit more about Yin/Yang relationships so I wouldn’t be surprised if those thoughts show up in my next entry. Until then . . .


PS. I am a proud Canadian today. Alice Munro, the great short story master, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. A great day for Canada. A great day for women. A great day for the art form that is the short story. A great day for literature.

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What to inlude, what to cut, and what comes next?

I tried writing this post on a Blackberry Z10. It is possible, but only when no other technology is available. I’m back to the tactile keyboard for now.

I just finished a copy-edit (to the best of my ability and with the help of grammarly.com) on the fist completed sect of my rewrite. As I stated in a previous post, my intention is to follow the suggestions of the developmental editor closely. If material is considered superfluous, it is cut. Whenever the editor suggests that an idea needs more support or requires clarification it is done. The most time-consuming aspects of the rewrite process is keeping the content sequenced correctly and copy editing.

One has to give serious thought about how to begin a section of the book and what needs to be included. I’m discovering that some of the supporting content suggested by the editor, actually shows up in sections of the book other than the one I am working on at the moment. I looked back on my planning sheets prior to writing and discovered that many of my problems resulted from deviating from the plan and not asking myself the correct questions.  Reflecting on those planning sheets suggests a different approach might have been useful.

The next time I generate a plan for writing a work of non-fiction, I will include the following processes:

1. Establish a content development line, analogous to a plot development line in a novel.

2. Each time an idea or topic is included on the development line, the following questions should be posed:

a. Is this the next logical idea or topic that should appear in the book?

b. What do I need to know to write about this topic or express the idea?

c. What do I want the reader to understand from what is written?

d. What information or clarification do I need to provide to the reader?

e. Have I considered my audience as I am writing a section?

f, Am I leading my reader painlessly from paragraph to paragraph and sub-section to sub-section?

g. Have I included all that is necessary and cut out all that is superfluous?

3. Keep referring back to my plan and keep track of where I am.

4. Be consistent in following my plan, but don’t be married to it.

I think this checklist of questions would have been useful in the preparation of my first draft. If anyone reading this blog has a comment on the list of guiding questions provided, or anything they would like to add, please comment.

Until the next post . . .

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Developmental edit recieved – dealing with the fallout

As I write these posts, my goal is to inform the reader about the nature of a developmental edit and communicate the scope and range of my reactions and responses.  I want to relate the experience of a newbie writer going through the process of developing a manuscript to its full potential as accurately as possible. Six days ago, I received the result of my developmental editor’s review of the manuscript, and it was certainly an eye opener. I spent about eleven months producing a manuscript that essentially has to be taken apart and reassembled, and requires a fair amount of rewriting and rethinking .  Before beginning my narrative on the developmental edit, it was necessary to carefully review the comments and suggestions of the editor.

Initial reactions to the editors comments and suggestions ranged from discomfort to relief. The discomfiture comes from thinking about how much more work lies ahead before a manuscript becomes a book and a writer becomes an author. The relief comes from the quality of the editors comments and suggestions. I received a thorough editing effort, full of clearly presented well documented suggestions to guide me as I rewrite and restructure my work. The editor took time to carefully describe and explain what had to be done. The main issues to be addressed are logical sequencing of content , clarification of ideas, ensuring language is used to its full advantage, ensuring that words and formats are used consistently throughout the manuscript and ensuring that ideas were fully supported and documented. The results of the edit were fair, thorough and made sense, and a bit daunting.

My writing tools were rusty from disuse, to say the least. My knowledge of English, its grammar, syntax, rules for punctuation, and ideas about writing styles came from one freshman English course and whatever information about writing remained from high school many years ago  (the mid-1960’s). Until now, anything that I wrote was directed toward a specific audience or to fulfill the requirements of a specific assignment.  This was a first effort at writing for individuals who are not obliged to read anything I write. If I want to attract a readership, I need to get down to work.

In addition to all the structural and qualitative information provided by the editor, there was another important idea conveyed within the edit related to the task ahead. My job was to rewrite and restructure the manuscript into a thoroughly reader friendly and unambiguous written work . The first order of business was to rewrite, or more accurately, write the preface. The original preface for the manuscript submitted was not a preface at all, just my idea of what a preface should contain. I had done nothing to inform a reader about why the book was written and for whom it was written. I had done nothing to engage the reader in my writing or with the content to come. I spent five of the last six days writing a preface that I can use. The next post focuses on my efforts to produce that preface. Until then . . .

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