One Introvert’s Guide to Reading at Book Signings

My guest today is Mairead Walpole, a somewhat introverted project manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead reviews books for Crystal Reviews and writes paranormal romance. Her first novel, A Love Out of Time is available through Second Wind Publishing. Mairead writes:

When Mike at Second Wind Publishing asked me to attend a book signing over Valentine’s Day Weekend, my initial thought after the “how cool is this?” was “oh [bleep] – that means I have to speak in public.”

The whole concept of self-promotion is a difficult one for me because it requires a certain amount of extroversion and I am not the most outgoing of individuals. Contrary to what people who know me in my professional life may think, I am not a natural extrovert – it is a learned behavior. I tend to avoid being front and center so the thought of public speaking is right up there with having an un-anesthetized root canal, or swimsuit shopping. Ironically, much as my introverted soul hates it, I am told that I am quite good at it. The profession of “my alter ego” (project management) requires the ability to speak in front of groups at all levels of a corporation, so I have learned to mask my absolute terror fairly well. 

In an effort to help my fellow introverts, the following are some tips and tricks that I adapted from the corporate world to apply to book signings. 

1.  Choose your book excerpts carefully.

Pick out several short excerpts from your novel that will not require a great deal of preliminary set-up for your audience. Make sure that the excerpt has enough of a hook or “punch” to it to leave your audience wanting more. The goal is to make them want to buy the book to see what happens next. 

2.  Practice reading the sections aloud prior to the event.

Practicing will increase your awareness of any editing errors, or tricky phrasing, that could trip you up during the reading. It will also help you gauge how long the reading will take. Recent research has indicated that the average attention span for a literate adult is around 12 minutes and maxes out at 20 minutes. Continuous attention span is significantly lower, coming in around 30 seconds. Use my personal definition of the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Short & Sizzling. 

3.  Read slowly.

Speaking quickly will not get you back in your seat any faster. You will be more likely to trip over words and feel the need to stop and re-read sections. You will also lose your audience because their focus will shift from your story to trying to keep up. 

4.  Breathe.

Sounds silly, but one of the main causes of a “shaky voice” is from shallow breathing. Reading at a slow pace will give you a chance to breathe. Take a breath at the natural breaks – commas, semi-colons, colons, periods and prepositional phrases. Your voice will be stronger, you will have time to use your voice to emphasize points, and your audience will have a chance to absorb your words. 

5.  Eye Contact. If looking at your audience is going to render you mute, don’t.

I know this sounds contrary to what most public speaking training will tell you, but a book reading is a bit different. People expect you to be reading to them. When you are done reading, make sure that you look directly at your audience letting your eyes rest on each quadrant of the room, smile, then thank them for their time. 

If you can look at your audience from time to time on the natural breaks or page turns, try to do so because it does help you connect to them. A trick for making eye contact is to direct your gaze at a point just above the eyebrows of a person in each quadrant of the room. You will appear to be making personal eye contact with anyone in that quadrant but minimize the risk of losing your rhythm by being “eye-locked” with someone. 

Public speaking is like most things in life, the more you do it the better and more comfortable you will become. Good luck and have fun!

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How To Deal With Well-Meaning Friends and Readers

My guest today is Laurie Foston, author of science fiction and Christian genre as well as juvenile fiction, who also publishes under the name of Cheryl Henry Hodgetts. Laurie discusses how to deal with people who don’t understand the work involved in writing and promoting a book. Laurie says:

Here’s a comment that I borrowed from a New York Times Bestselling author, Rebecca Brandewyne. She’s the real deal in self-promotion. Anything she could join, create, or pass a test with flying colors to enter…she did!

This is her version of some well-meaning responses to your work when they find out you’re an author. I get this all the time.

“The vast majority of people think writing is easy and they, too, could be a writer – or, at least, a storyteller. In fact, put a published author in a crowded room, and invariably, almost everyone in attendance will have a story to tell that ‘would make a great novel!’

Inevitably, as well, they are ‘going to write a book someday, whenever they find the time to get around to it.’ A ‘few months – or even weeks – ought to suffice.’ But then again, upon reflection, they ‘really just don’t have the time, and in all honesty, they were never that good in English class, besides -‘

Frequently, at this point, the more enterprising of those present will actually offer to ‘let the author write it all down for them, sharing the proceeds fifty/fifty….’

Virtually every published author alive has experienced the above scenario – or some other version of it. The truth is, however, that far from being so easy that everyone could do it, writing is a highly demanding, competitive career, requiring a tremendous amount of self-discipline and solitary hard work.”

I would add here the obvious…they unwittingly want to reduce your joy to ashes…your hard work and success of the actual finished product to ” nothing-to-it.”

Knock yourself out then! Go ahead…bet ya can’t even get one page written down even if I gave you the plot.

Am I being harsh?

Before your publisher will take your submission for editing, you must read it three times. First for concept, then for plot holes, and other editing problems and then a line-by-line edit to make sure you didn’t let the word “two” get through as “too.”

As your book goes through production with your publisher, you will get the manuscript back and forth until you and the editor finally come to blows one way or another. It’s either going to be their way or yours. (So who do you think will win?) When the final proof comes, you must get someone to proof it besides yourself and YOU must read it twice.

Then you must find some way to survey it to make sure postproduction errors are corrected and sent back before too many people decide you can’t write. This takes another line-by-line editing to get the postproduction errors that people have found. (Family and friends will let them pass)

A quotation mark is backwards…there is a sentence repeat on such and such page, a run-on sentence slipped past twenty editors…and the list goes on.

This is hard work and if authors follow these steps they deserve their titles. Let no one try to steal your crown. You put up with the tattered nerves, fear, hair loss, intimidation, and struggled to stay above water while people acted as though writing were a mental disorder rather than a gift as they asked where you were while you pounded away at the keys.

Seriously, this type of reaction from people makes me rant and rave.

Forget the naysayers…..

Get online! Get online everywhere!

I hope everyone understands that only the comments in Italics were actually off Rebecca Brandewyne’s site. The other ravings are those of my own. I could add to hers so easily. If people really knew how hard it is to work with publishers and sometimes editors, they would not think so lightly of the books resting on their bookshelves. That is an amazing accomplishment. But others need to know about it.

This is not a downer but it starts out with a touch of gloom!

I was on TV the day of my first book signing. I sold two books that night and those were to the same relative. My book came out at the wrong time….December 16th and the people going through the mall never even stopped to look at me. They ran past me as fast as they could to the Harry Potter books.

My first press interview, they talked more about John Grisham’s house across the street than they did my book. Then they gave my name as Hayes and my pseudonym as Lori Foster instead of Laurie Foston. We are two different authors.

I believe in holding a foot in every corner. Network, set up signings, join everything you can on the Internet, hook up with celebrities and watch them progress from 15 to 500 friends in one month’s time. What did they do to attract? Just be themselves! Be human! Sometimes we all get riled up! After their friends add up to more than they can handle…they get themselves a webmaster. (Wouldn’t that be nice?)

I have bought most of my books from Amazon’s forum discussion board authors, Facebook authors, or people who write me from Facebook and tell me about a good book. I buy from looking at their picture. I bought a lot of Rebecca Brandewyne’s books because she boldly posed herself on the back as the Damsel in the story when she first started out. She was just s-o-o-o-o a part of the story that she had to have herself in it. I bought it hook, line and sinker. Then loved the books.

Then I get on Facebook and see some authors who look like they may have a story that I haven’t heard before. Their picture tells a lot.

Take Pat Bertram’s picture for example. Pat’s picture and the kind of blurb on the back of her book match up. Sounds weird? She’s got the look of, “Rhythm-Rhythm-arie, I see something that you don’t see!” She’s spunky and has a spark of fire in her smile! Then I go to her book title, “A Spark of Heavenly Fire” and “More Deaths Than One.”

I’m sold!

Incidentally, Pat could have used the title “You Only Die Twice” and with the knowing look in her photo, she could have sold it that way too.

What? She looks like she knows something…she does!

I go to Amazon forum to Amazon Shorts ( always sign into Amazon people…get on a thread discussion…forget the naysayers…go to a forum! Every time I jump into the middle of an argument in a religious forum, I sell a batch of books. I always speak on the defense of the Lord, of course! I never have to say I am an author. They look up my name and there it is.)

Then I see a free short story advertised. (Still on Amazon right at this point!) I read it and I’m sold on buying the novel after I read the short story and see the picture of the author. He had a look like he had been in orbit.

If you have a book and don’t want to peddle bookstores, get on as many networks as possible. AOL, Yahoo, Amazon. Amazon will still be standing when brick and mortars tumble. Does your publisher have a web site that authors get on to exchange ideas? Get on there. You’ll learn how they promote their work and it will rub off on you.

Do you want privacy from the main public and want to keep your group small? Get on a Think Tank and the only people who can access that are the people you invite. Let them coach you until you are ready to take on the industry. If you have a message in your book, you have not finished what you were destined to do. You have to tell people about the message. Otherwise, it stays in the bottle and no one finds it out there in that huge sea of books.

People who have not authored a book have no expertise on the subject of how to promote a book. Your demographic area has a lot to do with local sale. However, you can take it to the bank from authors that you DO need to network and advertise to sell it no matter how big the publisher is or how long it has been out.

One more thing. In the case of Rebecca Brandewyne, the media works for her because she has degrees in journalism and communication. Unless you have a platform already on the media you will not be able to use the media as a first time author in the same way she did. I tried the media. I have a niece who was friends with the new channel hosting the “Morning Show.” They heard about the book, called my niece, and asked her for the chance to interview me because my publisher called them first. This made them look over my name and see that I had a family member working for their news channel. Thus one thing led to another and I was on that show. Things clicked together. Still the interview on TV did not affect my sales. I had sold all of my book stock to family and friends before the books came out to the public. John Grisham sold books out of the trunk of his car and even his platform in the House of Representatives could not land him an interview on TV for his first book. Media is great! Radio is great! But you need contact with your buyers. The greater salesmen will tell you that face-to-face sells more than a billboard!

If you want to sell without the media . . .  networking is the best source. Even John Grisham has a fan club on Facebook.

Creating a Teaser Trailer for Your Book

Suzette Vaughn, today’s guest blogger, is the author of Badeaux Knights and Mortals, Gods, and a Muse, available from Second Wind Publishing. Suzette says:

When I read a book, it plays like a movie in my head. I see the people and watch each scene as vividly as any blockbuster I’ve seen on the big screen. These mental movies make it easy for me to transform the words into a book trailer. Though I’m not a director, producer, or cinematographer I make it work. I’m not overly technical despite the number of people that have me programmed in their phone as “Computer Geek.” I use a simple program to transform the images in my head into something anyone can watch and at least get an idea of the book I’m trying to portray. I use photos from friends, family, and the net to show the characters, and I use placed words like the old time silent movies to convey the messages. — “Talkies will never last.” —

It’s really simple to make teaser trailers.

Simple program: if you don’t have one that will work you can pick up a basic one fairly cheap, probably less than $50 if you shop around, also check your computer for Windows Movie Media it comes with most computers automatically and is simple to learn: http://www.download.com/Windows-Movie-Maker-Windows-XP-/3000-13631_4-10165075.html

Photos: if you can’t find free they normally run about a dollar each.

Check the terms and conditions of each picture you find: no, not every site — every picture. Even if the site says it’s free doesn’t mean you can use the picture. The terms will actually tell you if you can use it freely, restricted and even if you can use it as a book cover. They know what they are talking about and you don’t want your video to be great, making you a New York Times Best Seller, then have to pull it because someone says you used the photo illegally.

Search under royalty free photos. Most sell packages, 20 pictures for $20 or something close to that as well as per picture prices. The best way to pick a site is to search, go through the gallery and which one has the best photos for your project because there are so many out there available.

http://www.inmagine.com

http://www.fotosearch.com

http://www.iStockphoto.com

(I can’t list them all it would take far too long)

If you know aspiring or even current photographers use them by all means, make sure no matter who or what you use that you didn’t personally create go in the credits at the end of the production. Windows Media has a special section for credits.

Words: if the program you use will let you create word photos or images, do so, otherwise Photoshop (or similar) the words into a jpg and use like a photo. I like the Photoshop option since I have more play in what I can do; more fonts, background options, and effects. On a Halloween special I did, I used the Windows Media fonts to make it look like blood dripping.

There are also free options on programs like Gimp. Remember they are free and have issues every now and again but still good options.

Music: There are several sites that you can also get free music to go with your production. The right music plays a part in how the story line feels. You can’t put a fast heavy rocking beat on a regency romance… it just wouldn’t feel right.

I know a few singers and bands myself but there are royalty free options out there too. Do much like I explained above in the photos section. Search royalty free music and listen until you find something that fits your production checking the terms of each selection as you find them. Some take donations for their work and are well worth sending something to even if you can only afford a little.

http://www.findingdulcinea.com/guides.html?topic=/categories/technology/free-use-media&pg=03 is a guide with several options and explanations on music.

I’ll also give you two friends that do outstanding work and need far more credit than they receive!

http://www.jimmyg.us/

http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

Don’t forget to tell your viewers what they are viewing, who the book is by, and credit all those wonderful people whose work you used as well as send them an email. It feels good to know someone could use a photograph or piece of music that you created just as much as authors like to know how much someone enjoyed their book.

A little more on Credits and Courtesy: Anyone’s creations that you use must be notified and they like that too. So even if they waive all right to notification, tell them. It’s another view of your production, another view of your book, and they love to see their work used as much as you loved holding that first book in print.

You can view mine on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/suzettevaughn

Of course, that’s not the only place to put videos or view mine. I have them on wordpress, myspace, personal sites, and facebook to name a few. In this case, the net is the limit.