Regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you will need to consider elements of successful advertising and branding for authors. The skills you have developed as a wordsmith will help you facilitate communication and networking with individuals and organizations that can help you increase your public visibility.
Author Appearances & Readings
You’ve completed a large project in fiction or non-fiction and it’s been published. You’ve made great progress toward achieving your goals as a writer. And if you’ve written an award-winning book, you’ve reached a major milestone in successfully practicing the art and science of writing.
Thinking the heavy work is over? You’re wrong. Seriously wrong. You’ve simply turned the corner from building a product to marketing it in tandem with your publisher…That is, unless you’re entering the world of independent publishing. In that case, you’ll be responsible for self-marketing, and need to maximize a branding program that relies on dynamic but cost-effective authoring strategies and advertising messages.
Regardless of how your work is being published, you’ll need to make promotional appearances. That process should include opportunities for your readers to hear your words, as well as to ask you impromptu questions about yourself and your work. Even if you do not have a strong voice or dynamic style of presentation, the public will want to get to know the mind and personality that has generated the material in which they are interested.
Venues for Author Appearances
In preparation for your work to the public personally, you can refine your oral reading skills by practicing with a voice recording device in front of a mirror. You can also hone your skills at a writers’ group, where you could work on timing selected readings. If you find yourself uncomfortable reading aloud, appearances at a small book club meeting may be ideal for warming up for larger audiences.
Once you’re ready for general audiences, you’ll find there are many venues at which you might share your writing. Some are directly related to publishing, such as book fairs and literary and artistic festivals. Depending on your reputation as a writer, your local radio or television station may have programming featuring local writers. This is especially true of public broadcasting in radio and television.
Since your goal is to sell books in every form you are published—hard- or softcover print, Ebooks, audio books, or online websites and blog sites—libraries and bookstores [local and national chains] are ideal for promoting current work and for attracting potential long-term followers. Again, your personal reputation and the involvement of your publisher may determine the ease with which such appearances can be booked.
Media Relations Dos and Don’ts
Expanding Media Relations
In previous blogs—and at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com—I’ve discussed the importance of connectivity with the media. With each public performance opportunity, I suggest you prepare an advertising message that can be adapted to public service announcement [PSA] messages. These can be utilized promoting the non-profit organizations (i.e. schools and libraries) at which you might appear. For while you may have expectations of selling copies of the work you’re promoting, your authoring events may be deemed worthy of mention in the calendar of non-profit community activities within your local media outlets and platforms, as well as virtual communities. They may also be of interest to followers of social media and blogs featuring interviews.
Cost-Effective Media Relations
As you expand your community relations and get to know your media, you may be surprised by the amount of free media coverage you can obtain. It all depends on your practice of the art of communication, and I don’t simply mean effective wordsmithing. Hopefully your writer’s inspiration will aid you in establishing strategic media relations. Much of this will rely on pithy PSAs prepared as broadcast, print, and On-line media releases [you can find samples at my marketing website, Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation. You should also be prepared to attend business, social and community activities that will introduce you to members of the media, whose own work you may have been enjoying for years.
Empowering Your Words
Enhancing the Listener’s Experience in Your Public Performance
Let me again state that you have one opportunity to make a good first impression. Remember that each time you appear in public, you’re making a statement about yourself and your work. And although your written work may be inspired and employ a rich palette of words, you must now present it to people who will be judging you on their sensory experience!
Where you present your work should direct your preparation. Will you be speaking in a large or small room? Will you be standing or seated? How much of your body will be visible to the audience? Will you have a microphone? Will you be introducing yourself? Will someone be monitoring the time you’ve been allotted for speaking? Are you the featured speaker at the event, or one of a group of presenters? And how will you handle stage fright? I encourage you to remember that stage fright is not a phenomena experienced solely by actors.
~ The quality of your voice. Once you know the size of the room and whether you will be utilizing a microphone, consider how well your vocal quality matches the venue. Remember that unless you are providing your own Audio Visual equipment, there’s no way you can be assured that the equipment provided will work as desired. Therefore, think about whether you have the vocal strength to project your voice throughout the designated space if you end up without a sound system.
Although no one wants to give a reading on a day when they are not feeling well, you may not be able to cancel an appearance. If you are unable to read your material, you may need to take a friend or colleague to actually present your work, but it would still be good for you to show up (as long as you’re not contagious). When in doubt about your condition, check with your healthcare provider. If you just have a tickle in your throat, you can always try drinking warm tea or munching your favorite fruit to produce a clearer sounding voice.
~ Your appearance. Many artists and writers feel there’s no need to be concerned about their appearance or their behavior. But if you want to be taken seriously, I believe you should demonstrate respect for yourself, your work, and for the public who awaits you. What you wear may be dictated by where you’ll be speaking. If you’re standing on a raised platform, consider how your legs and shoes will look from the audience. Women may want to wear a longer skirt length than they normally do, or even a pantsuit to ensure they aren’t sending the wrong message. And don’t forget that use of makeup is not limited to women. Men, (especially those who are bald), are just as susceptible to having a glowing face that detracts whether they are on stage or on video. Also, the eyes are key to projecting a performer’s personality. A touch of eye liner below the lower eye lashes gives your audience a sense of being closer to you.
As to style, the casualness of ragged denim, faded hoodies and unshaven portions of one’s anatomy may seem representative of the artistic world. But ask yourself whether they best represent the work you are introducing. If you’re beyond the first two decades of life, consider more sophisticated choices in attire and overall self-presentation. Personally, I usually top skirts and dresses I wear to public events with a vivid Asian style silk jacket. Not only is this in keeping with my normal wardrobe, but since the Natalie Seachrist mysteries features references to Asian culture, this choice sets the stage for the stories that I will be addressing.
You should have several empowering bios by the time you’re launching a book. [You’ll find a summary for writing one on my website at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html] You should have brief versions in one or two paragraphs in both first and second person voices. If you’re lucky, there’ll be an MC or other person to introduce you, and hopefully they’ll read your bio without inappropriate ad-libs. However, regardless of your advance planning, there will be times when you must introduce yourself. And while it is important to have a well-written bio, it is useful to be able to speak off-the-cuff without any notes.
That’s right. I said Performance. That’s what an author’s appearance is. You must present yourself so that you are memorable and believable as the author of the work you have produced. And just as there are many styles of writing, there are many ways in which you can present your work. In my opinion, the top rung of professionalism holds those rare authors who memorize portions of their work and perform it like a play…that is, sans script.
One of the most likely venues in which you’ll see this type of performance is Cowboy Poetry. One of my favorite entertainers in this genre is Bill Black, whose warm vocal tones are accented with more than a hint of North Carolina. From the moment he steps onto a stage with his cowboy shirt, hat and bolo tie, the audience is wooed by both the stories he relates and his personage as their author.
At the next level are presenters who place text within a folder. This is where I fall in terms of performance. I try to avoid treating my audiences to the rustling and flopping of loose pages that can separate easily and cause the reader confusion.
A Single Performance Among Many
At some time, you may be charged with scheduling a group of authors to read. At a recent gathering of writers, I found that despite instructions to “read for about five minutes,” there was great variety in the lengths of the readings. Even when a presenter has timed their work in advance, the pressure of public performance can produce variations in the actual length of a reading. I believe that setting a measurable standard (i.e. three to four pages, double spaced). While some will read faster or slower, the overall time of the readings should even out.
Does an Event Warrant a Media Release?
Event organizers will normally generate media releases. That’s wonderful, especially if they follow the details of a bio you submit. But there’s nothing wrong with sending out your own media releases if you’re a featured participant. You should include general information about the occasion, your role in it, and other newsworthy persons who are involved, so that your effort does not appear wholly self-serving. In fact, the sponsors should welcome your boosting the likelihood of media coverage. For information on this topic, see earlier blogs, as well as sample releases on my website at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.
In addition, you can send our post cards, letters, fliers or other announcements. Recipients should include people you expect to attend, as well as those who may not be able to participate but should be aware of your involvement. If event is open to the general public, distribution of your promo information via mail, email, and social media may add to the number of attendees.
No matter how well you think you have prepared for an event, something can happen to derail a public appearance. Once it is over, hold your own private event autopsy, if the event organizers do not have one. And don’t forget to send out a post-event media release. Again, make a point of mentioning any noteworthy persons or historical context who are of general interest in your community. Finally, upload a sample of the reading you gave at the event on your website or social media, even if you have to record it anew.
Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant
Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018
For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.
To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.