Talking to your Readers

Today I am going to share with you my experiences and tips for making contact with potential readers but especially ideas for giving talks about your writing:

On Line Contact

Since the launch of Riduna, like all authors on Social Media today, I have been reaching out to potential readers, and that moment of contact, be it an encouraging tweet or a more in depth e mail, gives me a great deal of pleasure. On line contact is great and the surprises of these responses never fails to give me a lift.
A couple of good examples of this are when I was e mailed by the last lighthouse keeper to live on Les Casquets just off the coast of Alderney, following my blog about the story of the legendary lighthouse keeper’s daughter; and then there was my blog about my favourite book of all time, The Skallagrigg, when Michael Horwood, the author contacted me; but there have been many more, too numerous to mention here.

The ability to connect up with people with similar interests from all parts of the globe is astounding. There are several Alderney born people who have linked up with me from, for example, Canada, New Zealand and Argentina. This leads to colourful and varied tweets about a place we all hold close to our hearts, however far away.

Face to face

Another rewarding area of my promotional work is meeting real people!

Book signings are the obvious ones and I am beginning to work out a schedule for my sequel Ancasta, which will be more comprehensive than my experience with Riduna. It is not only the actual book signings which have an impact here, but mentions of the event in the local newspapers, on the radio and posters in the bookshop. In England be warned. If you ask to put a poster up in the local library they will charge you to do so.

Talks – In the last three years I have also given several talks and once your name is on the network of possible speakers, you soon find that your details are passed on from one group to the next. My talks have included three local libraries in Bedfordshire, two local and thriving ladies groups and a Walk and Talk on Alderney itself.

Last night I was warmly welcomed by the Aragon Ladies in Ampthill. The hour went so quickly and I felt a real rapport with this group. We finished the evening with a little quiz and a feeling that there was much more to tell, which might be saved for another occasion in a couple of years time.

If you are thinking of giving a talk about your writing here are a few pointers:

1. Be prepared. It goes without saying that it’s good to write a script, initially. After making a draft, I feel quite happy with, I always do the following:

– Read it aloud and time myself

– Make a set of prompt cards

– Talk it through with the prompt cards onl

– Never read from a script at the talk

2. Plan a variety of approaches to interact with your audience. For example:

– Start with a brief outline of what you are going to talk about and split it into parts. (This evening I am going to talk about my family history, my research, how I came to write my first novel Riduna and a bit about the island of Alderney itself……….

– Ask questions of the audience (Who likes Historical Fiction? Has anyone visited Alderney? This gets them engaged with you. Has anyone been to one of my talks before? is a good one! If they have, maybe you will have the confidence to adlib and change your approach a little, or adapt your content.

– Always say at the beginning how you would like questions. Are you happy with interruptions during the talk? Would you like them to put their hand up? Will you give time for questions at the end or also half way through? (This option breaks the talk somewhat, and adds variety, but I usually say that I’m used to interruptions teaching 16 to 19 yr olds, so don’t stand on ceremony and ask questions whenever you wish to – within reason, of course!)

– You could plan a short quiz with a prize of a chocolate bar or two. If I do this I ask them to stand up at the end, because I’m not going to mark them all myself, then, as I give out the answers, people sit down if they get an answer wrong. It’s a bit of fun and your audience has been patiently listening to you for about 45 minutes by then, so I usually find they like to stretch their legs!

3. To Power Point or not to Power Point, that is the question! I asked writers their opinion on this matter before my first talk and had a wide variety of responses at either pole of the argument. Some said that it was distracting and others said it was extremely helpful to give a visual impact. Personally, I found it really useful as a visual and verbal prompt, but then I only used pictures, photos and key words and phrases. That’s all I needed to keep on track. The last two talks have not had the facilities and so I must admit being a bit more nervous without this prop. After all, the only thing the audience was now looking at was myself! Last night though, I had got in my stride and it went very well, so I’m happy either way. It’s up to you. If the facilities are available you can decide.

4. Give yourself some quiet time before the talk. Usually my talks have taken place on my writing days, but last night it was after a full day’s work. I rushed home, threw something in the oven for tea, my husband loaded the car with my things, which I’d got ready the day before, I washed, changed and dashed out of the house. Luck had it that I arrived fifteen minutes early and so sat in the quiet of the car park gathering my thoughts. Those minutes were so precious and put me in the right frame of mind for the evening ahead.

5.  Always try to finish as if there is more to come and maybe they’ll invite you back in a couple of years’ time. Not too soon though!

6.  Try to mingle afterwards and chat, giving people time to ask questions in a more casual manner.

7. Should you make time for a book signing? This is your personal preference again, but I see these talks as an opportunity to get to know people and to reach an audience rather than as hard sell. If you do have a book signing then it might be polite to ask the organiser beforehand if they think it is appropriate. You may find that, if it is advertised as a talk and book signing, some might be put off. I don’t know. But if you advertise a book signing locally later on, your audience will now know who you are and might be prompted to come.

8. Always have promotional material handy. Free bookmarks with your website details on them are great and people pick up leaflets if you leave them out. I always have Alderney brochures out as well and joke about my talk as a promotion of the island in disguise which causes amusement. These are usually snapped up at the end which is great.

9. Don’t forget that you are usually paid for giving the talk, including travel expenses if appropriate. I usually ask for the minimum, because I gain so much pleasure out of the occasions, but you can usually negotiate.

10. All it takes is dropping in to your local library, or researching to find out the phone numbers of various groups which are usually advertised by posters in local supermarkets. As I said earlier, once you have given a successful talk, you will find your name is passed around and people contact you too.

Have you any tips for writers thinking about giving talks? Let me know and

good luck!

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Filed under Blogs, Libraries, Marketing your novel, Talks

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