alex cavanaugh’s insecure writer’s support group

#IWSG: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Sell More Books

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup Here we are, the first Wednesday of the month, and time for another contribution to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Group. If you’d like to share your thoughts, hints, or fears about writing, go here to join in. This week, I’d like to share my thoughts about a fear that can be turned to the advantage of every writer seeking to more widely promote his or her work – the fear of public speaking.

Most people have an almost irrational fear of speaking before an audience – many fear that more than death. But, for a way to get your writing known by a wider audience, using public speaking opportunities is one that should not be ignored.

I have, like many, had a fear of making public speeches. When I was a teenager, during my freshman year in high school, I would get tongue-tied and absolutely panicky at the prospect of getting up in front of a group and talking. Luckily, I had a freshman home room teacher who recognized the fear and had a way to help me overcome it. During the early weeks of the semester, she would make me stand in front of the classroom until I said something – anything. Her shock therapy worked. After a few weeks, I found it possible to speak without stuttering, and after I said something funny one morning and cracked the whole room up, my fear was mostly conquered. I’m now a regular on the podium, speaking on a range of topics with which I’m familiar. I still get the occasional attack of nerves, but once I start interacting with an audience, the jitters disappear.

Enough background – what you want to know is how I use these occasions to promote my books. It’s really simple, and it has worked well for me.

First, I always take a good supply of my business cards to events. My cards contain links to my blogs and to my Amazon author page which contains ‘buy’ links for all my books. I also take along a few copies of books – preferably, but not always, related to the subject of my speech. I place them where they can be easily seen by the audience, and during breaks and at the conclusion of my remarks, I’m always asked about them by two or three attendees. As we discuss them, I hand out cards. After each such event, I’ve noticed an uptick in my sales – and, not just the books on display, but others as well. After one speech on ethics at the Army Command and General Staff College, for instance, where I had copies of my Buffalo Soldier western/historical series (appropriate to the venue since the Buffalo Soldier memorial is there), sales of one of the books in the series jumped to 800 for the month, and each other volume in the series had increases from 2 – 3 copies to over 20 each. In addition, the staff college foundation magazine did a feature on me and my books, which still generates sales of that series.

At a speaking engagement at Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, I got into a conversation on writing during a break in the session, and several people asked for my card or for links to my books online. Again, that month I had an uptick in sales.

Contrary to some cynics, word of mouth is an effective way to sell books, and one of the most effective mouths to start that process rolling is your own. Public speaking shouldn’t be scary. When you stand before an audience – hopefully, talking about a subject with which you’re familiar – you can and should be in control of the situation. Like any other skill, it improves with practice. So, get over that fear of public speaking, and get out there and sell your books!