Category Archives: speaking engagements

Growing Beyond Your Local Area

Last week, I was talking to Sheldon Larmore, author of Be Quiet and Listen. It is the story of his family’s journey through the pain and loss that came through their son David and his will to live as long as possible with spina bifida. After he passed away, they set up a memorial fund to help children with disabilities, and they fund it with the proceeds from their book sales. Sheldon told me they have had great success and feedback locally, but they haven’t been able to get much going beyond that. He and his wife still speak at churches and civic groups at least once a month, which is still quite active. This is a common thing I hear from authors. How do you take that activity to the next level?

Moving your book beyond your local area involves personal appearances, which means the pace will need to be adjusted according to your availability, interest, and desire for doing them. The cost of travel will need to be taken into account as well. This works best when you have established a solid footing locally, so if you haven’t yet, do that first. With all those things in mind, here is the idea:

Whenever you go to a group to speak, ask them who they know in the next town that might benefit from having you come. Then contact those people and set up speaking engagements there, and so on. You can expand out as far as you want to travel. Work towards the major metropolitan areas because you can get in front of more people in less time that way.

The reasoning behind this is that the best way to spread a message is still by word of mouth. Technology has increased the reach for all of us, but it is still word of mouth that causes your audience to grow beyond your reach. So the question becomes, how do you increase word of mouth?

It starts by asking for it. Every time you speak, add a simple sentence to the end: “Tell everyone you know about this.” The fact is that most people won’t do that, but it’s just as much a fact that some will. And those who do will tell a lot of people. And some of those people have reach well beyond just their local area. See Readers, Fans, and Evangelists for more details on getting others to help you grow your audience.

It helps if you give them something to spread. This is where social media fits in. If you speak, start a YouTube channel. Get someone with an iPhone to record a video of you sharing 30-second to 1-minute bites of some of your best stuff. Post them as often as you can (weekly, monthly, etc.) Take the audio and turn it into a podcast. I’m no expert on any of those, but do a Google search of those terms and start educating yourself. If speaking is not your thing, you probably haven’t even read this far, but get better at it or get very good at blogging. You can learn how to do that here.

If you’re reading this thinking, “Man, this sounds like a lot of work!” Congratulations. You’re right! It was a lot of work for the Apostle Paul trying to spread the gospel of Jesus, too. Thankfully, we don’t have to put our feet to the ground (or our boats to the sea) as much as he did, but the attitude and work ethic are the same.



Filed under Growing your platform, Internet ideas, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, speaking engagements, Uncategorized

Want 10,000 followers? Do 10,000 things!

I had a conversation with my 12-year-old one morning (3rd of 3 sons, 4th of 5 kids) that was a step further than the same conversation we have every morning. He has maybe 3 things he has to do to get out of the house every morning, and I have at least 10. Most mornings, he is standing at the door grousing about being late while I’m going around the house turning off lights.

The difference today was the suggestion I gave him: Instead of complaining about what I’m doing while you’re waiting, look for things you can do to help us get out the door. It wasn’t spoken in anger. I didn’t talk down to him. I gave it to him straight, like the revelation it was for me. I continued as we got in the car, telling him that this is a good lesson for life in general. You rarely control what others do. You always control what you do.

As an author, what do you control?

You DON’T control retailers, distributors, your publisher, your marketing consultant, your publicist, your agent, the media, or the whims of a fickle public.

You DO control the things you do to reach people. So how much do you need to do? If you want to build an audience of 10,000 people, you should plan to do 10,000 things. That means you only need to average one new follower for each thing you do. Some of those things are going to result in a lot more than one new follower. Some will result in none. All are valuable, even if the only thing you learn from any one of them is what not to do!

What counts as a thing?

Small things:
A conversation about your book, a blog post, a tweet, a post on facebook, a bookmark/business card/push card given to someone, making a new connection on LinkedIn.

Big things:
A speaking engagement, a networking event, an email newsletter to a couple hundred people who have signed up to receive it, a booth at a fair or festival, a visit to a book club.

Long shots:
Contacting someone in the national media, presentations to organizations that could potentially buy your book in bulk.

IMPORTANT: What doesn’t count as a thing?
Googling yourself, looking at your sales ranks on Amazon, consulting with the people listed above that you can’t control, reading and re-reading your book for errors, wondering about your book’s sales.

EQUALLY IMPORTANT: None of these non-things are bad, but none of them will help you to build an audience, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

Do 10,000 things strategically, and you’re likely to get the 10,000 followers you need, if not more. The strategy to follow is to do the small things more often than the big things and the big things more often than the long shots. Keep track of everything you do in a notebook, on your computer, somewhere. Measure the results (by doing the non-things) the best you can, but not too often. You don’t want measuring to become the focus, or you’ll spend a lot of time measuring nothing. Make adjustments in what you do according to what the results tell you.

If you focus on 10,000, you won’t be discouraged after doing 100 things and seeing little results. You’ll realize that that is normal, and as you go and learn, you’ll find that each one builds on the things before, and effectiveness multiplies. You may get zero followers after 100 things or even 1,000. Keep going until you get to 10,000. Commit to yourself that you won’t quit until you get there, and you’ll be amazed at your results.

What are some of the things you’ve done that count as one of your 10,000? Comment below!


Filed under Blogging, Growing your platform, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, speaking engagements, Uncategorized

A New Year’s Story for Authors

Perhaps the greatest misconception most new authors have is that once they are done publishing the book, there is some train they can get on to take them to Successville. Successville is of course populated with adoring throngs who are just dying to buy your book, celebrities who have been holding their breath until they can tweet about it, talk show hosts and reporters who can’t wait to interview you, and bookstores who have been clearing space on their shelves for this fabulous new book.

If you’re like me, this description of Successville sounds a lot like Ralphie’s daydream in A Christmas Story of how his teacher and everyone else would respond to his theme on why a Red Rider BB gun is the best gift for Christmas. If you’re playing the scene in your mind right now, don’t stop. Go right on through to the part where he gets it back with a C+ and a note that says (as every adult from mom to Santa Claus told him in the film), “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Now fast forward to the end. Do you remember what happened? He nearly shot his eye out. (Can you tell I always watch at least 3 or 4 of the 12 times TBS runs this movie every Christmas Eve?)

You could say that my job is to try to keep authors from shooting their eyes out. If, like Ralphie, you live more in a fantasy world than in the real world, you are far more likely to shoot your eye out. Even in the real world, there is always the risk of getting stuck looking like a deranged Easter Bunny! I’m a dad, so I will be the first to tell your mom you look like a pink nightmare.

The bottom line with books is that you need an audience to sell them to. That’s it. No magic, no miracles, no luck; you just need an audience. Easy, right? Well, not really.

Just like it takes a lot of target practice before Ralphie could realistically expect to defend his family from Black Bart and his gang, it takes a lot of work to build an audience. You have to meet people wherever you can. One by one or group by group, you literally need to meet thousands of people if you want to guarantee success for your book. Sometimes all the trappings of Successville come along with it, and sometimes they don’t. What will happen if you work to meet those thousands of people is that some (not all, mind you) will buy your book. And some (again, not all) of those will tell others to do the same. And some (say it with me now, “Not all”) will actually do so. The longer and harder you work at it, the more likely you are to reach success — and possibly Successville.

Some authors hear this and completely get that there is work involved, but their response is one of the following:

“That’s really messed up.”

“I had no idea getting into this that there was this much work.”

“You should have told me I would need to do more than write the book.”

“I thought it was going to be different than this.”

“Isn’t that someone else’s job?”

If you’ve found yourself there, don’t worry. Many have, and it is no sin to think these things. It is only a sin to dwell on them. All of these thoughts and those similar come floating to our brains from Successville. It’s fun for Hollywood, the media and even Amazon to tell the end of the story, where all the great things have happened. But they don’t like to tell the hard work part. At least Amazon’s article hints at it when it points out that the author who has sold millions of eBooks “by himself” had 6 books and 70 short stories published before he ever struck out on his own. For all his talk of “trusting readers to find the stories they’ll like”, he had to have had thousands of followers before placing that trust, and that gave him a leg up.

And good for him. I love to see a good, hard-working author succeed. The point is that he didn’t get there without work. There is nothing magical about Amazon’s plan any more than there is about any publisher’s plan. There are almost 11 million books in print with an average of a million new ones a year over the past 4 years. It stands to reason that the authors who work will rise above those who don’t. Becoming a known author is not much different from becoming a known actor or musician. People have to know your name.

Before you get too far into the new year, sit down and decide how much time you have to invest in building your name. If you have a good marketing rep, they will tell you how best to invest that time so you don’t shoot your eye out. Make sure your marketing rep is part of your planning. If you don’t have a marketing rep, feel free to contact the publisher I work for, Tate Publishing. We’ll see what we can do to help you.

Now go upstairs and take that bunny suit off so you can get outside and practice with your Red Rider.

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The Best Way to Sell Your Book Is Not to Sell Your Book

Ask 100 people, “Who is interested in buying books?”, and you might get 15 to say “I am!” without knowing what the book is about. I’ve had a couple authors recently tell me that the reason their book is not selling is because nobody wants to read anymore. With video games, TV, the internet, music, and movies all vying for attention, it certainly feels like their exasperation has a basis in fact. However, if you ask those same 100 people, “How many of you have books in your house?”, I would bet 85 of them would say they do.

So people are buying books. The problem for many authors is that they don’t know how or where readers buy them. I know this because of a question I get all the time that is very natural for authors to ask: How is my book doing?

Most often, this is code for, “How many books are flying off of store shelves?” For the slightly more savvy author, it’s code for “How many books are flying through Amazon’s warehouse?”

The fact is that until you are famous, you already know better than I could tell you how your book is doing. You know how many you’ve sold. When you are in the name-building stage, the vast majority of book sales come through you. So how can you sell books by not selling your book?

I’ve talked about this before (click here). The number one way to sell books by not selling books is through speaking engagements. Last week, I met with author Sun Hui East (That’s her on the cover of this book), and I got to meet her son, Josiah David Warren, who is a musician. (He’s on the cover of this book.) After a long discussion of all the ways to sell books in today’s environment, he said, “It is so much easier with music. All you have to do is play a lot of shows and say, ‘CDs are in the back!’”

This is true for authors as well. Only instead of playing shows, you’re doing speaking engagements. People aren’t interested in books until they are interested in the person who wrote it. While it is entirely possible to attract people with the book’s topic, they won’t know about the book if you haven’t made yourself known first. We can send out press releases all day long, but if your name is not known, it significantly decreases the likelihood that the press will be interested. The press is only interested when the public is. The best way to interest the public is by speaking to like-minded people, and the more the merrier.

This is easy to say for a guy like me who loves speaking in front of people. However, you may have heard that more people are afraid of speaking in public than are afraid of dying. If you’re one of those, there is hope. Public speaking is a learned behavior, and anyone can learn it. If you need to learn, do a Google search for Toastmasters clubs near you.

You are the attraction because you lived the story. You have learned the lesson. You have carried the message. They’ll buy your book once they hear the story from you. Then as more people buy it and are touched by it, they will tell others, the word begins to spread farther than you can carry it yourself, and you begin to get sales residually. I’ve seen this again and again.

When Ry Sloth, author of the children’s book Sammy Sloth hit the milestone of 5000 books, I went back to research how he did it. I found out that the majority of his sales were from books he bought from us and sold at speaking engagements at schools. The other sales came from retail sales and sales through our website. He found his niche market and mined it for all it was worth and then some. To my knowledge, Ry has never done a book signing outside of his state, but we’ve had orders from every Amazon warehouse across the country. He doesn’t go to schools asking if he can sell his book. He put together a presentation on sports and physical fitness and talks to teachers about teaching their class for 20-40 minutes. If someone was willing to come do your job for you for a few minutes of the day, what would you tell them? Ry doesn’t ask for payment, all he asks is that they allow him to sign books for the kids who want to buy them. The book doesn’t even come up until they’ve agreed to have him come. He just sent me a message telling me he has sold 400 books at the last 3 schools. All those retail sales, then, are coming from kids who have bought his book and are telling others about it. As soon as Ry slows down from selling all those books, he’s going to write a note to me describing more of his system. Don’t wait for that, though. At the rate he’s going, it could be awhile before he slows down! (To learn more about Sammy Sloth, click here.)

Create a presentation based on your book. Find places to teach it. If you need help finding those places, that’s why I am here – and I can help. Remember that the best approach is always the one that helps the person you’re approaching. Don’t commit to help in any way that doesn’t help you. Contact the person of most immediate authority first. (In schools, this is the teacher. In churches, it’s the small group leader or Sunday school teacher.) Most of the time these people can bring you in on their own authority. If they need permission from a principal or pastor, it’s much better for them to approach that person instead of you.

Interest people in yourself, and interest them in the topic, and they will carry that interest to your book.

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Bring your book in through the back door

Earlier tips were on setting up speaking engagements and getting on radio shows. Authors often see a TV program or a radio program and ask, “How can I get them to promote my book?” I personally get this question a lot, as if there is some magic button I can push to make Oprah want you on her show.

Here’s the truth: There aren’t any radio or TV shows that exist to promote books.

Here’s the real truth: Every single one of those shows promotes books all the time.

How does that flesh out? If you were to call a radio or TV program and tell them you want them to promote your book, if you don’t get turned down immediately, you might get someone who will tell you what address to send the book to. If the book doesn’t go immediately into the trash, it will go into a stack of books they will read “someday” when they are in dire need of guests. There are books in that stack that some hopeful author sent them 4 years ago. So when TV or radio people say they don’t promote books, this is what they’re talking about.

Yet, still, barely a week goes by before the host of your favorite show is promoting a book by one of their guests. How did they get on there?

There are two main ways to get onto a radio show: personal connections and matching their market. Personal connections take time to build. If you have them, use them. Sean Hannity is not going to read a book I send him because Sean Hannity doesn’t know me. But if you know Sean Hannity’s next door neighbor or barber or someone who regularly has his ear, give them your book. He’s more likely to listen to them. If you don’t know people close to Hannity, get to know some. Volunteer to work for your congressman’s campaign and work your way up, for example.

Again, that takes time. Years or decades even. Fortunately there is another way. Every program exists for a purpose. For Rush Limbaugh, who rarely has guests, his stated purpose for the show is to make the host look good. The 700 Club once told us in a rejection letter that their show exists to tell the testimonies of those whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ. I was thrilled! In essence, they told us, “We don’t let books in the front door,” but they proceeded to tell us where the front door is and how to get in it. Now when authors ask me how to get on the 700 Club, I tell them that they need to tell the show how their life was changed by Jesus Christ.

This is the key to communicating your book in any niche situation. You have to know the mission of the organization you’re trying to reach. Then you have to show them how your message helps them in their mission. Don’t even talk about the book until the very end. For this purpose, your book is nothing more than the credibility you need to show them why they should have you on their show instead of someone else with a similar story. When the person responsible for answering the phones goes to the show’s producer and says, “You might want to talk to this guy. He has a great story,” the producer will say, “Who is he?” That person can then say, “Well he wrote a book.” That sets you apart immediately.

Your book is not an automatic opportunity. It’s not even the door to opportunity in some cases. It’s the key to the door of opportunity. Think about it like this: if you walked into a locked room full of strangers, their first question would be, “How’d you get in here?” If your answer is, “I have a key,” they’re much more likely to shift from defensive to welcoming. Same with your book. When people ask, “Who are you?” and the answer is “I wrote this book,” they are much more likely to welcome you.

This is not a sure-fire, works-every-time solution. You might still have to try a lot of doors before your key matches one. But once you get onto one show, you might be invited on to others. Or it might be easier to find others that will say yes when you inquire.

A lot of authors hear this and cringe. They think – or even say to me – “I don’t want to go around promoting myself to these people.” There’s no other way to say it: That’s part of being an author. “These people” are the ones who determine who is going to be on their show. The initial contact is part of the process of being accepted. If you are professional and well spoken when you call (in other words, if you sound like you could be a good guest), they’ll be more likely to accept you. Being funny and folksy works just as well. Think about it, if you can’t carry on a conversation with a person on the phone, how will you be in front of a microphone or a camera? That’s what they’re thinking.

I don’t get paid by Toastmasters to tell you this, but they are the only organization I know that exists to help people become better at speaking in public: If you are cringing at this idea, find the nearest Toastmasters club and join them.

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