Tag Archives: speaking

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

Engage your audience, so to speak

This month’s tip is about setting up speaking engagements. For those of you who are terrified of public speaking, the best way to work through this is to check into your local Toastmasters. Speaking engagements are by far one of the best ways to increase book sales and build your name and reputation. It is well worth the time you invest in it, even if you have to drive a ways to get to a Toastmasters meeting.

Where do you speak? Civic organizations like Lions Club, Rotary, Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus are good places to look. If your book is a Christian book, churches and Bible studies are the best places to look for speaking engagements. If you have a novel, libraries and schools are what you’re looking for. If you have a children’s book, schools and daycares are great places to start. Remember this: When you’re starting out, no place is too small. Until your name and reputation are well established and people are volunteering to pay you to come speak to their group, these places are doing you a favor as much as you are helping them.

The most important part is to turn the speaking engagement into an opportunity to sell books. Notice, however, in the wording below, I don’t say “sell books”. No one wants to talk about selling in a school or church or wherever, even though it happens all the time. No one likes the word “sell”. Everybody likes the word “buy”. If you say what I’ve said below, you won’t turn people off with your words. Unless speaking is part of your everyday business, and you already know how to do this, these tips will be very helpful to you. When you have a captive audience like this, book sales come very naturally.

If your audience is adults, this is easy. When you are making arrangements with the organizer, tell them that you don’t charge a fee. All you ask is that they give you an opportunity to sign books for those who want to buy them.

If your primary audience is children in schools, you need to plan ahead a little more, but it is still not very hard. Still tell the school that you don’t charge a fee; all you ask is that you have an opportunity to sign books for kids who would like to buy them. Tell them you will send them an order form that they can send home with the kids a week before your visit. (You will have to create this order form. You can just make a Word doc.) Say you’ll call them the day before so you know how many books to bring. (You can sign the books ahead of time and personalize them when you’re there.)

We’ve found that securing speaking engagements works on personal connections more than anything else. When we are the first ones to call, we’re viewed with suspicion because they look at us as a company with a product to sell. As a result, our success rate is extremely low. When authors call first, they are more likely to look at you as someone with a story to tell. If that story matches their constituency, you are more likely to have success. Besides, these places always want to know more about the author, and no one knows the author better than the author.

Even still, it takes time to build that personal relationship. Building relationships is one of the things we can’t do for you. Churches are the most particular about this, and it makes perfect sense. Pastors are tasked with protecting their sheep from wolves. Any pastor worth his salt will check you out to make sure you’re not a wolf.

Here is what we’ve learned from authors who have been successful at building relationships with these niche markets:

  • The first step is finding out who the right contact is. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it takes time, depending on what kind of gatekeeper they have.
  • The next step is discussing with that contact how your book will help their people. You have to put others first to be successful with spreading your message. You wrote this for a reason; this is the place to tie that reason into the mission of the organization you’re contacting.
  • Only then can you ask if they would be interested in having you come.

Sometimes all of these steps can be accomplished in one phone call. Sometimes it takes months of cultivating a relationship.

You will have a tremendous advantage if you have already planned in advance what your presentation will be. If your book is fiction, you can always talk about creative writing, but don’t limit yourself to that. Your theme has a point that is likely either political, social, spiritual, or scientific. The research you’ve done and the knowledge you have in these areas can be the basis for your speech. You need to be able to tell them in 15 seconds why they need to have you come. That 15-second speech will be the basis for their decision on whether or not to keep talking to you. The best 15-second speech ends with a question they are compelled to say yes to. Examples: “Would your church grow if people were more excited about evangelism?” or “Would the social studies teachers in your school benefit from having a guest speaker teach for 20 minutes of one of their classes?” or “Would you like to see more people come to your library?”

Make sure the question is something you can deliver. Prepare a brochure you can send them that will spell out how you can deliver. (Note: Sending a word doc or PDF by email is free. Printing brochures and mailing them costs a lot of money.) If you can’t secure an event with the first phone call, this is your fall-back objective.

Here’s where we can help: Sometimes you have been building a relationship or have an existing relationship with a speaking venue, and it seems to have stalled out. They haven’t said yes, and they haven’t said no. Keep track of your contacts, and when you get 4 or 5 like this, send me the name of the venue, the address, contact name and their direct line. Include a sentence or two describing your contact with them to date. Also send us your brochure. We’ll call these for you and report back the results. Sometimes, they really do want to hear from the publisher. Sometimes there is something they’re not telling you that they’ll tell us. Sometimes it’s just an issue of bad timing. Sometimes, we’re not able to get ahold of them at all, and the best we can do is leave a message. At any rate, it gives you another reason to follow up.

And don’t forget that we can help publicize your speaking engagements by sending out a press announcement. Email me the name of the venue, the address, the date, the time, and any other critical details, and we’ll alert the press 7-10 days before the event.

Usually, once you get one or two, it gets a lot easier to get others. It can feel like a lot of hard, fruitless work, but then when something pops, all that work bears fruit. Make sure you always ask for referrals after a successful event. This is as simple as asking, “What other (teachers, pastors, ministry leaders, organizations) do you know of that would benefit from this?” People who you’ve helped will be eager to help you help others.

The bottom line in all of this is helping others. I’ve heard it said that the best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. A wise old Hebrew fisherman once put it this way, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6, NIV)

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Filed under Reputation building