Speak Your Way to Book Sales

With so much focus these days on blogs, Facebook and Twitter, it's easy to overlook more traditional means of selling books. For example, why not speak your way to book sales? Talking to groups of people about your book can be a great way to build awareness of what you have written and sell books.

Without much effort you can probably identify plenty of organizations that might be interested in hearing you talk about the subject of your book, especially if it’s a work of nonfiction.

They may include:

• Libraries

• Churches

• Civic and service groups

• Book groups

• Chambers of Commerce

• Business and professional organizations

• Associations

• Clubs

• Colleges and universities

A few more options worth checking out include bookstores that feature talks by authors, book festivals, and meetup groups. There seems to be a meetup group for just about every interest so there is probably at least one meetup group in your area that would like to know about you and your book.

Whenever you schedule a speech, be sure to find out if you can sell copies of your book at the end of your talk. Assuming you can, it’s best to either have someone with you to handle sales so you can focus on signing copies of your book and talking to buyers, or to arrange to have a bookstore at the event to sell books for you. One of the advantages of the latter option is that buyers will be able to purchase your book with a debit or credit card, which could increase the number of copies you sell.

If you won’t be able to sell books at your talk or if your book is only available as an ebook, ask if you can pass out postcards about your book at the event instead. When you are designing the postcard, put a photo of your book’s cover on the front and on the reverse side include a short description of the book, its cost and information about where it can be purchased -- on your web site, at Amazon.com, and so on.

Start Local and Build From There

Unless you are a seasoned speaker, you will need to start local by talking to small groups in your immediate area. Once you get some experience under your belt and feel sure that audiences are responding well to what you have to say, try to arrange opportunities to speak to larger groups and groups outside your area, if you want.

To get bookings, identify the person who coordinates events for each group. Depending on the nature and size of the group, this person may be its "program coordinator," “community affairs manager,” “community relations manager,” or “marketing manager.” More often than not, you will be able to find the names and contact information you need on the web, but you may also have to make some phone calls.

No matter how small an audience you speak to, give your at every talk. If you do, your reputation as a speaker will grow over time, which may make it easier for you to schedule bigger and more important speaking engagements eventually. Remember too -- you never know who might be in an audience, even a small one. For example, after one of my clients spoke to a small local Chamber of Commerce group, he was approached by someone looking for individuals to speak on a special cruise being sponsored by a large cruise line. Not only did my client join the cruise as a speaker and sell a lot of books as he floated from port to port, but he also got a wonderful, free vacation!


There are two essentials to being a good speaker:

1. Write a speech that will engage your audience.

2. Have a polished delivery.

If you ignore either essential your speech is apt to fall flat, you’ll probably not sell many books, and you certainly won’t build a positive reputation for yourself as a speaker. By the way, you may need to develop variations of your speech for different audiences.

Also, when you are planning your speech, think about whether it would benefit from visuals, like slides, blow ups of photos, or even your jottings on a flip chart. Depending on what you are talking about, you may also want to consider including some audio in your speech. For example, if you’ve written a book about the history of the Blues, you could play short snippets of music played by important Blues musicians during your talk.

Be sure to identify any weaknesses you may have and address them before you begin giving speeches. For example, if you don’t know how to write an effective speech or you need someone to polish what you’ve written, hire a writer with speech writing experience. And if you need help with your delivery, work with a public speaking coach or join your local Toastmasters group. Toastmasters is a nonprofit organization that helps people develop their public speaking skills and become more comfortable before an audience.

Market Yourself

Once you are ready to begin scheduling speaking engagements for yourself, you’ll need the following marketing materials:

A short written presentation. It should highlight the topic/s you can speak about, provide some information about your professional background, note any speeches you may have already given (Include the title of each speech and the groups you've spoken to.), list the URL to your web site and provide your contact information.

A headshot.

Ideally, you can email all of this information to the individuals you want to contact; but if you can't, print your presentation on good quality paper -- try to make it just one page long. Then package it and your headshot in a two-pocket folder and mail.

Be aware that you’ll almost certainly have to follow up by email or phone with each of the individuals you contact. The fact that they may not get in touch with you right away after they receive your information does not mean that they are not interested in scheduling you as a speaker. It means that they are probably very busy, like most everyone these days. In fact, it may take a couple follow up calls or emails to get an answer one way or another.

Warning! Avoid following up more than three times however. You risk being seen as a pest if you do, which will definitely work against you.

You should also know that many groups book their speakers quite far in advance. So even if a particular group is interested having you speak, it may not have an opening for several months if not longer. If you are asked to get back in touch to set something up, be sure to note the date on your calendar the date you should recontact the group and then follow through. Also, let whomever you are communicating with know that if there is a last minute cancellation, you are available to fill in.

Finally, once you have a couple speeches under your belt and feel good about how you are doing, get a professional DVD made of your delivering a speech. You will need the DVD if want to speak to statewide or national groups. Their event organizers will want to “see you in action” first before they’ll consider scheduling you.

Make the Most of Your Speeches

Be sure to let potential book buyers know about any upcoming speech you are giving. Post information about the speech on your website and your Facebook page. Twitter about it, mention it in your blog and on LinkedIn if appropriate, announce it in your enewsletter, and get your speech listed on community calendars if the speech will be open to the public.

Also, whenever possible, schedule media interviews about the subject of your speech in the community where you’ll be talking just prior to the date of your talk. The interviews will give you an opportunity to promote the speech and to let more people know about your book.

Say Thanks

After you've given a speech, send a personalized thank you note to the person who scheduled your talk and to anyone else you think is appropriate. Not only is saying thanks good form, but it also provides you with an opportunity to signal that you'd love to be booked again, assuming the speech went well of course.

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