This week on Mystery Mondays, it is my great pleasure to host author Elaine Cougler. Elaine was one of the very first authors to connect with me when I first started writing a blog. Years have gone by, and we still support each other in our work. It’s a wonderful thing to have a friend I’ve never met but feel like I know.
Elaine first appeared on Mystery Mondays in November 2016 with a post about Linking History and Fiction.
Today, she’s here with another topic.
7 Reasons Writers Need To Be Speakers by Elaine Cougler
When I first talked to Kristina about appearing on her Monday Mystery blog, we discussed a new book I was working to finish and that this would be a lovely place to write about it. As sometimes happens in this writing life my muse took a holiday and left me to click clack on the keyboard alone; hence, I have no new book to announce just yet.
What I do have, though, is the voice of experience—my experience with my first three books, my Loyalist trilogy, and their marketing.
I made the mistake most new writers make in not paying attention to marketing until after I had the book published. I was busy enough I thought. Then three weeks into my new life as a published author receiving book orders from friends and family—all so supportive—I got the call to speak at a meeting in my city. And I could take my books to sell.
Coming into that event I had twenty-five years experience as a high school teacher and many more years as a singer, both “on-stage” pursuits that helped me battle the nerves and just have fun with my audience. Well that particular meeting changed my life.
I took my place at the podium with the mic and the electronic pointer for my slides. I’d barely begun when one of the men—the audience was all men—walked to the front of the room close to where I was. Distraction. I ignored it. In a moment he was up there again and this time my teacher voice kicked in. “There’s one in every class.” I laughed and pointed at the offender. The all male audience roared. I relaxed and so did they. And the man stayed in his seat from then on.
This incident shows that even though they all knew each other and most certainly knew this man, they shared a characteristic of all audiences. They wanted me, their guest speaker, to succeed. And they could see this man’s distraction. They loved it when I took over the stage and made it my own. As author-speakers we need to remember the audience is with us. They are most comfortable when we speakers succeed.
Here are a few other points that might convince all of us writers to be ready to talk about our books:
- Our books compete with literally millions of other new titles published in the world each year. We have to try to stand out in order to even be noticed. We can do that on stage.
- There’s nothing like personal contact where potential readers can hear about our stories right from the author’s lips. A smile goes a long way.
- A speaker has a captive audience. What a great way to engage potential readers who may want to give your book a try.
- We get to read excerpts from our books and if we’re smart we’ll pick parts that end with a cliffhanger. I have one chapter that ends with Lucy having a nightmare. I ended it with her sitting up in bed and the last line is “Someone was in the room.” My audience wants to know what happens and I sell books.
- If you publicize your event, you get publicity even if not everyone who reads the ad comes to your event. I do this on Facebook a lot. That reminds me that I’ve got to put an event for this Saturday up there! (I’m helping my friend who has a recording studio do a workshop on recording books. He did mine.)
- You meet others who can add to your own knowledge about your subject. This happens to me because I write historical fiction and it also leads me to other gigs. Check your own area for clubs such as reading clubs, historical groups, book clubs, library clubs, church groups, Women’s Institute or similar groups, ancestry groups, schools and any other organizations whose purpose relates to your book. Because I’ve written about the Loyalists, many of those Canadian groups have contacted me, eager to engage about our common loyalist ancestry.
- People will introduce you to their friends as a writer. You need to have your 15-second elevator pitch down cold because they will ask what you write about. And be excited, not apologetic. Let your eyes shine. You’ll see soon enough who wants to hear more and who is not the slightest bit interested. It’s okay. Not everyone is a reader. At book selling events I often ask people who are kind enough to stop at my table if they are readers. If they say no, that’s fine. They may buy books for someone who is a reader. The trick is to find out. And not to be pushy!
The audience does want you to succeed. And you want to give them what they want. Take the time to practice your talk. Get comfortable with it. If you go for a prepared speech, make sure you don’t just read it. Mark places to look up, engage your audience with questions, let them see you’re a person. You can even do self-deprecating humour where you laugh at yourself.
I often mention the catalyst for this journey of mine, my son, who asked me if there was anything I wished I had done in my life that I hadn’t yet tackled. I answered, “Write a novel.” He replied with a long list of my accomplishments, which I tell them, and then I interject “I think he wanted money or something.” They laugh. And I go on with his final bit “If not now, when?” It really was the catalyst. The next week I bought How to Write and Sell Your First Novel and I was off on this great self-defining adventure.
All three books in the Loyalist trilogy are available on Amazon.
After the crushing end of the War of 1812, William and Catherine Garner find their allotted two hundred acres in Nissouri Township by following the Thames River into the wild heart of Upper Canada. On their valuable land straddling the river, dense forest, wild beasts, displaced Natives, and pesky neighbors daily challenge them. The political atmosphere laced with greed and corruption threatens to undermine all of the new settlers’ hopes and plans. William knows he cannot take his family back to Niagara but he longs to check on his parents from whom he has heard nothing for two years. Leaving Catherine and their children, he hurries back along the Governor’s Road toward the turn-off to Fort Erie, hoping to return home in time for spring planting.
With spectacular scenes of settlers recovering from the wartime catastophes in early Ontario, Elaine Cougler shows a different kind of battle, one of ordinary people somehow finding the inner resources to shape new lives and a new country. The Loyalist Legacy delves further into the history of the Loyalists as they begin to disagree on how to deal with the injustices of the powerful “Family Compact” and on just how loyal to Britain they want to remain.
Elaine Cougler is on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube