By Joan Stewart
Ask 10 book coaches their favorite way to sell books, and I’ll bet at least half of them say through public speaking.
Selling a book at the back of the room to an audience member who has just seen your dazzling performance is easy peasy. You’ve already proven yourself. And your adoring fans want to take a piece of you home with them.
Judith Briles, The Book Shepherd, wrote an excellent summary a few months ago on why authors should be speaking on their books and expertise.
It’s the best bird’s-eye view I’ve seen about how to create a game plan for your speaking, charge a fee or speak for free, and how to follow up with your audience members and communicate with them online.
But what if the thought of speaking before several hundred people makes you feel like you’ll lose your lunch? Relax. You don’t need an audience that big.
If you’re a newbie speaker, you’ll find dozens of smaller groups and places right in your own community where you will be welcome and where you’ll find a receptive, forgiving audience.
Here are 13 excellent places to speak, especially for beginning speakers
1. Meetup groups
Many Meetup groups attract fewer than a dozen people, and there’s a group devoted to almost any topic imaginable. They run the gamut of active groups such as bicycling and hiking to geeky technology groups.
Many meetings are laid back and informal. Here are two Meetups in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I live. They might be perfect for authors who have written about nutrition or craft beers.
2. Local libraries
They love authors and many will let you sell books afterward! If you present at a library in a large system and do a great job, the librarians will encourage the other libraries in their system to book you for a speaking gig. Libraries are perfect for children’s authors.
3. Book clubs
Most clubs have fewer than a dozen members. Your presentation doesn’t even have to be in person. If you’re speaking to a club hundreds of miles away, you can do it via Skype video. Search for book clubs at the Reader’s Circle.
4. Churches and other places of worship
Many churches welcome members of the congregation who are authors and let them speak after services or at special events. Your book doesn’t necessarily have to be about religion or faith. Get speaking experience in these smaller groups and you can work your way up to bigger gigs such as Celebrate Your Life Conferences.
5. Homeowners associations
You can speak at a monthly meeting. What an ideal place for authors who have written about neighborhood topics such as how to have a safer community. And who wouldn’t love hearing from a mystery author this time of year when readers are hunting for good books to read during the winter.
6. Retail outlets
What store or shop sells items to people who are in your target market? Small hardware stores that compete with Home Depot might roll out the welcome mat for an author who’s a home improvement or decorating expert.
The Chocolate Chisel in Port Washington, Wisconsin, where I live displays books about chocolate right on the shelf next to the counter where people order. Owner Elizabeth McCrimmon is always looking for innovative ways to market her shop and might welcome an author event.
7. Retirement communities
I read about an author who wrote a book for Baby Boomers and spends much of her time speaking in one populous area: The Villages in Florida. Today’s Boomers don’t sit around and knit and play checkers, however. They hike, salsa dance, motorcycle cross country, and even skydive. Introduce them to a fun activity you’ve written about.
8. Fraternities and sororities
Greek life includes speakers on a wide variety of topics. Talk about your latest chit lit book at a college sorority near you. Fraternities might love to hear about a book on safe sex for men. Remember, colleges and universities have multiple fraternities and sororities.
9. Yoga studios, spas and metaphysical stores
In addition to selling your mind-body-spirit book, offer to be a guest instructor. Demonstrate how to give an elderly person a massage. Show the audience how to use essential oils to sleep better at night, stay more alert during the day, and cure aches and pains. This is a perfect place for cookbook authors and nutritionists to speak about healthy eating.
10. Clubs and groups for hobbyists
- Chess clubs
- Garden clubs
- Knitting groups
- Home brewing clubs
- Civil War groups
- Model train associations
- Computer clubs
- Singles groups
If your book and topic fit their passion, they might have a place for you at one of their meetings or special events.
11. Parents groups
- Single mom or dad support groups
- Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS)
- Natural birthing centers
- local chapters of Moms Club of America
All have questions galore about parenting and raising kids. Many of these groups can be found at Meetup.com.
12. Business groups
Check your local community calendars and you’ll find dozens of business groups that need speakers. These include Rotary, and local chapters of professional associations.
Chambers of commerce are always looking for speakers for their breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings. If you feel uncomfortable talking to a large group, start by contacting smaller chambers.
13. Health and fitness groups
Many of these can also be found at Meetup.com When you have a few years experience under your belt speaking to smaller groups, you can aim higher and speak to the many associations in the health care industry such as nursing associations and chiropractor associations. You’ll find groups for sports coaches, athletic directors and player’s associations.
Still Scared to Speak?
If you want to learn platform skills fast, join your local Toastmasters. I know several top professional speakers who got their start in Toastmasters and still attend meetings so they can practice, practice, practice.
Toastmasters has 16,600 clubs in 143 countries. Find a club near you.
Professional Speaking Associations
If you want to make money from speaking, join the National Speakers Association. NSA’s members include experts in a variety of industries and disciplines, who reach audiences as speakers, trainers, educators, humorists, motivators, consultants, authors and more. It has 35 independently run state and regional chapters throughout the U.S.
Learn about member benefits here.
Now go out and speak! The butterflies will eventually fly in formation.