Novelists have a reputation of being reclusive. Non-fiction writers have a reputation of being salesmen.
There’s nothing wrong with being reclusive (although it may take longer to make it—if you make it), and there’s nothing wrong with working hard to sell books.
The average book (fiction or non-fiction) doesn’t receive the publicity most authors would like. Unless you’re lucky — if you’re going to sell books — you’re going to have to do it yourself.
A great way to sell books is to speak up!
For many writers, speaking up is easier said than done. Here are 4 things (one of which you already do), that will help you speak better.
1. Write. You’ve written a book, but you’re afraid of stepping up in front of a crowd and talking about it. Look at it this way: you string words together while writing — you can string words together while speaking, too.
You can’t script genuine public speaking. You can have a framework, but audiences ask questions, and sometimes you’re inspired to wander from your framework. It can be scary, kind of like drifting into deep water, but writing is your life jacket.
Writing enables you to think on the fly; writing creates structure in the way one communicates…so slow down and talk it up! Granted, you can’t backspace speech, but most writers can get their point across effectively with little effort.
Once you’re comfortable writing, it’s not a big step to become comfortable speaking.
2. Talk to yourself. If you don’t already talk to yourself, give it a try. Talking to yourself gets you comfortable speaking.
So what should you talk about to yourself? Practice pitching stories out loud, pretend you’re accepting an award and give your speech, practice interview questions for an article, or assume the role of characters in your book and talk it out.
Like writing, speaking takes practice. When you talk to yourself — just like when you started writing — you find what you’re comfortable with, and what needs improvement.
Whether it’s a bit of time alone at home or a lonely commute to work, there’s plenty of time to figure out what aspects of speaking you’re not as comfortable with and work at making them stronger.
3. Join Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an affordable way to practice public speaking.
For over 70 years, the organization has helped many people get over their fear of public speaking. The structure of meetings and programs makes it easy to set goals, and the support of fellow speakers is a great environment to practice your speeches and receive feedback from ordinary and professional speakers.
Find a local club and get talking!
4. Practice. Yep, that practice thing again.
You practice writing, but do you practice speaking — or even reading out loud?
If you’re in a writing group, dedicate some meeting time to reading out loud. If you’re not in a group, read a completed chapter or article to friends or family. Watch speeches on YouTube or TED and make a note of what you can do to improve your speaking.
Like writing, if you dedicate time to slowing down and speaking well, you’ll have a much easier time when the opportunity to talk with editors, agents, and fans of your writing comes up.