Authors & Public Speaking: Boost your confidence and book sales

Years ago, while living in New York City, I would spend a Friday night at the Barnes & Noble at 14th Street-Union Square. First, I would grab a handful of books I had on my reading wish list and plunk down in a comfy chair. Unfortunately, my pocketbook at the time allowed me to purchase only one book. Before departing, I would get a coffee at the café and go to the metal folding chairs set up in the reading gallery to listen to an author talk about his or her latest book. When I wanted to support a small, independent bookstore, I would head over to BookCourt in Brooklyn and do the same.

More recently, while living in the Pacific Northwest, I listen to authors of fiction, memoir, non-fiction, humor, and all genres by attending writing conferences like the annual Write on the Sound held in Edmonds, Wash. When I want to hear an author do a reading from his or her book, I go to Village Books, an independent bookseller in Bellingham, Wash.

The reality is not all authors are good at speaking, self-promotion or selling. That’s OK. Writers are good at writing.

Sometimes the speaker is well prepared, confident and engaging, which is enjoyable for the audience. We get valuable information on how to write our memoir or novel. We laugh at interesting stories and leave with a good impression of the author’s work (and a purchased copy of the book). Other times, the author is nervous or uncomfortable or just doesn’t know how to make genuine, or subtle, pitches to buy the book.

Jennifer Karchmer with author A.C. Fuller (right) at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash. Sept. 2015. Jennifer is managing Fuller’s new novel, “The Anonymous Source.”

The reality is not all authors are good at speaking, self-promotion or selling. That’s OK. Writers are good at writing.

Therefore, if you are an author approaching an upcoming book signing, writing workshop or lecture and want to boost your confidence, and more importantly your book sales, here are a few tips:

1) Remember to stay hydrated. Try tea or tepid water. Ice water tends to alarm the vocal cords, whereas a warm drink is more soothing and calming.

2) Pass around one copy of the book during the talk. If they’ve come to hear you, chances are they are old-school book lovers and will enjoy touching the cover, rubbing the book spine and holding it as if it were theirs. Make them envision it on their bookshelf. Also, diverting attention to the book takes the focus off of you momentarily to take a deep breath and relax.

3) Assume everyone will purchase a copy. Use language like “readers like you,” “when you read the book…” (Similar to job interview advice.)

4) Make reference to page numbers and turning points. For example, “By chapter 3, Clarissa was becoming stronger and looking at life in a new way.” Or, “On page 67, she says …” Your audience will begin to connect with plot and writing technique and will want to get to that exact spot to see for herself. Also, those who brought a pre-purchased copy for signing can follow along.

5) Bring something new to each engagement. Your audience will appreciate when you say, “I haven’t mentioned this before during a talk…” Be genuine and your readers will connect with you, and then your writing.

Jennifer Karchmer is a Book Manager with Booktrope, an independent publisher in Seattle. She is managing A.C. Fuller’s new novel “The Anonymous Source” about a journalist in post-9/11 New York. Jennifer is also a professional proofreader and public speaking coach for authors. She can be reached at jenniferkarchmer@gmail.com