The Scariest Thing You Will Ever Do As A Writer

There is a skill set that, when mastered, will not only help you reap significantly better results in book sales over the long haul, but will vastly increase your self concept and confidence and is something that fewer than .05% of the population can do.

Not only can they not do it, but the majority of them would rather die than try.

Wow.

It’s easy to see that you would have a serious leg up on everybody if you could join that .05% group.

I am talking of course about public speaking.

As a writer, it is possible that the percentages of comfortable, accomplished speakers in your group are even smaller than .05%. Writers tend to be shy types, happy to hole up in remote cabins and drafty guestrooms, turning down social invitations in favor of a laptop and a bottomless cup of coffee. Which makes the benefits that much greater if you can learn to conquer your issues with speaking publicly.

Six Ways that being a speaker can help your writing career:

1. You will sell more books at the back of the room after your talk. I have watched people read directly from notecards and then charge ridiculous amounts for self-published books I wouldn’t look at in a garage sale—and they sell out within minutes of leaving the podium.

2. The more you speak, the better you get, and the better your speaking resume gets and the more writers conferences you’ll be invited to speak at. Attending a writers conference as a speaker (read: expert) is much better than attending as a participant. You get instant credibility, even before your work is examined. Plus, you get to sit at the editors and agents’ table!

3. Speakers are looked upon as subject matter experts, even if they aren’t.

4. Speaking enhances your author’s brand and extends the efforts you make through social media because your audience is very likely tweeting or blogging about the conference.

5. Speaking helps to promote your reach online. If you have more than one book, you’ll have people looking online for the stuff you’ve written. Plus, people who have heard you speak are more inclined to like you because there’s a feeling of ownership or discovery for them.

6. When you speak, everything you touch is worth more. There is a kind of celebrity involved with speaking. When you speak, no one else is talking; it’s not a give and take. It’s YOU talking, and the audience listening. That dynamic illustrates a premise that you are someone important who can be learned from. Plus, you are performing and so the value of anything attached to you is increased. If you give out business cards or bookmarks with your information on it—blog site, amazon book  page, website—people will snap them up like they are valuable because you have been set apart as a VIP.

So, how do you achieve this desirable state of speaking without throwing up? I don’t absolutely promise there will be no vomit involved, but you could read articles online or buy any number of how-to’s. Personally, I think learning by doing is the best way. Because there’s such a psychological element to public speaking (“My God, they’re all looking at ME!!”) you really need to feel the experience over and over again. You very well may feel like you’re going to throw up the first few times you speak in front of group, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

I found Toastmaster’s to be a great way to learn this skill in a friendly, supportive way. Everyone at the meetings is working to be a better speaker so you’re in good company. After a few months of having a helpful, friendly group of people listening to and critiquing  your speeches, trust me, heading out to a public forum where people are simply listening to you for content not “ums” and “ers” will have you confident in no time.

It’s worth a try anyway, right?

What about you? Are you afraid to get up in front of a group or do you do it all the time? If so, got any tried and true tips for new speakers to help chase (or redirect) the butterflies? Would love to hear from you!

How Social Media Made The Writer’s Life Bearable

When I think of a typical author (is there such a thing?) I think of a quiet type–antisocial or at least very shy–whose life is played out among the characters she creates in make-believe worlds. This is a stereotype and I personally know some very noisy and social creatures who are also fine writers. But I think there is some equity to the stereotype. Writers are readers and writers spend a lot of time writing. Reading and writing are both solitary activities. I’d have to believe that most writers like to do these things so they either a) have no problem being alone or b) they prefer it.

There was a brief time in our history where writers had to do something that would be considered torture for normal people, but was positively HELL for shy or retiring people. There was a time when writers, in order to sell their books, were forced by their publishers or convinced by their own marketing common sense, to sit on display in public bookstores while shoppers walked by them and alternately ignored and felt sorry for them. As bad as this would be for anybody else, I think it must have been particularly agonizing for the typical writer.

One of the great things about how writers are being encouraged to market their books today is that social media is ideal for shy people. You can now pretend to be the amazing writer you’ve created on your dust jacket, complete with airbrushing and that photo that was taken ten years ago. And you can deal with people as THAT person, kind of like an avatar you’ve created that does all your talking for you. Social media lets the part of you that is the awesome part of you—the part that communicates by putting amazing words together—take over and meet people and make connections.

On Twitter, you don’t have to worry about meeting fans and not measuring up. (“Wow. You’re short.”) You don’t have to lose weight or shave or get a brow lift. You can be friendly and brilliant in your bathrobe with yesterday’s cat vomit crusted on your bunny slippers and no one will ever know.

My father used to tell me when I was a teenager and he was in his late fifties that I would be surprised to discover some day when I’m older that regardless of how I appear on the outside, who I am on the “inside” will always be 25 years old. At the time, I didn’t understand him. The man had a full head of white hair and a beard. Was he really telling me he looked at the world through the eyes of a twenty-five year old??!

What I discovered as I grew older was, of course, it’s true. You operate in the world on a daily basis and, in your mind, nothing’s changed. You toss your hair and smile winningly at someone in the parking lot and they grab their kid and hurry away, and then you catch your reflection in a mirror and you want to grab yourself and hurry away, because you’re a crone! But it’s not fair, you whimper. You don’t feel like you now look.

But with social media, you really are 25 forever. Who you are on paper–the best part of  you –is the face you present to your social media friends. And because you know you’re looking good (on paper), you are brighter and wittier and friendlier. You are, in fact, your ideal self.

This was actually going to be a lead-in to why I think writers need to brush off or discover their public speaking skills! So now that I’ve got you all comfy and determined never to go out into public again, check my post next Wednesday when I move us all into the scariest light of all: the limelight.

Are you shy? A natural talker? Writers come in all sizes and flavors. I would love to hear about you! Stereotypical writer or offbeat all the way?