Ep. 09: Author Speaking to Increase Book Sales

Join us as we share author speaking tips to help you sell more books.

As a published author, you become an expert on your book’s subject matter. Get tips on how to use your book to position yourself as an author expert, get involved in author speaking, and generate book sales. We’ll also discuss how to embrace your personal style, how to land speaking engagements, pick the perfect book excerpt to read at events, and build your author platform. Haven’t published your book yet? Create an account with IngramSpark to get started!


Robin Cutler [00:00:08] Hi everyone. Welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. This episode is sponsored by Publishers Weekly. For just $149, you can put the marketing power of Publishers Weekly behind your book by having your book cover and synopsis appear in Publishers Weekly, in front of thousands of book sellers, libraries, agents, publishers, film producers, and production companies. Visit PublishersWeekly.com, PW select, to learn more. Hi everyone, I'm Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:41] I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquisitions Manager for IngramSpark.

Robin Cutler [00:00:46] Hey, Justine.

Justine Bylo [00:00:48] Hi, Robin.

Robin Cutler [00:00:50] I'm so excited about having our guest today. This is one of my favorite people. This is guaranteed to be a good time that we're going to have on this podcast for today, because we have none other than Jodee Blanco, who is the Founder and CEO of The Jodee Blanco Group, a consulting company that helps authors successfully leverage the matrix of public speaking, publishing, and public relations. So, welcome, Jodee.

Jodee Blanco [00:01:18] Hi, I'm so honored to be here. Hello.

Justine Bylo [00:01:21] We're so excited to have you on the show today, and I'm just going to reiterate what Robin said. Jodee is a ball of energy and a fantastic person and we're so excited to have you!

Jodee Blanco [00:01:33] Well, I'm honored to be here. I've been doing this a long time because I started out on the PR side of publishing and did that for 20 years and then wrote a memoir that I was able to turn into a whole a passion and purpose mission. Life mission…and I travel around the country speaking about bullying and anti-bullying based on my memoir. I've done both sides of it. I've been on the publishing side and the PR side. But, I've also been, like many of your Spark family, I've been the author in the hot seat really wanting to promote their book and get their message out there and make a difference. I'm happy to give you whatever knowledge I have. Ladies, pick my brain.

Justine Bylo [00:02:19] You actually gave us a great lead into what I wanted to ask you, which was okay, you finished your book, it's published now, and you want to start speaking on it. But, you have to be an "expert," right? How do you make yourself an expert on the subject matter that you're speaking about and that your book's about and get into that market?

Jodee Blanco [00:02:46] The first thing you have to do is to identify your platform. Books fall into two fundamental categories, right? Fiction or non-fiction. Whether you've written the romance novel you've always dreamed about penning, or whether you're an accountant who's written a book on tax tips, in hopes of generating a larger client base, expertise falls into three fundamental categories. Either personal experience or personal passion. For me I was bullied as a teenager. I wrote a memoir about my experiences. So, what's my expertise? My own life experience. The second category is professional. You do this for a living and that's how you know. The accountant who writes a book on tax tips, the restaurant owner who writes a book on cooking tips, the local therapist who writes a book on handling a difficult teen. The third category is the most obvious, which is academic. You either have a masters or a doctorate in the subject and that's what you do in your whole sort of, academic focus. Some people have a combination of all three or one or two of those categories. The first thing you have to do is identify, "What's my platform." Your platform is very simple. Figuring out your expertise. What is your connection to the subject matter of the book? Let's say that you've written a romance novel. What inspired you to write about the particular topic, the thread of that novel. Is it…was it a nasty breakup? Was it your experience just helping girlfriends through it? What is your connection to the subject matter in your book and to the subject matter

Jodee Blanco [00:04:30] that you may want to speak about, if you're going to do some public speaking. Then your connection to the subject matter of your book is your platform and you build your expertise from there in the form of a narrative bio, which just simply describes: "This is my connection to the subject matter in my book. This is why I'm an expert on what I wrote about."

Robin Cutler [00:04:50] That's really great, Jodee, and I totally agree with that, what you just said. Like, I always want to know what prompted an author to kind of put themselves away sometimes for years to work on a subject matter? What drove them to actually do that work? I agree with that. The other thing, Jodee, what do you think being able to speak about your work does for your actual book sales? Do you think that's a direct correlation?

Jodee Blanco [00:05:25] Oh my goodness, it's more than a direct correlation. It is the definitive game changer. I speak from deep experience on two levels. When I was a publicist in the book publishing business and I had my own PR firm, I traveled around the country as a speaker at writer's conferences and publishing university events because I wanted to generate clients. Every time I got on a stage and I talked about book publicity, people in that audience would call me and they would want to hire me to handle their PR. It's a great way for getting customers and clients. That's when I decided, well wait a minute, I need a book. Because, a book is the ultimate credibility fortifying factor. Nothing underscores or punctuates credibility like the medium of a book. That's when I wrote a book on how to do book publicity a thousand years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. What's interesting about the Spark family of authors, and if I can speak to them directly, "You guys already have a book. That's a huge accomplishment. You guys have a book or you're working on a book. That is going to be a credibility supercharger. Imagine a supercharger for your car. That's what having a book is." To speak to Robin's question, speaking engagements achieve a plethora of things. The most important, boiling down to three. Number one, there is no substitute on this Earth for human contact. While I've embraced the digital revolution, I still know that, for me anyways, the sweet spot is human contact. Number two, it creates word of mouth

Jodee Blanco [00:07:13] in a way that no other medium can. Because, you're sharing energy with a live audience. Three, it gives you a platform and a persona that's even larger than the sum of its parts that you can parlay into tons of other opportunities. For anyone who's listening, you may be thinking, "Well that's great, but, Jodee's like, super outgoing." Yes, guilty. "I'm really kind of shy." You know what? You don't have to be outgoing to be a great speaker. I've been to many speaking engagements where the speakers, the presenters, were very shy and very quiet. They utilized those characteristics to create their own voice and style on stage. Their style was intimate and inviting. It pulled you in because it was quiet and intimate. Whatever personality style is yours, just organically, you can transform into something magical. You just have to have the faith in yourself and the confidence to do it. That is only achieved with putting your toe in the water and giving it a try.

Justine Bylo [00:08:26] That's great advice, really great advice because I know a lot of my authors out there who are very introverted, but it gives us all hope that the introverts can get out there on a stage and captivate an audience, as well. But, actually getting up on the stage is a whole different can of worms, right? How do our authors go about actually landing these speaking engagements and pitching to people to get them?

Jodee Blanco [00:08:57] Well, it's way easier than a lot of your authors may think. Step number one, once you've identified your platform and remember we talked about that, your specific connection to the subject matter of your book. Once you've identified that, you're going to need two fundamental documents to start landing engagements. First, you're going to need an author bio. It can be anywhere from 300 to maybe 700 words that's a narrative story of your expertise. Now, a loving warning: a lot of sort of newbies to the game want to put everything they've ever accomplished in their author bio. You can't do that. You have to be really disciplined. You have to have a specific storyline, a specific narrative; your connection to your topic. If you have any professional affiliations with the topic, whatever your connection to your topic is. Whatever gives you the credibility to speak authoritatively on your topic is what your author bio should be. The second document you need is a one-sheet on what your talk is. There's lots of different formats for these one-sheets, but this is the simplest one that I would recommend that you follow when you're starting out. A really great killer title for your talk, something that's short and pithy and pulls the potential buyer in. Two or three sentences, opening paragraph, that kind of defines in general what the subject matter or the topic of your talk is, and then, bullets. I like to do five to eight bullets per one-sheet. You can just introduce the bullets simply.

Jodee Blanco [00:10:36] Some of the highlights from my talk include, and then you bullet what the highlights are, and then a closing paragraph that talks about you're passionate and you have conviction and your objective is to make a difference in every single life in that audience. You have those two documents. Once you have that, then you need to think about, start small, you know, like you say, "Let's put our toe in the water." There's lots of speaking opportunities in your local community. Start with the Chamber of Commerce, park districts, schools, PTAs, and you know, the local, you know, Better Business Bureau. All of these entities have speaking engagements. A lot of local health club chains will have a Community Night every week and they'll feature different speakers. Just call up these organizations. Ask them, "Do you guys have any events coming up where you want a local speaker?" They're all going to tell you yes. And then just ask for the person who books the speakers. You'll find that in most cases these people are grateful to get a phone call about a potential speaker because it's a lot of work to find competent speakers and to book them. Start there. Start small. Your local place of worship; talk to whoever coordinates community events for your local place of worship. Your church or wherever you attend, and say, "Hey, I would love to give a talk on tax tips," or, "I would love to give a talk on finding love again." That's a great one for if you've written a romance novel. Or, "I'd love to give cooking tips."

Jodee Blanco [00:12:09] Whatever your book is, whatever your passion is, you really want to turn it to purpose. Get out there and just ask some local organizations if you can come and speak. Do the first few pro bono, don't charge anything until you get your feet wet. By the fourth or fifth one, ask someone to video tape you, so you have some video tape. You'll have the basics of what you need to start a speaking career and you build from there.

Robin Cutler [00:12:33] There you go, and I would also add to your list, Jodee, libraries, because libraries also have a lot of speaking community events and libraries are everywhere too.

Jodee Blanco [00:12:50] I'm glad you mentioned that. I want to say really quickly that libraries are their own cornucopia of opportunity. They're even higher on the food chain than even the local chamber of commerce because libraries really care about writers. They have a reverence for authors. I would say, even get your feet wet in a couple of other places first, so that by the time you do a talk at some local libraries you really have the beats of your talk honed and you can just knock it out of the park.

Robin Cutler [00:13:26] Yep. So, if you're doing a reading, because I know that especially around bookstores, libraries, if you're doing a reading, how do you suggest that…what advice would you give to an author to pick the perfect excerpt for the reading?

Jodee Blanco [00:13:44] Finding a perfect excerpt for a reading is basically a very sort of internal process. You need to choose, don't make the excerpt too long. You're better off keeping it shorter. No more than maybe five minutes. Just enough to give the audience a sense of the core heart and soul of the book. Pick an excerpt that communicates or encapsulates the message of your book the most profoundly, and then also is a part of the book that is meaningful to you. Because if it's meaningful to you and it encapsulates the fundamental message of the book, not only will your delivery be more passionate just organically, but it's a wonderful starting off point for a discussion. An excerpt should never take the place of a presentation. It should be the igniter. It should be the, no pun intended, spark, to get the room alive and energetic and to get the conversation flowing. There's a term that we in the speaking world use all the time. It's called the takeaway. And the takeaway means, when you've got an audience sitting there, and you've returned the microphone and the lights have dimmed, and they're getting back in their cars, what's the takeaway? What's the one actionable item that they can start applying in their own lives right then and there that can make a difference? If your excerpt can have a takeaway, that's awesome too. And lastly about excerpts, it doesn't have to be one long five-minute excerpt. You could choose a couple of vignettes and read them and sort of introduce them. What's most important is that you pull something

Jodee Blanco [00:15:33] from the book that's actionable, meaningful, message worthy, and most importantly, is meaningful to you.

Robin Cutler [00:15:42] Well, we are unfortunately running out of time here, Jodee, but you can see why we love you so much and why our listeners are going to really come to love you too. Jodee Blanco is one of our experts on the IngramSpark site. You can find her there. Where else would somebody find you? Just Google Jodee Blanco?

Jodee Blanco [00:16:03] They can do that or they can go to either one of my websites. My website for helping authors and speakers and consulting is thejodeeblancogroup.com, and that's Jodee with two E’s. The thejodeeblancogroup.com and then jodeeblanco.com is my anti-bullying site. It's my speaker site, so if anybody is kind of curious, "How do you do a website for a speaker? How do you put one together?" That one kind of is a really good, healthy example of what a website can do for a speaker. The other has got all my contact info and, you know, you guys mean a lot to me. I love Ingram. It's a part of my life. If anyone listening just needs an ear or wants input, I'm a friend and I'm here. Always, always, always.

Robin Cutler [00:16:53] Thanks so much everyone for listening to Go Publish Yourself. We hope these episodes inspire you on your own publishing journey. If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. For even more tips on publishing like a pro, check out our weekly blog and free online self-publishing courses available in the IngramSpark Academy. Talk to you soon.

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