Last week I went to speak to the women's Probus Club at Mona Vale, and I had the most fabulous time. The ladies were friendly and interested, they asked intelligent questions, they bought the book and they treated me to lunch afterwards. Now how many author gigs are as satisfying as that?
Some first-time authors have questioned whether such events are worth their while, wondering out loud if the time and effort (and yes, it takes both) pay off.
I am of the opinion that they do, well and truly, so here are my Top 5 Reasons Why Authors Should Speak at Service Clubs:
- Book Sales - Out of all the events I do, I find that I sell most copies at service club talks. The people that belong to these clubs tend to be readers, and the kind of reader that is interested in expanding their horizon. If you have spoken engagingly and interestingly, they can easily be persuaded to buy your book. I make sure I have a nice display of my book placed prominently; with a notice saying how much it is (some people are too shy to ask). I also use gorgeous fabrics to make the table look a little more interesting and exotic, and bring in one of my Vietnamese statues to be a talking point, and to bring people's eyes to the books for sale. I normally mention subtly during the talk that the book is for sale, but I also try to get whoever is introducing and thanking me to mention it as well. There is an excellent article by Stephanie Chandler on how to sell the book at the back of the room that I always consult - have a read. Once the talk is over I plonk myself down next to the display, pen in hand, and wait for the line to form.
- Brand Building - No matter where the club is situated, the people who belong tend to be the movers and shakers in their community. I find they buy books not only for themselves, but to give to family and friends who they think might be interested. And remember, particularly if you are speaking to a group of retirees, you are not just talking to them. Indirectly you are talking to their children and their grandchildren, and they could well become your advocate to the younger members of their family. If they liked you they will talk about you, and keep an eye out for you in the future.
- Getting More Speaking Engagements - Once you have wowed one group you will find yourself suddenly getting invites from other groups all around the city. Speaker organisers tend to know one another, and will phone around if they "discover" someone new. This provides a publicity-hungry author with an amazing network, and a whole host of new opportunities to hone their skill as a speaker. Probus keeps an official list of available speakers, and you can ask to be put on that. I'm not sure if other clubs do the same - would like to find out.
- Testing New Stories and New Material - Club talks tend to be far longer than most author presentations (normally around 40 minutes to an hour), and so offer an opportunity to try out some new stories in addition to your tried and tested, guaranteed fabulous, shtick. If people react well to a new story, you know you are on a winner. I also find that the questions I get are actually quite stimulating, and give me clues as to what I might need to develop in my future work, or what I could turn into a blog article or eBook.
- Contributing to the Community and Giving Authors a Good Name - OK, I know altruism is not normally a consideration when it comes to self-promotion, but it is worth remembering that the clubs are service clubs, and contribute a tremendous amount of money and energy to good causes. Through entertaining their members you help encourage more people to join and to become actively involved, and that is no small feat. By giving your time and talent freely you are contributing further to the club's good work, and helping members realise that writers are also a magnanimous, humanity-loving bunch.