Book Festivals and Signings and Panels, Oh My
I hate public speaking. In fact, I more than hate it, I am terrified of it. I have always related to a joke from the television show Seinfeld, in which Jerry talks about a survey of fears which found that public speaking was number one on the list and death was number two. He concluded that if this survey was accurate most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral. While I wouldn’t quite go that far, I can’t deny that few things bring me more anxiety than public speaking of any kind.
I didn’t think this fear would have any impact on my dream to be a published author, as I didn’t see the two things as connected. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Like many writers before me, I once operated under the delusion that my part in the publishing process ended with writing the book. I never thought about the need for marketing and promotion. I certainly never thought about what came along with book signings and book festivals. When I was accepted to my first book festival last year I was so thrilled that at first it didn’t even register that my acceptance included a requirement that I participate in a panel discussion. When the realization hit a short time later I was terrified. A panel discussion? So I have to speak? In public?
When I say I fretted about this for months I am not exaggerating. Anyone who read my blog knows that my excitement over the festival was tempered by the fear of the panel hanging over my head. I was certain that my life could very well end the moment I stepped onto the panel stage.
I’m happy to say that didn’t happen. And even happier to report that I actually ended up enjoying the panel. Even more surprisingly, I enjoyed the presentation I put on at my local library and the talk I gave to a class at the university where I work in the ensuing months. I now actually look forward to the opportunities I have to talk about my writing and my books.
I know I’m not the only introverted writer out there and I think it’s safe to say there are many of us. So if you’re like me and the thought of an author panel or book signing presentation makes you want to run for the hills, take heart. Believe me when I say that if I can learn to love these things, anyone can.
I was lucky enough to receive some great advice and encouragement from friends before I participated in that panel, so I thought I would share some of that advice here. And remember, if it worked for me it can truly work for anyone.
1. First and foremost, practice! While you can’t know what questions you’ll be asked on a panel, you can still practice talking about your book and your writing. It’s safe to say those will be the topics of the panel, and you’ll also need to be ready to for this when you’re doing a book signing. And if you’re giving a presentation, make sure you know what you’re going to say before it’s time to say it.
2. Embrace the art of acting. Play the role of a confident, extroverted writer who can’t wait to talk about her books. You’ll be amazed how well this one works!
3. Be ready to read an excerpt from your book out loud. This is something I really hate doing. But I’ve practiced in front of a supportive audience – my dog and my cat – and now I’m prepared.
4. Remember that writing a book is something to be proud of, and people will be genuinely interested in it. I’ve been amazed at how supportive and kind people have been. They will be for you, too.
To my amazement, presentations and panels have been some of the most rewarding and affirming things I’ve done on my publishing journey. I would encourage all authors to be on the lookout for conferences and signings and then participate in as many events as possible. I promise you won’t regret it.
Julie Flanders is a librarian by day and a writer all the rest of the time. She is also a television show addict with a particular fondness for Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and a slightly obsessive sports fan who cheers for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cincinnati Reds. Julie is an animal lover and animal rescue advocate who shares her home with her rescued dog and cat. She has written about the joys of pets for outlets such as Cat Fancy, Thrive in Life, and Best Friends Animal Society. Visit Julie at julieflanders.net.
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