Archive for February, 2010


Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Yes, there’s a terrific amount of competition out there meeting anyone who promotes and attempts to direct-sell a self-published book. Forget the fact that a sea of new books hit the market every month. Look at it this way: if you manage to reach a few potential readers every month, that no one else is pitching at the same time, you are likely to convince them that they cannot do without a copy of your book. That, of course, assumes you have an appealing and fully professional volume to present. What better way to communicate your subject matter than appearing before them?…

Instead of spending money with one of the marketing hucksters who promise you lists of available speaking engagements all over the U.S.A., consider your own back yard. It’s an expensive process traveling to distant speaking engagements; every mile in your car costs you a minimum of 40 cents, not to mention time consumed, meals, and the cost of lodging. For those reasons alone, you’ll want to address groups as close to home as possible.

How many people will you be addressing? Probably no more than 50, and often less. After all, most of us are not famous; such turnouts should be considered gratifying. How many of the audience will buy your book when you are done speaking? Ten percent – if you have a novel that really interests them – more, if you have a non-fiction book that realistically outlines a method of health or financial improvement. (Any publisher will tell you that novels are a tougher sell than a non-fiction work. )

Okay, how do you line up the speaking engagement? Well, the easiest way is through a friend. In my own case my first several speaking engagements were suggested by people who knew me well and thought a group they belonged to would enjoy listening to what I might have to say about my self-published novel, 3 ACES.  I don’t really know what they expected to hear, but I do know I have a lot of interesting information to impart about my book – a “relationship” story, with trucking, gambling, and Vietnam as the background – a writing and publishing effort which occupied the better part of 7 years. With my background of professional acting, I was confident I could read my own work to a live audience in a fashion that would pique their interest.

Having lined up several speaking engagements, I pondered how I might present the most compelling parts of the book in the limitations of a one hour presentation. Personally, I don’t like readings that drone on for over an hour, especially if the reader is speaking too fast, trying to cover too much material. My writing is dialogue-heavy and I enjoy doing the character parts, which provide variety and, despite my best efforts to avoid slips of the tongue, some occasional levity.

I try to cover my book in seven or eight selections, each  stressing different characters and plot points. The reading of each section lasts no more than 4 minutes. During a practice reading, I’ll time the selections, reading slowly enough to be understood…two minutes per page. When I have allowed enough time to read slowly enough to be understood, but not so slow as to be monotonous, I know I can relax and enjoy myself. Varying timbre, speed, and volume to match the passage being read is equally important. Keep in mind though, that the tendency for any reader is to proceed too quickly – I can’t stress that enough. You must make an effort to read distinctly and clearly, without rushing.

Another thing I’ve hit on, is to preface each segment being read with a little informal “confession” of what went astray in the writing and was corrected  editorially before publication, or just what ideas gelled that formed a given character, or what kind of research I undertook to get vital information. I’ve become somewhat of a bug on research, so I enjoy spilling the beans on myself in disclosing what I’ve done to fully understand my subject matter.  I try to restrict each pre-reading discussion to four minutes.

Some groups will have meals served at the meeting. In that case you will eat with the group and present later. It’s normal to have some people leave early – they’ve come for the meal only, so don’t take it personally. Even worse, where there is no formal meal, there may be a refreshment table. People will be getting up and down for cake and coffee. You can’t let that rattle you – even when some snack and leave. I like a meeting where there’s no food at all. If anyone walks from that one, you know for sure it was YOU! It’s most gratifying when you discover you’ve held a good-sized audience in their seats for a full hour.

When you finish, don’t forget to thank the audience for coming. Don’t neglect to tell them about your website –, in my case. Before your talk make sure you have at least five shiny new books piled on a table beside you, with an opened box below. I place my special bookmarks and a few cards alongside for anyone who wants one and close, mentioning a discount for anyone at the presentation who wants to purchase a signed copy of 3 ACES.

That’s it…hope I’ve given you a few ideas for your own presentation.


Sunday, February 7th, 2010

If you recall, in my blog of July 26th, 2008 – LEAVING I-95 AND LOVIN’ IT… -I stressed the financial chaos experienced, at the time, by the casual automobile traveler to Florida. I referred, at the time, to a quick trip of my own in late June, made from the Endless Mountains, west of Scranton, PA to the Sarasota area. Stressors then had been generally intense traffic flows, especially through the Washington, D.C. area and on down to Fredricksburg, Virginia; erratic and/or deceptive posted gas and motel prices; and the endless spin on every radio station about a recovering economy and “green shoots.”

Last week I took another quick trip to Florida , the object being a speaking and reading engagement at the Tarpon Springs Library. Watercolor artist, Sherri Patterson, had paved the way with The Friends Of the Library and Linda and Jay Linebach (old family friends) were my hosts for the four-day stay. The experience of discussing and reading from my novel, 3 ACES, proved most pleasant, not to mention one wonderful luncheon on the sponge docks, at the Hellas Restaurant. I am pleased to recommend their superb crab-stuffed grouper!

But I must tell you, that in just 7 months, the stressors of June, 2008 have done a mighty flip-flop! No more is there talk of “green shoots.” The high gas prices are now erratic to just plain weak, and traffic in general has thinned out something fierce! What?..all this in just 7 months?

“Job loss” rules! President O’bama has been shaken from his Health Care coddling by the loss of a Democratic Congressional seat in Massachusetts – jolted awake by the jobs situation. The boys and girls of the Labor Department, down there in Foggy Bottom, have shifted into high gear monkeying up the numbers; they’d have you believe things are forever getting better. Their latest computation – 9.7% underemployment.

But add in the 2.5 million people looking for work over the past 12 months, and the Labor Department’s 9.7% grows to 11.3%.  Tacking on 8.3 million  folks forced to take part-time work because they can’t find the full-time version, you arrive at a 16.9% underemployment number.

And, oh yeah – what about the poor devils so discouraged with their search for work that they’ve just given up?… Toss them into the mix, and we’re at 26.7 million – or a total of 17.5% underemployed!

Consider that the American public’s spending accounts for 70% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) under our “capitalistic” economic system, and you find that we are wading in ever deepening doo-doo!

What I saw on my drive down to Florida reflected this distress. I took I-81 to 1-77 and at Columbia, South Carolina I-26 to I-95 in order to bypass Friday traffic around Washington and on into Virginia; both of which take a toll on your patience. Holding to I-95, you can lose up to four hours.

On I-81, rolling past Carlisle, PA, a major transportation hub – a spot from which I often drove long haul while gathering the information to write 3 ACES – I witnessed any number of enormous, new warehouses with no visible activity at their doors or on the loading docks. The vision of inactivity so stark, that I wondered if these structures were not headed toward bankruptcy proceedings. (Further back on I-81, up around Buck Run,  I had caught sight of several huge new plants and warehouse operations that looked underutilized, but witnessed nothing quite that dramatic.)

Then, while on 295 and I-10 in Florida, I sighted any number of dealer lots overloaded with tractors and trailers for sale. Not just one or two, here and there, but dozens – in every lot! When I left long haul work in 1997 to begin my book, you would have been hard pressed to find even a handful of such vehicles for sale in these same lots. Goods not being warehoused; goods not being shipped. Major consumer turndown, anyone?…

Once on 1-95, covering South Carolina on into Florida, from Friday afternoon rush hour to 9:00 that night, the lack of four-wheeler traffic was shocking. Trucks, even with their reduced numbers, were the dominant vehicles. I-95 traffic was a fraction of what I’d experienced last February and June on trips to Sarasota.

Lending substance to the sharp drop-off in automobile traffic was my experience in checking into motels. At Exit 2 – Kingsland, GA – I checked in and out of one low priced motel (their internet connection too weak to get me online) and then tried two other motels nearby. All three had internet systems that proved somehow inoperative, and I rejected the rooms. Two were quick to drop their prices when they saw I was walking. THAT had not been the case the year before! Then it had been a case of landing a room, at any price, before it disappeared. One room clerk admitted their winter tourist traffic was down at least 50%!  The room I took that night in Florida, was at a popular upscale chain, internet functionality guaranteed. Nonetheless, I pulled the walk-away routine and the room price quickly melted 30% – without an argument – the clerk bending over backwards to accommodate me! Bartering is back;customers have the edge.

Gas prices are still sticky, but this year they were rising and dropping with each unpredictable jump or fall of the dollar. I shopped, as time and fuel tank level permited, for the cheapest “regular” fill-ups I could find. Highest price paid: $2.79, on 1-95 in South Carolina…lowest $2.44, off I-95, on Georgia Route 17.

It’s a great time to be on the road. If we have any more financial shocks, it will only be to the traveler’s further advantage.


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