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The Art of Presenting In-Person Workshops

June 4, 2012

The Art of Presenting In-Person Workshops
by Jacquie Rogers

We talk a lot about online promotion, but live appearances are important to both building your platform and selling books.  This article covers the basics, the Three P’s for conducting successful workshops — Propose, Prepare, Promote and Present a Perfect Program.

What I’m going to say in this article is plan, plan, plan your workshop (or seminar, or white paper, or class — whatever your organization calls it) before each stage along the way: the proposal, the preparation, and the presentation.

Proposal

Each organization has its own culture and its own set of rules regarding what is acceptable and what’s not.  In all cases, you’re trying to convince them that they want what you have.  (Don’t ever forget WIIFM, What’s In It For Me, in anything you do!) Here are a few tips:

Much Ado About Madams by Jacquie RogersA catchy title always wins points in your behalf.  Examples of my own workshops: Gamblers and Lightskirts; Faeries and Dragons Along the Silk Road (presented with Eilis Flynn); 20 Tips for the Emerging Writer, and Growing Your Audience (both presented with Ann Charles).  Note that including a number increases your chances of being selected: Seven Secrets of Selling Your Book would be almost a shoo-in for any writers’ conference program director.

Write a short description, remembering that the program director either must want what you have, or you must convince her that she wants what you have.  Either way, she’s looking at this proposal from the viewpoint of meeting the needs of all the event’s attendees, and is generally trying to put a balanced program together.  If you propose a workshop on characterization and the program director receives five other proposals on the same subject, then your blurb must “speak” to her in a way that the other proposals don’t.   Also, don’t forget to include other venues where you’ve presented or are scheduled to present this workshop.

Your bio is not interchangeable with every workshop you present.  If you are proposing a workshop on faeries, then show the program director your expertise in that area, which would be an entirely different skill set than if you’re proposing a workshop on career platform building.

Make sure there are two methods to contact you and always list your website.  Also, go ahead and attach your handouts if appropriate.  Attaching your handouts with the proposal will let the program director know this workshop is well-prepared.

Preparation

Congratulations, your workshop has been chosen!  Now it’s time to prepare.  Believe me, your audience can always tell if you’re prepared and organized or not.  And make no mistake about it—word does get around.

The first thing to do is promote your workshop.  Put the appearance on your website and your blog.  Post it wherever you hang out—social networks, yahoo groups, the bulletin board at your local community hall.  Find other venues of promotion and let people know they’re welcome to come to your fabulous new workshop.

Now for the writing of it.  Most workshop attendees learn in a combination of the three methods of learning—aural, visual, and tactile.  Standing in front of the room and lecturing is effective for only the aural crowd (~19%)  The majority need visual (~46%) and/or tactile (~35%) for a strong learning experience.  A flip chart, handout and/or a PowerPoint presentation will go far to hold their attention, so think seriously about incorporating these tools into your repertoire.  For our dragon workshop, Eilis brought dragon statues of varying types to pass around.  Tactile learners love this.

As for content, stick with the old formula:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (Don’t forget WIIFM!)
Tell them.
Tell them what you told them.

There!  You have the three sections of your outline already and you didn’t have to do a lick of work.  Now just fill in the blanks.

Document your facts and sources, and it’s great to have a handout that includes a bibliography as well as an outline of your talk.  Remember to put your name, workshop title, and copyright on all pages of the handout.

Presentation

Even if you’re scared half to death, project the image that you’re happy to be there.  After all, the attendees thought enough of you to come, so now you owe it to them to give them what they came for.

Dress appropriately, which means chose clothing just a touch better than what’s expected.  If you need to project authority, avoid fuzzy sweaters or warm colors and wear linen, wool, and jewel colors, or earth tones depending on the venue.

If there’s a microphone, use it properly.  Your lips should be one to two inches from the mic at all times.  Audience members become very annoyed when they can’t hear you because after all, that’s why they’re there.  Don’t be afraid of the mic because all it’s doing is enabling you to be heard.  Be kind to your workshop attendees and please, let them hear you.  (Side note: Don’t ever blow into or tap a mic.  It’s bad for the equipment and hurts your audience’s ears.  A simple “Hello, can you hear me?” will suffice.)

Walk around and be animated—interact with the audience and let them be part of the presentation.  You don’t have to be a crazy person, but listening to a statue isn’t all that interesting, either.  Oh, and about the mic, if you’re wired to one spot, still make an effort to interact with the attendees.

When using a PowerPoint presentation, don’t stray from the topics on the page that is currently projected; otherwise, the audience can get confused and besides, it’s more difficult to take notes.

You did it!  You’ve given a workshop!  Now you can go to the bar and celebrate, right?  Eh.  Okay, do that, but don’t forget the post-mortem.  Ask people to evaluate your talk; what you did right, how you screwed up, and what could be better.  Then go to work on making it better and propose this workshop again elsewhere.  Or make it into a series of workshops.  Make sure your work is used multiple times for maximum benefit to you.

And most importantly, don’t forget to thank your host.  Good manners go a long way when it comes to being invited back.

Remember:

  • Plan your proposal carefully and give your workshop the best chance you can for it to be selected.
  • Prepare your workshop with all types of learners in mind—aural, visual, and tactile.
  • Promote the workshop on your blog, website, and social media sites, and don’t forget your local contacts.
  • Present your workshop with enthusiasm and energy.
  • Thank your audience and thank your host.

Good luck!

Copyright © 2010-2012 Jacquie Rogers

Jacquie Rogers is a former software designer, campaign manager, deli clerk, and cow milker, but always a bookworm. Reading is her passion—westerns, fantasies, historicals of any era, and all with a dash of romance.  While she’s a country girl by birth, she currently lives in suburbia with her very patient husband (important point: they are the staff of one cat).  Even so, she’s convinced you can ever take the country out of a girl’s heart. That’s probably why her stories often take place in Idaho where she grew up.

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Romancing The West * Blog

Hearts of Owyhee (Western Historical Romance)

#1: Much Ado About Marshals

#2: Much Ado About Madams

Coming soon: #3: Much Ado About Mavericks

Young adult romance: Not just for kids anymore

May 21, 2012

By Jesi Lea Ryan

If you would have asked me a few years ago what I thought about Young Adult literature, I might have said something like, “Sweet stories with stereotypical characters, living sugar-coated lives. Not worth my time to read, but okay for thirteen-year-olds.”  Of course, I would have been basing this opinion on the last YA books I’d read which were The Sweet Valley High books when I was twelve. Once I graduated into my teens, I wanted more substance than YA could give me, so I moved on to adult fiction.

My reintroduction to YA lit was similar to a lot of women my age…Twilight.  When a friend of mine suggested that I read this teenage vampire series, I thought she was nuts.  Hadn’t I outgrown YA ages ago?  However, the friend insisted and I was weak, so I bought the box set read the whole thing…in four days.  When I was done, I read it again.  I enjoyed the Twilight series so much that I began seeking out other YA books.  I read books by Laurie Halse Andersen, Neil Gaimen, Alyson Noel, Richelle Mead, Maggie Stiefvater, and others.  As my rekindled interest in YA literature grew, I noticed many other adults reading YA as well.  I began to realize that the new YA books have evolved the genre into mass market appeal, not bound by generation or age limitations.

What is it about today’s YA books which make them so much more appealing to adults than the YA books of the past?  For me, it’s all about the emotion.  The teen years are such a dynamic time.  We experience our first loves, get our first tastes of independence and make decisions about what we are going to do for the rest of our lives.  On top of this teens experience heaps of social pressure, a rigid caste system of cliques and the seriously messed up hormones—no wonder there is so much to write about!  While I couldn’t wait to get my teen years over with as fast as possible, I now look back at that time with a different perspective, one of wonder and hope.  Reading YA books lets me enjoy the teen years in a way that I missed the first time.

This led me to wonder if other adult YA readers felt the same way, or if they read these books for other reasons.  I sat down with several adult readers to get their perspectives.  First, we discussed their motivations for why they read YA.

“I read and write both adult and YA.  I don’t prefer one over the other, but yes, they each have their own feel.  Good YA lit has a near-constant fast pace, and since the word count is generally lower, the wording is much more punchy and efficient.  Adult lit sometimes feels over-worded to me, especially after just finishing a YA novel, but there are times when I’m in the mood for a slower read.”  Lydia, age 32

“I’m in a stage of life where I prefer YA lit to adult. I think this is because my youth was painful, and I like reading about teens going through hardships and coming through them. I’m grappling with pieces of my past, and YA helps me to see that these issues are real, they exist for other people; and just like me, these characters do the best they can. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not, but they survive.”  Schuyler, age 40

“YA lit gets to the point! They don’t mess around with 30 pages of introspection and 100 pages of back-story. Sure there is angst and (occasionally) very silly emotional mistakes, but usually the stories are better written and better crafted. Kids won’t cut writers any slack so they better get into the story and keep it moving.”  Jennifer, age 45

Next, I asked them how YA has changed since they were teens.

“I think they’ve gotten more specific regarding technology references, clothing/pop-culture styles, etc.  Also, I think the YA books that deal with more controversial subjects (teen pregnancy, suicide, sexuality) are now more likely to be mainstream books, rather than something that a librarian would have to point out to a kid.” Victoria, age 33

“The main difference is that there are many more YA novels published now covering a wider range of genres. The best YA authors continue to deal with difficult issues with sensitivity, honesty and respect for their readers intelligence.” Mike, age 42

“I think authors are daring to put more controversial issues in YA these days, and I say, ‘Heck yes!’ There are so many topics that used to be taboo in the YA genre, that now are becoming more common. Sex, drugs, alcohol, and all those right/wrong, black/white/gray topics. I think books have a lot of power to change a person, and I think they can be extremely influential, especially in teens. I’m loving how today’s YA is bringing up topics in a real, honest, and open way.”  Shannon, age 23

So now I would like to turn this blog over to you.  Should authors keep both the adult readers and the teen readers in mind while writing, or will trying to cater to both audiences leave the work feeling divided?  How do you think YA authors can take advantage of the adult market in a way to maximize sales without alienating their core teen readers?  I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Jesi Lea Ryan is the author of Four Thousand Miles. Join her at her blog.

Getting Short With Others

May 14, 2012

By SJ Byrne

Anthologies are great for so many reasons. People who prefer a shorter reading experience will gobble them up, helping to create a solid foundation for both new and experienced authors while generating publicity for all involved!

Publicity is what every business is ultimately seeking. I say the word and it gives me shivers; like the hyenas in The Lion King! Publicity is also an author’s bread and butter. One thing I have learned in the last couple of months is that when writers band together, wonderful things come about. An anthology is a reflection of this connectedness and a show of support between authors. When a reader sees a piece by their favorite scribe, combined with the works of others, and purchases the book – that is publicity at its best!

Sadly, writing a short story holds NO appeal for me. I have a difficult time putting all I have to say in less than five thousand words. Somehow, my thirteen year old daughter accomplished it and she’s as wordy as I am! The opportunity to be involved in an IBC Anthology was enough of an enticement to push us both out of our comfort zones to tackle this momentous adventure.

My daughter Alex is a very talented young woman. The day she decided to write fan fiction was a moment that changed both of our lives. Finally, she began to understand the drive behind my craft and exactly why I spend so much time at the blasted computer; not only writing, but basking in the glory of seeing my readership grow!

When the invitation to submit an entry for IBC’s latest anthology popped up in my inbox, I knew I wanted to be involved but had nothing remotely ready for publication. I proposed the idea to Alex, who embraced it with enthusiasm, and we put in our bid for a spot. Alex had a fabulous idea brewing and I turned the entire creation process over to her. It was amazing, watching her come home every night and get on her netbook to begin writing – once homework and guitar practice were done! After providing a small sample of her writing, we learned it had been accepted and when the final submission deadline was. Crunch time!

The first thing Alex learned about writing this short story was how to cope creatively with a deadline. She struggled and worried over whether or not it would be done on time. She wrote for hours on end, sitting beside me in our matching recliners like an old married couple! I watched this teenager pop out over two-thousand words in a four to six hour time period – every night! In less than four days I had over nine-thousand words of a story to edit and tweak – this was my job in the process. If a thirteen year old can settle down and commit to writing that much in four days, I don’t ever want to hear myself say ‘I can’t do it.’

The second thing she learned about writing on a tight deadline – focus! I don’t write using an outline and she tried doing that with this piece but it didn’t work. We had lots of great prose, but no concrete story. In order to get the work finished, we had to do what I haven’t done since college creative writing – compile an outline! Eeek! It took some re-focusing of ideas but a great story line had been created and she was off and writing once again. This time, what she presented me was solid and flowing; a real short story.

When the anthology becomes a published work, Alex will enjoy that one experience sought by most writers, to see her name on a finished product being snapped up by readers across the globe. What a rush, especially for a teenager.

~ ~

SJ and Alex Byrne are a mother daughter team living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. SJ holds an accounting degree and loves rebuilding engines with her father, but writing has always been her true passion. Born into a large family, she learned quickly what it took to grab an audience’s attention and hold it. Through laughter, emotional rollercoasters, dramatic scenery, and honest situations she has created stories to capture the hearts of her readers.

A student of the arts, Alex Byrne is a real Renaissance young-woman: she draws manga, plays guitar and cello, is active in the school and local theater, and has a large following on the fan fiction site.

SJ Byrne’s first book My Butterfly was published in August of 2011 and is a bestseller on the Amazon Kindle British Drama list. Pulling her daughter into the world of publication, SJ and Alex have created a new series and the first book is to be released in 2012. Find them on Twitter, Facebook or her blog.

~ ~

Once A Druid book blurb:

Amnesia, dark dreams of a former existence, a soul’s path split in different directions; exactly what is Kirra Munro hiding from?

If you’re a fan of Karen Marie Moning, then you will love Once a Druid.

Spring Fling Free ParTay – Changing the way we do business!

May 6, 2012

Spring Fling Free ParTayChanging the way we do business!

It’s hard to argue with success! So why not build on it?

By Taylor Lee and Patricia Mason

During the Christmas season we began a series of highly successful experiments to leverage KDP Select’s FREE promotion option. The result was nine titles in the top 100 FREE Kindle books and Top 100 PAID books.

Building on that success, FREE Par-Tay was born. In February, a group of carefully selected authors linked arms to conduct a three day FREE event which resulted in AWESOME numbers. All but four of the 40 participating titles ranked in the top 500 FREE and all were ranked under 1000 FREE.

In March, the Lucky Days FREE Par-Tay’s success was nothing short of phenomenal. Out of 60 titles, 16 were in the top 20 FREE! Stephanie Bond had three of the top five titles on the free list and her traction continued when she moved to the paid list. At one point, two of Ann Charles’ titles were in the Amazon Kindle top 20 — one was Free but the other was on the PAID list.

During Lucky Days FREE ParTay over 1 million ebooks were downloaded and over 100,000 were SOLD, bought and paid for! ASTONISHING!

Now we’re going to do it again! May 7-9th dozens of ebooks will be FREE as part of the Spring Fling FREE Par-Tay.

The books offered are a diverse assortment, including romances (from sweet to HOT), thrillers, mysteries, horror, humor, poetry and more.

But it’s not only the books that are diverse. A wide spectrum of authors will be taking part in the event. From established, New York Times best-selling authors to critically-acclaimed but relatively novice authors.

For example, in Lucky Days, Lois Lavrisa’s debut novel soared into Amazon’s top 100 paid list where it stayed for over two weeks and is still in the low thousands. Without question, FREE ParTay is a career changer for Indie authors at every level!

We are not content to rest on our laurels. We are constantly growing and changing our events to respond to an ever evolving landscape. In Spring Fling we are charting new waters in social media. We are upping the ante in both paid and free advertising, and working together to cross promote in new and exciting ways.

We hope to make this ParTay the BEST one yet! And we aren’t stopping the PARTY at the end of the FREE Par-Tay. Following three days of FREE we have scheduled a three day Spring Fling Indie Book Blowout (May 10-12), with a special bonus Mother’s Day event.  All of our titles will be priced at 99 Cents for the four day period.  A great way to build on the momentum of FREE allowing our titles to soar when they segue back to paid.

Our goal is to lift the average FREE ranking of our participating titles to less than 1000 and the PAID ranking to less than 2000. A lofty goal indeed! But that’s what the Indie Book Collective is all about.  Fearlessly claiming the future and willing to challenge an ever changing marketplace.

KDP Select and the FREE Option have revolutionized ebook publishing. In less than five short months, ebook publishing has gone from the slow lane into the jet stream.  In response, the ever innovative Indie Book Collective, specifically through the FREE Par-Tay/IBB events, intends to make ebook promotion supersonic!

Want to be part of the next exciting FREE ParTay? Email us at freepartay@gmail.com. We’d love to welcome you aboard!

An Indie Blogger Tells All

April 30, 2012

by Miranda Lynn
owner of  My Eclectic Bookshelf

What do I think when I hear the term Indie Author? That’s a great question posed to me not long ago, and one that every book blogger has a different answer to. Me, well I get excited. I LOVE Indie Authors—not all my experiences have been positive, but most of them have so I continue to get excited about Indie Authors. Here’s why.

The first things that come to mind when I hear Indie Author is, cheap books. Yes, I will be honest, I started reading Indie Authors for two reasons: a good friend recommended the book and it was under 3 bucks. Hey, I could afford that even if the book turned out to be bad, and I wasn’t out a ton of money. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised when I found that I couldn’t put the story down and wanted more when I reached the end.

Next I learned that the author was easily accessible.  She had a Facebook page, blog, Twitter account, and email account so I could contact her. Best of all, she responded on all of these venues and fairly quickly. Yippee! I can now say I know an amazing author personally. How many people can really say that? (well ok, many of you can but hey it was a highlight in my life!)

Realizing that the authors of Indie Books were more accessible made a light bulb go off in my head. Here is my chance to have authors on my blog! Woohoo, happy dance.  I knew I would never have a chance in hell of getting a big time publishing house author to guest post or do an interview for my little blog, but an Indie Author, maybe I might have a chance at getting her to visit and share something fun with the few readers I had at the time.  That was the start of having Indie Authors stop and visit with my readers and me.

Now, not all Indie Authors are so nice and responsive and considerate of a book blogger’s schedule and commitments. I have had my share of those that send an email, requesting a review (even though my blog states that I am taking no more requests at the time), giving me a time limit on getting it done, requesting to read the review first and have final say on whether it will be published or not, etc. Then even after I reply with a thanks but no thanks, the author sends a follow up email yelling as to why I haven’t gotten my review to him/her. Uh…duh…clueless much? Yeah, not the way to treat someone you want to help you and your book look good.

Now when I deal with an author of any kind who tends to travel that clueless road, I try to help them and give them a bit of advice. When working with book bloggers, remember that their blogs, tweets, Facebook status updates, and all posted reviews are their babies. Just as your book is your baby, you should treat bloggers with the respect and attention you want them to give you. If you can do that, then you will have a wonderful relationship. And who doesn’t want that?  It’s how your build your followers and readers.

~~~

Miranda Lynn is a book blogger extraordinaire, owner of the My Eclectic Bookshelf, enjoying all the amazing worlds she finds in each book. An aspiring author herself, she can appreciate all the finer points of writing, reading, and the struggles of getting those musings in front of others. Having recently found her dream job as a library clerk, she is admittedly in reader heaven on a daily basis. She shares her excitement of reading with her two children, husband, her four legged kids, and everyone who stops by her blog.  Make sure to add My Eclectic Bookshelf to your list and visit regularly to see what books she has read and what she is up to in her own writing. You can also find her and the voices in her head at her website, blog,  Facebook and Twitter.

Starting as a Book Reviewer Helped me Become a Better Writer

April 23, 2012

By Tanya Cantois

Before I became a published author, I was a blogger and a book reviewer. Both of these activities have helped me to see books in a new light. Instead of just saying that I liked a book, or that I enjoyed the read, I managed to delve further. I explained why and what made it an enjoyable or less than enjoyable read. I began paying attention to things like the author’s voice and writing style, characterization, and whether or not the storyline had an even flow to it.

My vocabulary expanded quite a lot and things that I didn’t have a complete understanding of suddenly made perfect sense. Writing book reviews also gave me insight as to what trends are popular in writing at the moment, which gave me many ideas for potential books. I have utilized various websites that are all about mythical beings as well as sites that are all about urban legends, all thanks to research I was doing while writing book reviews.

The thing that helped me the most as a book reviewer and an author would have to be … other authors! So many have offered up invaluable advice and tips for owning your brand and utilizing all of the social media sites in the correct way to promote your writing. Using everything I had gleaned from fellow writers and book reviewers, I jumped into the world of being a published author, and it’s still surreal to me. After four parts of my serial novel Wicked Little Lies were published and got some good reviews, I took a step back. After reading one review in particular, I was able to see everything that didn’t make sense or fit into the story, and with this reviewer’s help I am feverishly working on revisions and turning my serial novel into a full-length novel.

As for marketing myself and my work, this isn’t something that I have got the full hang of yet. I do promote my work, but at the same time I don’t want to overdo it. My publisher hasn’t provided much in the marketing department. So where do I go from here? There is always the option of hiring a publicist, but you’d have to have a ton of money or be signed with a publisher that comes with a publicist. Either way, it’s all a learning experience, and I’ve learned a lot!

Give Your Book A Solid Home

April 16, 2012

By Jennie Coughlin

One of the many advantages of indie publishing is that cross-genre books don’t have to overcome a publishing house’s skepticism about whether they can market a book that doesn’t neatly fit into a box. Amazon and other direct-publishing sites give lots of options for selecting categories, so you can check mystery and romance, or even drill down further to paranormal romance and spy thriller if you have a vampire CIA agent who falls in love on her latest mission.

That’s freeing — we can write what we want, without regard for how it fits a traditional bookshelf space. But this can also be a trap. If your book doesn’t fit enough into at least one category, it’s more difficult to market it to readers and to pitch it to reviewers. And — most importantly — it’s difficult for it to get traction on a best-seller list to enhance the all-important discoverability.

When, at the urging of readers, I published a collection of short stories in the same world as the novels I’m revising, I didn’t think about this. And because of that, I’ve learned some tough lessons about categorization and genre that will help me in the future — and hopefully you as well.

My short-story collection defies genre in an unhelpful way: The stories are linked by people and place, the small New England town where they’re set. They aren’t linked by genre, which is how people think of books. The longest story could be tagged LGBT, but the others aren’t. The Irish mob takes over in one story, but none of the others even come close to that topic. Two of the four could be considered romance, but the other two, not at all. And so the book as a whole is reduced to the lowest common denominator — literary fiction and short stories. And that doesn’t even come close to describing it!

Quality’s not the issue — readers and reviewers alike have loved it. But most reviewers want novels, not short story collections. That limits the pool from the beginning. And the best-seller lists that it’s eligible for require many, many more sales than if I had themed it around the topics in any one of the stories. Lesson learned for next time.

If you’ve got a project in progress, take a few minutes to peruse the categories at Amazon. Where does yours fall? What’s the overall ranking of the book ranked No. 100 in the best-seller list? The lower that number, the easier it is to get on the list.

Check out book-bloggers in that genre. Are there any? Be ruthless when deciding if they review your genre. In my full-time job, I often field review requests from authors and publishers in areas we don’t review. It doesn’t matter how different or special the book is — if it doesn’t fit our guidelines, we don’t review it. And if you can’t easily find three- or four-dozen book bloggers who review your intended genre, it’s a sign to pause and re-think things.

I’ve done that for my first novel after seeing how some IBC promotions I participated in played out. The novel’s the same story, with the same characters. But it had a couple of different ways I could push things toward one genre or another, and I’ve ended up emphasizing the thriller aspects in the revisions because I know of the three possible genres, that’s the one where it has the best chance to get traction and to get discovered.

~~

Jennie Coughlin is a newspaper editor and expatriated New Englander who writes about the fictional Massachusetts town of Exeter and its quirky residents. Her first book, Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter, came out in September. Her first Exeter novel, All That Is Necessary, will be published later this year. She also has short stories posted at Welcome to Exeter and loves to talk to readers on Twitter or Facebook.

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