Using Public Speaking to Market Your Book

A Guest Post by Denniger Bolton.

This essay will appear in my forthcoming book Publishing and Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author.


Your willingness to do “whatever it takes” to reach your goals is the key ingredient to success in any endeavor. However, most writers I know, not all but most, are solitary souls spending their days in front of the laptop working on their craft. They have a narrow comfort zone, and are not willing to move beyond it, especially if they don’t have to. Public speaking however, will yank all but a few out of their zones.

Are you willing to push beyond your zone, to do whatever it takes to give a speech to an audience of dozens, maybe hundreds? Getting up in front of people is the greatest fear there is, coming in ahead of dying even. Scary but profitable.

Contemplate this; if you could overcome this almost innate fear, and you could make lots of money having as much fun possible with your clothes on, wouldn’t you at least consider it?

In my book/seminar, “How to Write, Publish & Make a Living from Your Book – In 7 Easy Steps,” (due out in Summer 2011), I go into detail about marketing, and stress the importance, especially for self-publishers, of direct marketing.

Wholesaling books for the most part means selling through bookstores, where everyone wants a cut. Distributors, wholesalers, the bookstore itself, all want a piece of the pie. The author is lucky to get a 10% slice. For the shy writer, allowing others to do the selling, he or she has taken the path of least resistance, a path which does not allow for optimum profits. There is an alternate route to making a much greater return on your investment, and that is to sell directly to the end user, which in the case of your book, is to your reader.
There are three methods, a three-legged stool that authors can utilize to sell directly to the reader.

  • Leg # 1 – One-on-One, or face to face selling, involving setting up a booth or table at a market, tradeshow, festival (including book festivals), or any place where you meet face to face with the person buying your book. I’ve set up on sidewalks and sold my books at coffee shops.
  • Leg #2 – Sales made from your website. Unlike Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s websites, who take a 55% cut, when you sell from your own site, you eliminate all middlemen, collecting all the profits.
  • Leg #3 – The sales made through public speaking engagements.

Let’s take a look at one leg of direct selling, public speaking, and how it might help you to sell more books for the highest possible return on investment. For more in depth coverage on all three methods, including selling your books through speaking engagements, as well as one-on-one sales and sales from your website, please check out the “projects” page of my website where I will keep updated information on the release of the book mentioned earlier.

You are needed. Organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis, book clubs and any organization that offers weekly or monthly programs, hire speakers to fill those time frames. There are writers I know who use the free speech/back of the room sales method and do really well, selling dozens and even hundreds of books at their talks. A big advantage over book signings at a bookstore is the profit are yours to keep, and many times there’s a free meal, albeit of the rubber chicken variety.

Public speakers give their talks, or presentations, for free with the understanding that they will be allowed to offer their books for sale at the back of the room.

What do you need? Well, you’ve written a book, yes? You’re an expert. You’re an artist. You’ve written what you know. In your speech, you merely shifting delivery forms and instead of the written word, you tell out loud what you know.

First step, you need to write a speech. Plenty of books tell you how to do just that. Plenty books on presentation skills as well. Fortunately, the more talks you give, the better you’ll get at it. Toastmasters is a great place to learn to comfortably give a speech. Go to to find a club near you.
Attend some meetings of the Rotary or other associations as a guest, and listen to the presenters.
Develop a one-sheet, which like the name implies, is a single sheet of paper that you give to the meeting planner or the program director so they know a little bit about you and what your speech will be about.
So, what do you speak about? If you’ve written a non-fiction book, there is always the subject of your book. For fiction, you can talk about the writing process or how you came to write this book. I write mysteries, so I could talk about mysteries. I actually have a talk that I give to book clubs called, “Flatfeet, Snoops & Private Eyes.” I do readings and give background on the top 10 Greatest Mysteries of All time.

Since I have this upcoming book on publishing, I have a speech called, “The Paradigm Shift in Publishing,” which gives facts about the state of our changing industry, the rise of print on demand, e-books, Kindle, self-publishing vs. traditional vs. vanity presses vs. publishing co-ops.

There is the writing process, marketing, or anything related to your book. Book readings are fine as well, but make entertaining.

Booking talks. Any organization that offers programs has a need for speakers. Some fill 15 minute slots, while others offer an hour. Good to know how much time they require of you before you start talking. Your talk fills a need. You are doing them a favor. Most of the time public speakers don’t get paid, but some do. Some organizations offer an honorarium of $50 to a few hundred dollars. It’s just a bonus if you do get paid as far as I’m concerned.

Back of the Room – BOR. Be sure to mention during your talk that you’ll be “signing” books at the table after the program, and you can handle cash, checks, credit and debit cards. “After this talk I’ll be at the back, (just make sure the audience has to pass by your table on the way out), so stop by if you want to talk or have me autograph your book.”

If you haven’t gotten your book out yet, you can take orders. Collect the money if you are within a month of the shipping date, and have a way to contact the buyer to keep them updated.

Prizes of books are good. Everybody wants to win something. You can do a drawing and collect business cards with email addresses to build up your database.

Writing your speech. We’ve all heard boring speeches, so come up with one that is not, boring that is. Humor is good. A few jokes are good. I like topical humor, which comes out of the meeting of which your speech is a part. Listen to the announcements, the trials and tribulations the group is going through. Be open to insert your humorous comment. Toastmasters is a great and fun place to learn this talent. Like writing, the more talks you give, the better you will get at it. I guarantee that even if you are uncomfortable to start, you will find that after a while you really dig speaking, and will want to do more of it.

Delivering your speech. I’m of the opinion that the best speech is the most natural. Relax. Be yourself. Emphasize some words so you don’t sound stale, monotone and thus boring. Make eye contact. Find some folks here and there around the room and talk to them, but don’t stay with one person too long. And don’t defocus. And don’t forget to breathe.

Going pro. Speaking and writing books go hand in hand. Your book becomes a calling card to booking paid speeches, and your speech a venue to selling books.

As a professional, you can make a few hundred to several thousand dollars delivering a speech. Check out a Tony Robbins seminar to get an idea of how much money there is in this business. One rule of thumb is that the more customized the speech is to the group, the more money you can expect to make. Like anything else, you will make more as time goes by.

When can you expect to make money from your free speeches? Simple. When someone says, “How much do you charge?”

Seminars & workshops. You can use your free speech to not only sell your books but to sell or collect leads for your seminar/workshop. And when you put on your seminar, you can sell your books BOR. How synchronistic is that.

Consider adding speeches to your marketing mix. It’s profitable and it’s fun.

Denniger Bolton
Email Denny


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