Public Speaking: 4 Circles of Fear

Speaking at a Christmas time author eventOne of the scariest things for many authors is public speaking and public reading of their work, but it is a necessary skill for the author toolbox. I am no exception to this fear—I hate being out in front of people. Since my book came out almost 2 years ago, however, I have had to deal with this issue, and I have learned quite a bit about myself and being center stage.

For me, there are 4 circles of fear when it comes to public speaking/reading:

  1. Reading
  2. Panels
  3. Speaking
  4. School Visits

Speaking at my book launch in 2015I’m not too bad with the reading. As the mom of a 7-year-old who loves books, I have had many years experience reading aloud, and my daughter assures me that I am “the best reader ever.” When reading my own words, I get excited because I can read them as I meant them to be read, rather than how the reader might interpret them in their own heads. Reading has the added advantage that I am, well, reading, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting what I’m supposed to be saying.

The idea of panels made me very nervous at first. After all, they weren’t scripted, and often you don’t know the questions ahead of time. As an anxiety-ridden individual, the idea of not coming in fully prepared shook me deeply. My very first panel ever was at my high school alma mater, where I sat onstage with 4 other alumnae authors and faced some 500 girls and their teachers. And you know what? I enjoyed it. Being up there with other authors meant I was not the sole focus of attention—I could “relax” while others were talking. And I didn’t have to carry the entire weight of the conversation—I could bounce off what another panelist said, not always be the original thinker. I am a writer who enjoys collaboration, and in many ways a panel is a synergistic collaborative effort.

Public speaking solo is another story. Now we are moving past trepidation into panic attack areas. However, thanks to a mandatory semester of Speech class in high school, I can give a good speech. When I have time to prepare and practice, I can not only get through a speech without a meltdown, but give the audience an enjoyable presentation. An extemporaneous solo speech, on the other hand…

Speaking at a writing workshopFinally, we have school visits, which are awkward for me because they land somewhere between a speech and a performance. While I can give a speech, I am not much of a performer. My skill set is in being invisible, not in keeping people riveted to what I am saying. My single experience in teaching a workshop was rewarding but did not do much to bolster my confidence.  I have not yet done a school visit, and frankly, the thought of doing one terrifies me. My greatest fear is that the kids will get bored. After all, I do not consider myself all that interesting—imposter syndrome rearing its head. When I finally break that last barrier, I will tell you how it goes!

I have found that the more casual the encounter, the more at ease I am. I enjoy chatting with the kids, because the kids that come up to speak to me are already interested and engaged. Perhaps the key is to make even the more formal occasions seem casual.

What I’ve learned so far is that usually my intense fear is unfounded. So go through those circles of fear confident that you will emerge stronger and with a new skill in your author toolbox.






Marketing Desert

River Reads 2016--not a marketing desertAfter the whirlwind of book events last year, I have hit something of a marketing desert this year. I have missed 4 opportunities to do book events—one I dropped the ball, the other three occurred while I was away on vacation.

Another book event that conflicts with the last day of the Philadelphia Writers Conference popped up. It is a new one for me, so I will go and meet new people. I have to buckle down and see what other events might be coming down the pike, so I don’t miss any more deadlines. A few are in the summer, but the rest of them are slated for September on.

This down time is ideal to work on my email list for my newsletter. I have collected many emails, but have yet to do anything with them. Neither I nor my email recipients want a tsunami of emails from me, so it will be light—once a month at most. If you want to join my email list, click here and scroll down until you see the blue Join Mailing List button under the Author Profile.

I also want to look into getting more reviews for the book. So I will explore book reviewers and see if I can make some contacts with them.

Events, newsletter list, pursuing more book reviews, and booking school visits for are going to fill this marketing desert.

What marketing strategies do you use when book events are few and far between?





Evolution of a Speaker: From Wreck to Relaxed

I am not a natural public speaker. As an introvert with an anxiety disorder, being the center of attention is something of a nightmare for me. Yet, I chose the life of an author, and that means public appearances, whether speaking, doing workshops, or hosting book events.

Two weeks ago I spoke to a group of writers in Philadelphia. I am still a new enough author to be a bit bewildered that anyone wants to hear “my journey.” Classic Imposter Syndrome.

However, this group DID want to hear my story. And since I chaperoned a bunch of 6-year-olds at the Please Touch Museum the day before, I didn’t have too much time to over-think things and make myself a nervous wreck (I was much more nervous that I would lose a child at the museum than about the speech). Besides, the topic was my journey as a writer—I’m the expert on that, right?

Author Kerry Gans visitng a Philly Writers Group as a guest speakerSo I gave my speech and it went well. I didn’t turn bright red or faint or forget my name or any of the things I worry about. The audience was attentive and knowledgeable. After my prepared speech, I took questions. And a strange thing happened. I relaxed.

Me, the person who needs to feel in control all the time, relaxed at the very part of the event where I had the least control.

I had mentioned in my speech how nervous I was about public speaking, and afterwards one of the writers said to me, “Don’t worry about being nervous. You did very well, and you were excellent during the question and answer.”

Excellent during the Q&A. Huh. How odd.

I came to realize that at some point in my life, a paradigm shift as a speaker had occurred. Gone were the days where I typed out every word of my speech and memorized it, then scurried offstage as fast as possible after giving it. I now excelled at the very part that used to give me nightmares. An evolution in progress.

I think I have come to enjoy the extemporaneous parts of event work because to me it feels more like one-on-one chatting. Never mind that I am still up in front of a group, I am talking to a single person. That makes a difference in my attitude. And it’s not “a speech.” It’s just talking. My friends and family will tell you that I can talk the ear off corn, so I guess I’m playing to my strength. 🙂

This newfound relaxation with extemporaneous speaking made my next engagement, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, a much easier affair. I didn’t dread the chit-chat and the unscripted nature of Author’s Alley. In fact, I had a wonderful time, partly because I enjoyed interacting with the conferees, and partly because I got to hang out with writer friends Donna Galanti and Janice Gable Bashman. We, along with Dianne Salerni, made a formidable team, urging conferees we talked with to see what the others had on offer.







So what does this evolutionary shift as a speaker mean for me? Don’t get me wrong: I will not be running out to do speeches without any notes anytime soon; I will never be truly comfortable in front of an audience; and I will always be anxiety-ridden prior to a presentation. The biggest gift this evolution as a speaker has given me, however, is a sense of freedom. The truth is, I have been dreading–and avoiding–school visits because of their interactive, unscripted, unpredictable nature.

Now I am not.

Oh, I’m sure I will have my share of embarrassing moments, or questions I can’t answer, or answers that get me in hot water. But I feel much more confident that I can meet the challenges of extemporaneous moments with enthusiasm and maybe even grace.

I’m so confident, in fact, that I’ve pitched a workshop for my daughter’s summer camp. Building a story with kids K-8th during a summer camp? Doesn’t get much more free-for-all than that!

How about you? Do you prefer a controlled speech, or an extemporaneous event? Have you experienced evolution as a speaker?

PSLA - Donna Galanti - Lee Harper - Dianne Salerni - Janice Gable Bashman - Jodi Moore - Kerry Gans authors

Top L to R: Donna Galanti, Lee Harper, Dianne Salerni Bottom L to R: Janice Gable Bashman, Jodi Moore, Kerry Gans


The New To-Do List

First, I want to take a moment to recognize the tragedies in Beirut, Paris, and Nigeria. The loss of life is horrific, and the grief is universal no matter what continent you are on. The terrorists wish to inspire fear and hatred and chaos. I choose not to let my fear turn to hate. I choose to stand with the grieving and raise my voice with those speaking for peace. The terrorists fear our unity and seek to splinter us. United we stand.

20151115_082754I attended my first conference as a published author this weekend. The NJ Association of School Librarians sponsorsan Authors’ and Illustrators’ Alley where you can display your wares and talk with the conferees. I’ll admit I was terribly nervous—my anxiety was running in high gear. But once I got there, it all went smoothly. Chatting with the librarians and teachers was fun, and I learned a great deal about presentation from my friend and table-mate Donna Galanti.


So now that is over and I turn my attention to the other things that need to be done now that THE WITCH OF ZAL is a real, live book. What sort of things are on this to-do list?

Updating my website: I need to get the cover on the front page, and add buy links, and some of the blurbs. I need to update my events page as well.

Book Trailer: I’ve sent the elements of the trailer to Keith Strunk, whose company will be putting it together for me. As a long-time professional editor, I actually did the trailer myself but my editing software is so old it does not support true High Definition, which is necessary.

Reviews: I have no reviews yet, but I do have a list of bloggers that I am ready to reach out to and ask for reviews. I have the emails mostly ready, I just need to add some final details (like the cover) and send them out.

School visit presentation: I need to sit down and concentrate in detail on what I want to say and cover in a school visit. I have a firm idea of the topic now (thanks again to Keith Strunk), but I need to think about the flow and the details I need to cover.

School visits: After that, I need to actually book some school visits. A big issue is payment—so many of the librarians at the conference said they simply have no budget for author visits. So, do I work for free and accept the book sales as payment enough? That’s a question each author needs to answer for themselves.

Interviews: I have at least one interviewer who has sent me questions, so I need to get those done.

Distribution: I have contacted the Doylestown Bookshop about handling pre-orders for my school events, and thankfully they have said they can handle that for me.

Taxes: I seem to have all the paperwork in order, but I am still unclear on how collecting sales tax works in states outside of my home state. So more research is needed.

Copyright: I need to register the copyright of my book within 3 months of publication. Some authors may say not to worry about it, but for $35 it’s worth having the extra protection. (Fees vary depending on how you register.)

Launch party: Now that THE WITCH OF ZAL is out, I need to celebrate! I’ll keep you apprised of developments there.

So, those are some of the things on my new to-do list. Oh, and write. Gotta keep doing that.

Anything I forgot that should be on my list?




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