|First School Visit - 2000|
“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two? Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~Jerry Seinfeld
Unless you're name is J.K. Rawlings, or Stephen King, and you get a huge advance and sell millions of books, there isn't much money in having a book published. That's so important that I'm going to say it again. There isn't much money in having a book published. Your royalties are merely a pittance.
Add to that the fact that you only get a royalty check two to three times a year, and you can quickly see why most writers and authors don't give up their day jobs.
I've met a lot of authors through various writers' groups and communities, writing conferences, book signings, readings, and other writing venues. Every author that I've met agrees: the real money lies in the speaking engagements. That's what you, as an author/writer, should be doing if you want to make any money with your writing.
That is, unless you're content to merely pass out your books to friends and relatives, or are equally content just see your name printed on a book. Don't laugh, you would be surprised at the number of authors I've met who feel exactly that way. That's enough for them. Period. They want nothing to do with publicity, or speaking to any size group of people.
"But, but, but", you say. "I want to make money. I just can't get up in front of people and talk. I'm too shy!"
First off, let me assure you, there is no one reading this article who is, or was, any more terrified of public speaking than I was.
When I was a child, I was so shy that I would cross a street because I saw someone I knew in the distance walking towards me. I was so afraid I might have to say 'hello' that I bolted. As the years passed, that fear did get a little better, but I digress ...
When my first book of children's poetry was published in 2000, I was living in New Hampshire. The press releases went out to newspapers all around the country and, of course, it was also in our own local papers.
As a result, for my first paid public appearance, I had been invited to speak to a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) group in an auditorium on the evening before my very first school visit at a large local elementary school.
I was excited to have been invited. I was even more excited that I was going to be paid for it. But, neither of those things mattered, once I peeked through the curtains from backstage and saw the packed auditorium. I had a total meltdown. I was more terrified than I had ever been in my life.
Then someone said something that turned everything around. This is what I want to share with you. I think it will help to put things in a different perspective for you, just as it did for me.
After peeking through the curtain from backstage, I ran to the ladies room and threw up. After my second trip to the ladies room for the same reason, my husband (at the time) asked me how I was doing.
I told him there was no way I was ever going to be able to speak to that huge group of people. I said I was going to back out, give the people in charge my apologies, and then go home where I belonged.
I told him, for one thing, there was so much combined education sitting out there in that auditorium that even Einstein would feel outclassed. Who the heck was I? What possessed me to think I had anything worthwhile to say to a group of educators, let alone the parents, whose children I would be speaking to the next day?
My husband gripped my shoulders firmly. He lifted my face up to his by my chin, looked me squarely in the eye, and told me I could do this. He said anyone can speak to a group of people, no matter how large the friggin' group is, if they are the expert on the subject they're going to talk about.
He said, "Cath', you wrote the damned book! You are the expert on your book! And I'll tell you something else. You're worried about all of the combined education 'out there'. Well let's get something else straight. You've done something that none of them have done. You wrote a book, found a publisher, and you're a children's book author.
You're looking at it ass-backwards! You envy their combined education and college degrees. Well, Lady, they envy your writing talent, your determination, and what you've accomplished. Now, BUCK UP! Get out there, put a smile on your face, and be the expert you are and talk about your book!"
It was amazing, suddenly seeing it from a new perspective. I honestly did an about-face in how I saw things from that minute on.
I took a deep breath and walked out onto the stage as I was being introduced. I could feel the adrenalin start to pump. I put a smile on my face and, as I looked out into that sea of faces, I saw that they were smiling, too.
I had never had so much fun as I did the night I spoke to that PTA group. Now I love public speaking and, somewhere along the way in the years I've been doing it, I've found that I'm even somewhat of a ham, especially with the groups of children during my school visits and poetry workshops.
There's only one downside to it. The adrenalin rush is incredibly addicting and it isn't long before you start to crave your next speaking engagement.
If this article has helped even one other person get over their fear of public speaking, then it was worth it. I want all of you to feel the same rush that comes from talking about your book or your writing.
Don't forget, YOU ARE the expert.
Oh, and smile! It's a tremendous ice-breaker with a crowd.
I wish you success!
“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck