Author Talk Disasters: Don’t Let These Happen To You

Previously published on Girlfriends Book Club

Cindy Jones impersonating a celebrity author

Did I remember to tell them what the book is about?

Since publication of my novel I have been honored to speak to book clubs, literary guilds, and library groups. The Writer’s League of Texas Annual Agents and Editors Conference invited me to serve on their faculty where I offered a breakout session and participated on a panel discussion.  Although my talks generally went well, there were some glitches I could have avoided with a little more planning and attention to detail.  I’ve provided the humiliating details below to save you from making the same mistakes.

It’s The Book, Stupid.  I had gone on for 40 minutes, sacrificing my husband and children for a laugh, baring my rejection history for a little sympathy, and explaining how my creative technique evolved from watching Gilligan’s Island as a kid, when someone raised their hand.  Normally, I love questions but this person asked:  What is your book about?

Surprise!!  I was once the surprise entertainment at a surprise birthday party for a woman turning 80 who belongs to four book clubs.  So when the party organizers introduced me (the surprise entertainment) it should have come as no surprise that she wasn’t surprised.  When you hang with four book clubs there is a good chance you’ve heard all the local authors.  (I never give the same talk twice so she didn’t have to spend her birthday sitting through a talk she’d already heard).

Avoid Wardrobe Malfunction.  Probably a good idea to have someone look over your attire before presenting yourself to a roomful of people just in case you are wearing a new black skirt with a slit in the back that is still stitched together with the white thread factories use to sew giant cross hatches so big you won’t miss removing them before going in public and so big everyone can see them from across a wide auditorium, with or without glasses.

Assume Nothing.  An acquaintance invited me to speak to her book club and then mysteriously disappeared for most of the event.  Unfortunately, she was not there to sort things out when, seated around a large table, having just made my introductory remarks, one of the guests took over the discussion.  And she took over with such control, changed the subject to other books, and led without ever letting me and my author talk back in.  I found myself wondering if I was really there.  Could they see me?  Was I the featured speaker–or not?

Don’t Quit Your Day Job.  Book talks and signings are part of the Author Package, the life-after-publication dreams that begin once the contract is signed.  If you publish a book, groups will invite you to speak and speak and speak.  And while speaking is fun, it eats into precious writing time like any other promotional activity including blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc.  Although I enjoy all aspects of the writing job, the thing that makes me actively happy and fulfilled is the act of writing.



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