Mastering the 5-Minute Pitch: 10 Tips for Giving a Great Book Talk / Liz Lazarus

Giving a great speech can be a daunting task for a writer. Our usual method of conveying our thoughts is through the carefully constructed written word. When giving a speech we find that not having an eraser or a delete key can take us a little out of our element. This week’s guest blogger, Liz Lazarus, gives us some tips on how we can move past these barriers and deliver a compelling book talk.

Happy reading!
Clay Stafford
Clay Stafford
Founder Killer Nashville
Publisher / Editorial Director Killer Nashville Magazine

Have you ever wondered how many writers are introverts versus extroverts? Given the solitary nature of the vocation, I imagine that more authors are introverts, which can make giving that all too familiar five-minute speech a bit daunting.

I’m frequently in front of an audience as a consultant, so I have honed my speaking skills over the years. I’ve been asked to give a few talks about Free of Malice and from preparing myself and watching other authors, I thought I’d share my 10 tips of delivering a great speech.

  1. Thank. This first step may seem obvious but in the excitement of thinking about your book and what you plan to share, people often forget to thank the host of the event and the audience for coming. It’s not the end of the world if you forget, but it’s a classy way to start your presentation.
  1. Teaser. If you start by throwing out a teaser, the audience will want to hear more. For Free of Malice, I share that there were three reasons that propelled me to write the book. Thus, it creates curiosity and encourages the audience to listen a little more intently to discover those facts.
  1. Humor. People always appreciate a laugh. My go-to line is that I’m an engineer, so what the heck am I doing writing a book and giving book talks!
  1. WIFM. The old adage, What’s In It For Me, applies for book talks. Let the audience know what they will receive from reading your book, whether something educational, entertaining or even a good cry. Let them know the kind of book you are offering. In addition to my book being suspenseful, I note that Atlantans will appreciate the familiar landmarks and that there is a theme song to my book, an added bonus. Consider adapting these elements based on your audience.
  1. Props. Hold your book up for part of the talk. You want people to associate the cover with you and if you are among several authors, it’s even more important for the audience to make that connection. Also, hold your book during photo ops at the event and with your readers.
  1. Ratings and Reviews. Don’t be bashful about sharing ratings, whether from Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Or share a snippet from a review indicating what others are saying about your work. I’ve found most authors don’t like to brag, so don’t think of it as bragging but as sharing useful information that will help potential readers make their purchase decision. You’d want to know a book’s rating before purchase, right?
  1. Close. It may seem either corny or self-serving but part of closing the deal is asking for the sale. I’ve noticed that most writers don’t have the natural inclination to self-promote, or to ask for the purchase, but the reality is we give book talks to sell books and create fans.
  1. Practice. I must have rehearsed five or six times before my first five-minute talk. First, I wanted to be sure I was within the allotted time, but also each time that I reviewed what I planned to say, I became more comfortable. I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen in my professional career that can successfully “wing a presentation.” Because I’m not one of them, practice does make perfect.
  1. De-stress. My friend and CNN host and speaker, Nadia Bilchik, has some great voice warm-up exercises on this video. I highly recommend! I’ve tried them a few times and they really did relax my vocal chords.
  1. Enjoy. At the end of the day, you are talking about something near and dear to you – your book. Enjoy promoting your book. Share your writing process and how your book came into being. Be yourself, smile, and the audience will go on that journey with you.

In summary, glossophobia or speech anxiety is a fear that many people share, so if you get nervous before a talk, know that you are not alone. Glossophobia comes from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and phobos, fear or dread. I’ve seen many suggested remedies from hypnosis to speech coaches to the ploy of picturing the audience nude. What has worked best for me is good, old fashioned practice and, just before I begin, I think about a past speech that prompted audience members to approach me afterward with compliments and to purchase my novel.

Putting that image of success in my head just before beginning my talk positions me in the right frame of mind.

Liz Lazarus is author of Free of Malice, a psychological legal thriller loosely based on her personal experience. She was born in Valdosta, GA, graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern with an MBA in their executive master’s program. She spent most of her career at General Electric’s Healthcare division and is currently a managing director at a strategic planning consulting firm in addition to being an author. She would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions at, via FB at AuthorLizLazarus, or twitter, @liz_lazarus.

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Thanks to Tom Wood, Arthur Jackson, and publisher/editorial director Clay Stafford for their assistance in putting together this week’s blog.

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And be sure to check out our new book, Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded, an anthology of original short stories by New York Times bestselling authors and newbies alike.

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