“Will you buy my book?” Avoiding the Sales Pitch Effect.

Elaine Ingersoll Library2Sometimes my inner self just cringes at things I have to do. I try to think of all manner of excuses but in the end I must follow through for one reason or another.

It’s a little like those days in school when my grade five teacher whom I adored would get me to erase the blackboards and, head down, I’d tiptoe to the front of the roomful of 45 or 50 kids (yes, I’m old enough to have attended a one-room school until grade eight!) hoping no one would notice, especially those mean boys in grade seven.

That flushing of cheeks and fluttering of my stomach as I performed in front of the whole school were worse when the whispering comments followed me back to my desk. Why couldn’t she ask someone else?

Thankfully that feeling is pretty much relegated to my very distant past. I learned to look beyond the pain to the reward. My report card was filled with almost all E’s for excellence with the odd G for good. (See, I told you it was a long time ago.) And as I learned to sing solos and recite poems, read stories and act in Christmas concerts, I found out I actually liked the spotlight even though to this day my knees still shake sometimes when I’m speaking about my books to an eager book-reading crowd.

Most authors love the writing, the sitting in front of computer and creating, the delving deep into the brain and coming up with fresh and scintillating ideas but we balk at stepping out to sell. Perhaps we’re still struggling with that knees-knocking child of long ago. Or maybe we are just plain afraid to put our innermost thoughts out there for the world to criticize.

But we have to!

We must put aside all fearful thoughts or comparisons of ourselves with pushy sales people and just find ways to talk about our writing in a true and meaningful way. Here is a list of things I’ve grown comfortable with:

  1. Make a list of things you want to include in your talk. I used to use a PowerPoint presentation almost everywhere I spoke. My secret was that it reminded me what I wanted to say. I did NOT put every word of my talk up there. Just points and pictures. That helped me keep on track but still talk naturally. Besides people love to see related pictures and they could easily follow where I was going. Now I have a small paper with maybe 5 or 6 points written.

  2. On that list include a few main points you want to make or important housekeeping chores you simply must do. I include these: thank those who asked me to speak or introduced me, my background, my writing journey, my link to the theme of my books (I am descended from Loyalists and my trilogy is the Loyalist trilogy), a plug for buying my books, reading from books, Q and A. Depending on the group these can be longer or shorter.

  3. Relate to your audience. If something funny happens, especially if it’s you who is the scapegoat, roll with it. Poke fun at yourself or your audience. On my first speaking engagement to a roomful of about fifty businessmen I had barely stepped up to the podium and started when one of the men walked to the front of the room and did something that to him was especially urgent and he completely took the audience attention with him. Since I had just been introduced as a former teacher, I made a joke of it and said, “there’s one in every class.” Well that group of older men roared and I had them with me for the rest of my presentation.

  4. Bring water. You’d be amazed at how many places do not provide it and when you ask have no way to get you some. I always have a bottle in case my throat suddenly goes dry. Coughing incessantly is not a good way to win friends and influence people to buy your books.

  5. When you read take your time. Revel in the words, the pauses, especially the pauses!, and make the story come alive. This is not the place to win speed medals. I have heard authors read who ignored the punctuation (which is put there to help the reader make sense of the story) and, believe me, an audience soon tires of trying to sort out the meaning of words poorly read. Practice ahead of time. Record yourself and listen to the playback. This is an important performance and will sell you a lot of books.

  6. I make my book plug funny but I don’t apologize. Here is basically what I say. You have to shape it to your own personality. “Now this is the advertisement part, folks. Authors spend a lot of years writing and actually need to sell their books. Feel free to help me out and buy a book or two. They make great gifts, especially to those who love history or historical fiction.” I do this early on in my talk. At the end I invite people to come talk to me at my book table. Of course there is a reward if they do!

  7. Have a couple of free handouts on your table and mention them. I often gift my latest issue of the Historical Novel Society’s magazine. You can make a game of it or invite those interested to come to your table afterward. Business cards, bookmarks, a copy of your speaking schedule, a sell sheet about your books, anything you give away will win you positive vibes and might bring you book sales, future speaking engagements or any number of possibilities.

  8. Don’t speak too long but make sure you answer all the questions people have. I find about 40-45 minutes works well and then people can come up to speak to me as they buy books.

  9. Accept cheques. Often people don’t have cash and I’ve never had anyone give me a bad cheque. That’s just not my audience.

  10. Try using that new gadget Square. I’ve got one to accept credit cards but haven’t used it yet. With your Internet-capable smart phone you can help out your customers even more. It does cost you a little for each transaction, but wouldn’t you rather sell the books than not? Today I must test Square myself!

  11. Stay to talk as long as people like. These people are your tribe, folks. Most of them are thrilled to meet an author and will help you along the way. Revel in their excitement.

  12. If they don’t buy your book, don’t worry. They may yet do so. Or they may talk about your great presentation, your funny anecdotes or be instrumental in getting you another speaking gig. You can always ask them to write reviews online for you. I did that at a library second visit not long ago. I only sold one book but I asked the whole group to write a good review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Some of them did and those are like gold.

  13. Hand out slips of paper for people to fill out to be on  your email list. I send a newsletter about every three months with things that no one else gets, a special perk for my readers. Gradually you will build a following of committed readers of your work. (Can you believe I almost forgot to put this on here???)

As I was creating this blog post another speaking engagement came up for me. You can be sure I’ll be using these tips and, above all, having fun with the participants. I get to talk about my writing!


As always, if you can, write a review for one of my books, The Loyalist’s Wife or The Loyalist’s Luck, on Amazon or Goodreads. I’ll be so appreciative!

12 thoughts on ““Will you buy my book?” Avoiding the Sales Pitch Effect.

  1. Great advice, Elaine. Like you, in an earlier life I was a teacher and have done a lot of public speaking. I also wrote scores of speeches and coached corporate executives on delivering them. Every one of your pointers are right on! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks so much for your comments, James. We teachers did learn a lot of presentation and person-to-person skills along the way, especially if we taught older grades as I did. Those seventeen and eighteen year olds were a joy but they taught me as much as I taught them, I think.
    Good luck with your writing, James!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very kind of you and helpful, Elaine!
    “…Perhaps we’re still struggling with that knees-knocking child of long ago. Or maybe we are just plain afraid to put our innermost thoughts out there for the world to criticize.” I do identify with the world.
    Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good point, Poli. Criticism can be a tough deterrent, but I try to ignore those people who only live to criticize. My mother used to say “If you can’t think of anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” I kind of like that even though there is definitely a place for constructive criticism, don’t you think? Thanks for your comments, Poli!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That´s it! My father always says so: “keep silent if you don´t have sth good to say”. I do think constructive criticism is what we need, definitely. Thanks for your answer, Elaine. And my best wishes for this new year 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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