Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Finding Ways to Promote Your Work as an Author or Expert By Doreen Pendgracs

I learned from my previous book, Before You Say Yes … A Guide to the Pleasures and Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards, that finding speaking engagements to promote myself as an expert on volunteering for non-profit associations would net me more of an income than the royalties I was earning from book sales.

As I’m an extrovert and love interacting with people, I find the speaking engagements to be more fun than the solitary task of writing.

With my current book, Chocolatour, A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, it’s even easier to line up events where I can talk about chocolate and sell my books at the same time. Everyone loves chocolate, and so, in the short time since I published my book, I’ve been able to create a nice variety of events that will augment my earnings from book sales.

Thanks to a suggestion from Manitoba member, Irene Gordon, I made contact with the person in charge of the Community Classroom program at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg and have a Nov 2nd event at which I will first have a traditional book signing in the store, followed by a chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom at which I will give a talk about chocolate. The event sold out so quickly that Mc Nally’s has scheduled a second similar event for April 12th.

The events at McNally’s are great in raising my public profile and connecting with readers, but they are small small, at a capacity of 24 paying attendees. They have, however, opened up the door to larger, more lucrative events. I'm now booked to give a chocolate talk at a 100-person chocolate dinner at Rembrandt's Bistro in Lockport, Manitoba on Feb 6th. There will be a chocolate art show by WAVE artists, in combination with an exotic chocolate dinner prepared by the Rembrandt's chef with a brief chocolate talk by yours truly in between courses.

For both the McNally and Rembrandt’s events, I am being paid $10 per attendee. I’d have to sell a lot of books to match the $1000 speaker’s fee I’ll receive from Rembrandt’s! So the key is to write about something for which you can establish yourself as an expert. Carve yourself a unique niche so that people search you out when they think of that given topic.

I’m also leading a group Chocolatour to Switzerland from March 20-April 8th with the Worldly Women Travel Club, sponsored by Journeys Travel of Winnipeg. I will receive a free trip in exchange for helping them devise a taste-tempting itinerary and encouraging a group of women to enjoy chocolate. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it! 

I have also taken my speaking abilities on the high seas and obtained a free cruise (and very inexpensive passage for my husband) in exchange for giving a series of talks on a cruise ship. My topic at that time was feng shui – not because I am an expert on the subject, but because I had written numerous articles about it and possessed a high level of enthusiasm. 

While reading this, did you think to yourself … I can do that! You bet you can! Just come up with a topic that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. And if your speaking abilities could use fine-tuning, join Toastmasters International. I’ve been a Toastmaster for a dozen years and absolutely love it. And it has helped take my speaking abilities to the next level.

Good luck in developing your own marketing plan. I hope it helps you sell books, earn some incredible speaking fees, and have a lot of fun while you’re doing it.

Please visit my writer’s blog at and connect with me on any social media platforms you’re on. Social media has definitely helped me make global connections that have gotten Chocolatour into chocolate and book shops around the world. But that’s for another post! 

Thanks to Marie Powell for asking me to share this post with you. I've been a member of PWAC since 1997 and definitely credit past and present members of PWAC for inspiring and educating me on how to advance my career as a freelance writer and author. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Setting up a booth at events: Is it worth your time and money?

On Sept. 21 and 22, writers, readers, booksellers, and professional organizations gathered in five cities across the country for Word on the Street events.

Described as a national celebration of literacy and the written word, the event features readings, signings, children’s activities, and a marketplace.

In Saskatoon, the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada Saskatchewan Chapter shared a booth in the marketplace with the Saskatchewan branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada. Our tables were set up by 9:30 a.m., and volunteers from each organization manned them all day until 5 p.m.

PWAC-SK member Darrell Noakes at The Word on the Street in Saskatoon.
photo: Ashleigh Mattern.

Was it worth the effort?

PWAC Sask didn’t gain any immediate new members from participating in the event, but then again, we didn’t expect to. This is an event mostly for readers, and while some readers are also writers, most people weren’t heading to the event looking for professional support.

But by the end of the day, we had spoken to dozens of people who hadn’t heard of PWAC before. Our name was in the promotional material, and who knows how many people took note as they walked past, without talking to us. As a way to advertise the PWAC brand, it was a pretty affordable venture.

Also, sharing the booth with the EAC gave members of both groups a chance to chat with one another. We even hatched plans to do more collaborative work together since our organizations have such similar aims. 

Organizing the event did not take too much effort. A form mailed, a cheque sent, a few emails, promotional materials ordered, and we were good to go. And now we have leftover promotional materials that could be used at our next event.

To booth or not to booth?

When the discussion comes up about whether we should do it again, I’ll vote that we do. Word on the Street is a fun event, so I certainly didn’t mind spending the day there.

Next year, I’ll also recommend name tags for the booth sitters, and more prominent signage to boost the advertising factor, both of which the EAC had at their table.

But not every event is created equal; fellow PWAC member Doreen Pendgracs posted a story about her experience at a trade show, but she did not see much value in setting up a table there. Her view is worth a read!