Speaking Engagements and Book Sales – A Logical Pairing
I’ve written about this before, but a recent activity made me think it’s worth repeating. As a writer, you want your books to be read—preferably by people who’ve purchased a copy. In addition to the usual advertising and promotion on social media and other online venues, if you engage in any form of public appearances or speaking, you have another possible platform for sales.
I was invited recently to travel to Reading, PA to speak to the World Affairs Council of Greater Reading on the need for stronger American diplomacy. I just happen to have written two books on American diplomacy, In the Line of Fire: American Diplomats in the Trenches and Ethical Dilemmas and the Practice of Diplomacy, so I decided to take a few copies of each with me, on the off chance some of the attendees might be interested. I was modest—as it turned out, far too modest—so I only took ten copies of each book. At the end of my presentation, when the announcement was made that I had books for sale, since lunch was over and we’d ended the question and answer session, I expected everyone to bolt for the door. Instead, I looked up and saw half of the one hundred or so people lined up waiting to purchase a copy.
The twenty books, each autographed by yours truly, were gone in ten minutes, and I spent another ten minutes giving out my name cards with a link to my Amazon Author page, for some thirty disappointed people.
Twenty books sold in ten minutes is probably not a record, but I’m not a best-selling author, and except for one person in the audience who had heard me speak a year ago in Chautauqua, NY, was completely unknown to the people attending that luncheon speech. But, they wanted my book. They wanted my autograph. And, a day after I got back home in Washington, DC, I even got an email from one attendee who had some additional questions and wanted my opinion of which of my fiction books he should consider buying.
So, here’s my advice; if you’re going somewhere to speak to a group, throw ten or fifteen copies of your books in a box and put them in the trunk of your car. You just might be surprised at what happens.
Recently I was at a social and noticed something that brought my attention to how people are so interested in talking about themselves - they don't listen or respond when someone makes a comment or shares a story. Even when they responded it was to bring the subject to their own story that was similar to the one telling the story. Of course, it is okay to share their own story, however, wouldn't you think they'd give the speaker acknowledgment of their story first? I would.
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Amber Says Goodbye
By Marjorie Hembroff
Twelve-year-old, Amber Fieldale stood beside Mrs. Hobbs, Gran’s housekeeper and companion, in the family pew. Amber was an orphan and had lived with Gran since her parents’ had been killed in a car crash. Gran had been Amber’s legal guardian since she was six years old.
Ambers legs felt like jelly and she sat down with a thud. A shudder went through her, as her attention went from the black clad people to the oak coffin covered with white daisies and roses.
Mrs. Hobbs gave Amber’s hand an encouraging squeeze and smiled.
Amber turned her head to look out the window and into the surrounding hills. Her thoughts drifted to the night before. She had been standing beside Aunt Anne, Gran’s daughter, in the funeral parlor, as everyone had gathered to say their goodbyes in private. The coffin was open with Gran propped up against a white satin pillow surrounded by green satin. Gran looked at peace and like she would pop up any second to say something. Amber had shivered and bolted outside when Aunt Anne had asked her to kiss Gran one last time. The stars had twinkled in the dark sky but one star had been brighter that the others. Was Gran looking down and watching over her? Goosebumps formed on Amber’s arms as she folded them over her chest and wished she had grabbed her coat.
The click of Aunt Anne’s heels on the wooden floor, as she walked down the aisle, brought Amber’s mind back to the present for a minute. Amber and Gran hadn’t seen Aunt Anne that often due to her busy schedule. Every few months there had been a whirlwind visit that had exhausted Gran. In-between visits there had been phone calls and an occasional letter.
Aunt Anne was dabbing her eyes with a rumpled handkerchief. Her back was stiff and erect when she passed Amber. Aunt Anne was dressed in a dark grey pin stripped suit with a black hat and a black veil concealing her dark brown eyes.
Amber’s gaze wandered to where Uncle Mathew, her mother’s younger brother, and his family sat. She had always looked forward to his visits. He was a kind, gentle man and told stories about the scrapes her mother and he had got into when they were kids. Uncle Mathew lived a quarter mile away and Amber played with her cousins frequently.
Amber’s thoughts drifted once more to the night before when she had tossed and turned all night. She had drifted from one dream to another. She smiled when she remembered the dream where she’d danced in the meadow with Gran.
Gran had been ill for several weeks and had been rushed to the hospital. On Amber’s last visit Gran had squeezed her hand before she drifted off to sleep. That night Gran had passed away and the following days were a blur.
Amber felt bewildered and gazed around the room as the minister’s voice droned on and on. Her thoughts drifted to happier days with Mrs. Hobbes and Gran. The little white cottage, in the village of Willow, felt empty now even though friends, relatives and neighbours stopped in every day to give their condolences.
Amber glanced across the aisle when she heard the tap, tap of Great Aunt Jo’s cane on the wooden floor. She was Gran’s younger sister and lived in the city. Ambe gripped the seat of her pew so tightly that her knuckles were white. Great Aunt Jo wore an old fashioned black dress and her black veil covered her face giving her a mysterious look. She hadn’t visited for a long time but wrote twice a year. Great Aunt Jo dabbed her eyes with a crumpled, lace edged hankie. She had criticised Amber for not crying and had said it wasn’t natural.
Amber had sobbed silently into her pillow last night. It had just been Mrs. Hobbs, Gran and her most of the time. When Great Aunt Jo had visited she had left in a huff and Amber felt relieved when she left because peace had been restored.
Amber’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the organ and shuffling feet as everyone stood up for the final hymn, How Great Thou Art, one of Gran’s favorites.
Amber stiffened as her uncles and cousins shouldered the coffin and marched down the aisle towards the door. In a few minutes she followed her family down the aisle behind the coffin. Outside the coffin was placed in the black hearse and everyone drifted to waiting vehicles.
Black threatening clouds formed overhead as Amber watched the coffin being lowered in the ground. She clinched her hands until her fingernails dug into her palms. She hung her head and shivered watching in disbelief. What now? Her life had been turned upside down in a few short days. Amber followed the others as they dumped clumps of earth and roses on the coffin. Tears filled her eyes as she stumbled along. Oh Gran, don’t leave me. Everyone had turned to leave as rain splattered on the ground leaving circles in the dust. Amber stumbled and almost fell forward as tears blurred her vision but someone grabbed her arm preventing her from falling.
Great Aunt Jo gripped her cane with her gnarled hands and gave Amber a stern look from under her veil. “Don’t make a public spectacle of yourself.”
Tears poured down Amber’s checks as she looked up at Great Aunt Jo. She should talk. Great Aunt Jo had been sniffling and dabbing her eyes all the way through the service. Now she was smiling and talking to everyone as if nothing had happened. How could she?
Then a gentle hand touched Amber’s shoulder and she looked up to see Uncle Mathew standing beside her with a gentle twinkle in his blue eyes. “Let’s go to the house. Tomorrow is a fresh day.” He put his arm around Amber’s shoulders as they walked towards the car.
Ghost in the Attic
Bess sat on the wooden bench, in front of the metal tool shed, while Mr. Mars cleaned the lawnmower. “Do you think there are ghosts?”
Mr. Mars wiped his greasy hands on a rag. “Haven’t seen any.”
Bess laid her book to one side. “I heard noises in the attic. Megan and I are afraid to go up there.”
Mr. Mars chuckled. “Shall we look?”
They went in the back door, of the red brick apartment building, and up the back stairs. Bess followed Mr. Mars up the creaky uncarpeted stairs until they reached the attic door. There was a loud creak when he pushed the wooden door open and strolled into the dimly lit cluttered room.
“This room gives me the creeps,” Bess wrapped her arms around her chest as she peered into the shadowy corners “I’ve got goose bumps.”
The air was filled with the sound of shuffling feet and the constant rattling of the shutters when Mr. Mars crossed the room to pull the cord on the overhead light. The bare bulb bathed the room in a golden light but didn’t reach the corners. “It’s time everything was cleaned out. Most of it is junk anyway. Will have to fix the windows and shutters. Could be the source of your noises.”
“Want help. It’s boring Megan is grounded and can’t even have company, “ Bess said as she looked around. “We always hear creaking and little footsteps.”
“Hmm.” Mr. Mars stroked his goatee. “Two will get the job done faster. Possibly find the source of your ghost.”
“Our apartment is one floor below and often hear noises at night,” Bess said, as she pulled out a box of old newspapers.
“Time for a bonfire,” Mr. Mars looked through another box of old magazines and books.
Bess rummaged through the books. “Can I keep them? Don’t throw them out. Here is an old copy of Grimes Fairy Tales.”
“Of course, you can have them,” Mr. Mars said, as he opened another box. “Why it’s full of old toys. Wonder who stashed these? There is a teddy bear on top.”
“They could be donated to someone. I’ll add the teddy bear to my collection” Bess said. “Hey look at these albums.”
“Often wondered where those disappeared to,” Mr. Mars said. “The wife almost turned the apartment upside down searching for them.”
Bess knelt in front of the box of toys and pulled out two dusty teddy bears “Just need cleaning and cuddling.”
“Shall we continue?” Mr. Mars said. “No sign of your ghost though. Possibly tree branches scraping the windows. Was it windy when you heard the noise?”
“No, not always.” Bess set the books, teddies and albums to one side.
“A slight breeze makes those old shutters bang,” Mr. Mars pointed towards the ceiling. “Look there.”
“Look at what?” Bess asked as she looked upward.
“Follow me. I think that’s the source of your ghost,” Mr. Mars strode across the rough plank floor towards the window.
Bess looked up at the ceiling as a beam of sunlight peaked through. “What has that got to do with the noises?”
“See that nest in the exposed beams,” Mr. Mars said, pointing. “The window is broken and the wind makes the shutters bang and creak. Critters can get in.”
“Why yes,” Bess answered. “Is it a bird’s nest?”
“Don’t think so,” Mr. Mars said. “I will set up the step ladder and we’ll have a look.”
“Can I look first,” Bess asked when the ladder was ready.
“You bet,” Mr. Mars said, as he steadied the ladder.
“How cute,” Bess said as she looked at the baby squirrels nestled together. “They wouldn’t make that much noise would they?”
“They run around at night and sleep during the day. Will get someone to fix the roof and window,” Mr. Mars said, as Bess climbed down.
“What will happen to the squirrels?” Bess asked as she sorted through a box of magazine clippings. “There are a lot of old recipes and pictures in this box. What do you want to do with them?”
“Will have to ask the wife,” Mr. Mars said. “Most will go into a bonfire. It’s a fire hazard up here. The squirrels will be relocated.”
They worked silently each lost in their own thoughts and soon had piles for donation, bonfire and keeping.
“Help push those old dressers against the wall. Someone might be able to use this old furniture. The wife donates items to needy folk,” Mr. Mars said, as he leaned an old oak mirror against the wall.
“Can I have the mirror and corner bookcase?” My shelves are overflowing,” Bess asked.
“Of course. You’ll need a place for those old books.” Mr. Mars said. “You have been a big help. Been putting this job off for months now. Glad it’s done.”
“Won’t Megan be surprised when she learns the source of our ghost,” Bess said, as she headed down the narrow stairs.