The more I travel to give talks about my books, the more I’m learning what to bring with me. If I’m still an author in the next life, maybe by that time, I will have finally gotten it right. In the meanwhile, here’s some advice based on what I’ve learned so far. When you’re on the book “talk” circuit, never leave home without…
1. A stack of index cards and several pens. You may be swamped with “fans” before or after your talk. Some may want to give you their names and/or pass along some relevant information. Or you may want to jot down some notes from a variety of individuals. I find that index cards are better than using a notebook. Several people can be filling out cards at the same time. And then the cards can simply be filed when you get home. You won’t have to recopy information. Developing an efficient filing system for keeping track of these notes is important. Keep clerical duties to a minimum, so that you can save plenty of time for writing your next book!
2. Your business cards. This is your chance to make some good contacts for future sales and presentations. Audience members who have enjoyed your talk may be eager to know where they may contact you to arrange for you to address other groups. When this happens to me, it gives my ego a boost. I know I’ve done a good job.
3. Lots of copies of your books to sell, if this is permitted at your event. You may want to bring in just a few copies in a small bag. Then leave a box of books in your car—just in case business is booming. And if you know of a nearby bookstore that always carries your books, you may want to mention that information.
4. A short bio, in large print, to be used (in an emergency) by the person introducing you. Of course, we all send in this information beforehand, but sometimes it gets lost. Having the information ready to whip out at a moment’s notice ensures that you get a proper introduction. It may also win you the undying gratitude of a flustered and disorganized emcee.
5. A bottle of water. I know, I know—that should be provided. But sometimes the organizers forget, and why take a chance?
6. One or more handouts with your name and the names of your books. Try to make the handout appropriate for the event. I recently participated in a forum on Irish-American literature at a local library. As handouts, I brought two short “Irish” articles that I had recently published in newspapers. One, “With a Song in His Heart,” was a tribute to the late Frank Patterson, Ireland’s Golden Tenor. The other, “My Mother and Grandmother: The Dream Team,” described how I based one of my characters, Katie Maguire (a former chambermaid turned private detective), on that of my Irish grandmother and Irish-American mother. The author description in each article detailed the fact that I teach at Rutgers University and am the author of the two mystery books. These handouts accomplished three goals: (1) providing items of special interest to the audience; (2) giving me and my books some publicity; (3) listing a place where I might be contacted (i.e., Rutgers University), should audience members find themselves needing that information at a later date when they have misplaced my business card.
7. Your calendar. Think positive! You may have to check availability for a future speaking engagement.
8. Last and not the least important—your determination to enjoy yourself, no matter what the size of the audience. Fewer people may show up than you were hoping for, but who knows? You may make that one contact that will jumpstart your writing and selling career!
Gail Farrelly is an Associate Professor of accounting at Rutgers University and the author of two paperback mystery books, “Beaned in Boston” (named to the 1997 Washington Irving Book Selection List) and “Duped by Derivatives.”