Last Saturday (Oct. 19) was one of many events with my newest book that I have scheduled this fall and it turned out really well. A writer never knows just what the ultimate value of a particular gig might be. I’ve had everything from really awesome with loads of book sales to actually no one showing up, and everything in between. Still I keep going because the payoff can be fabulous at all of these events and I love meeting new people.

Here is a list of things that can be gleaned from events of every size and shape:

  1. In the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, treat the occasional small crowd as a chance to get big payoffs. At a bookstore in Guelph where a kind follower arranged for me to have my books and do a speaking gig, only three people came: my niece, her daughter and one new person. I sold 3 books. Turns out, though, that the new person invited me to speak to her writing group of 5. I sold more books there but I also got to spread the word about my then new book, The Loyalist’s Wife. This was early in my published author career and I was happy with that outcome.

  2. I always think that my ‘on stage’ part starts the minute I walk in to the venue. Everyone there may not be a reader but they all will remember that this author was a fun person and treated them with respect. Sometimes the people you meet outside the venue room are the ones who help you the most. At a seniors’ home near Toronto I made a lovely connection with one of the higher ups who ran the place. I sold a few books but had to deal with the man in the second row who snored through my whole Powerpoint presentation. This past year, though, my 4th book was out and I was looking for speaking gigs. I reached out to my contact and she immediately set a date with me. As the residents came into the room I chatted with each of them. They were awesome and anxious to talk. The organizer came in and told me that they had arranged for the Book Club to have their meeting immediately before my presentation so they could hear me, too. It worked out well and my audience was made up of people who love to read. I had forgotten to send an invoice but my contact made sure I was paid.

  3. People will tell you their stories and thus connect to the whole group. I was invited to do an event with The Man Behind the Marathons for Learning Unlimited. The audience was about 200 people and I even knew a few of them. I got good participation and happy smiles throughout my presentation but when the moderator came up and asked for questions no hands came up. I waited a moment or two and then I asked them a question. My new book is about Ron Calhoun whom many of the participants knew but all of them knew about the Marathon of Hope that he organized to come right down the main street of their city. Terry Fox was a figure they all knew. My question was “Does anyone remember where they were the day Terry Fox came to Woodstock or any other home town?” The hands flew up and we got about 5 more excellent stories that tied in beautifully with my presentation. I learned more about my topic and the audience was delighted.

  4. The picture above shows my table set up at a small event last Saturday. I took books, of course, but I also put on my table my Media sheet and my Speaker sheet, 5 copies of each (accessible on my main website.)By the end of the event all of my Speaker sheet copies were gone, some of them picked up when I wasn’t even looking. That tells me I’ll get some calls to come speak to some groups. The other difficulty was that the historical group fronting the event had about 1/2 of the room covered with their used books selling very cheaply ($2-$4). My books were priced at $22 and $25 and needed to be. The best thing was the young girl who bypassed the cheap books and bought herself my latest book, the one with Terry Fox’s picture on the front. Even though the number of visitors was small that day I was happy with the outcome.

  5. Sometimes the absolute unexpected happens when people come up to buy books after the event. A couple of years ago a lady quite a bit younger than I came up, bought a book and reminded me who she was–my second cousin whom I hadn’t seen for probably 30 years. We renewed acquaintances and she told me about a mutual acquaintance who turned out to be our 4th cousin. The two of them had been on an ancestry trip to Ireland. One asked the other who was the target of her research. Turns out they were looking for the same person and were related! That means I’m related to both of them, too. Very cool. Now we get together a couple of times a year and have a lot of fun.

  6. One of the funniest experiences came from a gig I did in downtown Toronto at a United Empire Loyalist club. My husband came with me that night and we got caught in traffic. Three hours after we left home we arrived at the venue just 10 minutes before its scheduled start. Crazy! The event went off well and I sold lots of books. The next night I was relaxing before the TV when I got a call from a man who had attended and not bought books. He told me he didn’t have any money with him then. He wondered if I would send him copies in the mail. Of course I was happy to accommodate but would need payment in advance. We were in the midst of working that out when he suddenly shouted. “What the F$%&&%$ are you yelling about? I’m on the phone!” This went on for a couple more expletives before he came back to the phone and told me he was yelling at his mother. I got off the phone ASAP. I got the books ready to send but waited in vain for the money. After a couple of weeks I was sure nothing was coming. I didn’t make a sale but I did get a great story.

  7. A final thing that happens fairly often to me is that I am recognized. Oh, not enough that I have to go out in disguise, just enough that I know my writing is out there and people know what I do. A couple of years ago I was in our local drugstore. The sales woman recognized me from a TV interview I had done. Just last week another writer at an event greeted me with, “Hi, Elaine!” She was not the slightest bit familiar to me but I smiled and asked her to refresh my memory. She did and I remembered the event where I had met her. People in restaurants and at other public events speak to me. Since I haven’t had a shady side to my career, I assume they’ve seen me on Facebook, in the paper, at events where my writing is featured or in any one of the many places I try to put my books. A few weeks ago I put one in one of those small libraries outside someone’s home and then wrote about it on my blog. People have noticed.

These are just a few of the things that have happened to me because of my speaking events. The most important to me as a writer is that my name is getting known and my books are getting read. After all, what is the point of 12 years of writing to produce an historical fiction trilogy and a new creative non-fiction about a fabulous Canadian hero if no one ever reads them?

Click to buy. Available in print, Kindle and Kobo.

When Ron Calhoun was born in 1933 no one guessed where his incredible life would take him. Growing up on a farm during the Great Depression and World War II, Ron learned early the lesson of helping others. His grandfather opened his root cellar full of the family’s farm-grown vegetables to hungry neighbours, with no money needed in return. Ron became a volunteer in many organizations over the years, starting the Ladies Great Ride For Cancer and becoming the National Special Events Chair for the Canadian Cancer Society. He is most famous for being the man behind the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope; indeed, he developed that iconic phrase.Fighting his own personal demons as the years went on, Ron managed to make his considerable mark as the man behind Steve Fonyo’s Journey for Lives, Ken McColm’s Incredible Journey, and John and Jesse Davidson’s Jesse’s Journey. This is the story of how one man truly can make a difference.


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