Not counting school visits, book fairs and the like, I took part in about sixty writing-related presentations or workshops in 2012. Most of them were held in public libraries. Of these, about two dozen were panel/Q&A events, the rest were solo talks. For almost all of them, I had to provide some form of promotional blurb for my host to use on websites, flyers etc.
The promo for your writerly talk is usually the first thing a potential attendee sees. Even if the subject matter is something they might usually find interesting, what you include in your promo materiel, and the way its written, can make the difference between that person coming along, or staying home (and quite possibly, whether or not your host invites you back).
With that in mind, I thought I'd share my own ideas on the subject:
CREATING PROMO FOR WRITERLY TALKS
Title for workshop/presentation/panel
Despite advice to the contrary, people really do judge a book by its cover, or in this case, 'A presentation by its title', but it should accomplish other things too.
I think the title needs to be both eye catching AND obvious. If the subject matter isn't clear, we risk losing potential bums on seats before we even start. At the New Jersey Authors' Network, we use panel topics like: Writing for Younger Readers, or "I've finished my first draft, now what?". My solo talks have titles like GETTING PUBLISHED: 10 Things Every Writer Should Know, or GETTING PUBLISHED: Mistakes Most Writers Make (and how to avoid them).
Notice how the subject matters are fairly generic. For talks open to the general public, it's not a good idea to narrow down the topic, as you risk losing part of your potential audience. If it's a conference talk or a visit to a writing group, I recommend something more specific.
When it comes to promo blurbs, I find less is more. I try to keep mine to about 100 words or less. After all, we're not trying to convert civilians into writers. The people we want to turn up are already interested in the subject, we're just trying to let them know what to expect when they attend. Besides, make it too long and folks won't bother reading it anyway. Also, your host needs to fit other info on the flyer too, like the date, address, their own logo etc.
Here's the promo blurb for the NJAN 'First Draft' panel:
'I'VE FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT, NOW WHAT?'
Local authors share tips and information on getting published in today’s market (organized by the New Jersey Authors Network: http://www.njauthorsnetwork.com).
So you’ve finished the writing your book/story, or have you? What (if any) revision work needs doing? Where can you go for feedback? How will you know when it’s ready to send out, and where should you try first? Join New Jersey Authors, [INSERT names here], for a fun, informative discussion on getting published in today’s market, and find out why typing ‘THE END’ is really just the beginning.
Nice and short, but you still know exactly what to expect, right?
I like people to have fun in my solo presentations, so I try to reflect that in the blurb. Here's the one for the 10 things talk I give at libraries:
GETTING PUBLISHED: 10 Things Every Writer Should Know
The world of publishing has changed. What with the e-Book revolution, the increasing popularity of self-publishing and the rise in the number of e-zines (web-based magazines), there are more roads to publication than ever before.
Whichever route you choose, there are things you should know and steps you can take to make the journey easier, help you improve your work, and (in the case of those looking for traditional publication) get that acceptance letter much faster.
Join New Jersey author, Jon Gibbs, for a fun, informative discussion on the ten things every writer should know.
Also, there may be candy.
Again, if this were something for a conference or writing group, I'd go with a more specific subject.
COVER PIC/AUTHOR MUGSHOT
If you send pictures for your host to use, compress them first. Also, make sure your files are clearly named ie: Joe Bloggs - Author pic; Joe Bloggs - How to Write Gooder - cover pic. Let's face it, 367666221.JPG, or its equally unhelpful cousin, My photo, don't help much when someone's trying to put together promotional information for lots of different writing events.
With bios, it helps to remember your bio really only has one job - Don't scare people away.
By the time they get to the bottom of the page, people have pretty much decided whether or not they want to attend, BUT, a poorly-conceived bio can still put them off. What works on the inside of your book cover, or on the 'About Me' page of your website, might not work on a flyer.
Just like the blurb, I think you should keep this short, and relevant (about a hundred words or so). Writing credentials are helpful. A little personal info is good too, but this is probably not the place for that half-page reminiscence about how you wrote your first story at the age of three ;)
How about you?
How do you prepare promo information for speaking events?