How do you set up a magazine (or newspaper) interview?

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Most of the articles you write should include at least one and often three interviews, plus of course facts, perhaps some anecdotal material, and probably some artwork (usually photos).

In fact, the most persuasive items selling the article are the interviews or quotes you promise the editor in your query letter. Like a piece about modern-day circus clowns where you say “I’ll build the article around interviews with America’s top three clowns.” (You might mention their names, if that will help the sale, but you have more freedom getting the exchanges without the names in case one or the other won’t cooperate or is unavailable. Instead, you might say “three top clowns…, including XXXX and XXXX.”)

Must you have the interviews set up before the query? No. With whom you will speak will depend on which publication you are writing for, plus the slant your piece will take. You might talk to altogether different clowns for a senior magazine than you would for one directed at kids 8-12 years old.

The working order, then, is to outline an interesting topic, see what magazines might use it, make a prioritized list of those markets, and start with the best “go-ahead” and work down. Once you have the theme and the readers, find the best people to approach. Figure 10-15 minutes per person maximum, sometimes just five minutes, so you must prepare about four questions that will yield enough interesting quotes to work into your written presentation.

I usually start with a fairly broad question, and as the person is answering that I segue (smoothly, I hope) into the second question, which is the most important one. By naturally blending that question in, the person is more likely to give you a more spontaneous answer than something “canned.”

All that’s left is getting the interview and creating a super article.

You need to know the phone number of the interviewee and some current and top historical information about your target. Using Google for those facts usually works best, or check the circus where the clown is now performing and ask for the P.R. person, who might also send you some .jpgs photos as email attachments. Then call the person directly (not too early and not close to performance hours) and say, “Hi, Mr. _____. I’m writing an article for _______ Magazine and I wonder if I we could speak for about 10 minutes, when it’s most convenient for you. My article is about the three most famous clowns in America.” Then let him answer, get the time, double-check the phone he would prefer to be called at, and confirm the date. “Looking forward to it. I’ll talk to you then. Thank you.” Call as promised! (Be ready if the person wants to do the interview right then. That happened the to me when I asked the “when” question to Governor Adlai Stevenson, who said, “Why not right now?”)

Remember, you must know enough about the interviewee to sound intelligent and ask the most interesting questions. So be prepared! And remember to let the person talk–he doesn’t want to know about you!

Do you need further permission to use this material in your articles? Nope; the permission is implied when they spoke with you. (But you can’t change what they said.)

Finally, take the results of those interviews and weave them into super prose. And after this gem sees print, always snail mail a print copy to the clowns, with sincere thank you notes.

Are that thank you note and copy of the article important? You bet. Very often (maybe a third of the time) I will return to that person as part of another article. When I call them for another interview, they will be more gracious and eager to cooperate the second (and sometimes third) time around.

(I describe the writing/selling process in much greater detail in the Travel Writer’s Guide.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Getting at least triple use from one booklet…

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Two completely disconnected things happened yesterday that reminded me that if I’m going to preach empire building I should do it (and share it) too!

I faithfully attend the monthly meetings of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn) the second Saturday morning each month in downtown San Rafael, CA. It’s a great place to meet fellow writer/publishers, swap how-to’s, introduce ourselves, and enjoy a key speaker (like BookBaby’s Brian Felsen two months back).

So yesterday, out of the blue, I was asked to speak at the coming session on 8/11 about “niche marketing.” (I suspect the regularly scheduled speaker died or faded and I was convenient and safe since I’ve spoken publicly 2000+ times—and I published Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.) But I’m flattered nevertheless. It’s a great chance to preach lovingly, again, to publishers and authors, so I said “You bet!”

That set me looking through the material I had on my computer that I could (inexpensively) share with the 80-so listeners. Which led me to a long-forgotten 12-page booklet I had prepped some years back to send to book printers for a double purpose: (1) to try to get myself booked to speak to them about using the topic “niche publishing” at one of their client gatherings, and (2) to suggest (and explain quickly how) they might produce handouts to give to the participants (that they would print, with additional pages telling of their printing services…)

So here I was yesterday with the need for a quick script (or outline) for the BAIPA gathering, a desire to give them a how-to handout, and a good little booklet that might help both ways.

But why stop there, if I’m going to slightly rewrite the booklet and eliminate the printer-related info anyway? Why not make the booklet into a how-to ebook I could sell through Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords (et. al.) for a whopping 99 cents?

Why bother for 35% of 99 cents sent sometime in the remote future? Because the contents tell about the exceptional niche-publishing process that eliminates almost all of the risk, is fast, and lets the doer test their market first. And it also lets me direct (and link) those interested to four other publications that I wrote about niche publishing that will help them at key steps along their new niching way: the mother book (mentioned above, the paperback $15, the ebook at $10); “How to Test Your Niche Publishing First” (a $20 audio CD and a $10 ebook); an e-report “How to Get Your Niche Article in Print 75% of the Time” for $5, and a $1 report (or free) called “101 Niche Marketing Topics.”

So why not release a 99-cent how-to booklet telling buyers how they can make six-figure returns, almost risk free, with a new marketing approach and some two-week pretesting?

So how does that link to the BAIPA seminar? Because rather than having to print out the information I want to share, page after page, collated and stapled, and so on, I will either just give them the link to my booklet file to download free or I will give them a code that they can use on my 1 Shopping Cart web order form so they can download it free (almost instantly) to their computer.

Instead of a full workbook, I will give each participant a two-sided handout, the front in color and coated, a left-over sales flyer for Niche Publishing, on the back a Staples b/w page with my talk’s outline and all of the links I will tell them about that Saturday (including one link with all of the same links on it so they can just let their finger digitally walk).

The idea of empire building is to take a core concept (like niche marketing) and use (probably sell) the created information about it the many ways that folks like to receive and use it. To get the most contact, copy, and legitimate helping promotion out of the least reprepping of the same basic information.

Like a seminar, handout, outline, and free booklet, plus links to six salable products that continue to stretch the available tools that the interested may want.

I could even create a new list of printers nearby and send out the original booklet I found hiding in my mystery file. Maybe a speech waiting to be given there too.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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The printing press happened at just the right time….

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The emergence of the printing press, and the revolutionary changes it portended, were the perfect cultural storm.

The result of Johannes Gutenburg, a German goldsmith, inventing the printing press in 1451 was the quick and accurate spread of information which reached a wider reading public and increased literacy. From that came the spread of controversial new ideas that the Church couldn’t stop and the accelerated spread of accurate data and research that fed the Scientific Revolution during the Enlightenment.

Big deal! It might have happened anyway, and the results might have been as spectacular.

But what makes it far more extraordinary was the convergence of other critical elements that made the printing press work.

(1) Rag paper from China reached Europe from Muslim Spain, and more rags for more paper came from the mounds of old clothes left by the victims of the Black Death. Plus the discards from the survivors who inherited family lands, bought lots of new clothes, and left their discards as rags to be sold. The rags were put into the new squeeze press that made paper so the type could be pressed uniformly on it.

(3) More monks died, faster, crowded into monasteries while the plague raged, which reduced the number of book copiers. The higher cost of copying books increased the incentive to find a cheaper way to do the copying.

(4) As one result of the decline of the power of the Church during and after the Black Death, secular ideas increased (see the Italian Renaissance). One idea was how to develop oil-based inks that adhered to metal type.

(5) Chinese wood block printing came to Europe from the Muslims, from which durable interchangeable metal type emerged that printed every letter evenly on paper.

So with a sudden glut of relatively cheap and usable paper, ink that dried and adhered to metal type, a growing demand for books that couldn’t be met as before, and interchangeable type to produce the books, the printing press was a boon for us, publishers. It was almost a miracle, but then came the computer…

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Inside info about publishing and distribution

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Simon Warwick is just the kind of “inside” guy that every small publisher needs to hear. He’s a 25-year veteran and book agent. He knows what a book needs to get selling traction.

So his 75-minute talk, “Getting Your Book into Distribution (or Should I Look for a Literary Agent?)” at the BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn) meeting in San Rafael on July 14 was time very well spent.

Let me share the take-away points that I heard. First, Simon’s main point: if publishing is chaotic now with digital changes and a weak economy, it will be drastically different in 20 years. The only thing certain is that there will be authors and buyers, but all the rest of the middlehandlers, all looking impregnable a few years back, may be gone or remarkably altered. Why? Mostly because you can sell to the buyer directly. So, says Simon, keep as little stock as possible and sell as much as you can. Book reps are also a dying breed.

1. Video or film is a great selling tool. Put it on YouTube and/or your home website. On the latter, it should open up talking, telling the viewer/listener what you have that they need or want.

2. Every book should have its own website (URL), most with a landing page that sells the book and lets the person either link ORDER or click off.

3. Shipping is very costly so look for something like UPS drop-shipping at low cost.

4. The traditional distribution as we’ve known it began in the 70s. (Get specifics about current distributors from Dan Poynter and John Kremer.) Other solid points:

Distribution has four tiers:

(A) the master tier, which exclusively handles the distribution—mostly to bookstores, chains, and foreign sales (like PGHW, Consortium, IPG, SCB, and Perseus). They take a discount of about 65%.

The master distributor has its own sales force (sales reps), so if you don’t want to create a sales branch and have 6+ titles (they’d prefer you have 100s), they might take you in. You must sell them on how, specifically, you and your book(s) will drive buyers to the bookstore. They don’t want POD books and like to see you have a print order of 500-1000+; it shows your commitment.

(B) wholesalers, non-exclusive, a 55% discount (like Ingram and Baker & Taylor)

(C) bookstores (brick and mortar, with a 40% discount, and online)

(D) Internet

5. If a distributor goes bankrupt, you get a settlement pittance for all of your books in their warehouse. To have a legal chance to enter and take your stock, get a ICC1 form, fill it out, and give a copy to the distributor (before the bankruptcy). Available in every state; you need it in the state where the warehouse is located. On line in CA. It overrides bankruptcy.

6. Gift trade is a hard place to sell books. Very specialized, non-returnable, 50% discount. If interested, Perseus may have a gift catalog to see how it works.

7. To whom are books distributed? 50% to chains, 15% to independent stores (but shrinking), 20% online, and 15% ebooks. No real difference in the last two categories; significant growth there.

8. You can sell directly to libraries through Quality (QBI), Follett, and Baker & Taylor. Think of a donation locally so your book gets in your county system. Also, look to IBPA for excellent distribution programs for small publishers.

9. Check Simon Warwick’s website (www.warwickassociates.com) to see a very good explanation of a good publicity campaign.

10. If you want an agent for your book, you must convince the potential representative that your book is over the top. You need positive reviews. Tell the feeling your book creates in the buyer. What unmet need or irrational passion your book provokes. Tell them your market and plan to sell to it, why the book will sell like crazy. Same thing for fiction or nonfiction. All in a one-page letter. You can find agents in the Literary Market Place and John Kremer’s materials.

11. A publisher is the person who puts up the money.

12. To get an agent or distributor you can also send a (marketing) proposal, to show that the author will take part in the selling process. Compare your book with the three top competitors; what does your book do better or differently? For fiction, you must at least send three chapters and a synopsis.

13. At your website, the book’s landing (pitch) page can be a long letter, with endorsements and a buy button. The important thing is the traffic conversion rate, how many buyers are driven to the site to buy. Build the search terms (SEO) into the website titles and text, to help the book found. Drive them to your website, then sell them.

14. Consider Google’s Adwords. They can cost $1-2+ each so you must have selling info waiting for the respondent that says “here it is, buy it!” Also use Google Analytics and/or Cherry Picker.

15. Newcomers get a book idea, write the book, then figure that they’ll find a way to sell it. That’s backward. You should start with the need the book meets, who will buy it, where they would buy your book, what words do they use to search?

16. Websites are cheap: $5-10 each. See Hostmaster.com. Design your website so the reader will know how/why he/she needs your book, then how to buy it instantly.

17. You also need one page where all of your products are listed, with a landing page link for each. Include a media page at the site.

18. Your best marketing may be offline.

19. Simon is skeptical about social marketing to sell books. Returns aren’t good.

That’s a skeletal summary. Lots of very good material from a gent who lives book selling.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Useful numbers about self-publishing and pricing your ebook

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I’m asked regularly about (1) how much ebook publishers should charge for their book, and (2) what are the chances of a self-publisher making the top seller list?

Here’s some very interesting info that touches both, thanks to Yahoo and their 7/15/21 “Ebook Best Sellers Breakdown.”

The article included data from two top-35 lists about ebooks.

The New York Times e-book bestseller list (of books not also being on another bestseller list) had 14 fiction books and 4 nonfiction. The average price of the 14 fiction listings was skewered by the Fifty Shades Trilogy, a box set of the E. L. James works that sold for $29.99. The rest ranged from $.99 to $14.99, and the average price of those was $3.78. Only three (all fiction) were self-published: #13 [$2.99], Slammed by Colleen Hoover; #29 [$3.99], Easy by Tammara Webber, and #33 [$ .99], Playing for Keeps by R.L. Mathewson.

A quick look at those three finds Slammed published on 1/1/2012 and it ranked #13 7 ½ months later. Some interesting quotes from Colleen: “I hadn’t written anything in the past ten years until December [2011], when I got the idea for Slammed.” It took a month to write. She uploaded it “to get it out there for family and friends. I never intended to make money off of it or for it to turn into anything. Every single day of the whole experience has been a huge shocker.” How did it hit the NYT list? She first told others about it on message boards and Facebook. When it was reviewed by Maryse, a popular romance book blogger, it took off. (It’s listed at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.)

Easy was published on May 24, 2012 and Playing for Keeps, April 29, 2011. The average price of the three self-publishers was $2.96.

To finish the New York Times e-book bestseller list (above), the four nonfiction books prices ranged from $8.99 to $12.99 and averaged $11.49.

The 7/15 U.S.A. Today bestseller list has all books in the list (ebook and bound) and tells which format sold best. Of the 35 listed, 15 were ebooks. One was self-published. The ebook price range was from $ .99 to $12.99; the average was $7.99. Where did the ebooks rank in the 35? They were books #2,4,9,12,13,16,17 (the self-published book), 18, 19, 20, 23, 26, 27, 30, and 35.

Thanks again to Yahoo.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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You should be quoted (almost) everywhere (almost) all the time

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The first question is, “How often are you being quoted?”

The second question is, “Who cares?”

If you’re not seeing your best words in print often enough, the person who may care most is you! And that’s a very important person indeed.

Why is it important? It can directly affect your posterity, perceived expertise, and your bottom line.

There are at least two ways to be quoted: one is to be asked, as when a journalist or TV interviewer asks questions and your replies are recorded, used, and (you hope) preserved. The other is when something you say or write is plucked, printed, and replayed into the twenty-third century.

You can pretty much leave your being quoted to the fates or you can salt the mine. I suggest you salt the mine!

For most people there is absolutely no stress being un- or underquoted. But if you aren’t one of those people, if you work at it you will start seeing yourself in print. Not that after a week of diligent doing entire issues of Time Magazine and Forbes will be dedicated to your every utterance. But you could be quoted with predictable regularity—for all the good things that might bring.

What good things can come from being quoted widely and often?

For one thing, being quoted says that you know something. Of course, everybody knows something. But your something is either so important or special or clever, or just plain brilliant, that it, of at least two billion (or maybe two hundred) other choices, was selected to appear in print!

As important, not only do you know something special, you know how to say it in a few words or sentences. You’re articulate, a craftsperson, a word wizard: you can think clearly, write or speak succinctly, and make the rest of us think too, or laugh, or cry, or just sit back in awe at your special genius!

If all that sounds a bit flippant, it really isn’t. Probably 99.99% or more of what is written or said never reaches the public eye or ear, and would surely never be selected for sharing however low the criteria of choice. And to be able to pluck the heart of a thought or to hit an observation that we all need to share square-on, or to see an everyday action from a unique, uncanny angle, well, that does show you as being as special as your quote.

Being quoted to the public at large is great, but if you want to stand out in a particular crowd, then being quoted in what that crowd reads is a double victory. It’s a personal feather among your peers. If the quote is keen, has wit, or shows intelligence, feathers are good things to have when others start looking for chiefs.

Last, quotes are nice to show to your family and friends, particularly your own quotes. They’re nice to send to the English teacher who suggested that you start over with another language, nice to photocopy and plaster all over the executive washroom, and just plain nice to wrap yourself in on the day your kid steals your car, your spouse runs off with some idiot, and your tax preparer is indicted for fraud.

Are you convinced that quotes are worth getting (though you may not have needed convincing at all)? Then intentionally get quoted!

That may be far more than you want to know about quotes. Bless you. But if seeing what quotes are, funny examples, who gets theirs in print most, and how (with techniques that work), you may enjoy (and benefit from) my $1.99 report called “How to Get Quoted (Almost) Everywhere (Almost) All the Time.” You can buy it in digital format from us, Kindle, Nook, or Smashwords. The above is the opening section, somewhat rephrased to work as a blog. But don’t quote me!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Start Your NF Book with a Title and Table of Contents

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Of my 42 books in print, 41 are nonfiction. (The novel is pretty awful.) I began #43 yesterday afternoon.

All of the books started the same way. I have no idea if I’m following a divine path or if, for others, it would even apply to the book(s) they are writing. But it works for me. It’s painfully logical and it seems to preclude almost any problem I might later encounter in the editing, publishing, and marketing.

Thus the title, “Start your NF book with a title and a table of contents.”

Why? Because I write books both to earn money and to share new information or processes with my readers. (I also hope that new information is passed down [or over] to others, and it helps its users, in this case, write better and with clearer direction.)

So, for my book to help it must be bought—and used. I can’t insist on the latter, but I can affect my book being selected from others like it, and bought.

To get the potential buyer to choose my book I, to my logic, must do four things: I must (1) have a clear vision the kind of person who benefits enough from my book, and would most likely pick it out and pay for it, (2) know how this kind of person most often finds my kind of book, and the rough price range this person will pay for its guidance, (3) know what information must appear in its title to attract their attention, and (4) know what kind of related information would best appear in the table of contents, and in what order, for them to think my new book “a good deal” and something “they have to have.”

All of that starts with identifying one or several benefits the reader will find on my book’s pages. Which in turn means that I must have a solid sense of why they would buy my book (what dreams it will help come true, what frustrations it will help resolve, what fears it will help lessen or remove, etc.), and one of those benefits (or even several) should either appear in my title or its sub-title. The buyer must know in one look at the cover what the book is about and what in it merits spending that much money, now, and reading and doing what it suggests, later.

Which is why I spent 90 minutes yesterday adding possible titles to a temp list I had begun about a month back when I decided to write #43. Then I made a list of the benefits my idea(s) could bring the applicants. I plucked from both lists and ended up with 14 possible titles. Each title went on an index card.

I moved the cards around, seeing if I could find a magic grabber, a “must-have” title and sub-title. It worked. With some editing and switching a word or two from one card to the other, I found a title that (I) I would want to read about, (2) was easy to understand, (3) promised a how-to process that I could follow, and modify, and (4) said (or I read) that I’d make money doing what it said.

(Where is that title and sub-title? I apologize but I don’t share information about books I’m prepping or writing—nor should you. Those close to me figure it out quickly because they see what I’m researching, who I’m interviewing, or they look in my waste can!) It will be out in 4-6 months; the title and contents will be on all of the promo material then.

Next came the tougher test, which took about three hours to pound into the precise order. It was the table of contents of the information needed to make the title and sub-title come true. I created a Word table on my computer and, in column 1, put 15 numbers after “Introduction” and before “Index.” I needed 14, for chapters. Sometimes (like yesterday) I list the chapter titles, other times I list the theme of that chapter and create the titles later.

Since I’ve been thinking about this book for about a year, I could rather quickly envision what had to be explained more or less in what order. So I put that down.

Then I filled a page of all the “bases” I needed to touch to make the process clear and complete, plus any illustrations (charts, layouts, and maybe a graph). Integrating them into the chapters and giving it a logical order was the hardest. Some didn’t comfortably fit in my original schemata. I moved chapters up and down, and I rewrote most of the chapter titles. Finally, when I felt that the process was whole and doable, I wrote a quick “script” a couple of sentences per chapter long that tied the framework together. And I was done.

Now, when I write the book I can imagine what my buyer looks like, why they are buying my book, the outcome they expect from using it, and the kinds of examples they will easily grasp and feel comfortable with. I know the kind of interviews I need (I’ll find the interviewees later). I can bounce near-finished chapters off of knowledgeable friends for process and fact verification. (I will probably head to them first when the book is done for early testimonials.)

That’s it. Writing the book will be a fun fill-in-the-blanks foray, and along the way if I see marketing needs it will fill I can do some pre-selling en route to completion. And find a magazine or newsletter or two for articles that will draw the right eyes to the new book being released at that time…

Those are a few of the benefits of finding the title and contents before finding the targeted substance later. It’s simply much, much easier compiling and writing a book when you know rather precisely what it’s about beforehand.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Emceeing: how to write a script that works!

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If you’re comfortable with your topic and audience and you enjoy speaking in public, there are just a few bases you must touch to hear a volley of “great job’s” later on. If you’re not, you may have to tape your script to your glasses and vary nary a whit from its message.

Let’s assume you are writing the script. If they hand you the text ready-to-go, read it aloud several times in front of a knowledgeable agent of the sponsor, mostly so you get the names and words right. That’s probably the best time to make modest word or paragraph changes, with their full approval.

If you’re the writer (and probably speaker), you must know

* the date, starting hour, and expected length of your script;

* the purpose of the meeting, and any unique slant they expect you to take;

* what specifically you must mention (names, officers, events, performers, schedule, sponsor names and participation, future meetings, etc.);

* any taboos you must avoid, and

* what effect they want from your conclusion.

It varies little whether you are opening a session, coordinating a performance, or drawing group conclusions from the information conveyed (or yet to be heard),

For example, let me share how I wrote (and delivered yesterday) a script on the Fourth of July at the Marin County Fair, in California. The program was given in an open-sided performance tent and was seen by several hundred under or in sight of the overhead canvas. (Here is the actual script.)

In a second. let’s look at each of the five categories.

—–

Before I forget, if you are interested in emceeing, here are three other, related blogs and four speaking products that you should find helpful. (All but one by Gordon Burgett, who has given 2000+ paid speaking/emceeing performances.)

* “Emceeing or show planning: What to remember when prepping a one-hour presentation” (posted 8/7/12)
* “Emceeing: a full script for a two-hour show” (posted 11/4/12)
* “Emceeing: the thinking behind writing the script for the 11/4 two-hour show script” (posted 12/27/12)

* A new $4.95 ebook including the above blogs plus more how-to information is at “Emceeing, Show Planning, and Script Writing,” plus an excellent booklet, “How to Be a Great Emcee” from SpeakerNetNews ($4.85) is buyable, full of current, applicable “emceeing” information.

* “Four Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First!” (ebook, available through order form or from Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords)
* “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” (audio seminar with workbook, available through order form)

—–

Here are the five categories:

* the date, starting hour, and expected length of your script

The Fourth of July, starting at 1 p.m. sharp, lasting 45 minutes (but not a second longer)

* the purpose of the meeting, and any unique slant they expect you to take

My role was to introduce the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus, some 20 fellows, and to provide coordination in the presentation (telling what songs would be sung, welcoming the audience, have some vocal interplay with the singers, focus on patriotism [on America’s birthday], to introduce two quartets that gave the chorus two short singing breaks, and to frequently inject humor when appropriate. There was one logistical extra: I also sang in the chorus, so we posted a music stand to the left and a bit in front of the rosters, with a separate microphone. That way I could drop back and slide into the end of the front row, or the reverse, before and after each introduction.

* what specifically you must mention (names, officers, events, performers, schedule, sponsor names and participation, future meetings, etc.)

Mostly, I had to honor the day, wishing the crowd a Happy Birthday, speak of uniquely interesting facts related to that date, and tie my jokes into patriotism. I introduced the director and gave the first names of all quartet singers. I also invited all men to join the chorus (and sing with us at the fair again next year!); I also told them where and when we practiced, and I directed their attention to the fact flyer on the table at ground level in front of the stage. But I flat-out forgot to include the date and time of our coming Fall Show in an auditorium that was in sight of our tent. (To prevent that, create a checklist of the musts, then check it again and again. Somewhere in the editing that mention fell out.)

* any taboos you must avoid

A holiday Barbershopping crowd doesn’t want to hear swearing, religion bad-mouthed, political parties or politicians offended, or any person or thing insulted. They expect me to bring greetings, order, and perhaps some mirth. Nor are they there to see or hear much of me, so my obligation is to do my job quickly and seamlessly.

* what effect do they want from your conclusion?

In fact, since the show ended with the choir and audience singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” I really had no oral conclusion at all. The important take-aways were a spirit of fun, patriotic pleasure having heard good music robustly sung, and a sort of all-American sense of pride from being at a fair enjoying something as harmonious and American in origin as Barbershopping.

You must bring some additional tools to the emceeing role as well: vigor, a sense of total involvement, lots of smiles, looking at and speaking directly to your audience, enough movement to assure that rigor mortis has yet to set in, and hitting the pronunciations of people, songs, places, or whatever right on. You must remember to put the punch line after the set-up, and to stand tall and speak out.

That’s a reminder check-list of what the boss or sponsor usually expect.

I hope this helps when it’s your turn!

Incidentally, dredging up and telling the five funniest patriotic jokes of all time (see the script) also helped.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Niche Speaking: Cash in with fewer (but more devoted) listeners

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The following excerpt beginning my chapter “Niche Speaking: Cash in with Fewer (but More Devoted) Listeners” first appeared in print on July 1, 2012 in a new book called Speak More! Marketing Strategies to Get More Speaking Business. I thought you might enjoy it’s message as a blog post:

When I was new to public speaking, in the 1980s, every speaker seemed to have a different slant about what worked best, got the most and highest-paying bookings, and guaranteed fame and fortune—a few even hinted that, done right (their way), lots of fame and fabled fortune could be achieved within a year or two!

Yet most of their suggestions reminded me of an acquaintance living in Santa Barbara, California. He was a brain surgeon, and his favorite hobby was repairing Venetian blinds! He asked me if he should get business cards printed as a brain surgeon, and add the blinds repair in small type at the bottom, or advertise his expertise with Venetian blinds, and include the brain surgery as a sort of footnote?

We both got a long laugh out of his quandary, and agreed that either card was proof that somebody needed brain repair.

What confused me when I was new to speaking was that the biggest speaking names seemed to be able to talk about anything to anyone, with a long list of titles—and they could further parse each of those topics into a main speech, a keynote, a dinner presentation, a seminar or breakout session, a bout of emceeing, even a program for spouses! A lot of general stuff for huge crowds that also included Venetian blind repairpeople and brain surgeons.

You can imagine my concern because I only knew one thing better than my listeners, and at first, that only worked well as a workshop. I felt like a pitcher whose whole repertoire was a swooping sidearm screwball. A one-talk Gordy. Worse yet, a talk that I was certain nobody would want to hear twice. I figured I’d better keep two day jobs even if I somehow backed profitably into the oral arts.

I Had One Speech!

It took me many years to actually leave the day jobs because my booked speeches were getting in the way. I’d been wrong. My one speech, one topic deep, with modest improvements and a few simple slants, brought me over 2,000 paid presentations. I had no idea that my goofy screwball, my swooper, was so special.

Except that my topic was about niches, and I really did have a singular perch (I wrote the book about it). And lots of “nichers” wanted to know how to make their niches permanent and profitable.

I told my audiences that if you know a very important piece of information—that a particular group or kind of person would travel long distances to hear you tell them how to do something better, faster, or more profitably if you were an expert and they needed your expertise—what you had to do was find out what those people had in common (like an association or specific training from applied experience) and let them know how you could help them.

That was easier to do if you wrote a legitimate book that was full of help and examples and advice; then told all of the particular associations and conventions what your book was about and that you now spoke about it.

What I talked about was niche speaking, niche publishing, and niche writing. The crucial word was niche, and the rest was what you did to and with it once you found a niche that others were eager to pay a lot to learn more about.

If I pronounced the word “niche” like leech, half the listeners said it was pronounced like witch. Or leash.

But we all agreed that a niche by any pronunciation was a unique place, employment, or status such that people resemble each other but are distinctly different from others.

For example, brain surgery and Venetian blind repair are niches. So is plumbing—and public speaking. Red-headed Porsche owners are a splashy niche, as are English Channel swimmers. Practitioners in each field do or know particular things that bind them together while distinguishing them from others not in their niche.

(This excerpt of my chapter in Speak More: Marketing Strategies to Get More Speaking Business, published by N.S.A. [National Speakers Association], continues to discuss Build Your Own Niche, Even a Humble Example Helps, Two Burdens: The Speaking and the Message, and Hidden Gold: Niche Speakers Empire-Build! The 2012 edition is available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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