Public Speaking, Self-Publishing and Scars

by Janis Patterson

Last weekend I gave a workshop at our local MWA chapter on self-publishing. Not that I’m an expert, or anything like that, but you realize that to be an authority on something you only have to know a little more than everyone else, and I have been self-pubbing since 2013. Besides, I was dragooned into it by my fellow chapter board members!

Normally when I give a workshop or a public speech I write it out, agonizing on the exact nuances of words and the rhythm of sentences. Yes, I am a control freak. Unfortunately, that means I usually read the presentation, making sure each word is exactly as I wrote it – in other words, giving a boring program that would have been better as a magazine article.

I don’t mind public speaking; it’s not my favorite thing to do, but it is easy and not unpleasant. I know there are some who are absolutely terrified to speak in front of people – my own dear mother was one – but I just don’t understand that. Know that such panicky fear exists, and accept it, but don’t understand it. I don’t see any difference between talking to five people or five hundred.

Anyway, due to work and life and other uncontrollable things I didn’t write down my speech – only made notes of topics that had to be covered. And agonized about their order; apparently you can’t turn off the control freak gene. It would be okay, I thought; we’re a small chapter and I know everyone there. Ha!

I was astonished at how quickly the room filled up. We finally ended up with more than double our usual attendance, and there were some people there I had never seen before. Well, it was too late to back out, so I sat down at my improvised speaker’s table, and started to talk. The Husband says there has never been a time I couldn’t talk!

I talked for over an hour, almost an hour and a half. (My father used to say, Wind her up and she talks…) There were some very intelligent questions, and some very elementary questions, but that’s okay, because everyone starts out not knowing everything – or sometimes anything. I stressed that what I was saying was based on my experience, that their mileage or choices might vary, that there were choices to be made that only they could make. That is the essence of self-publishing, I think – self responsibility. The choices you make will affect the results you get but – aside from a few basics – like to sell a book you have to finish it and get it out there – every choice and everything that is done devolves on you. If it gets done, you have to do it.

The workshop went rather well, though I must admit it was a little unsettling to see all these people – friends and strangers alike – scribbling down seemingly every word I said, just like I had maniacally taken notes at the workshops of important people. Yes, it was a bit of a rush – half elation and half sheer terror. And although public speaking doesn’t really faze me, I’m glad it’s over.

Will I do another one? I honestly don’t know. I’m glad I did this one. I hope that everyone there has an easier path to self-publishing because of what I said. I know I owe a lot to those who went before me into this brave new world, but even so I still accumulated my share of scars and mistakes. Perhaps that’s called growth

10 thoughts on “Public Speaking, Self-Publishing and Scars

  1. Congratulations on your presentation–and on getting it done. It’s always a little terrifying to face an audience as “The Expert”, but if you decide that you are talking only to one person about something you know and ignore that you have a larger audience, that really works.


  2. I was once introverted, especially in school, until I hit a class where my professor assigned each student a chapter ( pro/con) written from three different political views; I made myself sick for most of the semester, but bravely faced the guillotine and once I started, I couldn’t stop talking; from that time on, my fear of public speaking changed completely, but there are certain occasions when I consider myself to be an introvert. I bet your discussion was just amazing.


  3. i love giving “how-tos” to writers. I always have hand-outs and use them as a guideline for my talk. Yes, I wander off at times, but the hand-out keeps me on track.


  4. Susan, I may not be a great speaker, but I enjoy talking about writing to a group of writers. I’d do it on a crowded street corner if the people would stand still long enough. I usually work from an outline listing all the things I want to cover and a general idea of what I want to say about each thing. At the end, if they don’t throw things at me, I feel I did all right. I’m sure no one threw things at you.


  5. I doubt I’ll ever be 100% comfortable with situations like yours, but working as a substitute teacher in high school has made it easier. There are few audiences tougher than teens confined in a room from bell to bell.


  6. Sometimes a smile and familiarity with a subject are all you need. Being too scripted comes off stilted. This way you got to interact with your audience. I’m sure they appreciated the opportunity to ask specific questions–and they are a presenter’s salvation!


  7. It’s the weirdest thing being an introvert, I can’t walk into a room of people and talk to anyone. I clam up, but if I do a workshop I can walk in and start talking about my topic and not have any problems. It’s like, okay, they are here to listen to me give them information they are interested in, but to do casual conversation scares me to death! Congrats on a workshop done well!

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  8. Glad everything went well with your presentation. I haven’t done one in a while, since I started putting my books only on kindle. I do remember typing out my speeches ahead of time and using headings for the different parts, to keep me on focus. I would veer from what I’d written at times, but at least I knew I always had my cheat sheet to refer to for something more to say. I’m not usually a talker, so I wouldn’t do a speech without my cheat sheet.



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