Janice Hanna Thompson

Janice Hanna Thompson—a south Texas native—is the author of over sixty novels and non-fiction books for the Christian market. She supplements her fiction habit by writing magazine articles, devotions, write-for-hire books and more. One of the chief joys of Janice’s life is training writers to earn a living with the written word. Check out Janice’s “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer,” course at www.freelancewritingcourses.com. The ten lessons in this course were developed to strategically train freelance writers to earn top dollar. Each lesson includes an audio file (mp3 for download), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet, a power point video, a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum. Email Janice at booksbyjanice[at]aol[dot]com to learn more, or visit her website at www.janicehannathompson.com.

To Speak, or Not to Speak?

Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.
                                                                                       —Jeb Dickerson

Over the past several months we’ve looked at a host of ways to supplement your fiction income. Whether you’re waiting on that first advance check or you’re in between contracts, chances are pretty good you could use the extra cash. Over the next few months we’re going to talk about one of the most creative—and obvious—ways for novelists to earn income on the side: public speaking.

Some of you are shaking in your boots as you contemplate the idea. You’re asking questions like, “Where do I find speaking gigs? Who’s going to be interested in what I have to say, anyway? What topics should I choose? How do I work up the courage to do this?” Some writers are introverts. They’d much prefer to sit in front of a computer and not interact with the public. The very idea of standing in front of a crowd causes them to break out in a cold sweat.

We’ll address the actual delivery of a speech in a later article. Today I want to answer the “Where do I find speaking gigs?” question. Once you’ve settled on a plan of action, you will be much more relaxed, I assure you! How do I know? Because I’ve spent the better part of the past ten years “becoming” a public speaker. I’ve learned quite a few things along the way, things that might be of interest to newbies and seasoned pros, alike.

First, the possibilities for speaking engagements are unlimited as long as you approach the project creatively. Your topics are key, and might be to be tailored to the groups you target. I’ll tell you a little about my journey, as this might help you think of ideas for your own project.

Let me start by saying that I was a theater kid, practically raised on the stage. I started performing at a young age and found life in the spotlight appealing. So the idea of speaking to promote my books sounded like a blast. I felt it would be a natural extension of writing. After all, why write a book if I didn’t plan on telling people about it?

My novel Hurricane released in 2004 on the heels of three major hurricanes. I needed to get the word out in a hurry. I had the courage. I had the desire. What I didn’t have was a plan. Oh, if only someone had given me instructions on how to build a platform!

After a little creative thinking, I decided to start with a local slant. I knew going in that I would have to tailor my topics to fit the various groups, but I’ve always enjoyed coming up with topics, anyway, so I found this to be a pleasant challenge.

The following is a list of organizations where I cut my teeth (so to speak). As you read over this list, think about your book or articles. Could you tailor your speeches to fit these organizations?

• WRITERS GROUPS AND GUILDS: As a writer, it just made sense to start with writing groups and guilds. After some deliberation, I decided to speak on the topic of merging fact with fiction. Once I settled on my topic, I approached various writing groups (Christian and secular) and offered my services. When a gig was offered, I spoke with great enthusiasm, going into detail about the research of the book, and explaining how I merged historical fact with fictional characters, and so on. Most of the writers I spoke to were interested in the “process” of book writing, as well.

• CHURCHES/SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES: I offered my speaking services to a variety of churches/denominations, where I spoke about the Galveston hurricane and paralleled it to the storms we

all go through in our lives. I gave personal testimony of the many storms I’d survived in my own life (going into detail about how God had restored my faith after each storm). I had an amazing response to this topic, particularly from churches close to the coast.

• CIVIC GROUPS: I spoke to multiple civic groups (everything from Lions Clubs to the Sons of Veterans of the Civil War), tweaking my speech to cover the historical elements of the storm and how it changed the make-up of south Texas. I zeroed in on the message that storms can either strengthen or weaken us. Like Houston (after the Galveston hurricane), we can take advantage of the storms in our lives to become bigger, better, and stronger than we’ve ever been.

• SCHOOLS: Since Texas history is a seventh-grade subject, I approached history teachers and asked to speak. Many of the students came with money in hand to buy my book. (Side note: If you have product to sell to students, you’ll need to put together a promo page to be sent home to the parents a few days before you’re scheduled to speak so that they can know about your book ahead of time and send a check on the day of your visit.)

• HISTORICAL GROUPS: I was privileged to speak to historical foundations about the storm, focusing on the local history.

• ONLINE CHAT CLASSES: I taught a six-week online course for writers, using my journey as the foundation for the class.

• READING GROUPS: I was invited to speak to a local reading club/group. The twelve members of the group were required to purchase my book and read it in advance. They invited me to dinner, gave me opportunity to share about the writing of my book, then asked me specific questions related to the story. Out of that evening’s event came several more speaking engagements!

Next month I’ll spend some time talking about how you can craft your speeches to meet the needs of specific groups. Then, a couple months from now, I’ll share some clever ideas for earning money beyond the usual stipend.