Critique on Public Speaking Book

For long, long, LONG time readers of this blog, you may recall that I at some point decided I would write a book on public speaking. I was doing a lot of teaching at the time on the topic at area and college universities as well as at writers conferences.  Based on what I observed, there are a glut of people milling about who are perfectly capable of being wonderfully adequate speakers, if they could just move past their fear.

Yes, I know..."wonderfully adequate speakers." Quite a lofty goal. And yet, it is.  Most people who give talks or workshops aren't setting out to earn their living in a speaking venue. They're not trying to be keynote speakers or stand-up comedians. They just want to get through the occasional presentation at work and feel good about doing so. We're so much a nation focused on being the best or #1 that we sometimes overlook "adequate" as a perfectly reasonable goal.

So I wrote a manuscript, The Occasional Speaker.   Then I rewrote it. Then I ignored it. Then I let a few people read it, listened to their comments, thought hard about how to improve the book, and ignored it again. Then this past summer when I won my week long writer's retreat at WildAcres, I took the manuscript, ripped it apart, reorganized it, and renamed it The Perfect Speaker (Doesn't Exist). I got home, and promptly stopped work on it. (I hope you all are gaining insight into the writer's process...)

A critique group I had been a part of before regrouped, and in January I gave the revised manuscript to 3 readers. I met with two of them yesterday to receive feedback. That's always a scary process. You absolutely want people who won't sugarcoat and will tell you the truth. Otherwise, what's the point? But ego is a tricky thing, and you sort of enter the room ready to duck if a hard ball comes your way.

I honestly didn't know what to expect. I've been through the manuscript and sometimes I read it and think, "Hey, this has some merit," and other times I read it and think, "Burn it now, quick,before anyone sees it." I've all but had the match in hand before I turn back.

So it was with a great sigh of relief that I received positive feedback yesterday. Not glowing. Both readers agreed I needed to tighten, condense, and do some reorganizing to get rid of repetition and create a smoother flow. No surprises there. One who read my early version said she liked that format better and thought it allowed for more humor. I'm not sure I agree. But it's worth pulling out the original format and comparing.

Having received comments and suggestions, I'm also currently motivated to work on the book--something I need to jump on before I blink and the feeling disappears.  I also still need to meet with my third reader and see if his reactions concur with the other two. There's always a wild card...

The question follows on what I might do with said book. It will be an incredibly hard sell to a traditional publisher, given that I'm not out earning millions as a speaker, re: someone worth listening to. Then again, the premise of the book is that you don't HAVE to be that big-time speaker in order to be a successful speaker.

I'm willing to self-publish and market myself, if need be. I could start teaching again, sign up with some speakers bureaus, approach regional companies and go with back of the room sales. I suspect that will end up being the case but I'll probably at least pull together a proposal and test the waters before I go that route. (Side note: When I was typing the title of today's entry, I slipped and typed, "Public Spanking Book." Freudian slip? Or maybe a hint from the Universe that the mistyped title will be a much easier sell than my book...)

I have got to get serious about prioritizing my work time or I'm forever going to be chasing loose ends instead of working on big projects. But that's tomorrow's blog...