This is a follow-up to my previous postÂ about the two, quasi-local, small-publisher groups whose meetings I occasionally attend.
This month, Valleynet offered a speaker who had attended a prestigious marketing course for small publishers. I looked up the course online and it was very extensive (not all of it applied to me, but why would it?). Half of it was devoted to using the Internet to market oneâ€™s self and oneâ€™s books. One whole segment covered how to use a blog for marketing purposes, as well as doing a virtual tour.
Now, assuming she reported all she learned to the Valleynet group, Iâ€™m wondering how many of the group members got conceptual whiplash because last monthâ€™s speaker almost completely dismissed the Web for marketing (especially blogs and virtual tours). This is ironic and funny, certainly, though Iâ€™m still miffed that my question about virtual tours wasnâ€™t taken seriously. (Wonder if last monthâ€™s speaker will ever be invited back.)
Instead of the oh-so-tempting chance at living irony over at Valleynet, I decided to attend the monthly Baynet meeting. Their speaker had pretty good credentials and his specialty was in teaching speaking skills (among other presentation-related skills). I was hoping for some specialized author tips and some really meaty learning.
The format at Baynet has changed. Instead of the Q&A session being chaired by Mr. Jolly & Oblivious and his suavely-accented friend, itâ€™s chaired by Mr. Jolly and the two co-presidents (both female). Neither of the girls had much to say and one spent her time staring into space. Maybe she was meditating. Mr. Jolly didnâ€™t give much of a chance for anyone to get a word in edgewise anyway. He seems to have been taking speaking classes with lawyers. (Every lawyer Iâ€™ve talked to repeats themselves constantly and draws out whatever point theyâ€™re trying to make. I think itâ€™s a way of burning time.) Nearly an entire hour was wasted on one question, which ended in a consensus of: consult an attorney.
Then came the endless round of intros. This time, there was no one timing it (should be 30 seconds each person), so we burned a lot of time introducing everyone. I wanted to be ignored, but it didnâ€™t happen (next time Iâ€™m going to run to the bathroom and be first in line for the break). Iâ€™ve introduced myself the same way every meeting, â€œHi, Iâ€™m Amanda Brooks. Iâ€™m writing and publishing a series of non-fiction books about the adult industry.â€ And then I sit down.
For the first time, everyone seemed to pick up on the â€œadult industryâ€ part. Embarrassing. I fumbled with the definition, even though I can recite the definition I give in my book by heart. I just didnâ€™t think they wanted to hear it. The women seemed more curious than the men, which surprised me. (Although I had two men approach me during the break asking questions, but in a non-threatening manner.) I feel I can verbally defend myself if need be, but I wasnâ€™t at this meeting to discuss my work. I felt very naked and uncomfortable.
After the break (when I wanted to be left alone), the speaker started. Due to everyoneâ€™s windbag tendencies, he was already about an hour late getting started. The man was engaging. Great! His handout introduced a lot of concepts, many tailored to authors and many things I was not familiar with. I looked forward to a learning-packed presentation.
Although he had been present at the gathering from the minute it started, he is not a keen observer of human nature. The very first thing he did was throw the floor open for suggestions from the group about things like why did they want to speak; what did they hope to accomplish with their speaking; why were they afraid of speaking; and so forth. One or two suggestions from the group and then moving on with the point wouldâ€™ve worked. Instead, everyone launched into a discussion. Never give a writer a chance to open their mouth because they will. He lost control of the room and there went his presentation. We burned 30 minutes on the first page of his six-page handout and didnâ€™t even get through but two of the questions on the first page.
I didnâ€™t drive nearly three hours (one-way) just to hear the Baynet people throw out their opinions on public speaking (most of whom I doubt have been in front of an audience). I wanted to hear a man who teaches corporate speaking skills. Instead, he let the group run the show. He was a conductor instead of a presenter.
Then one of the co-presidents began tapping her watch, he tried to wrap things up. We sped through the last couple pages of his handout in less than five minutes. Iâ€™m pretty sure there were points that werenâ€™t touched on or fully explained. Then, there was no time for Q&A because he was already way over the expected time limit.
The meeting wasnâ€™t a complete waste of time (it rarely is) but I didnâ€™t feel like I got my gas moneyâ€™s worth. Especially when you add in the fact that I had to get up at 5:30am to get there on time (they started 15 minutes late, too) and I didnâ€™t get back home until nearly 4pm (due to traffic).
Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that small publishers are a very chatty bunch who need more unstructured social interaction, that way they can behave themselves during the structured time. And Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that they donâ€™t do structure and discipline very well, which Iâ€™ve always thought was a factor in oneâ€™s success. Hmmâ€¦.
I probably wonâ€™t be attending next monthâ€™s meeting of either group. Their featured speakers donâ€™t seem compelling enough but Iâ€™ll wait to decide until I know more. Itâ€™s becoming very hard to justify the expense of time and money to attend a meeting simply to remind myself that Iâ€™m not alone. After all, I could just go to a local day spa, get a massage and feel like a whole new person. Even better–day spas are quiet.