Speaking

One of the guiding principles of Blue Ear Books is that there is no better salesperson for any book than its author. My own experience promoting my own books – born out of necessity – bears this out.

For several years starting in 2007, I spoke often to nonprofit, civic, religious, and college audiences about Pakistan. When the original publishing and distribution situation of my book Alive and Well in Pakistan (which was first published in 2004) became untenable, I made a fresh trip to India and Pakistan – spending six weeks traveling entirely overland from Mumbai to Karachi – and wrote a fresh book, Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip (2010), specifically and consciously in order to wrest back control of my own career.

On the strength of the subject’s topicality, my credibility as a journalist who had lived in and covered the region, and my own initiative promoting myself as a speaker, I was able to presell about 500 copies of Overtaken By Events, which covered the costs of book design and a print run. I followed similar models with my books Bearing the Bruise: A Life Graced by Haiti (2012) and Home Free: An American Road Trip (2013), as well as with the 10th-anniversary edition of Alive and Well in Pakistan that Blue Ear Books published in 2014.

David Howell promoting his book The Descent into Happiness at the excellent independent bookstore Boswell Books in Milwaukee, 2016.

The development of Blue Ear Books from publishing my own books to being a vehicle for other authors began when three friends – David Howell, Dennis Rea, and Jeb Wyman – each approached me independently to ask, essentially, “How do you do that?” All three became and have remained mainstays of the growing and widening Blue Ear Books community of authors, and all three offer examples of how authors can effectively promote their own work. Jeb Wyman in particular has made good use of networks of military veterans and those who serve them around the Pacific Northwest, as well as word of mouth and his own standing as an experienced community college instructor, to do many solo speaking engagements as well as events involving some of the 18 veterans whose stories are featured in his book What They Signed Up For (2017).

Veterans featured in Jeb Wyman’s book What They Signed Up For at an event in Washington State, 2017.

More recent additions to the Blue Ear Books community also show what can be done by an author who believes strongly in the value of his or her book and takes initiative to reach out to organizations and venues in a position to offer audiences and help get the word out. David Grantham has spoken about his book Consequences to university, civic, and church audiences around North Texas, where he lives, and Florida, where he grew up, and did an excellent 14-minute video interview on the process of writing his book. Thomas MacDonald will be launching his book Here Is What Happened: A Black Man’s Discoveries and Decisions on November 1 at the historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts, where he lives.

Lisa Carrington Firmin, author of Stories from the Front: Pain, Betrayal, and Resilience on the MST Battlefield (coming from Blue Ear Books in April 2022), retired from the United States Air Force as a full colonel and is leveraging her strong networks among veterans as well as Latino and professional organizations around the U.S. to spread the word ahead of her book’s publication. Christo Brand and Andrew Russell have a fully-developed 45-minute question-and-answer presentation that they offer to tell the story of Christo’s lifelong friendship with Nelson Mandela, which began when Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island and Christo was a young warder (guard) there – a story that’s told fully in Christo’s book Doing Life with Mandela.

The pandemic and travel restrictions make it necessary for authors to do more speaking via Zoom and other remote technologies, when in-person events are not possible or feasible. By the same token – as Christo’s and Andrew’s experience in particular shows – the now widespread adoption of Zoom and mainstream acceptance of virtual events make it possible to reach audiences worldwide without always needing to travel.

Blue Ear Books and our authors are constantly trying new and innovative ways to reach out to audiences to tell our stories. If you would like to invite any of us to speak to your class or group, email me any time at ecasey@blueearbooks.com or contact any of our authors directly.

Ethan Casey, October 11, 2021