Comments on: Book readings, your audience, and successful self-promotion http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 27 Sep 2014 00:08:01 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: John S. http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-624759 Tue, 25 May 2010 21:40:02 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-624759 Proud to report that the reading was a reasonable success. I had about 20 faculty colleagues, graduate students, undergraduates, and interested members of the university community. I choose not to relate my work to contemporary events but instead focused on 1) how I came to my topic; and 2) the most interesting chapter of the book, in abbreviated detail. People *seemed* interested, at least.

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By: John S. http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623604 Sun, 23 May 2010 18:41:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623604 This discussion is so helpful. I am unsure about how to “move units,” in some ways because I am not sure why people would buy the book. Some of that is impostor syndrome (am I really a published author?), but some is that it’s unclear how a lay audience might access a uni. press book.

I’ve gotten the advice that I might link it to current events, but I am wary of doing that. One of the book’s major topics is immigration and cultural assimilation–which is something of a hot button in the west, shall we say. And I am unprepared to handle such comments. Just last night, Professor Mrs. John S. and I were at an event to support our favorite animal charity and a woman across the table opined, in a random reference to a stray comment, that “those illegals and people on welfare” have kids only because they want to collect checks. I am not dexterous enough to parry a comment about contemporary diversity with “now about the 17th century…”

But then, I recently had a student ask me for my opinion on a “historical” subject (he used the term loosely) he and his friends were debating: whether or not Obama won the Nobel Prize just because he was black. (The proof: Bush never won, and he’s white!) I just informed him that it was 4:10, and time to talk about the New Netherlands.

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By: Miranda http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623434 Sun, 23 May 2010 11:43:06 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623434 It’s always eye-opening (and somewhat unnerving) to find out the attitudes held outside of the group of your usual associates.

I almost always hang out in feminist spaces and have friends that at least nominally identify as feminists. There are still areas of disagreement (we’ve had to agree to stay off politics), but the underlying philosophy is the same. At work, I keep my conversation on work-related topics or VERY general.

Then, I go to a family reunion or a party at a more distant friend and meet HER friends, and it’s all scarily different.

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By: Trudy http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623343 Sun, 23 May 2010 08:41:23 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623343 Yes, unfortunately, people do have very outdated information about feminism. I have had female students announce very seriously in class that women ARE better than men, and that they learned it in a Women’s Studies class. I seriously doubt that was the gist of the Women’s Studies class they took, but even students in Women’s Studies class may internalize a distorted message. I think that what comes out of your experience is not necessarily to water down your information, as much as give a clear yet brief explanation of terms at the beginning of the talk, without coming across as condescending. For example, “I use a feminist standpoint here, with the understanding that feminism means a, b, and c” … I mean, just an idea. And then, remember, sometimes an audience will suck! It happens. One lives and learns from it, and moves on.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623232 Sun, 23 May 2010 03:18:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623232 New Kid: I guess I was unfamiliar with popular beliefs about what constitutes modern feminist thought, because (like you in your old life) I teach in a period before there is such a thing as feminism as an intellectual or political movement. (For the most part, anyway.) I came to understand that most people have a very watered-down and extremely outdated understanding of feminism, which is that feminism is the belief that women are superior to men (or a somewhat less stark but no less crude, Oprah-esque “all women are goddesses” idea.)

The lesson I took from that talk was that clearly, I lead a very sheltered life. I am rarely if ever NOT the expert in the room, and it was strange not to be recognized as such. I’m not criticizing my audence (although they clearly didn’t know as much as they think they did)–but I clearly didn’t know as much as I thought I did, either.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to sell books! (John S. is going to try to do that, I’m sure.) I just thought that comment from my PR & marketing friend was food for thought. Contra Shane, I didn’t want to piss anyone off. I wanted to be provocative, but in the way that we academics can provoke thought without provoking anger or more volatile emotions. I was behaving as though my audience were academics and not a more general audience–and I was taken aback that they didn’t recognize the same “rules” that we play by. It was my mistake.

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By: New Kid on the Hallway http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623213 Sat, 22 May 2010 23:55:41 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623213 I have no book-reading advice (never wrote one, so no readings necessary!), except that telling fun stories in such a way that the audience gets to feel like they’re very smart and sophisticated for having attended seems to be the way to go. But I did just want to say that whenever I’ve made the mistake of mentioning “feminism” in a non-women’s studies class, a very very large percentage of the class has denounced feminism as the belief that women are better than men. (This has happened a few times.) I always told those students that feminism *isn’t* the belief that women are better than men, but am quite sure that they dismissed this as my opinion without any scholarly backing (because I studied old stuff, which they didn’t know about, but feminism is modern stuff, which they know all about through just living in the modern world, of course).

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By: susurro http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623202 Sat, 22 May 2010 23:03:01 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623202 I am lucky that there are some really sexy things in my first book and that it has been pretty easy to guess what certain audiences want to hear. Talking to an audience with some knowledge about my subject and a tacit understanding not to air dirty laundry was much harder because my work exposes certain taboos. I’ve always tried to sit firmly in the middle of being entertaining and giving some core facts. What I have found in hawking two books, is most folks respond to a large personality, titillation, and enough facts to prove you did the work and are “worthy” of the profession how you mix those three things is based on your audience.

and I’d agree with @truffula that “experts” in the audience can always be a problem & the best way I’ve found to diffuse them is to start by acknowledging how “truly brilliant they are” and how “grateful you are they showed up” and moving on quickly to other people. You can then work correcting information into a follow up comment to someone else’s question or in closing remarks just before it is time for meet and greet.

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By: squadratomagico http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623195 Sat, 22 May 2010 21:49:45 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623195 I gave a talk to a similar audience once. It went reasonably well, I thought, with a number of interested questions afterward. Afterward, though, I got a little email from someone who led business speaking seminars, who volunteered that I needed to stay on a simple, streamlined three-point message, and not move my hands while speaking.

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By: truffula http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623193 Sat, 22 May 2010 21:20:52 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623193 I think that how a non-specialist audience perceives their own level of expertise makes a difference. I can get pretty far with an interested audience that is open to the idea that I am an expert and they can learn something from me. As with the case in my comment two days ago, folks who understand themselves to be knowledgeable but are, in fact, not, can be trouble. I imagine that it’s more common in the humanities than in the sciences for non-specialist audiences to overestimate their own expertise.

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2010/05/22/book-readings-your-audience-and-successful-self-promotion/comment-page-1/#comment-623108 Sat, 22 May 2010 17:09:01 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=11143#comment-623108 Trying to get too subtle or complex in *any* context beyond an audience of specialists (and sometimes maybe even within) is probably an invitation to people hearing whatever they thought they heard. I love that iconic picture above, but the American Chatauqua audience–and the chatauqua aural comprehension skill-set in the body publicus–just doesn’t exist anymore. And we know it; witness the occasional strictures on the lecture as a viable pedagogic technique in various threads on this blog. So, if you don’t mind riling up a few wealthy donors or second-guessing your own specific rhetorical tactics on the drive home, probably no reason not to do it, and no reason to do it either. No harm, no foul.

My book was somewhat understood to have at least a limited amount of “crossover” potential. And while I didn’t have anything that could be seriously called a “book tour” [still wish they'd bought that idea of opening up in Jersey Shore (PA), Fratguy!!], I did present in various media and to various kinds of audiences. No real total bomb-outs that I’m remembering now, but it was hard to keep the thing completely or consistently on point each time out. I don’t think I ever truly pandered, or tried to specifically provoke. When the book proved to still have a (slight) pulse again this spring, I played it safe and took the baby back on the road for 270 eighth graders, who listened very carefully (…for the lunch bell, it turns out!!).

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