With a Little Help from TED Talks



by Christine Liu-Perkins


Public speaking is always somewhat nerve-wracking for me, but a recent invitation to participate in a symposium gave me new reasons to be nervous. The symposium was for experts and scholars to share their research on Mawangdui, one of China’s most important archaeological sites (and the subject of my book, At Home in Her Tomb ).

Go to China—exciting! Learn from Mawangdui experts—amazing opportunity. But give a presentation? Intimidating! What could I say about writing a book for children that would possibly interest an international group of experts and scholars? None of my initial ideas felt interesting or compelling enough.

Finally, I realized that my presentation would be similar to a TED Talk: medium-short in length and somewhat personal rather than lecture-like. Being a research enthusiast, I hopped online to look for tips on giving successful TED Talks and also watched videos of popular talks.

I was especially intrigued by the insights of Chris Anderson, TED Curator (“How to Give a Killer Presentation”):

  • take the audience on a journey
  • present a problem and your search for a solution

Other helpful tips that were offered by Anderson, as well as Jesicka Labud (“Speak like a Pro─15 lessons learned from watching TED TALKS”) and Carmine Gallo (“9 Public-Speaking Lessons From The World’s Greatest TED Talks”), included:

  • tell stories
  • inspire your audience
  • teach the audience something new or lead them to see something from a new perspective
  • be authentic, personal, and passionate

So I talked about my journey of falling in fascination with Lady Dai, three challenges I worked through in writing the book (especially adapting scholarly research for students and nonacademics), how learning about Mawangdui had affected my life personally, and responses of readers to the book. Afterwards, the comments people gave me were enthusiastic and heartening!

I would love to hear about your experiences. Have any tips on preparing presentations that you find helpful?



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4 comments to With a Little Help from TED Talks

  • Thank you for all this great information, Chris! I agree with Claudia that it also can apply to blog posts. How clever of you to think of this presentation as a TED Talk!

    How I wish we could all have been there with you.

  • Very good advice! I love TED talks, but I never thought to figure out WHY they’re so good. I’m going to use that, next time I have to present something.

  • Great piece, Chris! Your blog post incorporated all of the bullet points you enumerated — it was interesting, informative, and inspiring. Thank you! I plan to use the tips you’ve gathered here in the performance of a number of tasks ahead of me: writing queries, delivering pitches, speaking to groups, and communicating to individuals who ask about my work. Job well done!

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To Everything there is a Season…

Hilari Bell



By Hilari Bell

A time to be born, and die, and all that other stuff, sure. But as it turns out there’s also a time to write, and a time to advertise.

I came to this realization when I looked at my writing production schedule, and my shiny, brand new marketing plan, and discovered that I was trying to cram about five months of work into the same two month period. No matter what I wanted, that wasn’t going to happen…and it was writing a new novel that had to give.

This wasn’t an easy decision. I have a book in mind that I really want to write, and I’ve been writing a novel a year for roughly the last 30 years. The only time I’ve skipped was the year when my part time job morphed into a 3/4 time job, and we discovered my Dad’s cancer had spread. I actually wrote a novel in the year he died. So I’m pretty dedicated to my process.

But when you’re going the indie pub route, you become your own advertising department as well as the producer of product. And because I previously left that part of the job to my publishers, I’m starting from scratch—with the learning curve, time over-runs, and start up hassles that beginning anything from the ground up entails.

I’m kind of psyched about my marketing plan, which hinges on reaching out to new readers, book stores and libraries (school and public) by offering Skype or phone chats to book clubs who’ll read one of my books. But I find that before I do anything else I need to overhaul my website, not to mention taking that class in creating discussion guides. Then there’s assembling the indie book store mailing list, mastering mail chimp for the newsletter, and so on. And on. And on.

I once listened to a talk by a professional project manager, who gave me a lot of good information. But she said three things I found incredibly valuable:

The first is that any project rests on three supports, which are: the Deadline, the Money, the Man Hours. If any of these supports fails, one or both of the others have to flex to make up for the loss. If you lose man hours, you’ll either have to extend your deadline, or hire more people to make up the shortfall. If your deadline shortens, you’ll also need to hire more people to work on the project. If you run short of money, then you’re probably going to have to give your laborers more time. And you can’t cheat on this. You can’t say you’ll just work harder, or smarter, or faster—it takes the time it takes. If you have a lot of money, sometimes you can shorten that time by hiring more people…but sometimes even that doesn’t work.

The second thing she said, which is even more valuable, is that Things Will Go Wrong. This is inevitable and immutable. Professional managers figure out the time they think it will take to complete the project, and then add 30% to that estimate. And you’re lucky if you bring that off.

And the final, most valuable thing she taught me, is that when you do find you’re running over budget, or out of time, you “rebaseline” the project. Professionals draw up a report, which they submit to the boss, explaining what happened and what the new time table is. Then (this is the hardest part) you jettison the old plan, without guilt or regret, and start working on the new time table. Because all guilt or regret does is waste your time and energy—it will still take the time it takes, no matter how you feel about that.

So I took a realistic look at the amount of time my advertising plan is going to take, took a deep breath, and let my season turn from novel production to advertising. And once I threw off my instinctive Oh, but I should be able to do it all impulse, I find I’m OK with that decision. I’ve been writing a novel a year for roughly three decades. So maybe I’m due a break!



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Could You be a Kindle Kids’ Book Creator? Pt II

Author Claudia Cangilla McAdam 2014



By Claudia Cangilla McAdam        



In my last post on December 22, I detailed the process of creating a kids’ picture eBook, utilizing Amazon’s Kindle Kids’ Book Creator software. So by now, you’ve mastered the skill of developing a Kindle picture book—right? Good for you! Now what?

Once you are ready to publish your eBook, you’ll “save for publishing” via the software program. Now it’s time to upload the book to Amazon.

  • You’ll go to kdp.amazon.com where your account exists (it is set up when you download the software) and sign in. You’ll click “add new title.”
  • At this point, authors must determine whether they want to be a part of KDP Select or not. Basically, if you give Amazon a 90-exclusive on the marketing of your new eBook, there are some perks that are otherwise unavailable regarding earning additional income, etc.
  • The next piece of business is to enter your book details in the spaces provided: title, author, publisher (your name, unless you actually have a publishing name), book description (think in advance about this and incorporate some good keywords in your description, making sure it is compelling copy).
  • You can add the names of an illustrator or other contributors.
  • Target your book to customers by selecting the categories of interest (up to two) from a drop-down menu. You’ll also indicate the age range of your desired readership.
  • You need to check the item that indicates that you are ready to release your book now (as opposed to making it available for pre-order).
  • At this point, you upload your cover. If you haven’t yet developed one, Amazon has a Cover Creator program for making one. In their own words, you can use “an image you provide or a selection from our gallery of stock images, customizable with a variety of different layouts and font sets.”
  • Next, you upload the book file (the output of the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator). You’ll have another opportunity here to preview your book once again.
  • You’ll verify your publishing territories (basically, giving worldwide rights to have your book published everywhere).
  • The next section is important, because you get to choose what royalty option you want for your book. You can choose a 70% royalty or a 35% one. The difference is that your book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99, if you want the 70% royalty payout. Books priced under or over those price limits mean you must accept the 35% royalty payout arrangement. You set the price of your book in the space provided.

One caveat I discovered when I developed the illustration-heavy eBook version of The Christmas Tree Cried: when someone buys your book, Amazon charges $.15 per megabyte of file size to deliver your eBook to the customer. This comes directly out of your royalty. So, it behooves you to diminish the file size of images you use in the book. It may also impact the decision you make regarding the pricing of your eBook.

After you’ve gone through all the steps, you click “Save and Publish,” and the publishing process begins on Amazon’s end. It takes a day or two to get the OK, but soon, you’ll get a notice form Amazon providing you with the URL where you can find the book up for sale on their site.

In putting together and publishing my first picture eBook, The Christmas Tree Cried, I had a few questions along the way, but the good folks at Amazon were quick to answer, and I found the whole procedure to be quite satisfying.

The Bones You OwnMy second foray into Kindle eBook publication is my recently-uploaded nonfiction kids’ picture book, The Bones You Own: A Kids’ Introduction into the Human Skeleton. In conjunction with the book, I offer on my website, free of charge, a downloadable discussion guide and activities sheets. This gives teachers and parents bonus material, at no added cost.

I love the creativity the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator gives me, and I’m particularly thrilled to be able to publish works in this format, increasing my visibility and providing additional content which I hope will be well-received.

So, what’s stopping you? I encourage you to play around with the software, see what you come up with, and explore publishing a Kindle picture eBook.


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