look for opportunities to promote your writing expertise

Hi everyone and thanks for the encouragement during the trying times of the past few weeks. I am truly grateful for the community that regularly gathers on this blog.

This week, we have the pleasure of welcoming author Irene Ternier Gordon as a guest blogger. I am grateful to call Irene a long-time friend and a frequent commenter on this blog. Irene is a former teacher librarian who has authored seven books about Canadian history. She’s kind enough to give us some tips on how we can look beyond the obvious for opportunities to sell books and promote our expertise.

Look for Opportunities to Promote Your Expertise

by Irene Ternier Gordon

How many of you are aware of the Via Rail “On Board Entertainment” Program? I just learned about it last spring and was surprised to learn that it included people such as storytellers in addition to musicians.  Since many Via Rail travellers are from outside of Canada, performers are expected to focus on Canadian material.

I am the author of seven non-fiction books on Canadian history specializing in the fur trade era; therefore I thought Via Rail might be interested in my telling stories from one or more of my books, which are written in the form of adventure stories. They signed me up as an historian/storyteller to do presentations based on my fur trade book and on my history of the Red River Settlement and the Battle of Seven Oaks.


Irene Ternier Gordon giving a talk on Via Rail to an eager audience

The Via Rail contract stated that I was to travel from Winnipeg to Toronto and return, presenting three talks of about ¾ of an hour each way. Although you do not get paid, presenters receive board and room on the train. Presenters are also allowed to display their books, CDs, etc. for sale, but they are not to actively promote sales of them. I sold eight copies of my books.

I made a set of posters of the illustrations and maps from my books and used them to illustrate my talks. I also handed out copies of the maps (with my business card attached) to the audience. My first talk was given in  an activity area, but all of the others were given in a dome car. The audience size varied from a low of six – two of whom didn’t speak English – to a high of perhaps 25. Many seemed very interested and asked lots of questions; others didn’t seem that interested but they were polite. Audience members ranged in age from four to over 80. When I complimented the four-year-old on how good an audience member she had been, she responded that it [my talk] was like a bedtime story but it was kind of long.

The facilities were not ideal. People who were not interested in your presentation may have already been there when you arrived and you could not ask them to leave. We did make an exception for a boy about 12 who was sound asleep,  sprawled across seats for three people in the activity area.  I hated to wake him up, but we needed the space and his sister was just delighted to do the honours.

The contact person for the Via Rail On Board Entertainment Program can be reached at onboardentertainment@viarail.ca.

I would be interested in hearing from any other writers who have participated in this program and would be happy to answer any questions from people who might be interested in applying for it.  You can also check out my website at www.ireneterniergordon.ca.

Thanks to Irene for this post. How about you? Have you participated in a program such as Via Rail’s On Board Entertainment program or a similar program that helped you promote your expertise to an audience you may not otherwise have reached? Please share your stories with us. Irene has offered to field questions and respond to comments until Sept 11th when she heads off to Scotland.


Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

40 Responses

  1. Suzanne


    This sounds like a fun way to promote your books. I’d love to do it, but I haven’t written anything about Canada. I would if we have similar rail programs in the USA? I’ll have to find out.

    What an interesting post! Thanks so much.
    Suzanne recently posted…This Friday on Book Bites for KidsMy Profile

    • Irene says:

      It was nice to hear from you. It was purely by accident that I found out about the Via Rail program. I have no idea whether the American passenger system has a similar program, but likely you could find out on their website.

      • WOWjust what I was looking for. Came here by searching for authors promoting books

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    • WizardOfWords

      Indeed, it’s definitely worth looking into Suzanne, to see if Amtrak has a similar program for speakers/entertainers. Let us know if you find out! Thanks again for visiting the blog.

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  2. Susan Cooper

    That was interesting. I wasn’t aware that these kinds of programs where available. I could see where there would be an opportunity to share what you write with people who are interested in the subject that you would be showcasing. I can also see where it may present a different set of challenges such as the uninterested and the sleeping boy… LOL
    Susan Cooper recently posted…How I Draw On My iPad/Part 4 “Creating A Still Life Fruit Bowl”My Profile

    • WizardOfWords

      Hi Susan and thanks for the comment. You could do a set of talks on how you taught yourself to draw on the iPad. Your illustrations are awesome, and it would be encouraging for people to know that you don’t have to be a trained artist to create beauty on the screen. They also have these kind of edu-talks on cruise ships. I did a series of talks on the subject of feng shui for Celebrity Cruiselines several years ago.

    • Irene says:

      Hello Susan,
      Yes, there were some challenges — sleeping boys and young people listening to electronic devices — but that is to be expected when you share a space that is for all passengers, not just those who want to hear your presentation. After 15 years as a junior high teacher-librarian, I simply told the young people that I would be happy to have them stay if they wanted to hear my presentation. If they didn’t, they would have either to leave or to be quiet so other people could hear me.
      Thanks for the note,.

  3. Bindhurani says:

    That is really great. I didn’t know that story telling was included. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Bindhurani recently posted…Wednesday W I PMy Profile

  4. Irene says:

    Hi Bindhurani,
    Thanks for the note. I was booked by Via Rail as an historian and story teller. I write factual history books, but they are written in an entertaining style like adventure stories.

  5. Haven’t had the opportunity to join something like this. But I’m still keeping my eyes opened around here in my area for something like this. Hopefully, I’ll find one and give this one a try.
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  6. Irene says:

    Hi Adeline,
    It was good to hear from you. I had never heard of Bicolano foods before although there are many people of Philippino origin in the Winnipeg area.

  7. kevin says:

    This is a great idea, it’s a fantastic way to promote yourself as well as give the passengers something to do while on their trip other than just sitting around looking out the window to pass time.

    • WizardOfWords

      Thanks for your comment and for dropping by the blog, Kevin. I believe it’s your first visit! I hope you’ll drop by again soon.

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  8. Lanre says:

    That’s an interesting way to promote your work as a writer. I haven’t done anything like this before but when the opportunity comes, I’ll grab it (I hope).
    It’s almost impossible to get everybody to be interested in and love what we do. So there will always be a “sleeping boy” in the midst of an interested audience. The best thing is to stay focused and not get discouraged.
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    • WizardOfWords

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Lanre.

      You’re right! We can never interest an entire audience, but if the facility or host properly promotes the presentation in advance, the chances of having an opt-in audience who are there because they WANT to be are greatly increased.

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  9. Good idea of promoting your book, If the same program will be available in US and my time permits I would love to give it a try and meet people to exchange concepts . For sure it will be another great experience that is something to look forward.

    • WizardOfWords

      Thanks for your comment, Felicia. Let me know if you do an edu-tainment presentation on Amtrak. It really is a cool way to connect with a new audience.

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  11. lola says:

    i write a lot, but it has been very hard getting people to recognize my work. thanks for this article.

  12. Ralf says:

    This is interesting and fun. I loved to write and promoting my work seem so hard. By your article, it reminds me of greater opportunities to all who wish to write books and promote thru via rail system. I don’t know if it holds true in Netherlands. Sure I may try it!

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  1. September 1, 2012

    […] promoting your expertise […]

  2. April 9, 2013

    […] like to introduce you to Irene Ternier Gordon, an author friend of mine who did a guest post on doreenpendgracs.com about her speaking gig on Via Rail. This week, Irene shares with us how to create your own travel […]

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