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How-To Information for Storytellers

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Jackie Baldwin jackie@story-lovers.com
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Finding New Venues
The information below contains excerpts from the many discussions held on the Texas Woman's University School of Library and Information Studies STORYTELL Discussion List regarding finding new venues for storytellers.

• Always, always, always carry your business cards with you. Have them close at hand. If you meet anyone who sounds at all intrigued that you are a storyteller, immediately give them a card saying, “Here’s my business card.” If you have a web site, add, “There is information about me and my storytelling on my web site. You can [read] [hear] [see] some of my stories there.” If you have a spouse, ask them to carry some of your business cards.

People/Groups to Contact For Networking

  • Storytellers
  • Local storytelling guilds
  • Libraries: librarians tend to be helpful
  • Colleges: let faulty and staff know of your availability

Places Where Stories Can Be Told

  • School residencies: call the school to find out what sort of residencies the school wants and how their residencies get funded
  • Churches: youth programs, senior programs
  • Daycare centers: offer to tell a story or two
  • Bookstores: offer to tell a story or two
  • United Way: local chapter may be able to help you
  • Museums
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts
  • Local teacher groups
  • Parent groups
  • PTA and PTO
  • Civic organizations
  • Chamber of commerce
  • Public and private schools
  • Nursing homes
  • Women’s clubs
  • Men’s clubs
  • YMCA
  • YWCA
  • Campgrounds
  • Any group of people who regularly provide programs for their members

When Approaching Potential Clients

• State your case and show why it would be a good idea. That means talking about the benefits to them. Benefits are crucial to get clear in your mind, and you must think about these from the group's point of view, not yours. Since you can't know everything about their approach, values, goals etc. you do need to get agreement from them about these benefits too - for instance it's no use arguing for how your contributions will increase audiences if they already have bigger audiences than they can cope with.

So you'll need to mix fact-finding (open-ended - how, what, when etc.) questions with agreement (yes/no) questions to progress their buy-in to your proposal. If you can get them to say yes...yes...yes...yes...etc. to bigger questions or a growing commitment then they will be psychologically prepared to make the final step of agreeing to act on your proposal since all the major obstacles will have been already dealt with.

Even if they ask your fee at the beginning, avoid answering until near the end (or at a further meeting) when they are clear on all the benefits and have agreed that they want them. You might also get them to agree to working together with you to find creative ways to provide your fees, or agree a conditional bonus if things work well or bring in good money. It's usually a good idea, when a fee is finally mentioned, to first ask what their budget is or what fee they could offer - you can then gauge their understanding of what you are worth. If they offer something much less than you would accept, you may decide you need to further emphasise the financial benefits of hiring you, before you come back with a suggestion of your preferred figure.

By having a clear idea of the conversational journey you want to take them on - which is after all what storytellers do for a living - and by directing the flow with lots of pertinent questions and good listening, you'll be in firm control of the conversation and can arrive at the moment of fee-agreement in the strongest position.

• Below is from Tim Sheppard, as he posted to Storytell.

When approaching potential clients, ask: Do you have time to talk now?

Does your group want more.. (audiences, money, ideas, input of energy, appeal etc.)?

Can I suggest an idea to you?

Does that sound interesting?

Would you be willing to meet up and talk more?

Do you think you could work with me?

Do you have any budget to hire me?

Do you have a fee in mind?

• In the past, I've called a school, asked an English class if I can try out a new story on a class. (middle and High School) From those events, I had rec'd jobs. I am marketing, talking about the value of storytelling, whetting their appetite in the same telling.

I also visit schools in the summer, talk to the principal, teacher librarian,etc, The person-to-persoin contact has helped. Call them back in the year. I am sure many of you do this. I think putting articles in the paper some free telling with a little philosophy on storytelling thrown in. Stephen H. has a lot of ideas on selling storytelling. Find out the PTO president, writer him/her

Last year, I wrote a letter to the editor for 5 local papers entitled "Why Arts." I got responses and jobs.

In the area south of my home, I've had to lower fees because these places just do not have the funds. But I charge the same for all those schools, never a different rate for one and not another. Many of these are not new, but I am always surprised the number of people who have no idea what we do and that it has value.

I agree with developing a "Why storytelling list of ideas" as a fund of ideas.

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Copyright 2007 by Jackie Baldwin and Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.