Last Night I Gave My First Speaking Engagement as an Author

by Karen Jonson

My Talk Led to an Important Lesson in Book Marketing

Cartoon Lady Speaker at Podium

I gave my first public talk about my book, “Sex, Lies, and Two HIndu Gurus,” to a group of graduate students. So far, so good.

Last night I gave my first talk about my book, Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus. My talk was to a group of graduate students at the University of Texas in Austin.

The experience was amazing. It was the first time I was in a room full of people I didn’t know telling them about my unnatural experience in a cult, hearing their thoughts, and answering their questions.

The opportunity to speak to them came about by serendipity. When my book was published in electronic form and available on my website in February 2012, the newspaper reporter, Eric Dexheimer, who followed the criminal case against my former guru, interviewed me for an article. I had been one of his initial informers when he was researching and writing an article after my former guru’s arrest for child molestation. But now I was using my real name on my book, which was the angle of his interview with me.

The professor had read the article, which appeared in the Sunday paper on March 17th. He was leading a graduate-level course on diversity and one class was going to be dedicated to cults. He emailed me and asked if I would speak to his class on that night. He likes to bring in speakers on topics whenever possible. Of course, I agreed.

Fielding Questions About My Life in a Cult

At the class last night, I began by explaining my motivation for writing my book. The reason is two-fold: One, I want to warn other people about this cult in particular and the dangers of cults in general. My second reason is that I needed to relive my 15 years in the cult in order to make sense of what I had experienced.

Then the students’ questions began. They had dozens of questions as they tried to understand my unique experience. Some were a bit accusing, others were more curious. Their questions included:

• Once I was inside the organization, how did I ignore the red flags?
• How did I maintain any level of independence and autonomy in a community lorded over by a “guru”?
• What did I think now about God and religion?

For example, one female student asked pointblank, “How could you just ignore the fact that the guru inappropriately touched you in his bedroom?” I was familiar with the question, because I had asked myself the same thing hundreds of times. I explained how a person is slowly lured into the cult mindset, bit by bit, until your rational mind loses its firm grip on right and wrong.

Another student asked me: “Was there anything wrong with your life there that would have made you leave if it hadn’t been for the child abuse?” Honestly, I don’t think I would have left if it were not for the child abuse. I had given the gurus’ the benefit of the doubt in many other areas over the years. But I drew the line at hurting children.

Opening a New Window of Opportunity for Book Sales

The students seemed to be fascinated by my answers, which included commentary from my in-depth research into cult behavior. I told them I drew insight and inspiration from a wide variety of sources. For example, I cited dialogue from a Guy Ritchie movie called Revolver, in which a conman talks about the art of the con. At one point, the character says, “If a con game is big and involves a lot of people, no one believes it’s a con game, because it’s too big and too many people are involved.”

My session with the class was supposed to last about one hour. But there were so many questions, it last an hour and a half.

At the end, the professor and students told me how well the book was written. “It was very easy to read,” one man stated.

The professor said: “I believe this book will become one of the most important books about life inside of a cult.” Wow!

This experience showed me something that I had not considered before. I should market my book to colleges, professors, and cult professionals. Maybe my book does bring something to the table that is more substantial than I realized while I was writing it.

The lesson I took from my experience is this: As self-published authors everything we do to get the word out about our books matters, because you never know which thing we do is going to open up a new window of possibility.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg October 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Very encouraging! Thank you so much Karen. You’ve got me wanting to read your book!…and publishing mine!


Karen Jonson October 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Thank you Linda,

That’s about the best thing you can say to an author! And you should definitely publish yours.



Dixie Diamanti October 24, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Karen, being a few weeks away from publishing my first book recounting my freedom from childhood incest and spiritual abuse this article is so encouraging to me!!! I am excited about the audience it will appeal to and help. And can’t wait for my first experience like this….I am saving your story!!! Blessings!!!

(Btw: My book is called, Climbing Out of the Box, My journey out of sexual and spiritual abuse into freedom and healing.)


Karen Jonson October 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

Hi Dixie,

I’m so happy to hear that you gained encouragement. That is exactly what this blog is all about.

Congratulations to nearing your publication date. If your book was anything like mine, it was challenging to relive those memories, but writing it all down was a healing process.

Best of luck,



Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. November 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm


Congratulations on the courage to write your book and tell your compelling experiences. Not only is it powerful for your healing, but also for your readers who will gain strength to get away from abuse in any of its forms.

I’m very proud of your decision to use your own name and now to step out to give public appearances. This is a powerful way to promote your book and enjoy the sales you deserve.

You are on the right track to approach colleges, but also consider associations, women’s conferences and groups that are actively seeking speakers and have members who can afford your book. When you approach conferences, consider having them buy a copy of your book as part of the fee attendees pay rather than just counting on single sales after your talk.

Also, to spread your name and message, continue to harness the power of the Internet via social media and Internet talk radio.

The ways to market your book are infinite, and with your experience as a copywriter and ghostwriter you have the skills and tenacity to get the attention and sales you deserve.

You may get ideas, tips and support from groups such as the National Memoir Association,,,, gutsy indie publishers on FB, and many others. You may well already know about these groups, but I wanted to share them just in case.

The possibilities are endless.


Karen Jonson November 18, 2012 at 10:27 am

Hello Flora,

Thank you so much for your kind words, your encouragement, and ideas to get the word out about my book. I haven’t reached out to the ones you mentioned, but I will follow up on all of them.

I really appreciate you recognizing the opportunity to get out an important message about the power and destruction of cults. Not that everyone will come into contact with my exact situation, but many will meet a sociopath in their lives who tries to control them and take advantage of them. I hope to open people’s eyes to these con men and woman. The only way for others to recognize these people is to understand them by reading the stories of people who were ensnared and then broke free.

Again, thank you so much.



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