In the initial post to this series, I had the following check-list item: I am prepared to talk with people about my work, my book, writing in general, and other books similar to mine or that helped me learn the craft. A lot of writers don’t have a problem with this, but some do. I certainly did, actually, I still do. When you mention that you’ve written a book, the conversation might dwell on that book for a bit, but if you’re talking with a reader, they’re going to want to talk books and writers will want to get into nuts and bolts writing. To state the obvious, everyone is a bit different and the topics that come up are going to vary a lot. I’ve got three examples to illustrate what I’m trying to say here.
To start, I was at a party this summer and was chatting with a reader. Not a reader of my book, but just an avid reader. I mentioned that I’d just published a book (Wine Bottles and Broomsticks). This took the conversation into a discussion of what the book was about and also other books, similar books and what I like to read along with various book-to-movie adaptations and the like. This, I think, is pretty typical of a conversation where my book comes up. This isn’t the sort of thing that is going to net you a sale or a new fan, but it’s an opportunity to introduce yourself, your work and then have a meaningful conversation with a real human person about a topic you’re both interested in. In my EXTREMELY LIMITED experience, this is, hands-down, the easiest, best and cheapest way to sell a book and yourself. People you can connect with on a personal level are much more likely to give your book a try. Not everyone you encounter will, but by discussing other books, you can (subtly) plug your own work and give some context as to why it might be worth their time. That said, it’s hugely important to watch out for circumstances where your new friend will not be interested in your book and don’t push too hard. As I see it, you’re not just selling your story, you’re selling yourself as a story-teller if you push too hard, you won’t get a reader. If you come off as that interesting person from the party, what was his/her name? who wrote a book, you might find yourself appealing to a new reader. Also, ALWAYS carry around business cards with your name, website, and where your work can be found.
The second example comes from work. A colleague read the book and liked it, then she wanted to talk about the book, the characters and how she’s seeing witches all over the place now. Actually, more than one person has had this reaction. On the one hand, this is awesome, because it’s exactly what I want. on the other hand, it was unexpected and I wasn’t truly prepared for it. I don’t mind talking about my book but didn’t expect someone who’s read it to want to talk about it. That said, if I had access to an author of a book I liked, I would absolutely want to talk about it, so I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised. My point is that if you’ve written and published a book and convinced people to read it, you need to be ready to talk about that work in the same way you might talk about any other book you’ve read by any other author. Also, listen to their critical observations, not just smile and nod, note that shit for future consideration.
The last example I’ve got to provide comes from my very first author event at Black Birch Books in Wasilla (this is really a pretty neat place to visit, for a very large number of reasons –it’s the sort of place every community should have). Two people came in for the event that I have never met before (along with some Twitter folk and friends), those two people wanted a book, and they wanted to talk with an author. More importantly, they wanted to say that they too were working on a book or have been for years. This is where preparation is critical. It can be difficult to approach these conversations well. This is, in part, because during these types of situations we are trying to sell books and it can be hard to be patient for someone who is still working on theirs and haven’t quite reached a point where publishing is practical. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that they are aspiring to be behind the very same author event desk you’re behind and it’s essential to be supportive, un-judgemental, sympathetic, and as encouraging as possible. Some day, they might just be behind that same table with something very special to share. By supporting your writing community, you are contributing to a vibrant, productive, and collaborative group. That’s a huge benefit for everyone. All that said, be ready to discuss local writing groups, resources, platforms, and general information –what worked for you, what didn’t, and what you might do differently if you were to do it again. Your network of writer friends is one of the most important things you can invest in as an indie writer.
The whole long point of this article is to say – be prepared to talk about everything writing and even the smallest details of your book. At first, I wasn’t really ready for this, and it took me by surprise. My job has taught me to be good talking on my feet, so I’ve done okay here, but not everyone is going to have that skill. So my advice is that if you aren’t good at BS’ing about any random topic, then you need to prepare yourself for all manner of questions relating to reading and writing.
What do you think, do you have a different experience?
Interested in the rest of the series? Click here.