These days most marketing takes place online, so if you're uncomfortable talking about yourself or your books it's easy to avoid it entirely. But potential readers you meet in person can become some of your biggest fans.
Also, not everyone spends time on social media. Some of your acquaintances may never come across your work if you don't tell them.
In person. Using your voice.
So how can you get comfortable talking about your books? And do it in a way that engages people?
Why Some Of Us Hesitate To Share
The idea of telling someone you just met—or even someone you’ve known a long time—about your novel or other writing can be intimidating.
You might be hesitant to “brag” about yourself. You might fear other people will say unkind things, that you’re boring your listener, or that you don’t deserve the attention.
Maybe you just don't like the spotlight or aren't sure what to say.
The best way to deal with these concerns is to prepare ahead of time.
On Not Being A Bore
We’ve all met that person at a party who corners us for what feels like forever to tell us everything we never wanted to know about fruit flies or the dangers of red dye or some other topic in which we have limited (or no) interest.
Worse, that person never seems to pick up on cues such as attempts to change the conversation, repeated monosyllabic responses, or glazed eyes.
If you’re like me, your concern about not wanting to be that person can make you hesitate to say anything about a book or books you’ve written.
So start out by resolving to pay attention to your listener.
If after you've described your book briefly (see below) and perhaps said a few words in follow up, your conversation partner is saying little more than “Uh-huh” or non-committal things like “Oh, how nice,” let the topic drop.
It may help you to get started to realize that….
Most People Will Be Excited To Hear You Wrote A Book
When I was about to publish The Awakening a colleague who is great at connecting people invited me to a networking event with other lawyers and businesspeople. She surprised me by always adding when she introduced me that I'd written a thriller.
Because half the people in the room were lawyers, and the other half were people the lawyers wanted to get business from. So every other person there started with something like, “My law practice focuses on small businesses…”
People were excited to hear I'd written a thriller because it was something different to talk about.
As a side benefit, I discovered they were more likely to remember me as a lawyer because I was the one who had written the book.
Unless you’re at a writers conference, odds are you'll be the only person in the room who's written or published a novel. And if you happen to run into someone else who has, that’s great. You'll have a ton to talk about.
As to friends and acquaintances, if they like to read they'll want to know you've written a book (or books). As long as you remember to ask about what they're doing as well and don't monopolize the conversation, they'll be happy to hear about your writing.
But if you don't have a colleague to introduce you, how do you mention your writing without it feeling forced?
Starting The Conversation
When I started publishing my books, I didn't feel comfortable introducing myself as a writer or novelist.
In my mind, I wasn’t a “real” writer because I didn’t make my living at it. Also, when I started out self-publishing was much less accepted than it is now. I felt like if I said I published my own work, they'd assume it must not be very good.
Eventually I figured out that I felt more comfortable stating facts or my feelings, and it was natural to do it in answer to most basic conversation starters.
For example, often people ask “what do you do?” Though I wasn’t comfortable calling myself a writer yet, I was okay saying I was a lawyer and also wrote supernatural thrillers.
If someone I hadn't seen in a while asked how I was, I said something like, “I’m doing great. I’m so excited because I just published a new novel/got a good review/got a new cover design.” Or I might say, “I'm nervous because I'm launching a new book tomorrow.”
Though I didn't like calling my writing a hobby because I was pursuing it in the hope of making it my career, if asked about hobbies, I'd say that I wrote novels as a second job.
Once you've told people you wrote a novel, the typical question is what it's about.
To get your best chance at intriguing a possible new reader, and to avoid rambling until the person's eyes glaze over, try preparing a one-sentence summary in advance.
The One-Sentence Summary
To create this sentence, answer these three questions:
(1) Who is your protagonist?
Not your character's name, which won't mean anything to your listener, but a brief description. For example, a young woman, a brand new attorney, a retired police detective, a frightened child.
(2) What does your protagonist want or what problem does your protagonist face?
In The Awakening, the young woman protagonist's problem is that she discovers she's pregnant despite that she has never had sex. In my latest release, a suspense/mystery novel, just as she's about to move in with him, the protagonist discovers her boyfriend's dead body.
(3) What stands in your character's way?
You answer can identify the antagonist or focus on other barriers to what your protagonist wants or needs to do.
Now combine these three elements into sentence.
For instance, in Fifty Shades of Grey, a young woman wants a relationship with the man she loves but his controlling nature and his specific sexual needs conflict with her own.
For The Awakening, my sentence is: a young woman with a mysterious pregnancy faces a cult convinced she'll trigger Armageddon.
You can also create variations of your one sentence if you know someone likes a particular type of book.
If I'm talking to someone I know enjoys horror or occult books, I might start by saying “The Awakening is a supernatural thriller about…”
If it's someone old enough to remember the popularity of Rosemary's Baby or who's interested in themes about divine femininity or religion, I'll say, “It's a cross between Rosemary's Baby and The Da Vinci Code.”
Once you give your one-sentence description, watch and listen to the response. If the person's eyes light up or they lean forward or smile or say they love that type of book, feel free to tell them a little more about it.
Again, a sentence or two will do. (See On Not Being A Bore above.)
You might share how you got the idea for the book or how long it took you to write it. If the person still seems interested, that’s the time to say that the book is available on your website or on Amazon or wherever it's is easiest to find.
If you have a card or a bookmark or other paper with information, feel free to hand it to that person.
Now stop, as it's time to apply the rule of leaving your listener (and potential reader) wanting more.
Until next Friday, when I'll talk about what you can do if you take the risk of talking about your book and get a negative response—