Thursday, April 12, 2018

Buy Me!

Authors are increasingly expected to shoulder the time and expense of book marketing and promotion. When was/is enough finally enough? Where do you draw the line and why?

From Jim

I’m not sure where to draw the line. You can only control so much of the promotional side of the business. For me, the most important aspect is selling yourself. We’ve got to get out there in front of readers. And the best place to find new readers is at writers conferences. Follow these simple guidelines and you too can win yourself lots of fans.

At the Conference

(Photo removed)

If you’re lucky enough to be assigned to a panel, remember that the microphone is to be shared.The same does not apply for awards.

Don’t drink from the water glasses on the table. If the organizers have provided bottled water, you may drink it provided you’ve opened it yourself.

Avoid talking politics. Stick to safe topics such as religion or which of your fellow panelists is a hack.

Resist the urge to be funny. You’re not. At least not on purpose.

Wear pants. Someone might inadvertently lift the table skirt. I’m not falling for that one again. (Bill Fitzhugh knows what I’m talking about...)

Don’t snort when the author to your right mispronounces Gillian Flynn’s name.

Don’t forget to remind the audience that the villain is the hero of his own story. This is a sine qua non on every panel.

Face-to-Face Interaction

At conferences, panels, signings, and even in the bar, assume everyone is looking at you. That means no picking of noses, scratching of rears, or staring of daggers across a crowded room at that writer whose success you so begrudge.

Smile. People like happy people. But if smiling’s not your thing, don’t force it. You’ll end up creeping people out. And definitely don’t smile if you’re a drooler. Come to think of it, forget about smiling altogether. Just assume a neutral expression.

Talk. Nobody ever sold books by keeping silent. That said, don’t monopolize the conversation, the microphone, or the oxygen. A conversation requires a give and take, a back and forth between two people. Otherwise it’s a versation.

Ask. Ask questions of the person whose ear you’ve been chewing off about your magnum opus. Everyone likes to feel included (read drone on about themselves, too). Whether it’s a potential reader or a fellow writer, give them the floor from time to time and catch your breath.

And finally, listen. Listen to what that person twaddling at you is saying. You can communicate your interest, genuine or feigned, in a variety of ways.

Focus your eyes on her. And—this should go without saying—I mean her face, guys.

Throw in a well-timed cock of the head. This creates the illusion that you are intelligent and weighing the merits of your interlocutor’s thesis. Even though you’re not.

Utter an occasional “really?” or “you don’t say.” Your long-winded interlocutor will appreciate these verbal fillers. They demonstrate that you are indeed still conscious but not threatening to turn the subject back to yourself.

And, most important, resist the urge to look around for someone better to tell about your book. Unless you spot Lawrence Block or someone like that. Then it’s okay to ditch.

I can’t tell you how other authors do it, but follow these rules and I promise you’ll be on your way to the New York Times bestseller list. Guaranteed. (Individual results may vary.)


Ann said...

Thanks for the morning giggle. I damn nearly looked up "versation." Then the penny dropped.

Kathy Reel said...

You're hilarious, Jim!

Anonymous said...

Your technique of hanging around the Starbucks worked quite well at Left Coast Crime as well. Lots of witty banter ensued. And I'm sure Matt Coyle didn't take anything you said personally.

RJ Harlick said...

Love it. I'll have to try some of these tips at the next con.

Vinnie said...

You are a wit (the bright variety).

Susan C Shea said...

Aha - so that's what's on when you tilt your head, smile at me, and say, "So right!" in the hotel bar? If your witty post is widely read, we can expect a forest of people practicing Jim's Technique at Malice and BCon!

Terry said...

An additional point: be sure and point out when someone leaves the room during a panel if someone else is talking. LIke, Matt Coyle.

Susan Spann said...

Great post, Jim! (And some great conference advice in there too - especially the part about wearing pants. Always a pro tip, and always appreciated by the others on the panel, too.)