Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Even Writers Have To Speak

Writers in today's world learn to have two personalities. In one, we sit alone at our computers with only imaginary characters in our heads. In the other, we have to talk to real people and pretend we have a bubbly personality.

The good news is that the business side not only can be learned, it becomes easier with practice and experience. And while you may feel like you're the only one afraid of having to get out and publicize your book, you're not alone. I tend to be an introvert when it comes to one-on-one situations. I think it's that way with a lot of writers. I do more listening than talking (it's the reverse, though, if you get me up in front of a group of thirty or a hundred people).

There are some things you can do now, before you reach the point where you have a book out and suddenly find yourself sitting forlornly in a mega-bookstore behind a stack of books. Start practicing.

Talk to people. In the line at the grocery check-out. In an elevator. At the post office. Not necessarily about your manuscript, although that's even better practice. Talk about the weather, the slow service, the latest movie you've seen, the headlines on the tabloid magazine, whatever. Just force yourself to initiate conversations.

Keep the chat going. Think of things to say to that stranger. Come up with ways to get that person to talk to you. Not just yes or no, but get them to respond in real sentences.

And if you're talking to another writer or a friend, tell them about your book. Encapsulate it into two sentences. Work on it until you've got it down to a logline that tells the plot. Analyze your story and decide what might appeal to the person you're talking with -- the sex or career of the protagonist, the theme, the setting, the side-kick's cat, the genre, the time period? Talk up that angle. Judge what kind of response you get. Practice. Prepare yourself for that glorious day when you attend your very own first book signing.

If you're still a little shaky when your book is published, find someone to sign and tour with, someone who, hopefully, has an outgoing personality. Watch and learn, and enjoy having a partner who can pull in the passers-by. If you're both quiet, that's fine, too. Talk to each other, smile at those going by. You won't be alone and will seem more approachable. If you don't mind speaking to a group, try to arrange signings where you can either read from your book or give a talk. Both are appealing to readers. And afterwards, readers will come to you to ask questions or get you to sign a book.

Just remember. It will get easier the more you do it.

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