Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Battling Nerves at Author Events


Today's topic came by request from Taurean Watkins after last week's Writer Wednesday post about enthusiasm. Taurean wanted some tips for how to handle author events if you are shy or if you get extremely nervous talking about your books. So, here are my tips for you all.

If you get nervous talking about your own books or approaching potential readers, bring a friend or family member along who has read your book and is willing to talk you up. The advantage of doing this is that someone else is enthusiastically promoting you and your work, so you won't come off as the author who loves to talk about him/herself. This person can greet people as they come into the store, library, or wherever you are holding your event. They can invite people to come meet you and check out your books. 

Now, what do you do when people come up to you if you're shy or nervous? If you're hands shake, then I suggest holding something. Got a stack of business cards, bookmarks, or other SWAG? (You should!) Hold it and hand the SWAG to whoever stops by your table. That will give your hands something to do to keep from shaking and to keep you from fidgeting.

Next, ask people what kind of books they like to read. This takes the focus off you and gets the potential reader talking. Feel free to discuss books you love, too. It doesn't and shouldn't just be about your book that you're selling. Make a connection and have a real conversation. That should put you more at ease and get you talking. Don't like talking about your book and feeling like a salesman? That's fine. Encourage people to pick up your book, to read the blurb, and to flip through the pages. Some readers prefer to read the back cover than to ask you what the book is about.

Too nervous to ask people to sign up for your newsletter/mailing list? That's fine, too. Have a sign-up sheet front and center so it's visible. Want to offer more but fear you're too shy? How about making a YouTube video ahead of time and then bringing a laptop so people can view the video? When you make a video, it's just you talking to your computer. The pressure of face-to-face interaction isn't there. But…by playing the video for people, you are giving them that interaction they want without having the in-the-moment pressure.

I hope these tips are helpful, and if you have any to add, please leave them in the comments.

30 comments:

  1. Thanks for doing this post, Kelly, while I'm still a ways off from some of this with my upcoming debut "Gabriel" I'm trying to plan as much in advance as I can while still being open to moments of serendipity.

    I know I'll get better with the shyness when I do it more, but I felt it was important to get more in-depth regarding what I touched on in your post last week about enthusiasm. You don't want to lapse into narcissism as much as you need/want to be your work's own best advocate.

    I try to be careful when I'm talking directly about my work and myself that I'm staying on the side of "Making connections" and avoid "Egomaniac salesman Syndrome" I honestly feel when some (not all) writers get too self-centered in their interactions with potential readers, or when they're trying to sell themselves to agents and/or publishers, it's due to raw nerves and trying too hard to avoid the wallflower thing.

    Sometimes the line between ego and healthy confidence isn't as straightforward as we'd like it to be from the writer's perspective. Especially if you don't have a day job that requires similar in-person networking skills.

    The making a video ahead of time is a great idea so you can include all you want to say without the pressure of being live, though I think it might work better online since people who are ALIVE doing offline events really stand out. But I'll wait and see how that could help me when I eventually do some offline networking.

    Thanks again for doing this post, and once again, congratulations on your debut MG novel, I know you've got a lots of YA/NA books slated for the next couple years, but I hope you'll write more MG and picture books in the future.

    You've got skill there.

    I know road to your debut MG was rough like mine was, but at least you work well in more formats than I do at the moment, and I know you have your struggles like everyone else, too. Celebrate that diversity in what you're able to write.

    Take care,
    Taurean

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    1. Taurean, you do really well with videos and I think that could be your thing. And yes, it does work well for online events too. That's a great point.

      Thank you for the kind words, too. My MG series will have four books, so you'll see at least four from me. Who knows what I'll write after that. It's a surprise even to me. ;)

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  2. These are all great tips, Kelly!
    I've also found that having someone you know stand at the table and talk to you makes it easier for strangers to approach, scan your books, and decide if they'd like to join in the conversation. Otherwise they tend to scurry by without making eye contact, and I'm way too shy to speak first.

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    1. Yeah, I think readers like to see you engaging with others so they can browse on their own and decide if they want to talk to you. Otherwise, they feel kind of ambushed.

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  3. All great advice Kelly! I especially like the bringing a friend a long and would not have thought of that myself. It would be super fun to have someone to talk with in between greetings and spurts of people coming through.

    I will keep all of these in mind, most definitely!

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, it passes the time to have someone to talk to. That's definitely another benefit.

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  4. Both of my books are non-fiction, so even though I am very nervous when speaking, I found picking one unusual fact, event, or detail helped me open up. It gives me a talking point I'm comfortable with and helps spark conversation.

    When my first YA book eventually gets published, I'll use your advice to take along a gregarious young reader.

    Thanks Kelly. I love your ideas.

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    1. Ooh, Sherry, that's a great idea using unusual facts to spark conversation! Thanks for sharing that.

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  5. Really great tips!

    I used to get really nervous in front of people but now I have to speak in front of 100+ people on a weekly basis, so the nerves have worn off :P

    I like the idea of having a video. That way you can make sure you haven't forgotten something!

    Sam

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    1. Yes, videos can be planned for and edited, so you can get all the necessary info in there and reduce the pressure of speaking live.

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  6. I agree! A shy writer knowing a talkaholic is always a good thing. They can be a powerful secret weapon :-)

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  7. All great tips, Kelly! My first conference is coming up in August.

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  8. I am of the shy type, so if I ever do get to do author events, I'm curious how I'll handle it. I'm hoping I'll surprise myself and come off all smooth, and not as a babbling, armpit sweat-stained person! B/c that's not attractive! =)

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    1. lol No, it's not. I've found that other authors are so sweet and helpful when it's your first time, so let them know, if it's a multi-author event. I'm sure they'll put you at ease and help make it a great event. If you're going solo, bring a friend to ease those nerves.

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  9. Great tips, Kelly. I remember how nervous I was at my first author event. As you mentioned above, I brought my sisters along with me and they made everything much easier. It's really all about putting yourself out there and making new friends and connections. The hardest part was publishing the book so promoting it should feel rewarding=)

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    1. Yes! That's true. Promoting should be nothing compared to writing the book, but so many of us get nervous talking about our books. There are ways to overcome that though, so we have to find what works for us.

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  10. Nice tips, especially the one on talking to folks about their favourite books (or authors).

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Claudine.

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  11. Great useful tips, Kelly. I'm so lucky that I have a writer friend who comes with me to almost all my signings. She is my best sales person!

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    1. Writer friends are great that way. :)

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  12. I know I would be a bundle of nerves whenever I have to do an author event, so I appreciate these tips. :) Thank you!

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  13. Very nice tips! It helped me a lot to take the attitude that it's a bit like acting. So I play a persona that's "me, but more vivacious." Also, don't sweat the small things that you maybe can't control, such as your hands shaking. I have essential tremor, so I look nervous even when I'm not. All we can do is, well, shake it off. :)

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    1. Yes. I think it's kind of endearing to see people nervous to share the things they love with others. :)

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  14. All great tips. I find it hard to talk about my books. I've become better at it over the years, but any advice is appreciated.

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    1. I do, too. In person, I don't tell people about my books. I'll say I'm a writer, but I don't offer more unless they ask.

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