Monday, June 21, 2010

Familiarity Breeds Consent

Please help me welcome talented romance author Nicki Greenwood to the blog. Nicki combines stories of romantic adventure with her love of the environment. Her works have won several awards, including the Rebecca Eddy Memorial Contest. Her first book, EARTH, is available now from The Wild Rose Press. Nicki lives in upstate New York with her husband, son, and assorted pets. When she's not writing, she enjoys the arts, gardening, interior decorating, and trips to the local Renaissance Faire. Occasionally, she remembers to come out of her shell. For more about Nicki, please visit her website.

Your mom was right: practice makes perfect. When you want to master a new skill, you need to keep getting out there and doing it, and that includes overcoming shyness. Sure, it's terrifying at first. That's because, for writers, getting up in front of people is the unfamiliar. Sitting behind your computer and letting your writing do the talking is your comfort zone.

Human beings the world over are distrustful and even fearful of the unfamiliar. It's hardwired into us--a survival instinct bred into us over a couple hundred thousand years. That's a lot of programming to overcome. But with increasing time and exposure to a new thing, your "OMG, what was I thinking?" will turn to "Okay, I can do this."

Try it. Start small. Say hello to a stranger on a bus, in a supermarket, at the park. Use your natural skill: writing. If you see a book in their hands, ask what it's about. Most avid readers are only too happy to chat about their favorite writers. If they're holding a novel in the genre you write, you're in luck. Mention that you write. Tell them about your favorite authors. When you enjoy the topic of discussion, it's a lot easier to mingle with people you don't know. You might even get some interest in your books, so have that business card ready to hand out if the person expresses an interest in your work! Do this several times, and you'll find it gradually produces less anxiety.

For many writers, book signings and conferences are the most-feared events in the profession. This is where you need to drag yourself out from behind the ol' computer and present your public face--and your book, your baby, your pride and joy--to potential readers. It's unsettling at best, and it can be downright scary. But it is not impossible, Shy Writer. You, too, can survive this. Wear a great outfit that makes you feel confident. Use the skills you've learned and the familiarity you've picked up from previous exercises. It's the same thing on a larger scale, but the bonus is, the people at signings and conferences are already there for books.

Having a conversation starter with you is a big help. Bring something with you that has to do with your book--a shirt, a pin, an object for your signing table, whatever! For me, with EARTH, it's sunflowers and a figurine of a horse. If I ever get stuck for something to say, I can discuss what those things have to do with the book. Your book is familiar, and it should be easy to find something to say about it. Think about your book's most interesting parts, and have some tidbits ready to share. As time goes on, you'll find it much easier to get out there and be seen. And you might meet some new friends or fans of your work!

8 comments:

  1. Great suggestions, Nicki! Thank you for this.

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  2. Thanks, Nicki, for coming on the blog today. Great post!

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  3. I always have plans on how to approach people or what to say when they come up to the table, but at the last second all I can usually manage is a brief, "Hi," which has not been very sucessful in generating sales or new fans. My throat just goes dry. I hate book signings, I start getting nervous a week ahead and usually can't sleep the night before.

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  4. Probably not good that I started to hyperventilate (just a little!) when I read your advice to tell a stranger I write! Yikes!!!!

    That's not going to be step #1, but I'll work on it :)

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  5. Nice blog, very informative. I don't know whether I would be brave enough to tell a stranger that I write romance novels.

    Regards

    Margaret

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  6. I enjoyed your blog. It IS truly intimidating to put yourself out there like that. What if they don't like me? What if they think what I say is stupid? What if I fumble the conversation? What if I've got a piece of dinner in my teeth? It just disintegrates from there. I've always found that when facing a gathering, if I have a "job" to do, a duty or purpose I can put myself out there better. And what better purpose can there be than promoting my own writing, right? Well, that's what I'd like to believe and perhaps, next time, I will. Thanks for the reminders!

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  7. When I decided to write, I had visions of never having to leave my desk. LOL Yeah, right. I know some authors who love promotion and talking to people, but I'm not one of them. Appearing an extrovert takes a lot of psyching myself up, but I can do it for a short time--enough to give a presentation or do a booksigning. Still, I'd rather stay home and write!

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  8. Hi All! Thanks so much for visiting me at Once Written, Twice Shy. I will admit to lots of mental prep and practice when I have a book signing coming up. Rehearsal might seem silly, but it does help untie my tongue when someone comes to the table to ask about my book. It's amazing the amount of extroversion we're we required to have, in what's typically so solitary an occupation! Denise, I'm very much like you in that I treat promotion as a "job," where I have to put my best foot forward. I try to "act" confident, and often try to find some common interest with someone who approaches me to discuss my book. I had a lovely discussion about book clubs with one lady who is now handing EARTH around to her reading group!

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