Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What we never expected from our writing career . . .

By Julie Wright

When I was in high school, the entire world scared me. Standing in front of others made me physically sick. My voice squeaked and turned into violent hacking fits whenever an oral report came due. And even when I imagined myself coming off as some super funny amazing presenter, I could barely make my voice rise louder than the rasp of a terrified little girl who was more likely than not to throw up as soon as I finished the presentation.

Naturally being an author appealed to me. I could still share my thoughts and ideas with the world –only I’d never have to look any of them in the eye.
I’d type feverishly from the safety of my chair in front of my computer and change society with my every written (NOT spoken) word.

These are the pretty dreams of new and naïve writers.

Imagine my surprise when my publisher scheduled me for my first reading.
“You want me to what? In front of who?”

They wanted me to read my book out loud to people. Then they wanted me to peddle myself to the public and do a book signing. My first readings and signings were torture. I stuttered and blushed, spent hours beforehand being sick—until I did something brilliant, something that could forever change (in a good way) book signings for authors.

I got over myself.

Book signings aren’t about me. They are about the people who come in needing a gift, the people coming in who don’t want to buy a book from you ever, but want to know if you could help them locate JK Rowling’s new book. They are about the people who don’t want to buy your book, but want to tell you all about their secret dream to become an author. They are about the person who needs something new to read to get over a bad day at the office. They are about the staff.

They are MOSTLY about the staff. Get to know the employees of the bookstore. Bring them a treat, even a small one. Some authors bring treats for the customers. That's nice too, but I bring mine for the staff. After all, you’ve got to be with them for several hours; you might as well start it off friendly.

Ask them questions about their lives. Find out how many kids they have, what kind of dog they have, what their favorite movies are, what their major in college is.
Don’t you dare sit down and thumb-twiddle at a signing. This is your book . . . your baby. No one but you cares whether or not you reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.
The bookstore employees are your frontline salespeople. Even if they never read your book, they will remember that you were kind to them and easy to talk to. They will remember and recommend you when you’re gone.


Heather B. Moore said...

This is so, so true!

Anonymous said...

Working at a bookstore myself, I can honestly say that yes, Julie is right. If you (the author) are nice to us we remember you and tell people about your books. :) When other authors come to do book signings and thumb-twiddle, it's awkward for us as employees and so when they leave we reminisce about all the awesome authors that came and didn't thumb-twiddle. And then, while talking, a customer happens to walk up and ask if one of us could perhaps recommend a good book...

You get the picture.