Having all the items you need to bring with you to an event is only one part of being prepared. If you aren’t mentally prepared, sales will slip through your fingers faster than water falls from a faucet turned on high.
Introverts should accept the fact that live events are interactive. As an author representing your work, you will need to talk to people and appear confident. If this is an issue for you, I recommend walking through a mall and saying hello to every person you make eye contact with. After a few times, you will understand the basics of what you will experience at your first event. Eye contact is your chance to start a conversation with someone about your books. Hello is always an excellent opening for any conversation.
Once you have someone engaged in discussion, you need to be prepared for what comes next. At my first event, my face went completely blank when I was asked the question, “What is your book about?” All that popped into my head was, ‘Shouldn’t you read it to find out?’ I didn’t blurt that out thank goodness, but instead rambled on trying to fit everything about my first book into my answer. After about ten minutes my potential customers said, “thank you,” and walked away. I wasn’t even finished. I had no idea how to condense a full novel into one or two sentences and make it sound interesting. Back to Google I went, quickly researching potential things to say in case someone else asked me.
It didn’t take long before the same question was posed to me again. I started my answer with one of the suggestions from the internet. “It’s a coming of age story about…” They nodded and walked away before I even started to explain the part about my book. Apparently a number of authors research the same information and let’s face it, generic doesn’t sell. At a loss, I found myself sighing more than the characters in my books do. How could I not know what I write about? Why couldn’t I articulate the plot? I needed a hook to draw people in and interest them enough to make them want to buy my books. It took me three shows before I came up with an answer I was satisfied with. Even now, I am constantly changing the things I say to involve different points of interest in my books.
My suggestion, if you are about to attend your first show, is to try several different answers out on friends and family. Listen to their comments and ideas. If you are completely stuck, ask people who have read your books to tell you what they think the books are about. Their responses should give you a good place to start. You need to be confident in your answers without giving away any spoilers. If that isn’t possible, pick something about your book that you think people will be the most interested in and elaborate on it. Authors should have two or three different answers prepared to appeal to as many people as possible.
Once you have someone hooked and reeled in, comes another potential issue. “Can you sign it?” Wait, what? Did someone just ask me for my autograph? Shock takes over and I blurt out, “Yes.” They give their name and I write … blank.
Every author needs a catch phrase or a line they write in an autograph. I usually ask if the customer wants just my signature or if they would like it personalized. People who are buying the book as an investment in case you become famous will ask strictly for your name, whereas fans want a more personal message. What you choose to write can be as simple as the name of the venue and the date to something similar to a tag line, but shorter. You should also consider if you want to use your current signature or make a different one just for book signings. Whichever you choose, stick to it or your fans may become confused.
Remember to practice your smile. It’s worth a thousand words and it’s easier to approach someone with questions if they look happy.
Join me next week for Surviving the World of Live Events Part VI ~ Setting the table.