Thursday, October 27, 2011

"To Thine Own Self, Be True"

Would you compromise your personal values in order to sell books? Would you allow an editor or book critic to cause you to change your writing "voice"? Would you hide behind a pen name in order to write material you would be embarrassed for your friends and family to know you were associated with? Would you mimic the styles of other writers just to land a publishing deal, even if it wasn't a style or genre you felt comfortable with?

While I'm not here to judge anyone, I must honestly say that I hope you answered no to the above questions. As authors, we all want to enjoy some level of success with our work and build a substantial fan base of readers. Some of us might like to be associated with big-name traditional publishers or see our books on the NY Times bestseller list. Some of us may even want to land positions writing for major magazines or see our names rolling with the credits at the theater or on TV. Goals are great, and it is my sincere belief that all dreams are worth pursuing. But if reaching those goals or fulfilling those dreams means giving up who you really are to "go along with the crowd," then I must ask, is it really worth it?

I believe that we as writers need to stay true to who we are and what we stand for. Each of us has been blessed with a unique and wonderful gift that we can share freely. We have the potential to change lives and bring joy into the hearts of hundreds, even thousands, of people simply by placing words on paper. Along with this gift comes our own unique areas of talent and our own ways of delivering those words to the readers. Whatever your genre, whatever the level of intensity you want to give to the story, whether you write in first or third person(or both!),fiction, non-fiction, etc., make it your own. Develop and keep your own voice. Do what you feel comfortable with and what your heart tells you is right. Don't give in to the pressure to follow the crowd. Don't be a cookie cutter author just to get sales or land a contract. Stay true to yourself and what you believe in, and don't let anyone take that away from you. It's then, I believe, that you will find the true success you have been looking for. Here's wishing you all the best!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pushy or Passionate?

I recently took part in a lively discussion with other authors about the fine art of self-promotion. For most authors, and especially for those of us who are independently published, sharing information about your work with those around you is a must if you have any hope of selling books or securing personal appearances. There is nothing wrong with 'tooting your own horn,' but how do you know when you've crossed the line between passionate and pushy?

Let's take the example of a used car salesman my husband and I dealt with several months ago. "Bill" was a really nice guy and worked for a reputable local dealership. After expressing a slight interest in one of his vehicles, Bill made it a point to call our home at least four times a day--every day--for over two months. Even after expressing that we would call him if we decided to make a purchase, he persisted. Sadly, Bill's attitude pushed us right into the showroom of another dealership and into an entirely different vehicle. Had Bill backed down and let us take the time we needed without making us feel pressured, he may have gotten our sale.

Now, don't get me wrong--I fully understand that Bill was only trying to drum up business, and he needs to make money like anyone else. But allowing your customers--or in our case, readers--to take the lead does wonders for gaining trust and gaining sales and referrals. My rule of thumb is this: If the conversation is going well and the conditions are appropriate to do so (i.e. I'd never try to get business at someone's funeral!),I will casually mention that I am an author. Then, if the other party expresses further interest, I will expound on my work and offer a brochure. I never ask for any information from them unless we have discussed the possibility of a personal appearance--then I would need an email or phone number to follow up. Even in that instance, I am careful to contact them only a few times, and always ask that they follow up with me if they are still interested and at their convenience.

Keep this thought in mind--when you are sharing your work with others, be passionate. Create a burning desire within them to know more, and then, back off. Give them time to respond on their own, and chances are, you'll be more than pleased with the results. Good luck!