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Posts Tagged ‘book signings’

Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

 

It never ceases to surprise me that, as I continue to build my writing career, I’m also exploring new avenues of communication with others. Of course I’m hoping I reach readers through my books, and some are very generous by posting reviews on websites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. This is incredibly important on many levels, but on a personal one, it means they think I’m doing something right with my writing, or they share how they felt about the characters I’ve created. There is no higher reward for a writer!

 

But then there’s this blog, and it’s helping me communicate with others on a whole different level. It lets me share my thoughts on many subjects, and again, sometimes hear back from others. But I’m continually looking to expand my reach and stretch my comfort zones, which is why in addition to book tours/signings, I’ve branched out into the public speaking arena. Although my stomach still gets tied up into knots before every appearance, I know this is a good thing. Once I get started, I’m fine and I relax. I actually even enjoy the experience, because not only do I give a talk for a specific period of time on a topic pertinent to the attendees, I do a question and answer session. This allows the audience to ask me questions, and often, I ask them questions. This exchange is really important to me, and I hope, to them. The take-aways are huge for me, and gives me a chance to connect with others outside my computer and the net, on a personal level. I can watch their faces and see their reactions to my words immediately. Likewise, they glean a little more information about me, my work, how I think about certain subjects, and can see and hear me talk as well. To me, public speaking is the ultimate vehicle for connection, and I’m very present in the moment. It isn’t about what I have to say, so much as it’s about what they hear and take away from the exchange. Public speaking isn’t about the speaker; it’s about the audience, and giving them something of value they can use in their own lives.

 

Retreat Presentation

Retreat Presentation

This past Sunday I spoke for an hour to a group of female teachers who were attending a women’s retreat. As I spoke, I was watching their faces, their postures, and their body language. At several points I knew I’d touched a nerve with some of the attendees. When they dabbed at their eyes in response to a portion of my talk where I revealed some of the really difficult years I’d struggled with as a single parent living on Family Assistance while raising two children, I knew they were really listening. Those were dark days for me, but they were also days of re-connecting with my family in amazing ways. Clearly, something in my words touched some of these women, and it was evident on their faces and by the tears they shed. I have no idea why this resonated with them, because everyone has their own story and internalizes information in their own way, but I was glad to see they felt something, not just heard my words.

 

At other times they laughed at a comment I made, and again, this was gratifying for me to hear. I felt I was hitting my mark with my talk. Then I did something I’ve never implemented before. I had left a one page feedback sheet on each chair, and requested the attendees take a couple of moments to comment on my presentation. While I was busy signing books, my husband was in charge of dealing with the money exchange and accepting the returned feedback sheets. Because I was focused on the book signing and chatting up the ladies who’d approached me, I wasn’t paying any attention to how many were actually returning the sheets. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I asked my husband about them. I thought we’d received maybe one or two returns, but he assured me we had received many more. He’d put my book bag in the back seat of the car, so I couldn’t access the pages until we got home, and I was thrilled to discover we’d received ten responses out of sixteen attendees! That’s an excellent return quota.

 

As I read through those pages, I was overwhelmed by some of the comments these ladies generously supplied. Comments like, “Your ability to overcome what you felt were obstacles and/or failures in life was inspiring”, or “Yes! I’m at that moment (just before 50) and realise that its time to look forward…”,and “Debbie’s life story of her struggles and successes has truly motivated and inspired me to persevere in some areas of my life that I have been hesitant to start due to fear of failure”, resonate and touch me deeply.

 

We Are All Teachers

We Are All Teachers

As I mentioned during my talk to these ladies, we never know whose life we touch in a positive way when we reach out beyond ourselves. By being vulnerable to and with other people, we allow them to see that we all share similarities. We are all afraid of the new and untried. We all have failures and fears. When we share of ourselves, our stories, successes, and failures, we connect in ways we hadn’t always anticipated. It sounds trite, but I honestly feel that if even one woman present last Sunday was motivated to take on a new challenge, or overcome an old one, then I’ve done more than just stand up and talk. I’d like to hope I made them think and feel. Much as I love sharing my work, and of course, selling my books, it doesn’t move me the way connecting with others does. I’m discovering that both men and women have a need to be reassured that failure, perseverance, and ultimately, success, is and can be part every human experience. We are all teachers.

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider leaving a comment here, and sharing with your circles on social networks. Thank you! Debbie

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A leap of faith

A leap of faith

We’ve all had to do it. We’ve all had to face our fears over something, look into the abyss, and leap anyway. At least I know I have.

Every time we venture beyond the known we risk rejection and disappointment. Knowing that shouldn’t stop us, but often, it does. We worry we won’t be accepted or liked. We are concerned we’ll look foolish, or worse, ridiculed. When does that fear start? We aren’t born with that fear. Babies don’t worry about these things, they are taught them. Life experiences teach us to fear the unknown.

I still remember, as a young child, going to a new school and being terrified everyone would look at me and make fun of me. In some ways, it makes no sense. I looked and behaved relatively normal, so there was nothing for anyone to reject. But I feared that rejection anyway. I clung to my mother’s leg, loathe to go forward and face my shyness. I wanted my mother to stay and pave the road for me. I wanted her to be there to stop the unkind words another child might say to me, or the potential harshness of a teacher whom I didn’t know. Of course she couldn’t stay. She had a job to go to, and she knew I had to find my own way. She was right. I made friends quickly and easily, and moved on without a backward glance, probably before the lunch bell rang.

So many times over my life I hesitated to take that leap of faith. I thought I had to have faith that others would be kind and respect me. I thought I had to have faith that God would protect me. What I’ve learned is that I had to have faith in all these things, but more importantly, I had to have faith in myself. Without that faith, none of the others mattered. No amount of pushing or pulling would make it possible for me to move forward.

Fear of writing

Fear of writing

One of the reasons I held off starting to write, really write, a novel for so long was fear of the unknown. What if people hated it? What if what I wrote turned out to be crap? What if I failed? What I had left it for too long and was too old to start over? Or perhaps even more scary, what if I succeeded? What? Wait a minute, I want to succeed, don’t I? Of course I do, but succeeding also heralds change, and change can be frightening. Remember the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.”

Writers are forced, by the very nature of the craft, and the industry, to face our fears on a daily basis. Rejections abound with every query and rip at the self-confidence. Less than stellar reviews can undermine the writer’s belief in themselves. Staring at a blank page every day, or picking up a story and trying to craft something others will relate to and enjoy, is daunting in the extreme. Then there’s the marketing and promotion aspect of this crazy business. Daunting isn’t even the word for it. In today’s quicksand world of publishing, even the pros aren’t sure which way to turn. Publishers, agents, and editors are increasingly shy of taking on new talent. Book stores are closing all across North America daily, and shelf space is at a premium for those that remain open. Self-publishing is gaining increased notice and acceptance, but the time and learning commitment to produce good quality work is huge, as are the chances for failure or success.

At almost every chapter reading/book signing I attend, someone asks me how I conquer that fear and go out and do what I do every day anyway. How do I know that what I write will be accepted? How do I conquer my fear of public speaking? The answer is simple; I don’t. I don’t conquer the fear, I move through it. Every writer out there who puts their heart and soul on the line and publishes their work, does that. Every actor who stands before an audience or camera, does that. Every athlete, does that. Every man or woman who truly believes in the cause they fight for, does that. Every soldier who enlists to stand up for their country and countrymen, does that. In fact, every person who faces whatever fears might hold them back in their daily lives, but goes out and does what needs to be done anyway, does that. It’s not rocket science.

Crossroads of Failure and Success

Crossroads of Failure and Success

Do you fall sometimes? Yep. Do you fail sometimes? You bet. Will others criticize or misunderstand you? Perhaps. But the upswing can be huge. Even if we fail, are criticized, or misunderstood, if we’re smart, we’ll learn from it and grow. If we succeed, we accept change and look for new challenges. We experience more of life and learn more about ourselves and our possibilities. Hopefully by facing our own fears, we become more understanding of other’s fears.

Fear is instinctual self-preservation, and it’s necessary to life. Without it, we’d blunder into all kinds of dangerous situations and put ourselves in harm’s way. I’m not advocating that. What I’m advocating is taking a realistic look at your fears and determining whether or not the required action to overcome it would enhance your own or another’s life in some meaningful way. If so, you might just want to do what Tony Robbins advocates and “walk through the fire”. You might be surprised what’s waiting on the other side.

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Branding

Branding

I’ve talked before about the importance of book marketing and author branding to build a platform, but it’s also about getting out there, from behind the computer screen, and connecting with people. For authors deep into the process of writing, at whatever stage, it’s easy to get lost in your own world. I know for me, once I sit down and start working, which I do five days a week from 9am to 5pm, hours fly by. I don’t even realize it’s happened, I’m so into what I’m doing. Before I know it, the day is gone and I’ve barely moved from my office. That’s why I know firsthand that finding balance and remembering to live life by connecting with the people you care about and the things you love, are so vital to a writer’s sanity, to say nothing of their relationships.          

This on-line stuff is great, and I love it, but I’m discovering something else. When I get out there and do the book signings at a local library or book store, I’m able to connect much more directly with readers and people who are interested in what I do. Although I was initially nervous to be “in the spotlight”, so to speak, I’ve discovered something else about myself. I love it. I didn’t think I would, but I love answering the questions and hearing other people’s points of view. It doesn’t matter to me whether they’ve read my book or not, although it’s nice when they have. The fact is, these people who attend a book reading/signing have an innate curiosity about books, writing and publishing, and I happen to have gone through some of the initial steps. I’m no expert. I never claim to be. But I have learned a few things since I started this journey, and if I can share some of those experiences, or answer questions people have, then that’s great. 

I also know that people remember what they’ve personally experienced. If they’ve attended a book reading, they’ll remember me, even if they don’t read my genre. They might tell someone else they know who does. Even people who stop for a moment at a bookstore signing, or glance my way and read my “Meet The Author” sign on the desk, might remember my name later, even if they don’t remember where they saw it. My goal is that, if they hear or see my name, or the name of my book again, it just might trigger that “I’ve heard that before,” response. That’s what marketing is all about. It’s about connecting with your target audience and getting them to remember you. If you do it right, and often enough, you’ll begin building a brand that people will associate with you and your work. That’s important. 

The Key

The Key

The key is to carefully choose the message you want people to take away about you, as an author, and your work. It has to permeate everything you do that relates to your work. Your social networking posts, your blog, your website, everything you send out there has to subliminally send the right message about who you are and what you write. Too often I read Facebook or Twitter posts that are negative, ridiculous, politically or religiously incorrect, or even worse, share crude remarks that should have no business being on a public forum. I know it’s your right, but is it really the message you want to send to people who’ve never met you? Right, wrong, or indifferent, people make judgements about you all the time, and how you present yourself in public forums is critical. That’s why I’m so careful not to post anything too personal, or negative. These sites are windows into my “brand”, who I am, and what I believe in. If you’re in business, and make no mistake, writing is a business, you’ll want to carefully consider what goes out to the world at large. It’s not just your friends, but your friend’s friends who can read and share what you’ve put out there. 

To me, branding also means looking the part when appearing in public. I always make a point of dressing in a professional, stylish manner. This doesn’t mean a suit and high heels, it means looking as if I’ve taken the time to care how I look. Each time I step out the door to attend a public function, I try to look professional as possible. No jeans, tee-shirts, shorts, sloppy clothes. I call it traditional feminine. A nice blouse, jacket and pants or skirt, with comfortable, stylish shoes does it for me. My hair and make-up are done, and so are my nails. That’s the image I want to portray. Professional. I also smile, chat, and generally keep things light and easy. That’s my style. I don’t try to force something that feels fake. I’m creating a brand people can identify with, but one that feels true to me. It’s how they’ll see me over time, and I’m hoping they’ll relate to me because it’s genuinely how I feel about myself. This business of writing is fun, it’s engaging, and it’s my heart’s desire, but it’s also a business that I take it seriously. My personal appearance and manner of connecting with people hopefully states this, without me having to shout it. Each writer must find a personal style that tells people who they are, before even opening their mouth. But be aware that all the right words won’t help if you’re personal appearance screams sloppy, unprofessional and/or unkempt, if you want to be taken seriously.

I’m finding that the professionals I’m working with; librarians, book store owners/managers, etc., also appreciate this. It gives them an idea of who I am and how I’ll present myself to their patrons. They work hard at cultivating clients and building their own brands. If they’re going to allow me to come in and showcase my work, they want to be assured I can do so in a manner that resonates with their own style. It’s as important to them as it is to me. 

Cozy reading

Cozy reading

The other great thing about getting out from behind the desk is the fun I get to have in meeting new people. Just the other day I was in talking to the owner of a small bookstore, The Village Bookshop in Bayfield, Ontario. This is a small, cozy bookshop the likes of times gone by. It’s a wonderful shop, and the owner has obviously worked extremely hard to build her clientele, and her own brand. She generously supports local authors via consignment sales of work she feels will appeal to her patrons, and where she feels there’s a fit, book readings/signings. How did I meet her? I attended a book reading/signing at the Exeter  Public Library in the nearby town of Exeter, Ont. That librarian suggested that I absolutely must contact this woman and introduce myself. The librarian said she knew, based on my reading and our meeting, that I would be a good candidate for this very selective book store. So, I called her. I introduced myself and told her where I’d gotten her name. She was very pleased to hear that word was continuing to spread about her business, and invited me to come chat with her. That chat lasted over an hour, as we discussed everything from her store, her clientele, and what she looked for in an author and their work. It was such a pleasure meeting this woman, who not only has a huge love of the literary world and respect for writers, but has built a strong, reputable business. I also found that her own style and personality resonated with me, so I’m thrilled to be associated with this type of business. You can bet I’ll be supporting her and the other authors she invites to her readings via sharing the news any way I can. You see, she and her shop become part of my brand. They mimic the message I want to send, and I believe in supporting those who support me. Same with the libraries who host me, and the larger book stores, like Coles Books, (Indigo/Chapters/Coles) who do the same. 

I don’t have all the answers when it comes to this monster called marketing and branding. I’m still learning and experimenting. I only know I’m having fun discovering what works for me, and meeting new people along the way. Who knows, some of them may find their way into a book or two of mine in the future (names changed of course).

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Writer at Work

Writer at Work

As writers, we tend to work in solitude and silence. We sit in front of our computers for hours on end and attempt to put forth our words, worlds, and thoughts to the screen, in preparation for sending it out into the world at large. We love this. We thrive in this type of environment. We hate to be disturbed when in the middle of composing, or as I tell my family, working.                                                                                                               

When I’m writing, sometimes it’s hard to tear myself away and join my family. Finding balance is something I struggle with each and every day. I know it’s important, but so often I find myself itching to get back in front of the computer and do all the myriad things that need doing to continue in this crazy business. Not only do I write, but I also have to edit, market and promote the hell out of myself and my work. Having an agent or publisher doesn’t negate that necessary element. I understand this. If I want to be a commercial success, and I do, I need to reach readers and connect in various ways to do that. The internet is an incredible tool. I can sit at my computer and reach out past my own space and connect with people all over the world. I can shout out about my book, I can blog, I can Facebook, I can Tweet, chat on Goodreads, I can share industry information, or a whole host of topics I am interested in.

I can sit in my sloppy clothes, give my hair a lick with the brush, wash my face, and be ready for the day. No muss, no fuss. Truth is, this all very comfortable. I don’t have to face the world at all. But wait, maybe I do. You see, I learned a thing or two from my real estate and mortgage sales days. I remember hearing over and over again when I started in real estate that one of the key points in sales is that you have to show up and be prepared to work. You have to look professional and put yourself in front of people who might be interested in your services. Sitting behind a computer will only get you so far in sales. For the rest of it, you better be prepared to get face to face with people and talk.

A book reading

A book reading

Yep, I heard and internalized that. That’s why I’m having to step outside my comfort zone a bit and do book readings and signings in libraries and a couple of the local Coles Bookstores (Indigo/Chapters/Coles) in London and Sarnia, Ontario, who’ve taken my books in on consignment. I’m not a public speaker by any stretch of the imagination, but I like people and I can relate to them on just about any level, so I dress up, curl my hair, put on my makeup and get out there. I’m nervous, but I remind myself the attendees are just people. They are just like me, and they are there because they like books and are interested in writing, and the process of writing. There are no questions they can ask me that I can’t answer. I’ve been walking the walk, reading and learning about this business of writing and publishing, and I have something to share, I think.

Getting out from behind the computer also reminds me that others really are interested in what I’m doing, or what any writer does. It also allows me to interact with people who share one of my deepest passions; books. Once I get past my nerves, I can relax and have fun with it. I even go out on a limb so far as to speak in the accents of my characters when reading passages from the book. That shocks people, and my family are sometimes almost embarrassed that I’d extend myself that much. I’ve tried reading the passages without the accents, but they are so clear in my head, that I just can’t do it. It sounds flat and unnatural to me, so I put my shyness and fear aside, and do what feels right. I have fun with it, and hope the listeners will react positively. So far, so good. They’re surprised, but they seem to enjoy it. One librarian recently said it really helped her imagine and “hear” the characters. Good. That’s what I want.

During the Q&A portion of the reading and at the end of the signing, I get the chance to chat to people who have read the book, or who have more questions about writing. I am able to connect with them on a very personal level not possible from a computer. I love it.

 The other thing about stepping away from the computer is it really does allow the writer to meet new people and share the news about his/her work in a widening ripple of ways. For instance, I had to drop off some books to the Coles Bookstore in Masonville Mall in London (Ontario), a fairly large mall I’m well acquainted with. First, I had to get another copy of the flyer the bookstore wanted to post about my upcoming book signing. The printing company I use, Advanced Imagewerx, is located in that mall, so I stopped in and ordered the extra copy. I’d never met the man who was serving me before, but after handing me my flyer, he started asking me about my book, where it was available, and began talking about printing, books, how I got started, etc. I spent about five or ten minutes chatting with him, and in the end he said he hoped to stop by my book signing at the end of the month and say hello. He was interested. He wrote down the name of my book, and said he thought his wife might enjoy it. By taking the time to talk to this man, I might have won over a new reader. It was also really enjoyable for us both.

Connecting with Readers

Connecting with Readers

The point is, I’ve always been a connector. I enjoy talking to people, finding out about what they like, and listening to the answers. I also know the person to person thing has always been one of my strong points. People seem to relate back to me. Maybe it’s because they can sense that I really do care, or because I just have one of those faces. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have to remind myself that I have to take the time to step away from the computer screen and meet people where they are, because that’s how I believe I’ll reach them. That’s not to say I don’t have to do the on-line stuff. Of course I do. It’s all about balance. Having more hours in a day might help too though.

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Cheers!

Cheers!

So, now that I’ve written and had my first book published, drank the congratulatory champagne and danced the victory dance, I’m left to wonder, now what?

Of course I have the WIP to continue, which is work enough, but what about getting the word out there about my book. I mean, much as I’m thrilled with the response from family and friends (and I definitely am), there’s the whole wide world I need to reach out to now. Separate and apart from the writing is the marketing and promotion, a beast unto itself.

Before the release of my book, I did invest quite a bit of time investigating websites, becoming proactive in social networking via FaceBook, but what about Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest? What about requesting honest reviews of readers and asking them to post them on sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and so on? What about face-to-face appearances, readings and book signings?

Whoa, this is starting to look like a TON of work, and it is. I read a while back that book marketing and promotion can take up considerable time for an author, because he/she needs to reach out to readers to let them know their book is available for sale. Not only that, but as an author, you want the feedback. ‘Am I on the right track?’ ‘Do people like and respond to my story and characters?’ ‘Do they like me?’

And so it goes. As I mentioned before, writing is a lot like life, and the similarities continue to intrigue me. In order to do well in this world, we need to be willing to risk something of ourselves. We need to be willing to invest in ourselves and trust that at least some others will respond positively to our efforts. Otherwise, why bother? Why put ourselves through the pain and anguish of exposing our deepest hopes and dreams?

storytellingIt’s because we believe we have some talent for storytelling. We believe we have something of value for others to relate to, even if only for entertainment sake. We strike out on this lonely path, and along the way, if we’re lucky, we meet others whose paths merge or intersect with ours. We realize we are not alone, and that they too share the dream. Authors come together, sometimes loosely, and sometimes very tightly knit, to support and encourage.

Ah, but when the reader reaches back and gives praise or useful comment, the writer is blessed. They are validated. They have been heard. The fact that another person has invested his/her time and hard-earned money to purchase your book resonates in a special place within the writer’s heart. It is a warm, sunny space.

 But how to reach the reader, and how to connect with other writers? In my opinion, one step at a time. I recommend researching the options and trying the ones that seem to connect with you. On-line networking has become globally massive, with the potential to connect with more people than ever before, but you have to be willing to participate, and participate with care and professionalism. Still, what works well for one writer may not suit the personality of another, but make no mistake, EVERY writer must put themselves out there and connect on some level.  Even the long-held masters of the craft can’t expect to sit in their writing caves and ignore the outside world for long. Yes, the Work In Progress (WIP) is of paramount importance, but so too is connecting with your audience. Agents and publicity people notwithstanding, readers love to hear from the author directly. They love to ask those burning questions and know that the writer is human.

Now I’m such a newbie, I had no idea how to go about things like press releases and book tours, but I did compose a press release and sent it out to many of the local newspapers. A week ago I was contacted by one of the larger ones and asked if I’d be interested in an interview. Are you kidding me? I was ecstatic! One week to the date of the interview, I purchased several copies of that newspaper and there it was – the cover art of my book, my photo, and the article. A half-page of information about me and my work shone back at me. I learned something from that exercise; ask and ye shall receive. Keep quiet, and no one knows you have something to share.

Another example of something that always works well is word of mouth. When my daughter talked to her local librarian last week, she mentioned my book. The librarian was quite interested in learning of this new (local) author and asked my daughter to have me stop in at the branch and bring along a copy of my book. I was thrilled at the opportunity. It’s no surprise that librarians love and support books, so this was an ideal fit. I had ordered fifty-five copies of my book to sell to family and friends who had asked for a signed copy. Now this librarian said she’d like to purchase and read it. It doesn’t get better than that. A complete stranger wants to read your book and possibly recommend it to others who trust her judgement.

Librarians Rock!

Librarians Rock!

After meeting that first librarian, I then gathered up the courage to contact another librarian at a separate branch and ask if she’d be interested as well. Well lo and behold, that gracious lady immediately jumped on board, asking me to bring her five copies of my book to distribute to other county branches in her area! We chatted when I brought in my books and she asked if I would consider doing a chapter reading, Q & A, and book signing in the Spring. You bet I would!

And so it begins. I’ve now begun contacting the local libraries (we have a lot of them), and have been thrilled with the response. In two days I pre-booked two book readings and sold eight books to libraries. Even though my books are primarily available on e-readers and e-devices, I was pleased to learn that libraries not only promote this venue, but assist patrons with selecting and downloading books they’re interested in. One of our small libraries actually has three e-readers available for loan, to be signed out on a two week basis and returned, exactly like a book! Now that’s being proactive.

As I continue working and networking, I find I’m meeting some amazing people, and I’m learning new things every day. The first draft WIP is almost complete, as I now have people continually asking when the sequel going to be ready. Kind of lights a fire under the butt when you have people clamouring for your next work.

For now I’ll keep working and learning as I go, growing my base and putting down roots. What I know for sure is that this writing gig is what I was meant to do. At long last, after a lifetime of trials and errors, of mountains and valleys, I’ve found something that fills a part of my soul I hadn’t even realized was there. What more could I ask?

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