There is no doubt about it, the Internet has made marketing much easier for authors. Without leaving my office, I can reach readers on the other side of the planet. But what about the readers who live right here in my community? Is it enough to rely on my online presence to make those connections?
I don’t think it is.
In this installment of the marketing series here at Women and Words, I’m making a case for being involved in your community. There is value in participating in live events, such as readings, panel discussions, and conferences.
Now, before you hyperventilate at the thought of leaving the safety of your office, take a deep breath and keep an open mind for a few minutes. Please.
Many authors, but not all, are introverts. I fully acknowledge this. It takes so much energy to put on my public face, and it’s so much easier to stay in my safe little world where I don’t have to talk to other people.
So why would I advocate in favor of public appearances? The answer is really very simple.
How many of you remember your first concert? The first time you heard a really powerful speaker live? Your first live sporting event? Your first…
You get the idea.
I love to listen to music via Spotify or watch a performance on YouTube as much as the next person. But the live events leave an indelible mark. Even really bad concerts have a special place in my heart.
So, what’s a shy author to do?
Here are some thoughts:
- Challenge yourself to participate in a set number of live events each year. If you’re an extrovert and this is super easy for you, then set the number higher. If the idea of stepping into the public eye makes you have palpitations, start lower. Even if it’s only one a year, it’s one more than you would have done otherwise.
- Play to your strengths. If you’re really good at readings, but hate teaching classes, then do readings and avoid classes. If you turn into a puddly mess when doing a reading, but feel safer on a panel, then don’t do readings and do panels.
- Work up to it. For example, if you’d like to do a public reading, but you’re also utterly terrified by it, then ease your way into it. Record yourself and share it online. Do a podcast or interview online. Consider that a step toward a live event.
- Be prepared. Take the time to practice reading your excerpt. Do it more than once. Do it in front of your wife, lover, friend, dog, mirror, whatever. Do it over and over until the words flow easily. That way, if you panic during the event, the action will be ingrained and you won’t have to think about it.
- Figure out which mental tricks work for you. Some people picture the audience in their underwear. Some vomit before a performance. Some find a focal point in the audience, a friendly face or two, and direct their attention there. Some do all of that and more.
- Define your community. When considering which events to do, know how far you’re willing to travel. For instance, I live in the Portland metro area (Oregon, not Maine), but I’m totally willing to travel to Seattle for events. I’d probably do Boise for the right event. I’m also willing to travel greater distances, but can’t do that more than once or twice a year. This summer, I’ll be in DC for GCLS. That’s on the opposite side of the country for me.
- Learn your community. Take the time to get to know the opportunities in your local area. Do you have a gay/lesbian bookseller nearby? Do you have a chain store, such as Barnes & Noble, that likes to feature local authors? What about your local library? Look for the known events and get involved. Group events are the best!
- Take the time to create some opportunities. What I mean by that is, go beyond the existing events. For example, if your library hosts an annual event for queer authors, find out if they’re willing to host a smaller group reading or panel discussion. Contact your local high school and offer to meet with their Gay Straight Alliance or their writing club. Same for your local community college or university. Do you have a queer resource center in your community? Contact them. What about the college radio station? Could you get a live interview? The list goes on and on and on.
- Find a partner to do events with. Because, really, everything is easier when you’re with a friend.
- Allow yourself to recharge. If you need some alone time to re-focus your energy, take it.
- Be bold. Be brave.
Live events are one of my weakest areas when it comes to marketing. I’d love to hear from others about what they do and why. Share your thoughts!
Until next time, happy reading!