The Idea of You
December 22, 2010
Ok, so I went on and on about how hard it is to be a new author in my last post, and it certainly is (a few of my readers were obsessed with my apparent inability to properly shop for peanut butter, of all things). But, all is not lost.
What is the goal of a new author? The goal of any new author is to foster an idea and share your work, spread it around and get it into the hands of your readership. Do that, build the Idea of You, and all good things will follow. The key to spreading that idea and overcoming the wall that exists between you and your potential readership is you … the author.
People, I’ve found, are fascinated by the creator of a thing, be it a work of art of some sort, a piece of music, or, in this case, a book. People acknowledge how difficult it is to not only create something, but to have the tenacity to see it through, make it grow and have it sitting in front of you as a realized project. Grab twenty random people walking down the street and ask them if they’ve ever written a book, and your affirmative response will probably be pretty low; however, ask that same twenty people if they’ve ever thought about writing something, and almost all of them will probably say “yes”. You, as a published author, have accomplished something many people think about doing, but for whatever reason, never do, and that impresses them. Rightly so.
The author, be they known or unknown, has immense power when it comes to convincing people to tread in unknown waters. The main difference between the known and unknown author is people willingly come to the known author while, you, as the unknown, have to go to them and make the first move so to speak. You have to get past the initial, and in some cases, debilitating, wall of skepticism and mistrust and foster a positive atmosphere. That can be easier said than done, but it must happen. And when it does it’s like magic: people gathering by your table to see what’s going on, listening to you speak and taking it all in like eager pupils from a benevolent master.
Engage the people, get their imagination going, make them feel like they’re part of the process a little bit. Be energetic. Stand, don’t sit at your events. Sitting implies an aloofness and detachment from the situation. If you can, stand in front of your table instead of behind it. Be at their eye level and talk to them, not at them. And, once you’ve got their attention, all the little things you’ve brought with you come into their own: business cards, table cards and other bits of colorful media, that were worthless before, now become essential (the pic at the beginning of the post is an example of a table card–just a pretty picture on the front and all your info on the back). If you can send someone away with your card in their hand, that is a win. Those people do, sometimes, come back. They come to you, and it’s a remarkable thing to see. If you do nothing but get rid of all your business and table cards, you’ve had a great day. That is what you want. You spent the day spreading an idea, you are the idea, and the rest will follow.
New authors have a hard way to go no matter how you look at it. You were tenacious in creating your work, now, be equally tenacious in getting it out to the people. There will probably be a few sessions that you’ll have to write off as a “Howdy-Do occasion” and leave it at that. Those sessions, however humbling, are critical in making the transition from being unknown to known. Once you burn your mug into people’s brains and learn how to harness the power that you as a creator of a piece of work have to inspire, moving your stuff will become significantly less of a chore. It’s actually pretty fun.