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Tips for Shy Authors by Sheri Hoyte, Managing Editor, Reader Views
Are you a shy author? If so, you’re not alone. Many authors are introverted, preferring to write but not market their books. Nonetheless, if no effort is made to market the books, no one will read them, and even a bashful author will be the best salesperson for their book. The good news is meeting readers is not as difficult or frightening as you may fear.
Interacting with readers and promoting your book to them can be intimidating for a writer, especially those individuals who are more introverted. What some authors may not realize is that readers are often pre-determined to like them because being an author implies that you are a “celebrity” in their eyes. You can relate, right – how would you feel about meeting your favorite author?
Since readers are likely already warmed up to want to talk to you about your book, here are some simple tips for to connect with them that will help you sell books. Today, let’s focus primarily on how to build rapport with potential customers at your book signing event.
Visualize the Event Before You Go
I can’t tell you how important it is to visualize the event before it happens. It will calm your nerves and prepare you for success. So many authors are nervous about their first book signing—will anyone come, will I sell any books, what if people do not like my books—that they forget to enjoy themselves.
Spend five or ten minutes sitting quietly and envisioning everything going smoothly. Picture talking to readers, regaling them with your charm and selling books. You will feel calmer and ready to succeed. Use the points below to help you visualize how to make the event successful.
Nothing is worse than being late, aside from being nervous about being late. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive early. You’ll want time to get used to the location, to feel comfortable there, to set up your table, with your books, bookmarkers, a poster, whatever is necessary. You will feel better being prepared and that will make you more open to meeting people calmly rather than feeling stressed because you’re unpacking books five minutes after the book signing is supposed to start while a customer stands waiting for you to talk to them.
Build Rapport With the Staff
Whether it’s a public speaking event or a book signing, getting there early also gives you the opportunity to befriend the staff. This contact is extremely important. You want to make friends with the staff. If you make a good impression, the bookstore employees or conference planners are likely to say good things about you to your potential readers. Being friendly with them will also make them more likely to lead customers over to where you are signing books and to recommend your books to customers in the days and weeks following the event.
Greet the Audience Individually Beforehand
If you are speaking in public, it’s a good idea not only to get there early but to engage the audience members individually so you have friends listening to you. Don’t wait in a nearby room so you can make a splashy (cheesy) appearance or sit up front looking uncomfortable. Stand by the door and shake hands or walk among the audience, introducing yourself to people and getting to know a little about them. Ask them why they came and what they would like you to talk about. Remember, you’re the guest speaker—they will love the personal attention. Even if they are shy, they will remember you and like you.
Prepare Remarks and Comments Beforehand
If you’re shy, thinking of things to discuss beforehand can really help to break the ice. It may be as simple as commenting upon the weather, about a recent event in the community, bringing up something about your book that will relate to your audience, or even simply planning to notice things about people that you can comment on (not their personal appearance of course, but if you’ve been to Texas and someone is wearing a t-shirt that says Texas on it, you can use that as an icebreaker). Being friendly is a soft-sell—you’re selling yourself as a nice person, and that will help to sell your book, even if you don’t mention your book. Once you make people feel comfortable with you, they are likely to ask you about your books and then you can sell.
I once attended an event where many authors had tables to sell their books. I distinctly remember walking past one table where the author had his laptop propped up and was busy typing away. Twice I walked past him and not once did he look up, so I did not talk to him, and I certainly didn’t buy his book. No one wants to feel they’ve interrupted a writer, not even to buy one of his books. I’ve seen other authors sit and read books and never glance up. I understand shyness, but what these behaviors tell the audience is, “Don’t bother me.” Trust me, they won’t, and you won’t sell any books.
Don’t Build an Invisible Line
Don’t sabotage yourselves. You may or may not suffer from shyness but, something as simple as introducing yourself as “Mr. Richardson” or “Ms. Lovelace” is going to turn customers off more quickly than if you say you’re “Fred” or “Ellen.” Formal names create a distance with readers. Body language, looking bored, or ignoring customers by not saying hello will also build invisible lines which make customers feel you don’t really want to talk to them.
In selling your book, you need to sell yourself. When you meet people at book signings or other events, they will do business with you if they like you, so be personable. Rather than say, “My book is about” say, “I wrote this book because of an interesting experience I had.” Tell them about yourself. Give them an interesting presentation about you—your book is only an extension of you. Make them want to know more about you, which will lead them to wanting to purchase your book.
Give Them Something Tangible so They Remember You
Even if people don’t seem inclined to buy your book, be friendly. Hand them bookmarkers, or a brochure, or even candy if you have some at your table. Few people will refuse to take such items if only to be polite. More importantly, they have something to bring home with them. When they get home and clean out their pockets or shopping bags, it will remind them one more time about your book.
Stay in Touch
The best way to stay in touch with your readers is to invite people to sign up for your email newsletter or blog. Always have a signup sheet on your table, and don’t be afraid to ask people to sign up. That way, you can stay in touch with them in the future through monthly updates or just to let them know when you are doing a book signing or have a new book out. For the shy author, a newsletter will allow you to stay in touch with your audience without having to talk to them in person, and you may be better at presenting yourself through writing in the newsletter than speaking to them. Plus, you’re making connections with those readers, so they will keep coming back. Of course, be prepared for a barrage of emails asking when your next title is coming out!
And while Covid has changed the course of marketing forever, with a global reach through online book launches and events, there’s nothing like meeting your readers in person to build a meaningful following. Do as many book signings and public speaking events as possible. The more you do, the more comfortable you will become and the more books you will sell.
Other articles that include tips for shy authors that may be of interest:
Susan Violante, Managing Editor of I Have Something to Say Press wrote an article called: Assertive Promotion: Going from Shy to Shameless
Award-winning author Gary McGugan recently wrote one about making the most of in-person events: Are You Making the Most of Your Promotional Opportunities?
Eric G. Müller
Very good and important points. There are a few I will take to heart. Thank you!
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