Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why Yes, I *Am* at a Book Signing Today

blog32 What is it about writing that makes us reluctant to admit to doing it?

You’d think I could easily explain that I’m a writer by now. But usually a couple of times a week someone either asks me what I do or something similar. And I choke EVERY time.

Yesterday, it was the mother of a child that my daughter has recently started playing with. We were at the bus stop, waiting for our girls to come home from school.

“Do you have any plans tomorrow?” she asked.

And, yes, I have a book signing at an outdoor festival that’s taking up a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon. But I’ve really only talked to this lady twice and she has no idea that I write.

“I…yes, I think there’s something on the calendar. I haven’t really looked at my day planner,” I said weakly.

Which means, of course, that later I’m left wondering why I avoid talking about my books and writing in face-to-face exchanges. And I’ve also missed an opportunity to sell a book or spread the word about my signing. And, believe me, I can use all the help I can get when it comes to signings! Otherwise I’ll be sitting at the table daydreaming and surreptitiously jotting down notes for the next book because no one is there.

Why I think I usually don’t mention my writing: It’s not what people are expecting to hear when they ask what I do. And I like filling expectations. It leads to an avalanche of further questions, which I’m usually uncomfortable answering. “Where do your ideas come from…?” or “I have the best idea for you to write about!” They have the most startled look on their face when I tell them…they’re not sure what to say. It sounds like I’m bragging. Dropping a book signing into conversation sounds contrived, not casual.

Although much of my life involves interaction with other writers, I only know a few writers in my non-virtual life. So, although sometimes I feel like everyone writes because it’s such an important part of my life…actually very few people write. It’s unusual enough to stop a conversation in its tracks. No one has ever just gone right on with the conversation: “Really? That’s great. Hey, do you think the kids would like to see the new movie that’s out?..” Nope! It’s always more like, “Whaaa?? Why didn’t you tell me you’re an author? When did your first book come out? Five years ago?!?”

Sometimes I’m good to mention it. If I’m in a situation, like a party, where I know I’m going to be meeting people for the first time then I’m prepared. I’ll be as chipper as possible and say, “I’m a writer. I write mysteries.” I’ll say this in a practiced, casual way, but it still leads to a series of questions: are you published? Who is your publisher? Can I get your book at the library? At the bookstore? Do you write under your own name? What’s your name again?

This might be a reason why I don’t go to many parties. :) Or, I just completely avoid the question by answering that I’m a stay-at-home mom. Until the party’s hostess comes over and fusses at me, “No, you’re not! You write books!”

If I have my business cards with me, I can handle the situation easier. Otherwise, I’m going to get out of that conversation as fast as I can.

I know there are at least two outgoing people who read this blog and are excellent at marketing (Diane and Marvin, you know I mean you!) Any tips on face to face promotion or at least just mentioning writing?