An excerpt from an article by Helen Ginger, past president of the Writer's League of Texas.
This past week, I dropped by my local Barnes & Noble to introduce myself to a visiting author, William Manchee. He writes the Stan Turner mystery series and was in town from north Texas. I like meeting other writers, plus I know it can get lonely sitting at a table while people walk by, avoiding eye contact.
Well, I needn't have worried.
First of all, he never sat. His table had been positioned by the entrance. William stood in front of the table and talked to everyone coming in. "Hey, how ya doin'? Do you like mysteries?" As soon as the person looked at William, he had them. He stepped back, exposing his table full of enticing books. The patron followed him, automatically. As he's stepping back, he's telling them about his book or himself. He chatted, he talked. If they bought a book, that was great -- he signed. If they didn't buy a book, that was fine, too. He sent them off with a smile.
William had attitude. And I guaran-damn-tee you he sold a lot more books than if he'd just sat there waiting for
buyers to wander his way. The attitude he had was that his book was great -- that person walking into the book store would love his book, and if they didn't care for mysteries, they probably knew someone who did. He wasn't snobby or condescending. He had the kind of attitude a writer needs to sell.
He may be like that all the time, in "real" life. He may not be. If you're not the outgoing type of personality,
then you have to pretend. You have to switch from the "writing writer" to the "selling writer." Whether you liken
it to putting on a mask or acting, you have to be enthusiastic about your book.
One year, I went to Bouchercon in St. Paul. A good friend of mine, Jan Grape, went, as well. Before we left, she
"warned" me that she would be different. She said when she attends conventions or events, she goes into a whole other self. Actually, I didn't see all that much of a change. Jan is normally a friendly, warm person. The difference is that she revved it up a bit, and she focused entirely on what was going on and who she was with at the moment.
So, consider bringing out that other personality when you are signing or on a panel or speaking at an event. The more people you meet, the more potential buyers you get to come over to your table, the more readers you make eye contact with, the better your chances of selling your books.
If you can arrange it, get out from behind the table. Don't let people walk by without looking your way. They may still go on without your book in their arms, but your odds of selling are better than if they don't even notice you.
The only way to get your numbers up is to sell books. The only way to go into a second or third printing is to sell
books. The only way to get on the best-seller list is to ... you got it, sell books. Your publisher may have allotted a big marketing budget; you may have hired a publicity firm; you may be booked on a whirl-wind tour or appearances on Oprah. But it's up to *YOU* to sell your books. And who better? You wrote it. You know it by heart. You love it. You think it's the best thing since Shakespeare. You know it could be a NYTimes best-seller.
It's up to you to prove yourself right.