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Mar 9, 2012

How to Tell Everyone About Your Book Without Dying

When I was just out of college, my mother used to proudly tell people I was a writer, unless I first managed to stop her. I tried to stop her because I knew what would come next, the dread question, "So what has she published?"

The answer at that time was one humiliating word: "Nothing."

The conversation would then wither up in shame.

I lived a double life. Inwardly, I considered myself professional writer, who would one day be published. Outwardly, I hid this identity from all but close friends and family. It's perhaps not surprising that the heroine of my fantasy series, Dindi, leads a similar double life, practicing her magic art in secret.

However, I became so adept at concealing my passion that once my novels were actually published, I found it difficult to switch from secrecy to publicity.

I belonged to several writing communities online, that helped me bridge my shyness. After all, it's okay to tell friends who are sharing my journey toward publication that my books are out there--yay! And from there, I learned to spread into the whole Social Networking Stuff. Facebook. Twitter. This blog. You know the drill.

But even after I had hundreds of followers on Twitter and Facebook, in Real Life, I was like a different person. Or rather, the same old person...shy, introverted, not likely to tell a stranger I'd published a book in a thousand years.

If someone who met me face to face found out, it was usually not thanks to me. For instance, my banker found out, because she was helping me with my account.

"So what kind of business is it?" she asked me in that polite-but-brusk Banker Voice.

"I'm a writer."

"A tech writer?"

Ha. Doesn't my husband wish.  "No, I write novels."

Her eyes lit up. "REALLY? You write NOVELS? Oh, WOW! That's so exciting! I've never met anyone famous before! So what have you published?"

So there it was, the Dread Question, but I no longer had to dread it. I had an answer. I told her that I write fantasy, epic but with strong romantic elements, and the name of the series and where she could buy it.

And then she went and told the entire bank that I was a famous novelist ("I'm really not famous," I kept saying, but they didn't care) and they should all buy my books. I was blushing like crazy, but also totally loving it.

I had read advice that one should get in the habit of simply letting everyone you met know that you're a writer and what your book is. Not in an obnoxious way, not pinning them against the wall and giving a two-hour summery of your plot and the fishing trip with your step-uncle that inspired it, but just a line or a business card.

Today, for the first time, I took that advice. The plumber came over to fix the bathtub. After he finished everything, I handed him my business card and said, "I'm a writer. If you or anyone in your family likes fantasy, and if you don't mind ebooks, email me and I'll send you or them free books."

"Thanks!" He looked at the card. "My stepdaughter really likes books about vampires. She reads constantly. I think she'd like this."

My gosh. That was so simple and painless. No one was offended, no one was humiliated. I didn't die on the spot from embarrassment. Maybe I could even do it again.


scott g.f.bailey said...

I linked to this post from the Lit Lab, because it's a useful damned post. Hope you don't mind.

Tara Maya said...


April Grey said...

Great post, Tara. It's one that I really need!

socknitster said...

Sweet post. Helpful, too.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Are you me? I can so totally relate to every word. This is a wonderful post.

I came over from the Literary Lab (Thanks Scott)and I'm going to bookmark this or something. thank you!!

Adam J Nicolai said...

Yeah, that is a hard switch. I went through the same thing. My biggest issue is not shyness so much as it is feeling like I'm going to be arrogant if I say anything. Why would I assume this person would want to read my book? Maybe they don't LIKE horror. Maybe the swearing will offend them. Maybe they don't like atheists! I should just be quiet.

I'm getting better... but I definitely relate.

Unknown said...

Sharing this post with my writer friends! I've encountered very occasional people who get leery when the business cards come out, but it's true -- most people are excited to meet an author.

Rayne Hall said...

I find that if I'm reticent, people's interest grows. The less forthcoming I am about my books, the more they ask, and the more they want to read my books.
So I just mention that I'm a writer, then allow them to ask the questions, giving such brief answers that they want to know more.
I'm planning to get business cards with my book titles and URLS.If someone has asked enough questions, and their curiosity is turned to high volume, I want to help them find my books. :-)

MattB said...

I'm nowhere near the vicinity of shy, but nothing clams me up like talking about what I write. Its not that I'm ashamed of it, IMm actually quite proud of me (unpublished) writing, but it's so personal to me that I dodge all conversation queues and quickly change the subject. Thrilled to hear that it's not just me. Thanks so much for sharing!

Sadoll82 said...

Please, spread the word about your exceptional writing skills and books! I LOVE them and I'm sure they would too:) Thanks for the hours of total relaxation and enjoyment

Anonymous said...

And then she went and told the entire bank that I was a famous novelist ("I'm really not famous," I kept saying, but they didn't care) and they should all buy my books. I was blushing like crazy, but also totally loving it.

--What a fairy tale moment! I love it.

This is a great post, Tara. Word of mouth is so important. For epublishing authors, I think it's paramount.

I heard about you through a writer friend (Amy Raby And I'm going to spend the next 10 minutes of my very precious time looking at your books and deciding what to buy. I hope when my books are out there, a steady stream of people will trickle to my books because others referred them:)

Sophie Lawson said...

I am continually impressed with your insights and ability to express the feelings and fears that so many of us have, to make it legitimate to acknowledge that we feel the same way. Thanks, Tara