I am a shop girl. I have been ever since I took my first job at the Hallmark down in my local strip mall. Up until very recently, every paycheck I ever cashed has been earned by selling someone else's goods and services. These days I manage those shops, but the deal is still the same. Product comes in, and I sell it. As work goes, it's not bad, and I'm halfway decent at it. I imagine that nearly twenty years of retail has colored my perception of the writing business.
And writing is a business. Ok, maybe not the actual writing, the putting the words down on paper. If you want to call that the art, I won't disagree with you. Not out loud at least. But once that pen comes down or you hit save on that file, you are in Author Territory, and that is right smack dab in the middle of Business Country.
Chances are you already know all the conventional wisdom about how to create the right image for yourself as an author. Facebook. Twitter. Be a self promo god. Go to all the right places. Shake all the right hands. Be yourself, but don't get too personal. You've heard it all before.
Okay, so here's some seldom mentioned wisdom I've gleaned from two decades of the actual business of selling.
It's Not What You Say, It's How You Make People Feel
Our memories are terrible when it comes to words, but they are amazing when they come to emotions. So this should be simple. Say the right things, make people feel good, and they will eat out of your hand, right? But as everyone who has ever bought a car and come out of the experience feeling like they need a shower knows, it's not as easy as that.
What people really want is to feel respected, and the best way to make them feel that way is to actually respect them. Sure, sometimes that's easier said than done, but, ten times out of ten, it's the worth the effort.
Your Audience Is Much Bigger Than The Person That Is Right In Front Of You
Just like Tess reminds Terry in one of the final scenes of Ocean's 11, someone is always listening.
When you are wearing your author hat you are on stage. Anyone who can hear you is your audience. And just like the point above, they don't care as much about what you're saying as how you are making them feel.
Even on the internet. Can I get a bullhorn for this one? Even On The Internet.
The trouble here is that we are, for the most part, empathetic creatures. When we walk in on someone getting tore a new one, we rarely empathize with doing one the tearing.
Gossip and people will forget what you told them, but they will remember that you are a gossip. And if you did with me, you'll do it to me. Mock a book or an author on twitter, and someone might laugh in the moment, but months later when they are walking down the aisle of the bookstore and spot your name, it won't be your wit that they remember. It will be your cruelty.
Keeping positive doesn't mean that you have to spout nothing but sunshine and roses 24/7. Just remember the respect rule. If what you want to share with the world passes that test, then you're golden.
Beware The Neverwoods
This one's a little different. It has less to do with how you deal with the public and more to do with how you deal with yourself. We love to tell ourselves the things we would never do, the things that are beneath us.
I never would write in that genre.
I never would go to that conference.
I never would talk to that person.
I never would __________.
The Neverwoods are a dark place. It's easy to get lost in there. It's easy to trip and fall face first into the very thing you said you would never do. Of course, when this happens you usually find out that it wasn't half as bad as you made it out to be.
Inside the Neverwoods it can be hard to remember that there's a difference between pride and respecting yourself. But there is. Respect yourself and you'll never have to say never.