As a former teacher, I always expected a standard reaction when someone asked me what I did. I got one of those just last week. A woman was doing her best to connect with me at a stand-up cocktail party. She herself was new in town, managing a small office that provided business services to other businesses. She finally quit talking about her company and asked me what I did. I told her I was a writer, and she looked puzzled. "What do you write?" she asked. "Novels," I replied. The look on her face said it all. She might as well have just stepped in a nasty sidewalk doggy mess. "Oh," she said, and then she was gone -- abruptly, without a word of transition. She had just marked me as an untouchable. OK. I guess she wasn't much of a reader. But she was also an exception.
One of the hardest things I have had to learn since I started writing was that most readers really like writers. Real readers get excited when they find out that I'm an author. They want to ready my books. They want to know how I do what I do. They want to talk about characters as if they are our mutual friends. Bu there's still a problem--a barrier to be overcome. I don't want to be the obnoxious character who walks into a room saying, "Here I am -- an author -- please come do me homage." And making those connections is even harder in social media situations.So how do you turn a stranger into an adoring fan, or at least into "someone who knows your name"? Here are a few tips I picked up at a recent writers' conference.
1. Be friendly. Show that stranger that you are interested in her, no matter how odd she is. After all, she might give you the seed from which to grow a new character.
2. Be willing to work with others who love and write books. Share your readers with other authors and help publicize their books. Mutual interests make good friends.
3. Keep your personal troubles and traumas out of your internet posts, or at least use two accounts, one for personal life, another for the business of writing. Whatever you do, don't whine!
4. But do share the fun things that happen to you--not how much money you just made, but the strange red chicken that wandered into your yard. Talk about the activities that give you pleasure, the kind deed you observed someone else do, or a particularly lovely moment. Let readers see your personality.
5. Encourage your readers to weigh in on a controversial issue, but avoid taking a stance that will alienate some part of them. I wouldn't endorse a political figure, for example, but I would speak out about the need to have a public vote on an issue that people care about. Here, we recently had a controversy over whether wine should be sold in grocery stores. Getting the question on the ballot was a tough fight, so I was comfortable urging people to sign that petition without telling them which side I would support.
6. On Twitter, try using a robot to schedule your postings. That will let
you make sure you are not saying the same old thing to the same few
people over and over again. Bookbuzzr.com is good for this because you
can see a list of your posts, and schedule them so that they do not repeat
at the same time or on the same day.
7. If you're trying to encourage people to buy your book, use your blog or
facebook post to talk about the writing process, the problems you have
had with the story, or the research you have done to make the setting
come alive. Sell yourself, not your book.