Oh, Behave

As I’ve said in earlier posts, the indie community is small and sometimes a little incestuous. There are rarely six degrees of separation; most authors’ friends lists intersect with all the others, and word spreads fast.

So whenever there’s an instance of an author Behaving Badly, it doesn’t take long for the story to get around. And I know it’s a shocker, but sometimes the facts get lost along the way.

I don’t claim to have it all together. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else out there. But I was raised right, by parents and grandparents who made sure I knew what was what. And although I’m nearing the end of my fifth decade and all of those wonderful people have moved on to a better world, I still know better. Most of the time.

its-time-to-stop-postingI know, for instance, that when I’m in public at an event, representing my profession and my books and my branding, I need to Behave. I smile no matter what, and when people say outrageous things, I do my best to nod and keep smiling. When I’m tired and ready to go hide in my room, I really try to pull out some extra energy and keep on keeping on. I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve been less than outgoing; I’m not an extravert, and I have to force it.

When others make different choices, when we feel as though Bad Behavior is encroaching on our own rights, we might be tempted to vent. Some of us might want to vent on social media. This, dear ones, is not a good idea. Vent to your mother, your sister, your husband, your therapist. But spouting off on social media, no matter how justified you feel it might be, is Not Cool. And it won’t lead to resolution; it will lead to more Bad Behavior and to people taking sides and to nastiness all around. Don’t do it.

But if someone does decide to vent on social media, don’t respond. Be the Bigger Person. Hide the complainer, unfriend her, turn off your computer and your phone or do whatever you must do, but avoid engaging.

I’ve heard the excuses. I’ve heard authors claim that readers “deserve to know” about an author or an event or another reader. Dear ones, they really don’t. They don’t deserve to know, because it doesn’t affect them. A bitchy author who writes excellent books doesn’t need you to bring her down. Karma will do it. Or not, but it doesn’t matter to you. Move on and in the immortal words of Taylor Swift. . .Shake It Off.

Call me Pollyanna or say that I’m wearing rose-colored-glasses, but I promise, life is much nicer when you step away from the drama. When you close the computer, turn off the phone and just say no to posting something negative. Focus on the positive; talk about the wonderful sweet and helpful authors out there, the ones who cheer on their compatriots. Tell your readers about how fabulous the event you attended was.

Or in the words of Austin Powers. . .oh, behave.APimages

An Eventful Year (Part 2)

Last week, I talked a little about what it’s like going to author/reader events as a reader, along with some tips for making the most of the experience. This week, I want to talk about it from the other side of the table.

What are events like from an author’s point of view?

First, I have to recommend this really excellent post by Delilah Dawson. She does a great job of talking about why you may find authors difficult to interact with at events. (That’s my nice way of saying it; Delilah lays it on the line.)

Each of us has a different plan for our schedule and for how many events we attend. Last year, for instance, my year began in early February, and with the exception of April, when I was home, I was at a con about every other weekend until the end of May, and then again in August and10605450_10152421412689145_601366583_o September. It was a lot; in fact, it was almost too much. I was exhausted to the point of tear by May.

This year, as I said last week, I’m a little more spread out from February to mid-August. (Click here for an exact schedule.) I’m hoping it will be less stress on me and more fun for everyone.

Let’s talk about events: the author POV.

Preparation for a con begins months, sometimes even a year, ahead of time. We determine if this event will be a good fit for us, and we commit to a table. We may volunteer to donate swag, books for a charity giveaway, sponsor a party or some other element of the weekend and offer to sit on panels (if they’re available).

And then we promote. We share with our readers where we’re going to be. We offer incentives to come see us. We participate in the reader/author groups (one per event) and we put banners on our pages and we cheerlead–a lot.

As the time comes for the author event, we have to plan our swag offerings, how many books to bring, what else we want on our table, whether or not to bring a banner and any other piece of plan-ahead minutia. We check the agenda to see what kind of clothes to wear. We check the weather to see whether we need a coat. We check the hotel to see if it has a pool.

The closer it gets, the more excited we become. Writing can be a lonely business, and some of us get positively giddy at the thought of hanging with our favorite author buddies! The idea of chatting with people who speak our peculiar and particular language. . .it’s fabulous. We plan meet-ups and hang-outs, because from this vantage point, the weekend seems full of opportunity, and sitting at home, our energy levels are high.

For a lot of us, though, once we arrive at the venue, things can change. The stresses of travel, getting checked in to a hotel and to the event, finding where we’re supposed to be, hauling alllll our stuff to our rooms. . .well, it’s tiring. And when we see crowds of people doing the same thing, we may just want to crawl into that beautiful hotel bed and hide.

Some of us, some of won’t. Some of us will be at every party, and some of us will convince ourselves that the parties and other meet-ups are for other authors, not people like us. But we’ll show up at every place where we’re specifically committed: panels, signings, meet and greets, blogger events. . .because we’ve said we’d be there. Even if we’re fatigued beyond the telling, we’ll slap on a smile and go.

For those authors who are dipping their toes into the event pool this year–and for those who feel they’re still figuring it all out–here are some tips I’ve picked up from my own experience and from some of my friends. Take it for what it’s worth.

–Don’t over commit yourself. Ten events in ten different cities may seem like a good and workable plan now, as you sit at your desk, but unless you’re twenty-two, have a personal staff and a private plane, it’ll do you in. Plan the events that are reasonable, with enough recovery time in-between.

–If you commit to an event, do promote it. The planners can only do so much, and it behooves everyone to get involved in publicity. Share all the info, push ticket sales, encourage your readers to come. If you can, give away some tickets. Tell readers why they’ll enjoy it.

–Be participatory and responsive in the months leading up to the event. I’ve been next to authors who’ve sniffily said they were too good to join the author-only groups for an event. Guess what? Those authors missed out on vital information that would’ve made the day more successful. You’re only hurting yourself and the event by not jumping in.

–Don’t spam the event reader groups. It’s fine to introduce yourself and share info about your books, but maybe once or twice in the months leading up to the event. You don’t want to turn people off before they’ve met you.

–Get to know other authors. Often, in the author-only groups, you’ll find you have things in common with other attending authors. It’s cool to make friends ahead of time. You might even want to make plans to meet that person once you get there, especially if you don’t know anyone else.

–Ask questions–but limit them to the event. It’s fine to ask how many books to bring, where’s the best spot to get a margarita in the host city, or who could take delivery of your books before the weekend. It’s great to post for a roommate, a ride from the airport or ask who wants to meet for dinner one night. It’s not okay to ask other authors to critique your books, offer a review sentence or help you choose a cover.

–Stay at the venue hotel. The planners have a room block, and they need to fill it. Help out.

–Allow plenty of time to get to the event. Don’t stress yourself and the planners by arriving at the last minute. Have a ride from the airport.

–Plan to participate in as many of the weekend activities as possible. This is for your benefit and for the planners. Don’t disappoint anyone by hiding in your room the whole time.

–At the same time, pace yourself. If you’re like me, signings and meet and greets can be exhausting. Try to give yourself a 30 minute break between these commitments so that you can refresh and recharge.

–Dress professionally. You don’t have to wear a business suit, but jeans and sneakers probably don’t cut it. You can be comfortable and still look put-together. This is your business. Treat it that way.

–Act professionally. Readers might like your wild and crazy personality on line, but in person, you need to keep things toned down. You can be yourself one-on-one, if you know a reader, but on panels, at signings and at meet and greets, limit profanity. I don’t care how dirty your books are; this is business, and no matter what, you will offend someone.

–Don’t get drunk in public. Now, does this sound like a no-brainer? And yet. . .for a lot of us, we combine events with vacations. This is our time away, and we might want to cut loose. Don’t do where you can embarrass yourself and your readers.

–Make the effort to reach out. When you’re at a signing or a meet and greet, look people in the eye, shake their hands and introduce yourself. Ask about them. Make conversation.

–Wear your name tag. I don’t care how well known you are, not everyone will recognize you. At RT last year, I stepped back to let a lady pass me. I didn’t recognize her. I happened to see her name tag and gasped. . .it was Charlaine Harris. As in, Sookie Stackhouse. I love her books, but I wouldn’t have known her if I hadn’t seen her name tag. Wear yours and help everyone out.

–At the signing: have the most copies of your first in series and your most recent release. Those will be your biggest sellers, most likely. Display your books as attractively as you can. I’ve found that a rack of books is intimidating to people, but single books, displayed at the front, draw readers in.

–Have something else at your table that attracts attention. Last year, I began having balloons at my table. It was great for visibility and made me a draw to moms wandering with small children. Candy is also a big hit.

–Hand out something. Whether it’s a swag back, small non-paper swag or goodie bags, having something to give everyone who comes past your table gets you on your feet and interacting with readers. I’ve yet to meet the person who will turn down a goodie bag.

–If you have a newsletter, have a sign up sheet on your table or a tablet where readers can sign up. Great way to build your list.

–Don’t have too much at your table. Your books, some swag and maybe one signature piece. . .you don’t want it to look junky.

–Be engaged. Believe me, I understand how easy it is to sit at your table while people wander past, checking your messages or playing solitaire on your phone. Don’t do it. Smile, catch eyes and engage.

–Not everyone will stop at your table. Don’t take it personally. There are readers who come to see one author only, and they won’t let themselves even meet another new one. Most readers aren’t like that. Don’t sweat those who are.

–When readers do stop, if they don’t know you, tell them why they should read your books. Give them a link to your freebies. Put a paperback in their hands and suggest they read the back. Ask what they like to read, and tell them how your books fit into that. Tell them where they can find you online.

–Get good sleep while you’re away. Don’t stay up too late.

–Eat well. You need your energy, and it turns out peanut M&M’s and chips and dip won’t cut it all weekend.

–Stay hydrated. Bottled water is your friend.

–Have your pain reliever of choice on hand: you may get a headache. Also have mints and hand sanitizer. Just saying.

–If you can do it, have help. Bring an assistant, a friend, or an older kid. They’ll help you unpack, re-pack and haul alllll your stuff back and forth. You’ll need that help.

–Talk to the authors near you. Check out their books. Offer to trade a book for one of theirs. Exchange cards. When a reader comes up and mentions she enjoys the genre the author at the next table writes, introduce them. It’s called being gracious.

–At some point during the weekend, step out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to authors you’ve never met.

–Try to go to panels, even if you’re not on them. It’s classy.

Oh, my goodness, I could keep going. We may need a Part 3. But you get the picture. Remember all those manners your mama taught you? Use them. Be kind, be polite, be classy. Open doors, hold elevators, compliment others. Oh, and take pictures, so you can share the weekend with all your readers who couldn’t be there. When they see what fun they’ve missed, they may make the effort to come to the next event.

 

An Eventful Year (Part 1)

On April 11th, my ‘official’ season of book events will begin. The unofficial start was Coastal Magic in Daytona back in February, but since there’s a gap between that con and my others, it almost was like the end of the 2014 season.

This year, I’ll be in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, Louisville, St. Louis, Orlando and Atlanta, beginning April 11th and finishing August 16th.

10686000_10152497079049145_2026524481_oWhy do some authors participate in events and others don’t? And what are the benefits to both author and reader? So glad you asked.

As a rule, we authors tend to be a tad bit hermit-like. We love writing about people and far away places, but we’re just as happy to stay home rather than interact with real people. That’s one reason the computer and the Internet has been such a boon to the authors of the world. We can appear to be social without taking off our pajamas. Win-win.

Some of us feel that events have sufficient intrinsic value to abandon our PJ’s and put on real clothes and meet real people. It’s scary, yes, and for most of us, it’s exhausting, but we force ourselves to do it because in the long run, it’s fun. We meet our readers. There is little as thrilling as having someone come up to my table and begin discussing my characters as though they are mutual friends. . .people who enjoy the voices in my head as much as I do!

There are other authors who prefer to save that time and money, and that’s okay, too. Viva la difference, right?

The benefits of events to an author, aside from talking to people who share our love for our books, is spending time with those who speak our language. My husband and kids, for instance, love me. I’m pretty sure, anyway. But they really don’t want to talk about plot lines, recalcitrant characters, editing, formatting, releases, promotion. . .at least, not as much as I’d like to. So plop me down in a room with others who know what I’m saying when I mention BookBub or KU or Facebook promotion, and I’m a happy girl.

I also get to meet bloggers who I might only know online. That’s always so much fun. I love when someone comes to my table or 10597079_10152418618164145_478778960_opanel and introduces herself first as her name, and then adds the name of her blog. So exciting!

Of course, I enjoy meeting new readers, too, and telling them a little about what I write.

Speaking of readers, what do they get out of events? So much. First of all, if I’d been able to attend author events when I was younger, I would’ve been in hog heaven. All those authors to meet and talk with . . . and then there’s the swag, and the chance to have your books signed. . .to listen to authors on panels share about their processes and tips, aspects of writing and publishing–it’s really a gold mine of information and fun. If you haven’t attended one, you should plan to try.

Plus, you are almost 100% guaranteed to find at least one new author whose work you love. You have the chance to chat with them, check out their books and see what they’re all about. That’s a hidden bonus of author-reader events.

I have a few pointers to help you get your money’s worth out of attending these events:

–If you can do it, stay in the event hotel. First, you’re helping out the event, most of which have room blocks they must fill to meet their obligation to the hotel. Second, you’ll get interaction with authors that others don’t: riding up and down elevators, chatting over breakfast, hanging out at the pool or the workout room. . .

–Check out the author list a month or two before the event, and try to read at least one book from each author, if you have time. Most authors have at least one free book, so this isn’t as expensive as it sounds. I’ve loved to have readers come up and tell me they did this. . .such a great idea!

–Introduce yourself to your favorite authors when you meet, and tell her which of her books you’ve enjoyed. Do *not* tell her which of her books you don’t like or say anything like, “I found lots of typos in your book.” You won’t make a friend. Later, if you get to know the author well enough and it feels right, you can offer that information.

–Even if you’ve met the author before at another event, or even if you feel like you know her very well online, don’t expect her to recognize you. We don’t all look the same online, and some people <cough, cough> are terrible at putting names and faces together. Assume she needs the intro and be pleasantly surprised if she interrupts with, “Of course I know you!”

–Plan to buy at least one or two books. Most authors sell their paperbacks for between $10-$15. It helps if you can buy one.

–Attend panels, if they offer them. At least attend one or two. You’ll enjoy them, I promise, and it will help both the authors and the organizers.

–Bring something for all the authors to sign. I’ve signed Kindle and/or Nook cases, bags, T-shirts, frames, special scrapbook pages, printed photo montages. . .you name it. It’s cool to have all the authors from one event sign in one place!

–At the signing, don’t just visit authors you know or recognize. At every event, there will be newer authors who need to talk to readers. Stop by their tables, ask them what they write and get to know them. You might find a new favorite!

–If you’re a writer attending an event as a reader, feel free to tell the signing authors that you write, too. But please don’t ask them for advice, help or information if there’s a crowd at their tables. I suggest offering your card or name, with your email address, and asking if you might contact them online with questions. Some, if they have time, might offer to meet you for coffee while at the event to have a longer discussion. But by giving them the option, you’ve been gracious and professional.

–Talk about the event online before, during and after. That’s promotion, and it’s appreciated!

So I hope I’ll see you in one of the cities listed above. For more details, click here to see when, where and how to meet me at some point in 2015.

See you around the con!

{Next week, I’ll talk about dos and don’ts for authors at events.}