Tips for Writers: Talk to People

introduce-yourselfThis isn’t a writing tip, exactly. It’s more of a marketing tip, and one that I expect many writers will find hard to follow. But here it is: talk to people.

What? Me? I’m an introvert. I can’t talk to people!

Sure you can. I went to an art fair this weekend. Our local community art center has an annual event called Art in the Park, which draws exhibitors from all over the region displaying paintings, photographs, sculpture, and various crafts such as ceramics, woodwork, and jewelry. This year the weather was fantastic and it looked like there was a big crowd. I browsed all the booths. At many, the artist was either absent or was sitting in a chair at the back of the booth, or even outside the booth. Some of the artists nodded and smiled or said hello, and let me browse unmolested. From the browser’s point of view, that was great.

But in one booth, the artist greeted me, said his name, and offered his hand to shake. He asked my name and a pertinent question or two. Then he guided me toward one of his items and suggested I might like it. Another potential customer came in and he repeated that tactic with him, then returned to me with an apology. I browsed a bit more, we chatted, and I bought something. That’s right–his pitch worked on me!

Possibly the artist was just being friendly, and maybe he’s always friendly. But I bet he sells more by being friendly than he would if he just sat in his chair and waited for a customer to pull out his wallet.

I’ve noticed the same thing in bookfairs. The authors who just sit back and wait for buyers to walk up and engage them are missing out. And this applies in bookstores and other venues where you’re doing a signing. You have to be out front, engaging with the buyers. As much as you want to be just a writer, there’s no getting around the fact that you’re also a salesperson. Grouchy doesn’t sell. Friendly does.

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  1. Many writers are introverts. That’s a fact. That’s why they have agents to market their books for them. Right? About the guy at the fair: how well known is he compared to the other writers there?

    Readings and books discussions are probably the best occasions for writers to engage with their audience or potential audience. Chit-chat at a fair? It makes them too accessible…

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