Do public presentations at bookstores and libraries make a difference? Perhaps it depends on the venue. Big cities draw respectable crowds; small towns–not so much. Does increased author visibility lead to greater book sales? Maybe.
Name recognition feeds the ego but not necessarily the bank balance.
What purpose is served by writing conferences and other professional gatherings? Admittedly,some knowledge is imparted, talent showcased, and the usual bromides dispensed. As a veteran of too many business and literary confabs, I’ve given this considerable thought. My conclusion is simple: Reinforcement and motivation are the most compelling reasons for and biggest benefit derived from these sessions. If I return from a meeting motivated to write or otherwise excel in my profession, then my time and money was well spent.
HAWKING MY WARES — THE DOWNSIDE OF PUBLICATION
I’m no salesperson: shameless self-promotion makes my skin crawl. It’s a necessary component of success, however, in the brave new world of publication. Pity the reticent or abashed author standing quietly waiting for her light to shine. Hope she’s got a flashlight at the ready because wallflowers are box office poison to their editors. The name of the game is sales. It’s a numbers game, nothing malicious, simply business. Successful salespeople regard every individual as a potential target of opportunity. I cringe at the thought. No wonder solicitation is a crime! Like a lady of the evening, I paint a confident smile on my face and mingle with the unsuspecting throngs, proud of my product, shamed by my tactics.
How would my literary heroes have handled it? Jane Austen might have gathered the local gentry for tea, crumpets and conversation. Edgar Allen Poe would have challenged his critics with a ‘publish and be damned’ attitude. Arthur Conan Doyle had the Great Detective available to convince skeptics to purchase his works through the relentless use of logic; James Patterson has piles of money to fund lavish media campaigns. And Jessica Fletcher, that creature of television and now bookshelves — she had it made. Glamorous locations, fawning publishers and the assurance that another body would conveniently pop up once a week. I loved the old gal, but honestly, would you invite her into your home? Meanwhile I sit alone at a bookstore table with a tepid grin and flashy poster for company.
Internet methods are more to my liking. Blogging, tweeting, and facebooking seem more anonymous and less intrusive than corralling the errant bystander or looking pathetic. I’m awed by authors with real talent for shameless self-promotion. Some of them literally tackle passers-by and make their pitch. Others flash a confident grin that inveigles consumers to take a chance and open their purse.
One thing I’ve gained from the process is compassion. So, if you catch a whiff of desperation when you pass a booksigning, stop and say something. We’ve probably never met before.