Don’t Be A Negative Nellie
One of the most important things an author can do is appear positive no matter what the situation is. Therein presents the dilemma—most authors are shy and introverted, yet we’re expected to do appearances, be friendly on social media, and always have a smile on our face.
Just how do you overcome this problem?
Some people think we should take acting classes or participate in community theater. That is a good idea, if you are into acting. You learn presence when you’re standing in front of a group of people, how to smile when you’re quivering inside, and how to project your voice when speaking.
Another way to overcome stage fright is to practice what you’re going to say. Stand in front of a mirror with your notes and speak over and over, until you have managed to get through your speech without pausing or saying uh… If you do need to find your place, your notes should be in a very large font so you can easily find out where you are.
While you’re speaking, you need to move your head. Focus on all those there to hear you talk about your book, not just one person. Connect with their eyes, say a few words, and then move on to the next person.
Most speaking engagements at bookstores or libraries are thirty to forty-five minutes long. That’s what you have to use as your benchmark when you’re designing your speech.
Wait, you say, I can’t talk about my book for that long!
Sure you can. Your book came from your heart. You know it from cover to cover. Set up an excerpt to read. Invite the audience to ask questions about the characters. Here you can deviate from your prepared speech by including things that aren’t in the book. Things like Suzie slid down a hill covered in poison oak wearing a tank top and shorts when she was ten. No one in her family will let her forget how she was wiggling all over the back of her mom’s van all the way home and having to listen to the rest of her family telling her not to scratch. Or Johnny jumped his bicycle over a ramp, only to land sideways. He tore all the skin off his knee and had to spend the rest of the summer inside while everyone else was having fun. These are things your readers will love. You’re humanizing your characters, bringing them off the page, and giving them a real life.
Then there’s social media. What do you do when a fan comments on your Facebook fan page? Don’t ignore them. Take a deep breath. Blow it out. Then think up a casual sounding reply. Make sure your reply is inviting enough that they respond back. Keep this thread going. You’ve not only kept this fan for life, but you have also learned one of the first things about interaction—you can’t ignore anything… well, except what looks like an invitation to argue about your book. That should always be deflected into a positive discussion.
Remember, don’t be a Negative Nellie when it comes to interacting with your fans, either online or in person. These people want to put a face on their favorite book, and you are that face. That means you have to learn to talk and interact with your fans without panicking.