Like many writers, I’m an introvert. I’ve never felt very comfortable around other people. Perhaps I’m just overly self-conscious, or maybe it’s because my interests have always leaned toward the geeky side (more acceptable now, but not so much when I was growing up).
That’s part of why I love writing. I don’t have the pressure of someone waiting on me to offer some witty comment or insight on the spot. I have time to craft language in such a way as to carry the exact meaning I want. It’s a handy excuse to avoid making an ass out of myself, but for a writer, it’s a habit that begs to be broken. Because no matter how good a book an author writes, the work isn’t enough. Interaction with readers is not only helpful in today’s world, but expected.
For better or worse (and I lean toward the former), social media has become commonplace. Facebook and Twitter are not only online hangouts, but places where readers actively keep up with those whose work interests them, be they actors, artists, writers or any combination thereof.
This state of affairs gives the writer a great chance to connect with his readers on a more personal level. An author can offer advice and field questions from his fans (a particularly useful advantage over the typical website), post updates regarding his current WIP, and provide a heads-up when a new book is released. However, it should be noted that these platforms are not be used to spam sales links. Readers come to keep up with people, not products, and ignoring that truth will do nothing but drive them away.
Conventions and signings are even dicier affairs for insular personalities. All the additional protection of distance is stripped away, leaving the writer with only his product and words to attract a customer. Thus, the best weapons available to an author in these settings are confidence in his book and preparation.
A quality book cover can entice a reader regardless of how clumsy a writer feels. It’s also a good idea to prepare something to say before the fact to draw in a passerby or cut down on any awkward silences. Better yet, take advantage of common interests where you can find them. This can be as simple as commenting on a t-shirt or an item the customer at your table is carrying under his arm.
Through all of this interaction, the most important thing is to maintain an air of openness and kindness. Because the truth is that nowadays readers don’t just buy books, they buy authors, and no one wants to waste money on a jerk.