An increasingly prominent aspect of my evolution as a writer has been the systematic removal from my being of any sense of shame. It starts when you’re a young writer, when you first swallow your pride and let someone read what you’ve written. That’s huge. Next comes the avalanche of rejections that precede your first acceptance, and then the rewrites that inevitably follow those acceptances. It seems that every step along the way, I keep finding vestigial traces of shame that I must overcome for the sake of my writing career.
I had thought by the time my first second book, Blood Poison, came out that surely I must be shame-free, but I discovered yet another trace of shame while doing book signings. I had done several events when Body Trace, my first book, came out. For the most part, they went pretty well, although a couple of them were sparsely attended. That’s how it goes.
After the release of Blood Poison, my second book, I scheduled a few more. I was talking about book signings with fellow Liar Jonathan Maberry, a great friend, talented writer, and invaluable source of information, and he mentioned in passing, “Of course, you can’t just sit there.”
“Of course not,” I agreed, before asking, “Well, what do you do?”
“You have to engage people. They’re not going to just come to you.”
“Even if I have bookmarks and candy?” I thought.
But at my next signing, I was determined that, yes, I would engage people. I’m a fairly outgoing person, but still, it was extremely hard at first. As I sat at my table in the front of the store, being deftly circumnavigated by a stream of gaze-averted non-book-buyers, I discovered that (hopefully) last scrap of shame. And yes, I felt like an idiot.
“Forensic mystery… set in Philadelphia” I mumbled to the first person who glanced at my tabletop display. I felt like the books should be hanging from the inside of my trench coat, like a selection of watches that had “fallen off a truck.”
I’m not sure if that first shopper heard me, but he didn’t quicken his step.
The next shopper, I said it louder and more clearly. She smiled nervously at me, and she did quicken her step, but then a funny thing happened; she stopped and came back.
“I love forensic mysteries,” she said. “Are you the author?”
“I am,” I told her sheepishly.
“Well, isn’t that exciting.”
I had to agree.
After she left, the next person came in the door and glanced at the books. I said, “This is a forensic mystery set in Philadelphia.”
Yes, I still felt like an idiot, but I met a lot of great people. I also sold close to forty books, a personal best at that point (not counting book launches). The next day I got on the phone and scheduled signings at eight more bookstores.
So, my one piece of marketing advice is, be shameless and proud of it.