Today’s Authors and the Dazzle Factor

The “Writer’s Row” banner hanging from the rafters of the Javits Convention Center is misleading, for no writing gets done here.Row

Rather, this is where unknown authors at BookExpo America, the largest book industry show in North America, plant themselves (for a hefty fee) in hopes of attracting the attention of agents, publishers and readers.

The problem is that most writers prefer the laptop to the lectern, and, it seems, would just as soon pass on making the transition from creative writing to creative marketing. The New York Times asked insiders James Parker and Anna Holmes to weigh in, and both agreed authors in the digital age must get on board.

Says Parker, “Authors have to promote their books, and they have to be flashy about it.” Holmes adds, “Writers are prone to take themselves very seriously, which is fine, except it also means they sometimes find the self-promotional aspects of their craft distasteful, if not downright excruciating.”

Too bad, right? Just as there’s discretionary income, there’s also discretionary leisure time. Few have much of either these days. Which is why if an author wants someone to spend days or possibly weeks reading his book, he should be willing to meet face to face, explain the plot in 90 seconds or less, and do it with as much passion the 50th time as the first.

I suspect the reason authors don’t always like speaking in public has more to do with stage fright than anything else. As an author who also teaches presentation skills professionally, I know that anyone can move the bar with practice and constructive feedback. Practice what?

– A tight pitch that addresses every reader’s most important question: Why should I care enough to read your book?

– The answers to obvious questions, like, Where did the story come from? Who’s your favorite character? What’s your writing process?

– And of course some may need to practice appearing comfortable. Natural hand gestures, smiling and good eye contact will all make an author appear more confident, and thus keep an audience engaged.

I’m betting most who are gifted enough to write a novel are also capable of improving their public speaking skills, and possibly coming to enjoy recasting their 400 pages into the digestible bites that will persuade people to read all those words.

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4 Comments so far »

  1. Squeakychu said,

    Wrote on May 31, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

    Re: “Writers are prone to take themselves very seriously, which is fine, except it also means they sometimes find the self-promotional aspects of their craft distasteful, if not downright excruciating.”

    I find this is true with others who practice arts and crafts as well as writing. I love that you assist others in how to present themselves to the public. That is so useful!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I agree with you, Squeakychu, as far as others who practice other creative arts. Thanks for dropping in on the conversation!

    [Reply]

  2. Reed James said,

    Wrote on May 31, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

    Helpful advice, thanks!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    My pleasure, thanks for coming by!

    [Reply]

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