Ask the Publicist: Making the "Connection" with Readers

Some authors are magic. They walk into a room or a studio and everyone falls in love. It's a gift. The rest of us have to work our butts off trying to find a way to connect with readers that will actually result in book sales. So here's some basic advice from a cynical middle-aged publicist:

1. Whether it's a reading, a book signing or an interview, you are there to give a performance. This does not mean turning yourself into some smarmy version of The Author, it simply means that it's not enough to just show up and rely on your considerable charms to sell books. You need an "act."

2. All good acts demand rehearsal, so road test what you're going to read from and say about your book. Use friends as a focus group, schedule a talk at the local library or bookstore. Find out what people are actually interested in -- and trust me, it's not always what you (or your publicist) thought it would be. What's the audience asking questions about and what could they care less about? Do their eyes light up when you read certain passages and glaze over during others? Video your road tests and honestly critique your performance. Find out what truly engages an audience before you take your act on the road.

3. The old cliche about being passionate is true. And I mean genuine passion that shows in your eyes and even your gestures. Ever find yourself watching a PBS special on something like the secret lives of snails simply because the scientist/narrator was almost bouncing up and down with excitement about his work? Same principle applies. Passion is contagious.

Comments

boxing said…
Great advice, Lucinda. As a longtime teacher (and student!) I've always noticed that it's the teachers who are most passionate about their subjects that ignite a fire in their students. Same principle works for fiction, for politics, for so many other things.

Some authors, unfortunately, don't have the skills to share their enthusiasm with the public. Whether they're too shy, unable to leave home for some reason, or just socially awkward (so many of us are introverts) they just can't promote themselves that way. The Internet is definitely helpful, or getting books into the hands of passionate readers who will become missionaries for the cause.

And there's absolutely no substitute for having the right book in the right places at the right time... and admitting to yourself that lots of things are out of your control.