The thing about being a writer these days is that you have to get out into the world and sell yourself. Which is, of course, pretty tough on writers who don’t yet have much of an audience because there’s nothing more likely to send you scurrying back to your garret than standing up in front of an audience of your husband (who isn’t even the right demographic for your book) and some random person who wandered in off the street and feels too embarrassed to walk out. And that’s supposing you can bear to stand up in public in the first place. It may be a bit of a generalisation to say that most writers are introverts, but that particular personality does seem to go with the strong desire to lock oneself away and indulge in one-sided conversation.
The best events I’ve done have been in schools. Firstly because I had a decent-sized audience of people who were likely to be interested in hearing what I had to say (for which I have to thank the school librarian – school librarians are fab!). And secondly because I knew who they would be, so it was easy to gear what I had to say to them. Also, of course, kids tend to be very impressed that you’ve actually written a book, which gives you an advantage in capturing their attention to start with.
Other audiences are harder. This afternoon I’ll be speaking at a small local literary festival. If I have an audience at all, it’ll be fellow writers or literature fans (that sounds odd – literature lovers? Aficionados?). Some of them have heard me speak lots of times before, so I’ll have to talk about something more specific than just my books. But I’ll also need to refer to my books because of course the point of the activity is not simply to be entertaining but also to sell books! Previously I’ve talked about writing for young adults in a general way and about writing non-fiction for children, and I’ve been ‘in conversation’ with other authors about children’s books and once I talked with a fellow writer about how I edited her book. Today, because it’s been in my head, I’m going to talk about location in my fiction. I decided to do this quite off the cuff because the organiser needed a blurb for my slot, and when I got round to sitting down to find some good passages to use for examples I was gripped by the sinking feeling that there wasn’t nearly enough to say about it... Took me a whole afternoon to come up with examples of what I wanted to say and by that time I found I’d actually written the whole piece out rather than jotting down notes. That’ll be weird – I don’t usually have a script.
So, here goes. Wish me luck. Sell yourself and sell your books. That’s how it works. If only I could quell the big fearful lump that sits in the middle of my chest no matter how well prepared I am or how sympathetic my audience or how few of them.