Carnival Barker

Over the span of 10 days, I had two book release parties, a signing, and a reading.  They all went very well.  Nearly all were well attended and I sold a good number of books.

They were also kind of terrifying.

It was an adjustment to be the focus of attention.  This might sound strange to some people who know me, but I'm generally pretty scared of doing things in front of people I don't know.  The fact that I'm out there trying to convince them to buy something that I put a lot of myself into makes this even worse.  There's a certain amount of trying to gain acceptance that comes into play.  Couple that with a certain necessary amount of salesmanship, and you have something out of a nightmare.

Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy those signings.  That's actually not the issue, really: I had a great time.  But it was hard at times.  It took a while for me to become free and easy, and a few times I never even managed to get to that point.

It's an interesting dichotomy, really, and one I would imagine most writers deal with.  I know that I can be incredibly self-absorbed, to the point where I can spend large chunks of time thinking about nothing other than myself.  In my defense, I also spend large chunks of time putting parts of myself into what I write, and I'm almost always thinking about writing.

At the same time, we don't like being forced into public situations.  I had a great time at my wedding, but the ceremony terrified me, not because I was scared to get married, but because I didn't want to stand in front of a group of people and share something I considered to be very personal.  The same goes for my writing.  Even if it's fiction, I still consider my work as a part of me, so throwing it out there for the world to judge is frightening.

But we don't operate in a vacuum.  People need to buy my book if I'm to be able to keep writing, or at least keep writing instead of going to a day job every day.  And I think I'm slowly getting better at talking about my book in a way that's at least somewhat engaging.  It was probably smart for me to have my first few signings in towns where I have a lot of family and friends; these were like dress rehearsals.

It also helped that there were drinks involved.

At some point this summer, though, I'll step into the world of real, honest to god, no safety net, no one knows me from Adam signings.  I'll be sitting at a table in any book store that will have me as complete strangers walk past me, trying to avoid eye contact so they don't feel bad about ignoring me.  And I will try to strike up a conversation with whoever will listen, most likely sans liquid courage.  It's going to take a lot out of me.

But this is what being a writer is these days, when there are so many of us and an audience made up of fewer and fewer people who all generally read the same thing.  This is what happens when most publishing houses are run by a bare bones staff because the money just isn't coming in anymore.  This is what you have to do to get your work out there, and get it read.

So that's what I'll do.

And I'll probably be terrified while I do it.