Today’s post comes from guest contributor Erika Robuck. Erika, author of historical novel Receive Me Falling, was one of the finalists for the WU contributor post. Please enjoy her essay, we think it’s fantastic!
Imagine you’re heading off to your first day at a new job in sales. For the sake of argument, we’ll call you a pharmaceutical rep. Imagine stepping into the conference room at a physician’s office with a group of doctors waiting for you to pitch your drug. You’ve prepared well for this day. Close your eyes and visualize the scene.
Got it? Do you see yourself?
Are you wearing jeans? Do you have your kids with you? Did you bring a bowl of candy bars?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say, no. Your picture probably includes someone in a suit with a well polished appearance and a briefcase full of materials pertaining to the drug.
What does this have to do with you as a writer? I’ll tell you. Prepare yourself for some tough love.
When you are given the privilege of a book store signing, remember that you are a professional. This is your job. Like it or not, you must sell yourself and your book, not only to the shoppers in the store but also to the book store employees. If you show up wearing jeans, have your kids slumped around the table playing handheld video games, and try passing out chocolates to lure in potential buyers, you aren’t being professional and you should not expect to be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, your appearance is your first impression. While you don’t have to wear a suit, you don’t want to look like you just rolled in off the soccer field. Of course, overdressing can be just as deadly as underdressing. It’s difficult to find the balance, but generally, business casual is the appropriate dress for a book store event.
Like everyone else, your children are your pride and joy. They are precious and wonderful, and they might get a kick out of seeing Mom signing books. I know issues arise—babysitters cancel, caretakers get sick, it’s your custody weekend—but you wouldn’t take your children into an office for a work day, so don’t take them to the signing. Not only does it reflect poorly on you, it’s also unfair to other authors at a group signing. It takes away some of their professionalism and makes them feel awkward.
Finally, the candy issue is debatable. Freebies are a must at a signing, and the more creative, the better. Unless you’ve written a book about chocolate, however, don’t put it on your table. Not only is it a gimmick, but it won’t leave anything for people to remember your book. Bookmarks and pens are inexpensive and can be personalized with website and book information. Save the candy bars for the book store employees. They’ll love you for it.
The bottom line is that you are a professional. A book store signing is a long way from where you sit writing in your bed, in your pajamas, with the laptop on your legs.
You must be able to make that transition if you want your book to make it into the hands of readers in their beds, in their pajamas, with your book on their legs.