Meeting Readers IRL: A Guest Post From An Author’s Perspective (SW#45)

Meeting Readers IRL: A Guest Post From An Author’s Perspective (SW#45)

Heyo Bookaholics!

Author Guest Post from Carolyn Denman!

I wrote a post in late September this year, titled What To Say When Meeting Authors! I wrote it because I’m super awkward and my hands shake violently when I speak to people whom I admire or when I’m asking about something of which I’m scared of the answer.

I don’t remember how it came about – but I believe it was after I posted the original post – author, Carolyn Denman replied to the tweet about my post on Twitter. We got to chatting, mostly about the author side of this post, exchanged a few messages over Twitter and out came the idea and content for this post!

Carolyn has kindly offered to be a guest on Japer + Spice to talk about meeting readers and give some tips for authors when meeting readers because we all get awkward. Her tips are raw, funny and to-the-point, also not the kind of advice I could ever give someone so I’m really glad to have Carolyn write this post.

What To Say When Meeting Readers In Person
A guest post by author, Carolyn Denman

"Having just read Bree’s helpful tips on what to say when meeting authors, my first thought was that it’s all very well to have a handle on the planning ahead thing, but that doesn’t mean I pick the right thing to say. I’ve certainly had my fair share of uncomfortable moments as a reader getting my book signed, many of which have included me trying to subtly explain that I’m a small press author who could desperately use a cover quote from someone more well-known, without sounding, well, desperate. Is there ever a non-awkward way to ask someone for a huge favour? Probably not, but at least they get a free book from me, and after I’ve gushed about their own book, my hurried request well and truly fills the remaining chat space available.

My second thought was how I could use that advice on the other side of the table, so Bree asked if I’d like to put together an ‘author’s insight’ about signing queues. As a traditionally-published-with-small-press author, I’m not certain I’m the best person to give much insight, as most of the events I go to are ones I’ve had to pay to attend, such as pop culture conventions and book fairs, or have been talking on panels without a signing table anywhere in sight. Still, I always offer to sign any books I sell in person, and occasionally there is a bunch of people standing in an almost linear pattern, waiting to talk to me…that counts, right? Certainly at each of the book launches I’ve run for my YA fantasy series, there has been a bona fide queue of readers lined up at the signing table eager to chat about the things I’ve written. And I’ve learnt a few things. 

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Carolyn posing with her books at a signing table.
Here are my top ten tips for authors:

Tip 1: When a reader tells you about a certain aspect of the book they liked, stay calm. Try to avoid fangirling about it even more than they are. I happen to really like the stories I’ve had published. That’s supposed to be a good thing. But when someone reminds you about a joke one of your characters made that you wrote years ago, and you remember how funny it was? Laughing at your own jokes is still not actually cool… 

Tip 2: Have a back-up pen. No one wants a book with a signature that you’ve had to go over twice because it’s too faint. 

Tip 3: Practice your signature. It will never look as good as Rachel Nightingale’s, but get over it and do the best you can (honestly, if you ever get a chance to buy a book from her, you should. Both her books and her signature are true works of art).

Tip 4: Be prepared to answer a whole lot of questions from other writers about how to get published. Offer advice where you can, because people’s stories need to be heard, and writers sometimes need to be reminded that there avenues for publishing that don’t involve behemoth slush piles or doing five year internships just to get their face known (there are only so many internships available, after all). I always have my publisher’s details on hand. 

Tip 5: Have a few different signing quotes ready. At a minimum, have a new phrase for each book in a series so readers don’t end up with the same one twice.

Tip 6: Try to look people in the eye as much as you can. This is already something I struggle with, because it still feels rude to me even though logic tells me the opposite is true (was I told off for ‘staring’ as a child and forever scarred? Do I have a similar type of discomfort many people on the spectrum have? Who knows? I’m working on it, though). It can be extra difficult when you’re already busy trying to: A) sign a book in your best handwriting, B) pay attention to what the person is saying to you, and C) not laugh at your own old jokes.

Tip 7: Do your best to devote a roughly equal amount of time to each reader. This can be difficult when one person has a lot to say and the next person is laconic. You need to be able to read whether the laconic person is shy or nervous, in which case it can be helpful to ask them a question and draw them out a little, of if they are genuinely uncomfortable with too much personal interaction, in which case leave them alone. Mostly, just be courteous and listen and you won’t go too far wrong.

Tip 8: You’ve most likely just been given the person’s name so you can write in in the book. Use it when you speak to them.

Tip 9: Ask someone to check your teeth before you start. No one wants a photo with an author with vile-smile.

Tip 10: Don’t use the word “singing” in your signing quote. You have no idea how easily your sub-conscious can insert the word “signing” by mistake because your brain knows that’s what you’re doing. I *may* be speaking from personal experience here. And it probably happened more than the one time I actually noticed. Bad look for an author.

Somehow, if you’ve managed to get though the interaction without making a fool of yourself – or worse, disappointing the reader in some way – try to enjoy the precious opportunity to hear what they have to say. Thank them for coming, for reading, for giving you feedback and/or encouragement. Then take a breath, pick up your pen, and do it all over again with the next person in line.

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You can buy Carolyn’s novels instore & online at all good bookstores.

Thanks, Bree, for letting me visit Jasper & Spice. It’s really pretty here. I’d love to hear any other tips people have, for either side of the singing signing table."

I want to thank Carolyn for being kind enough to write up a post and allow me to include it here on my blog. I really appreciate that she has taken the time to do this as it is the first guest post here on Jasper + Spice and I’ve had so much fun creating and putting this post together.
You can find all of Carolyn’s links down below. Please go follow her and check out her books!

Author Bio

Carolyn Denman 300x297 - Meeting Readers IRL: A Guest Post From An Author's Perspective (SW#45)Carolyn Denman lives on a small farm on the outskirts of Melbourne. She has a science degree, far too many pets and a fear of the ocean that makes her Mauritian mother roll her eyes. She enjoys writing spec-fiction novels, playing games with her horse and frightening hairdressers with the concept of the forthcoming Singularity. As well as writing stories for Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways magazines, Carolyn is also the author of the YA Australian fantasy series The Sentinels of EdenSonglinesSanguineSympath and Shamar are available now through Odyssey Books and all the usual online bookstores. 


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See you back here on Monday’s (book reviews), Wednesday’s (storytime/ writing updates) and Saturday’s (other bookish content).

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  1. carolyndenmanadmin

    Thanks Bree! Have a lovely Christmas

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