The Coolest Thing About Being an Author
Uhhh meeting other authors!!
Authors are readers first. Right? Yeah, we're a bunch of book nerds who went so hard into the nerdiness that we just decided to write out these nerd stories ourselves.
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When you cross the line from unpublished to published writer, a lot of stuff changes. But for me, the absolute coolest part was the shift from meeting authors I admired as a reader fan, and meeting them as a colleague.
Definitely not an equal colleague. But a colleague nonetheless. Junior for now. Maybe one day we'll be able to sip a classy mixed drink while sitting in front of a big fireplace, discussing the nuances of... something... smart.
In this post, we'll go through these things:
A Paradigm Shift
Like I said above, there's a shift from meeting authors as a reader versus meeting them as another author. Especially if you write in their same genre and age category. Especially if your work and theirs touch on the same themes. Especially if you live in the same area. Or if you have the same agent or editor or publisher.
At first, you're still in that headspace of being just a fan. You're someone who read their work and liked or loved it, and now you get to talk to them about that work! Right?
Y'ALL. It's time to talk to them about your work too. Because... you're colleagues. You're contemporaries. Act like it!
You're going to feel awkward for a long time bringing up your book(s). It takes a lot of practice to figure out how to insert that bit of information into a conversation without sounding weird. So just own the weirdness for a while. All established authors were the awkward debut at some point, and many will have empathy for that awkwardness.
How can you leave a good impression on these established authors and make them want to talk to you until the wee hours of the conference? Well friend, you schmooze!
So you're at a conference (in person, eventually, sob) and you're surrounded by authors you admire and want to talk to. You want to make a good impression. You want to sound impressive. You wrote a 5-book series and when the first one came out it hit some kind of list! Cool! You lead with that information, right? You let everyone know that you wrote a good book, or a good series, and you received accolades, and you totally deserve to be here among the giants of your industry. Right???
Research has been done about what makes people popular. Seriously. Researchers went into a high school and performed studies on the habits and mannerisms of the popular kids (as identified by the student body). So, what's the chief attribute that was present in all the popular kids?
I won't make you guess.
They smiled more at everyone else.
They walked through the halls and smiled at everyone. They made everyone feel immediately like they were that kid's friend. And they were.
Being popular, or making a good impression on others in your business, is not about how you feel. It's about how you can make them feel.
So when you're schmoozing with other authors or industry professionals, don't try to impress them with how amazing you are. Ask them questions that make them feel amazing, and they'll associate you with that feeling.
Yeah, I know I just said to talk about yourself, but also talk about the other person.
You do both!
It's all about balance in the conversation.
It's a tricky balance. Kinda like the balance between confidently describing valid accomplishments... and bragging. No one like a braggart. But being able to comfortably and non-braggartly say, "Hey, I did this cool and impressive thing," is an important skill.
It will all kind of depend on the individual situation, too.
Okay. You just found out that your favorite author of all time is in the room. This person is the reason you started writing. You've read everything they've ever published. You're the president of their fan club. Your life was hugely changed by their words.
So you run into the bathroom and hide until they leave.
Or you run over to them and start shrieking about how much you love them.
Take a deep breath. Center yourself. This is your time to shine.
Your favorite big time celebrity author is just a person, you know. Remember about making other people feel amazing? Do that here.
But in a regular way. You know?
Start the conversation off with colleague talk (your work + their work), and if you get to the place later where you can fangirl (all their work), do it in the context of, "Hey your work means a lot to me, do you mind if I freak out for a second?" And then if they say, "lol go for it," you can safely do that.
And if they say, "uhhhhhhhhh," then do not do that.
Since getting published, I've been in the presence of smaller authors, huge authors, and authors who are small but for some reason believe they're big. I've been on great panels, awkward panels, had amazing conversations, been ignored, been blown off, been invited in, been treated like a celebrity, and been treated like a nuisance.
But overwhelmingly, being counted as a professional author and having peer conversations with people who imagine amazing things has been...
And I wouldn't trade it for anything.
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