No, it’s not the realization that your book will be out there on the bookshop shelves, all on its own, just waiting for someone to pick it up and buy it. Although that is scary enough.
It’s having to promote your books and yourself. I don’t know about you, but I’m happiest pottering around the house, hiding in the backroom huddled over the computer, writing glorious fantasy adventures in my trackie daks (for those who don’t know Australian slang, trackie daks are track pants).
Put a keyboard in front of me and I’m eloquent, funny even. But put me on a panel and ask me to be spontaneously funny … that must be one of the lower levels of hell.
When I sold my first fantasy trilogy nearly 10 years ago, I was confronted with the horrible discovery that my publishers were going to launch my book by flying me to Sydney to do radio interviews, panels workshops and visit bookstores.
In desperation I joined Toastmasters where they helped me overcome my initial fear of speaking in public. But nothing can prepare you for a live radio interview via the ‘phone, where you can’t see the interviewer’s face to pick up clues. And nothing can prepare you for that first workshop where you have to guide creative novices, drawing ideas from them. Here’s a tip for appearing on panels at writers festivals and conventions. If you jam up and can’t think of an answer, turn to the writer next to you and say, ‘What do you think?’
I’ve been doing this for 8 years now and I can go onto a panel cold and think on my feet but I have tripped over those feet on occasions. One time I was telling a joke to illustrate a point, when I forgot the punch line. I could see the punchline coming and knew I’d gone blank. It was horrible. Truly cringe worthy. Luckily, no one but me remembers. And that’s what you have to keep in mind. You might recall every slip you’ve made in public but others won’t.
As long as you are genuine you’ll make a connection with your audience and that’s what’s important.