Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tales of a Traveling Saleswoman

In the world of self-publication, it isn’t enough to write a great book. If the aforementioned great book is to see the light of day, Madame or Monsieur Writer has to wear all the other hats normally worn by an agent and numerous other professionals found in the mysterious world of BigPub. Looking back, writing the book was the easy part; it’s the knocking on doors that totally blows.

I ventured out amongst the English today to peddle my book, stopping at four independent booksellers in town. My routine is simple: flash a big smile, hand over Opening the Kimono and her corresponding informational sheet, and rattle off my 10-second pitch before they’ve decided I’ve become too annoying or disruptive. As with everything, the more I do it, the better I am getting at it. All salespeople have their go-to talking points, and I am no different. During my Kimono spiel, I rely upon catch-phrases (”award-winning”, “already sold in several other bookstores in town”, and “going to be featured in the Herald-Trib in a few weeks”) to get their attention among the din of distractions. However, if I were to be honest, my peacocking is less about trying to close the deal and more about quelling my own insecurities.

When I show people my book, I feel like the first person to take off her clothes when skinny-dipping. It’s so scary to put myself out there, especially in front of strangers. My litany of accomplishments I recite really isn’t about selling the book; it’s about selling myself. If I can make the book sound irresistible (on good days, I believe that it is!), then they won’t reject it…or me. No matter how much work I do to free myself from the opinions of others, I still find myself emotionally captive to the elusive approval of Another.

Despite my teetering in the Land of Low Self-esteem, I somehow found the acting chops to present myself as a strong, talented author. My exterior confidently projected, “You will TOTALLY love this book. Everybody loves it. It f#@king rocks.” My interior world, however, was cowering in the corner, begging, “Please, please, PLEASE accept me!”

I guess my theatrics worked; I sold all of the books I brought with me. All four buyers were enthusiastic, and I scheduled two book-signing events. Slowly but surely, my self-worth has reappeared, and I am now feeling confident enough to hit it again later this week. By far the best moment of the day was when one of the buyers gushed over the book cover. He said, “Gorgeous cover! That is really something.”

You damn right I am.

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