Do I Have to?

K. S. Brooks at the PACA Awards
K. S. Brooks at the PACA Awards

Yes, you do.

We all have to do things we don’t enjoy. Personally, I loathe the thought of personal appearances. I’m quite happy being a curmudgeonly hermit. It’s very safe here in my secret mountain lair. But sometimes an invitation comes my way – and I know I have to say yes.

Public appearances and events really don’t hurt that much. They can be tedious, and usually the amount of time spent in preparation usurps the event itself.  So why do them? Well, unless you’re famous – or extremely eccentric – you sort of “have” to.

As a member of any community, artists – writers included – have a responsibility to promote the arts. Decline, and you’ll get a reputation as a snob, even if you’re not. Besides, isn’t a few hours of inconvenience a fair trade for free publicity?

To be honest, I wrote most of this post while I was at the event in which I’m pictured above. I figured if painters paint at exhibits, and sculptures sculpt, then why shouldn’t I write? Besides, the only person who spoke to me wanted to know where the bathroom was. In case you’re wondering, that still remains the number one most asked question at my book events.

Now, now, don’t get all discouraged. Face time is important. Two people came to my table and said “Wow, that’s a lot of books.” Oddly, they didn’t take any book marks, but that’s okay. Two more people now know about my books.  That’s two more than when I walked into the place.

Then it came my turn to read – up on stage.  The place was packed – probably with a couple hundred people. Someone took my picture – possibly for the paper – I don’t know. I do know that I got video of my reading, which I can use on my web site and my YouTube channel. This kind of opportunity truly is invaluable.

While no one purchased a book, or even spoke with me, being there was important. The public seems to suspend some sort of ‘shroud of mystery’ over authors. When they see you in the flesh, that gives them a sense of tangibility. So no, the event didn’t put money in my pocket, and there’s a good possibility I’ll never know what the ROI actually is since most everything authors do has cumulative results.

Let’s recap. The costs: a few hours gathering my wares, choosing a passage to read, stressing out, and getting “dolled up.” I drove there, I sat there, and I read. The benefits: all eight of my books out on a table for hundreds of people to see; my name in the program; an opportunity to read to a captive audience; a video of my reading; a photograph for publicity and whatever else comes of it.

I’d say that’s a pretty good trade.  Wouldn’t you?

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K.S. Brooks is an award-winning author and photographer, and Co-Administrator of Indies Unlimited. For more information, please see the IU Bio page and her web site:[subscribe2]

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

27 thoughts on “Do I Have to?”

  1. As a reader and a fan of culture, I'd say that I don't tend to make snap decisions unless I'm turned upside down by a 'cold' cultural experience. And by 'cold' I mean, never heard of the artist, band, writer and I walk away with a CD or book. The last time that happened to me was in 2006 at a Brian Jonestown Massacre gig I think?! But, I totally agree it's great that folks walk away with your name. Now they can reference you later if your words struck a chord. It took me until 2004 to get into the music of Ed Harcourt even though I first heard him enthused about in 2001! I wrote a blogpost about it.

    My debut novel comes out later this year and I'm not sure how I'll handle the publicity side of things. I'm really good at PR for bands and other writers but I've never turned that spotlight on myself. I feel shy about that to be honest, but also excited! I just want to get my enthusiasm across and hope that will bring pleasure to anyone who meets me. Just keep it and my expectations simple : )

    1. Hi Yasmin, if you do publicity, then you know they say it takes 7 instances of someone seeing your name for it to have recognitive value. So, getting out there every time is very important.

          1. Wow, I guess people are assaulted with more info and a wider variety of things from more angles now so it takes longer to sink in?

            I'm like that with phone numbers now, prior to the mobile phone I had a fantastic memory for analogue line numbers but bar a wee handful I can't recall numbers at all now. It's kind of tragic. Still as long as I can call my Ma that's the main thing ; )

  2. I tend to like my launches and planned events if there are invited guests, but cold signings in shops leave me quite cold too, although I'm not averse to walking up to people to simply talk about books and casually mention that I'm an author. I hardly spend any time sitting behind the table they offer.

    I have a planned talk in a library coming up in March – I'm allowed to sell books too… but what a great opportunity to announce my forthcoming release.

    I recently attended an event at the library of my son's school, where the organizers placed my cards on each table and introduced me formally – another opportunity for my name to become familiar.

    Everyone thinks artists and authors ARE eccentric… so no one bats an eyelid if I do weird things such as introduce myself or hand out bookmarks or generally act like a bookish person. The shop owners benefit from the attraction, too, so they might even phone for another date.

    I found one signing stultifying last Easter, but I plan to make it a bit more interesting this year.

    1. Rosanne, you are much more the social butterfly than I! I wish I had your prowess for these things. I have enjoyed opening night gallery parties which have involved invitations (back when I was doing one-man shows in Boston with my photography) – those were fun. But events where I know no one are tough for me. I'd rather be home in my jammies. 🙂

  3. Great post, Kat. As long as I don't have to eat lima beans I'm ok with publicity.

    It seems that writers have to try many different things to know what will get potential readers to pay attention. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. Thank you for this post, Kat. It's very timely. I will share it with my critique groups. I will be meeting with friends to craft a marketing plan next week.

  5. Yup, I'd say that was a good trade!

    Call me crazy, but I love making public appearances. Since I only have eBooks, I've had to get creative. Instead of a "signing" or "reading" the event I held introduced local bands and artists to the community, with my storyline bridging all the performances. Over l00 people showed up on a cold wintery night so I considered it a great success and there was no pressure on me to sit there and hope someone would "buy my book" right there and then. Give me a mic, and I'll entertain 🙂

    When I did local television, again I didn't focus soley on my books, but on eBooks in general. I spoke briefly about them at the beginning and photos of my book covers were in the foreground the whole time. My hope has been if someone "likes" me then they'll check out my book. If not, at least I still have a good time!

    1. Elena,

      That sounds really cool : )

      I've done a couple of opening chapter readings of my novel Gunshot Glitter at gigs even before it was finished. I love the idea of mixing it up like that.

  6. Thanks for another great post, Kat. I'm becoming more of a hermit as I get older. If I can think of a good excuse to stay home, I will. Especially in winter! 🙂 But I hope I can get some public appearances once I have a book to show. My e-book is getting close, and I had a print copy made and spiral bound, so I do actually have something to show. Now to get back to the nitty-gritty of creating my web site.

    1. Go Diane! I have one more event this week – reading at the elementary school for "Read Across America." Then this weekend I'll happily crawl back under my rock until the next invitation comes LOL.

  7. Kat,

    You are very lucky indeed. I would love to have opportunities like that, especially if they're calling me to participate. Maybe you can enlighten us as to how to acquire such PR opportunities!

    1. Jim, I work my ass off distributing press releases. I can only imagine that has resulted in becoming known in the area. These folks found and invited me. I never ask why or how. Donating books to the local municipal and school libraries also doesn't hurt. 🙂

  8. I'm usually nervous until I start. When I wrapped my head around the idea that I'm up there to help people and share info with them (instead of it being all about me), public events became MUCH easier!

  9. Great post, Kat. Except I'm so not comfortable amongst strangers. I've signed up for a 3 day author's event in Nashville, TN this may, and boy am I nervous! 🙁

  10. I am fine in public appearances as long as I have something specific to do, such as read from my book or answer questions. As long as I am responding to a stimulus it's OK, if I have to start without a prompt I get choked. I have been in a couple of bookstores where I just had to wander around and introduce myself. Not even a table with my book on it. That was like cold calling – something I abhor. The prep for the event is more difficult, the advertising, etc.

  11. Appreciated your piece so much. I'm of the ilk of hiding from the public spotlight as often as possible. I'm working on changing that attitude every day. I need to just get out there and do it. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. You're so welcome, Reese! I just received another invitation to do something way outside my comfort zone. My initial reaction is, of course, to hide. LOL. I'm working on it, too!

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