Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tips for the First Time Author #2 - Thank People

Corny huh?

But the fact is that creative types can often become so absorbed in their work that they forget the people who helped them in all kinds of ways. In fact, artists and writers are, in the popular mind at least, among the most selfish and needy people imaginable. Prove the stereotypes wrong by being generous, gracious and grateful. These are more than just personal virtues - they also help speed the creative process, and help you to realise your creative goals (including that of being published).
I had the great good fortune to become an author after years of working in the book industry, where I saw first-hand what monsters authors can be (see my earlier post about things authors do to piss off booksellers). There's just no excuse for this - invariably the biggest egos and most unrealistic demands emerge from the smallest talents. It is also, in the end, incredibly counter-productive. Your publisher has a lot of authors to deal with, so does your publicist and sales team. Booksellers have thousands of other books they can recommend to people, or put in their front windows. Why would they go the extra mile for someone who they know only as an ungrateful whiner?
In a terrific little book called Guerilla Networking, authors Jay Conrad Levinson and Monroe Mann devote a whole chapter to the persuasive power of gratitude. As they say, "in this day and age, even just sending a quick ten-second text message would be more appreciation than most people receive in an entire year." Sadly, that's all too true. We live in a society where we are encouraged to complain, to find fault and to insist on our rights. We seem to have forgotten how to thank the people who have helped us and recognised our uniqueness.
I really believe that authors have an especial need for support and help. We tend to be sensitive, and we tend to soak up information around us, always looking for leads, always looking for information. When was the last time you thanked someone for recommending a movie, a book, a website that proved invaluable to your project?
And as authors, we have the wonderful privilege of an acknowledgements section at the beginning of our books, in which we can thank publicly and for all time those who have worked hard for our success. This is an incredible gift - use it wisely and generously.
Who do we have to thank? Partners, family, friends, people who have encouraged our dreams, teachers and spiritual guides. On the professional front we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our publishers, editors, booksellers, publicists, sales and marketing people, reviewers and journalists, designers, readers, librarians, fellow authors... Seek out every opportunity to thank these people in public and in private - you'd be amazed how few bother.
And how do we thank them?
  1. I am a huge fan of the letter and card, but sms messages, emails and phone calls will do just as well. Drop by with small gifts (don't expect to see busy people in person - leave the gift with reception and they will receive the most wonderful surprise when they emerge from a dull meeting) - a bookselling friend of mine was recently over the moon because a customer who had won a prize in her store dropped by with a jar of home-made jam as thanks, something which had never happened before. How simple it is to make someone happy by acknowledging their kindness and generosity.
  2. When you do events, talks and readings, mention people by name - people are always thrilled by this. Of course, you need to do this briefly and sparingly, as you have to consider the rest of your audience.
  3. In this age of social media, it is easy to thank people by helping them to spread their message. Promote the books of author friends. Promote the events of bookstores that have supported you. Be active in their Facebook groups, tweet and re-tweet them, post pics on your blog. And how about some publisher loyalty? Take an active interest in the list of your publishing house and promote other books and authors who are part of your stable.
  4. Go to their events. It is only since I have become an author myself that I have realised how important events are to those organising them and appearing at them. Believe me, your presence is noted and remembered forever after. It is worth making the effort.
Oh, and after all this thanking and acknowledging, a final piece of advice: don't ever expect anything back. I know people who do a single good deed for someone and then fume and fret until it is returned. That way lies heartache and besides shows a distinct lack of generosity. Be fulsome and carefree in your gratitude, and know that even if it is not acknowledged (and some people feel very shy about doing that kind of thing) it is noticed and appreciated at the most profound level.
I'll leave the final word to the legendary Dale Carnegie: Always be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise!

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