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How to Work a Room and Make New Friends
by Carolyn B. Leonard

It used to be that the author wrote and the publisher published. In almost all cases now, publishers are making it clear they expect authors to help market their books, and they love writers who have a large platform or potential sales base.

Back when I was single again and leading a church group on rebuilding your life, one of the students contributed the most amazing advice. He said, “You have to get out there and get in the game instead of hiding in your room. No one is going to hunt up your address and knock on your door because he heard there was a wonderful woman living in that house.”

No one walks into a bookstore and says to the clerk, “I’d like to buy a book I never heard of and you never heard of either.”

Chances are you won't sell many books by sitting home alone watching TV and hoping your new book will make the bestseller list soon. You really have to get out and get into the game. Writing is an art, but publishing is a business. Once you get invited to a party, book-signing, or business meeting you can’t hide in the corner there either. Any gathering is an opportunity to network and meet the people who can help you in your career.

Let me share ten pointers on how to work a room and get in the important game of selling your book – and yourself as well.

  1. Before you leave home, write out and memorize a one-sentence summary to answer the question “What is your book about?”

  2. Dress professionally, more for an interview than casual, but comfortably. No matter how glam those heels make you feel, you won’t leave a good impression if your feet hurt.

  3. Be certain you bring plenty of business cards. It is much easier to hand someone a card than trying to write notes on pieces of paper.

  4. Take the initiative to introduce yourself to new people and seek the common thread you might share with each one. Be open and genuine in conversation to build trust and friendship.

  5. Be a good listener. Ask open-ended questions while paying attention to the answers. You won’t need to say more than a few words if you really listen and encourage people to talk about themselves. Everyone will think you are a great conversationalist.

  6. If you make a new friend you want to stay in touch with, be sure to ask for their business card and ask if they have a blog you could subscribe to or if they would befriend you on Facebook.

  7. Always carry a good pen with you, preferably a roller ball that writes on all types of paper. Use the pen to jot a note on that card immediately with what you talked about. You won’t remember by the time you get home. Hopefully you will also need the pen to autograph your book, too.

  8. At the dinners, look for “friends you have not met” to sit with. This is a great opportunity to network and make new connections for your writing career. You can’t “work a room” while hiding in a corner chair.

  9. If someone rejects your overture, don’t take it personally. Consider it their problem, not yours. Just say to yourself, ‘these things happen,’ and move on. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated.

  10. When you get home, use those business cards you collected to send a quick handwritten note to help your new contacts remember you.

If you want others to open doors for you, open the door to them first. Give before you expect to get, and you will develop a good network: a circle of friends who will always be glad to help you because you're one of them.

© Copyright 2010, Carolyn B. Leonard

Carolyn B. Leonard, author of the just-released book, Who’s Your Daddy? A Guide to Genealogy from Start to Finish, remains a commissioned writer for Persimmon Hill, the award-winning magazine of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. She has contributed to several books including the bestseller In Their Name, a state-endorsed book on the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. She enjoys presenting programs to help people find their family’s place in history and can be reached through her website www.CarolynBLeonard.com 

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