Go ahead, tell people about your book.

Here’s a true story with a couple of morals.

The other day, I popped around the corner to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I was in sweatpants (what? I am a writer) and my Hunger Games t-shirt. At the cash register, the cashier took one look at my shirt and said, “Oh my gosh. Did you read the books?”

We had a great talk about our favorite books of the trilogy, our thoughts on the end, and how the film did as an adaptation. After I swiped my card for the second time (we were too busy gushing about Mockingjay to hit the right buttons on the computer/card machine) and I was about to leave, I said, “I’m going to be super awkward for a minute, but since I know you like to read, here’s my card.” And I gave her my business card with the Incarnate cover on the front and my contact information on the back.

She took one look at the cover and said, “That looks good.” That’s how normal people choose books. That’s not (necessarily) a bad thing.

Moral the First: Book covers are meant to attract the right kind of reader for what’s inside. It doesn’t always work, but they’re meant to communicate the genre, mood, and a ton of other details I’m not smart enough to know about. They’re supposed to make people say, “That looks good” because what those words really mean is, “That looks like a book I would be interested in reading.”

If you can, put your book cover on your card to make it a good reminder and way to find your book in the store.

Then the cashier asked me what the book is about, as she checked out my contact information on the back. I gave her the short pitch that was on Publisher’s Marketplace (hint to writers: memorize your PM line; it’s useful) and she still looked intrigued. She promised to look for the book and email me if she liked it. Which brings me to…

Moral the Second: Don’t be afraid to give out your card. (Keep your cards with you. Always.) I find this works best if you’ve already connected with someone about a book or something you both like (as Hunger Games) or they’ve asked what you do for a living, because random card-hurling is just weird. But the truth is that, for most of us, people aren’t going to know you write books and have a book they can buy unless you tell them.

It takes courage. I’ve let opportunities slip by before, out of fear, and I always regretted it later. But if you’re friendly, polite,1 and prepared for the most common questions (“what is it about?”), most people are pleased for your success. Most people are delighted to have made a personal connection with an author. I hear a lot, “I’ve never met an author before!”

And who knows? You might just introduce someone to their next favorite book.2

Bonus Moral: Wear your Hunger Games t-shirts everywhere.

  1. Don’t just assume they’re interested. Pay attention to their body language and how they’re speaking. If it seems like they want to get away, stop talking about your book and let them get away. If someone wants to talk to a sales person, they’ll go to a car dealership. Let them decide how far to take the about-your-book talk.
  2. A girl can dream.

28 Responses to Go ahead, tell people about your book.

  1. Bonnee Aug 9 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I’ve heard a few things like this happen! I think it’s really cool when you bump into someone, make a quick connection and then BAM you realize that they are potential book-buyers for you, and they show a genuine interest. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this little pinch of success!

    • Jodi Meadows Aug 9 2012 at 10:26 am #

      Yes! It’s REALLY scary, but . . . maybe they will get the book (even borrow it from the library!) and love it! Good things for both of you!

  2. Erin Bowman Aug 9 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Wow, what a great opportunity you pounced on, Jodi. And so smart! I definitely need to start carrying my business cards around with me. Or maybe just wearing my Hunger Games shirt everywhere 😉

    • Jodi Meadows Aug 9 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Dude, DO BOTH. Hunger Games + business cares = unbeatable plan.

      • evan roskos Aug 9 2012 at 1:17 pm #

        I have 2 shirts (from 2 clever family members that didn’t check with one another beforehand) that reads:

        “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.”

        That tends to start conversations, though not as natural as the one you describe.

        I feel like writers need to have “I’m a writer” and “I’m a reader” shirts in their wardrobe. The most effective ones are “I’m a reader” but it never hurts to make WRITER friends, too!

        • jodimeadows Aug 9 2012 at 1:20 pm #

          Ooo, those are great shirts! I want them. O_O

  3. Sooz Aug 9 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Such a good post, Jodi! One of the SMARTEST things I did (not realizing I was being smart) was to make book businnes cards–they have the cover on the front (like yours!) and a brief pitch + ISBN # on the back. I made them after an embarrassing situation in which a bookseller wanted more info on my book and asked for the ISBN. I didn’t know it…or have anything to hand her. I made these up and use them all the time now! With booksellers, librarians, or anyone who asks about the book.

    I used to be so shy about it and get all red-faced (okay, I still get red-faced), but like you say–most people WANT to know more. And–as someone (erm, YOU) told me many months back–you just have to get over that awkward shyness because it can really make a difference for us debut authors.

    Great post. <3

    • Jodi Meadows Aug 9 2012 at 10:41 am #

      Yes! All the important information needs to go on the cards. (Mine, alas, don’t have it, but I’ve got my pitch DOWN and my ISBN on my website, so I tell people they can find it there if they need it.)

      It’s still weird and kind of embarrassing, but practicing definitely helps. (I like airplanes for this. They can’t run away. They must listen to you talk about your book. Bahaha.)

  4. Angelica R. Jackson Aug 9 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Bonus Bonus Moral: Always Wear Cargo Sweatpants.

    Plenty of room for business cards and your debit card. And heck, you can even stick a few books in those really big hip pockets! I recommend adding a belt to the ensemble if you try that last one. Unless you’re wearing Hunger Games undies.

    • Jodi Meadows Aug 9 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      Hah, yes! Even better if they’ve been washed a lot and they’re comfy. Mmm, comfy pants with pockets.

  5. Susan Elizabeth Aug 9 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Jodi –

    Hunger Games T-shirt – Fabulous! I’m curious what graphic is on the shirt? And I’m always a fan of sweatpants at the grocery store!

    I’m about to throw out a couple more question marks, so…to the list format:
    (1) Do you reccommend a certain company for printing business cards?
    (2) How many cards do you usually carry around?

    • Jodi Meadows Aug 9 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      It’s the flaming mockingjay. LOVE IT SO MUCH.

      1. I like Moo.com. (If you use them, let me give you my referral thing so we can both save money!) They’re a little more expensive than other places, but I loooove their stock paper and their quality is always perfect. The company is just so darn cool. I also use them for stickers and bookplates. If they made bookmarks, I’d do that, too.

      2. I usually carry six or seven cards in my purse. Mostly they don’t get used, but in case I need one, they’re always there.

      • Angelica R. Jackson Aug 9 2012 at 2:17 pm #

        I use Moo also, and they really are stunning. I’m a photographer also, so my cards have my photos on them, and where Moo shines is preserving the vivid colors and details. When I eventually have a book cover to put on them, I am going to hand them out to everyone.

        • jodimeadows Aug 10 2012 at 8:36 pm #

          Yes! They’re amazing. I love using Moo!

      • Susan Elizabeth Sep 1 2012 at 3:52 pm #

        I’ve seen advertisements for Moo.com on both Facebook and the MTA site today. Now wondering if they’ve always been there and I’m just noticing them because I know what it is now…

  6. Gretchen Aug 9 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Business cards can be super handy. I work primarily in the film/TV business and cards are a life saver. I hadn’t thought they would be useful in the book world until I went to writing conferences. They’re so handy to even just simply trade information and help me keep in touch with people.

    • jodimeadows Aug 9 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      Yes! Email, blog information — all that stuff. So much easier than asking people to remember it. (I barely remember NAMES, you know?)

  7. evan roskos Aug 9 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    THIS IS A GREAT POST. Love that it happened to you and love, particularly, 2 things you said:

    “people aren’t going to know you write books and have a book they can buy unless you tell them” — it’s hard enough to get people’s attention, so if the conversation is natural, there should be NO hesitation!

    *Don’t just assume they’re interested. Pay attention to their body language and how they’re speaking. If it seems like they want to get away, stop talking about your book and let them get away. — no extra comment from me needed.

    • jodimeadows Aug 9 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      It was very cool! I love talking to people about my favorite books! (And I really hope she ends up liking INCARNATE! *gulp*)

  8. Susan Elizabeth Aug 9 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    OMG I love this site! Especially the business cards that look like little notebooks 🙂

  9. Alexa Love Books Aug 9 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I like this post because it’s true! If I had been the girl you’d talked to, I would have been thrilled or intrigued if an author told me about her book.

  10. JQ Trotter Aug 9 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    I’ve never thought about making a business car with book information on it, but it’s such a good idea! Especially adding the book cover on the front, since that tends to get more people’s attention than just words. I can only imagine how tongue tied I get the first few times, and red faced, but it’d be worth it — liked you said. Great post.

    • jodimeadows Aug 9 2012 at 11:34 pm #

      Yes! It’s really handy to just give them all the information on one pretty piece of paper. 😀

      If you’re worried about getting tongue tied, try practicing your quick pitch. I know that sounds weird, but the more you say it, the easier it gets.

  11. Leeanna Aug 10 2012 at 10:48 am #

    That’s awesome! Go you.

    I admit, I wear my geeky shirts out (Harry Potter, Star Wars, random Woot shirts) in the hopes that someone will have the same interests and strike up a conversation. Hasn’t happened yet :/

    • jodimeadows Aug 10 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Just keep wearing them! It will happen one day! 😀

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