Monday, April 23, 2007

Faking Confidence

Just got back from Sleuthfest, and attended a session where a panelist said this to folks in attendance:

"You aren't the audience for this book."

Now, in deference to the guy, maybe he was right. But if he was, why was he speaking on a panel to those people? And why was he at Sleuthfest to begin with, since he seemed intent on making sure he didn't sell a single book?

We all have lapses in confidence. It's human. But if you want to have a writing career, DON'T SHOW WEAKNESS IN PUBLIC.

Charlie Brown isn't a good marketer. Sure, we can all identify with being the loser. Especially if we're at a signing and only one person shows up, or if we get dropped by our publisher, or if we don't win that big award we were nominated for, et cetera ad nauseum. Writers are magnets for bad luck. And publicly denigrating ourselves may get us a measure of sympathy.

Unfortunately, sympathy doesn't sell books. Stephen King is not a bestseller because people feel sorry for him. King is a winner. Winners tend to keep winning. He knows it, and the world agrees.

The secret to being a winner is confidence. Since most of us lack in this department, being sensitive artist types, we have to learn to fake confidence.

How do you fake it? Here's how:

1. Smile. A smile shows you're happy to be there, secure in your place, and receptive to your audience, whether it's a room full of fans or a guy standing next to you in an elevator.

2. Be positive. Optimism is sexy, and it's contagious. No one likes to be around a downer. Don't let anything negative escape your lips.

3. Like your books. Think about the enthusiasm you have when you see a great movie and you're telling a friend about it. Tone that down just a touch, and talk about your books in the same way. If you aren't excited about what you write, why the hell are you a writer?

4. Dress for success. The more comfortable you are about your appearance, the better you feel about yourself. This translates into better verbal and non-verbal communication.

5. Laugh. Laugh early, laugh often. It puts people at ease, and attracts them to you.

6. Listen. The best conversations you'll ever have are the ones where you talk the least.

7. Focus on success. You'll fail sometimes. We all do. But if you focus on the good things that happen, and push down the bad, you'll be perceived as a winner. Perception equals reality.

Don't be cocky. Don't be pushy. Don't be overbearing. Just be confident. If you aren't 100% sure that people will like your books, don't speak in public about them--you're only doing yourself a disservice.

12 comments:

Jim Winter said...

"Don't let anything negative escape your lips."

Or if you do, make sure it crosses a tongue planted in cheek. If you can't be happy, be funny.

Which I notice figures prominently in your other tips.

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Conduit said...

I've been a guitar teacher on and off for more than half my life. Some of earliest and most important things I teach a new student are about confidence.

First, if you make a mistake, don't draw attention to it. Chances are, nobody else noticed it, so don't point it out to them.

Second, always play it like you mean it. If you play half heartedly, it'll sound like crap. A mediocre musician who gives it all they've got will always sound better than a brilliant musician who doesn't play with confidence.

I think these can be applied to just about anything you want to do in life. If you mess up, don't shout about it, and whatever you set out to do, do it with confidence.

Mark Terry said...

Excellent--and probably well-needed--advice.

Jude Hardin said...

Great advice, Joe.

I can't even imagine someone on a panel saying that to the audience.

Stacey Cochran said...

My only revision would be with regards to the word "faking."

Just be confident. It attracts people, and truly helps other people to be confident, too.

Glad to hear Sleuthfest was a blast.

Stacey
www.staceycochran.com

SAND STORM said...

Stephen King is not a bestseller because people feel sorry for him. King is a winner.

Yes but he also writes popular fiction mostly in a genre that has a large audience. Projecting yourself as a winner and not being able to supply a product people want, would last only so long before the market for your product will go away.

Be confident by all means but in the long run you have to be a good writer or at least offer a body of work that will meet with some form of acceptance.

jamie ford said...

As they say in mental institutions, "fake it until you feel it."

So they tell me.

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Sonya said...

*ahem*

I am freaking awesome.

How's that for confidence?

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Jana Oliver said...

When you do something stupid (and we all do from time to time) the key is to grin, shake your head and say "Gee, that was dumb, wasn't it?" and mean it. People love it when you're just as human as they are.

I usually find my stupid factor kicks in when I'm talking to people I should never do business with. I consider it my "Danger, danger Will Robinson" warning.

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