Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Your Game Face

Today we're going to talk about your public persona.

Hmm? You don't have a public persona?

Why the hell not?

Public figures need public personas. Writers are public figures. You're a writer.

Even if you stay inside your house 24/7, you're still a public figure, still able to make an impression on the public via the Internet, mail, and phone calls.

You want the impression you leave to be favorable. Every human contact you make or potentially make has the power to recruit fans. Or it can sour people on you before they read a single word.

Your public persona is what you chose to show the world. It's your game face. You reveal what you want them to see. Even if it isn't the real you.

In fact, revealing the real you is probably a mistake.

Authors are insecure types. We seek validation, bristle at criticism, and tend to be demanding, volatile, egotistical, and prone to pessimism. We have a sense of entitlement, and often superiority, while at the same time complaining about everything.

This attitude, if shown in public, won't sell many books for you.

What does sell books?

1. Being nice. Never underestimate the power of a kind word or gesture.

2. Being positive. Remaining upbeat, and projecting an aura of success, helps to actually breed success. Never complain in public, no matter what happens. The only difference between a winner and a loser is the winner is smiling.

3. Being attractive. I'm not talking about physical beauty. I'm speaking of charisma. Be the person that other people want to be. Adjust your words, your clothes, your posture, your style, and invite the world to join your party.

4. Being available. Allowing people to have access to you can only help your cause. The bigger you get, the less time you have, and the more people will appreciate your generosity.

5. Being forgiving. Mistakes will be made. Publishing is made up of people, and people aren't perfect. Neither is the publishing industry. You want to be a duck's back, not a sponge.

6. Being confident. Neediness and desperation are guaranteed ways to scare people away.

7. Being aware. Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. If you don't have anything positive about you, fake it. If you suck at public speaking, stay off the microphone. You need to know your strengths and your limitations, and adjust accordingly.

8. Being professional. This is a business. Be businesslike. That means staying on your toes, not relaxing. It means taking this seriously, not thinking it's a game.

As a writer, you're the first and biggest salesperson for your writing. Thousands of people will judge your books by your persona rather than your words.

Make sure your persona is just as good as your words.


  1. Joe,

    27/7? So THAT's how you get so much done. You have three more hours in a day than I do. :)


  2. That's a typo. It should be 27/8.

  3. Excellent advice. Now, if that damned ghostwriter would hurry up and finish the denouement on my masterpiece so I can tote it around with confidence!

  4. That's a typo. It should be 27/8.

    Good one. :-)

    These are great points, and often overlooked. Can one's public persona be a raving, eccentric, yet endearing lunatic and still sell books?

  5. A good post, and one I've thought about fairly often. (And probably one I need to work on a bit more, but don't we all?)

    One of the things I thought early on was: what type of persona do you want to project?

    Low-keyed warmth, like, say, Dick Francis?

    Outgoing and hyper-friendly, like Stephen King? (Was that just the speed? Is he mellower now?)

    Suave and mysterious, like Barry Eisler? (Admittedly a bit of a stretch for me. Maybe if I wore dark glasses... and a bag over my head).

    Warm and manic and party-central like, her, Joe Konrath? (It was the Magna thing on indie bookstores; I missed the absinthe adventure at B'Con)

    Befuddled and wry and sweet like Harlan Coben?

    By and large, I suppose what we project needs to be something we can maintain, so if we're more reserved, ala Dick Francis, it's not necessarily going to be effective to pretend to be Joe Konrath or Stephen King.

    Now, where's that paper bag?

  6. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Love this!

    Since the real JA Konrath personna hasn't yet agreed to be a guest at The Writer's Chatroom, I'll have to steal some of these ideas and host a themed chat on the subject for our striving writers.

    Thanks for the ammo for my "swipe file". (We only quote the best!)

    (I'm only posting as Anonymous because Google has hosed up my password--again.)

    Linda J. Hutchinson

  7. Joe, I don't know if you remember me, but you stayed at my apartment in Delray Beach when you were on the big book tour. (I wasn't there at the time, worse luck for me!)

    Anyway you know I am a fan of your writng and your blog but I have to say that this post is like a personal message to me.

    I am about to begin the process of shopping my first cosy mystery around the circuit. I'm developing queries and synopses, which frighten me a little.

    As for sheer terror, I live in New York and am lucky enough to be attending the agents and editors cocktail party the night before the Edgars. I was in a state of panic about face to face meetings even in such an informal setting.

    The panic has subsided, I get it now. That's my job--I'll just put on my game face and go do it. (Although I may have to keep a copy of this post in my pocket.)

    Thanks again, Terrie

  8. This tied in nicely with what I was posting today. Good advice!

    My novel debuts in the UK July 2, in the US January 29--still time for me to learn how to be a public figure!

    I have to take issue with your characterization of authors, though--yeah, I'm a little insecure about my work and I do seek validation of it, but the rest...not so much. Ditto for many of my writer friends.

    May I suggest a #9 for this list?
    *Being humble. Especially if you're lucky enough to become a bestseller.

  9. Perfect advice, Joe. I think we've all met writers who lean to the snotty/rude/socially inept side. It's so much easier to support a writer who brushes his teeth, behaves graciously, and just generally isn't a d***.

  10. Perhaps it might have been a good thing if I'd read your column before I launched my own blog yesterday, Joe. I've stormed onto the blog stage in a crying jag. Not a good look! But the emotion was real and without it, I would have taken months to plan my entry. I've commented here before as Miss Ted. Today, I'm coming out! As usual your advice is spot on. I shall return to my blog and attempt to scrub my image!

  11. Joe wrote: "Authors are insecure types. We seek validation, bristle at criticism, and tend to be demanding, volatile, egotistical, and prone to pessimism. We have a sense of entitlement, and often superiority, while at the same time complaining about everything."

    Sorry, Joe, I do have my bad days, but I'd like to think that the author you've described above isn't even remotely close to being me.

  12. Anonymous5:21 PM

    Best wishes for a beautiful Easter from one of the insecure types - LOL

  13. Sorry, Joe, I do have my bad days, but I'd like to think that the author you've described above isn't even remotely close to being me.

    Give it two more books, Rob. :)

  14. Anonymous7:43 AM

    Two writers with AWESOME "game faces"--Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover. They came to my library last month and were absolutely delightful--funny, friendly, gracious and COMPLETELY undemanding. I guarantee they made about thirty diehard fans by the end of the evening!

    Oh, and they're really cute too--that always helps!

  15. Give it two more books, Rob. :)

    LOL. You do have a point...

  16. Excellent advice, Joe. For those who are total introverts who hate going up to strangers at conventions, etc., think they have the charisma of a hermit crab and believe small talk is when you use a size 8 font for dialogue -- remember this. "Fake it until you make it." It really is possible to push yourself out of your shell in warm, friendly, outgoing ways -- without first guzzling a bottle of vodka. *g* Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of practice.

  17. Newbie - Lummy! I'd better put my thinking cap on - or maybe a different hat entirely.

  18. Loved hearing about Sean and Marcus in Katie's comment. Even on line they come across that way.

  19. Great advice!
    It brings up that phrase "We all wear masks". doesn't it? Yes. I think so. But wearing, should I say, your happy mask, is a great thing. It must be doen to serve ones goal, which is, of course, selling yourself and your work. Thanks for this advice! It'll help once I finally get a book published. At least I hope. :-)

  20. You read all those blogs? What about I added your link? Like to swap? :)


Thanks for the comment! Joe will get back to you eventually. :)