A post with the above title appeared on The Creative Penn blog back in September, and it caught my eye. The Creative Penn is a business started by Joanna Penn, author, speaker and creative entrepreneur. Her website says she is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction, and an international professional speaker and entrepreneur voted as one of The Guardian UK’s Top 100 Creative Professionals in 2013.
Joanna Penn with some of her books
“First let go of your belief that writers get to simply clack away at the keyboard, spinning tales and immersing themselves in story. Most successful authors have social media accounts and go on blog tours, but they also complete interviews, participate in panels, set up book signings, and maybe even deliver keynote speeches. These are great ways to build an audience, but a far cry for the reality most of us imagined when we dreamed of becoming authors.
“Shannon Baker has published seven books and says she still finds it difficult to network at conferences and meetings ‘Often, I’m hovering around the outskirts of conversation groups, feeling awkward and dull-witted. Then, I get tongue-tied or flat-out say the wrong thing,’ Shannon says.
“Fortunately, there is a way for an introvert to navigate this situation and maintain her sanity: create an author persona. Jess Lourey, an author of sixteen books says she received some of the best writing advice early in her career. She says, ‘It came from Carl Brookins, a gruff, Minnesota mystery author with a background in television. He said that to survive, I should create an author persona. I told him I was no actor. He said it’s not acting: it’s taking that gregarious, unique person we all have somewhere in us, and shoving her on stage,’
- When creating your author persona, try to keep your mask as close to your real face as possible, but make the public one more cheerier and more upbeat.
- Make a conscious decision about whether your public persona will discuss (online and in person) politics, religion, civil rights. i.e. important polarising issues. Shannon avoids these areas, Jess does not. You have to decide what your comfort level is, but make the decision consciously and early so your audience knows what to expect.
- Choose one quality that you like about the real you, and amp that up in your author persona. For Jess, it’s humour; for Shannon, it’s being an excellent listener. Deciding what organic quality of yours you’ll rely on in public situations keeps it authentic while also giving you comfort.
- Finally, have a special wardrobe that you save for author events. Don’t go out and buy something new and expensive. Rather, use your regular wardrobe, but make it a little more fun. Some authors are know for wearing hats, or a scarf, or blue shoes. The item/wardrobe signals to you that you’re about to perform.”
I think this is good advice, and I’ll welcome the opportunity to putting it into practice.
Yesterday, I received notification that my latest novel, Achieving Superpersonhood: Three East African Lives, was the winner, Inspirational, in the Beverly Hills Book Awards, 2018.