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3 Takeaways From Engaging Fans When You Have Social Anxiety

"So, I finished your book..."

Are there any words more horrifying to the writer's ear than those seven? It took me three tries to even type the sentence. I can't imagine how many typos the first draft will generate.

So one of the perks/curses of being an out-there writer is that every so often, you'll be fortunate enough to have someone you know purchase your book. This is not the vast, endless, relatively faceless ether of the internet. No, this is an up-close-and-personal transaction, where someone you may see on a daily basis took a chance on your story with their hard-earned money.

If you have any kind of social anxiety (hi there!) this is akin to a death sentence.

I've had hi-and-byes with people who enjoyed my work before. I've even been fortunate enough to sign a few autographs. But I've never had someone I saw on a regular basis take serious, financial interest in my work. 

Fun fact: Few people who say they will buy your book actually do. Which makes those precious few so important.

So when this guy walked up to me and recites the Seven Deadly Words, I wondered if that's what the dinosaurs felt like when they saw the meteor coming. 
So of course, critical analysis kicked in. This guy's bigger than me. I can't get around him. Pretty sure he can snatch me by the neck if I tried. Would it be rude if I suddenly said I had to go to the bathroom? Bathroom emergency? Yeah, that's it! No one asks too many questions when you suddenly make a break for the toilet--
--ahh, this is stupid. Might as well hear what he has to say.

Understand, please, that most of that stayed in my head. I think. I hope. What I managed to say, and what I recommend saying, is "Thank you! What did you think?"

This led into one of the best conversations I've ever had as an indie author/entrepreneur. These were the takeaways;

  1. You Left A Plothole. (GET A EDITOR)Ladies, gentlemen, fellow artists, one can neither overpay nor overestimate the importance of a good editor. Seriously, get one. Get one right now. If they have good references and a good reputation, get yourself an editor and don't even think about hitting the publish button until you've ran that story through your editor. Turns out my top-selling title left an egregious plot hole that myself and my editing staff missed. I cast no blame; I'm the author, I run the business, I should have caught it. The good news is that I have an excuse to update and re-release the Anniversary. More on that later. But in the meantime, get yourself an editor. Here's a good one.
  2. Feedback is Good, But...Roughly fifty to seventy percent of in-person feedback I get on my books doesn't do me much good. The most common ones were about specific character gripes, as in "this would've been so much better if this guy was gay!" or "Hey, you know what would make this better? Rape fantasy!" Yeah, I wish I was joking. People have said that to my face. I think I deserve a cookie for not hospitalizing them and catching a court case.
    A lot of the feedback you get may have nothing to do with your work. Some people don't read the descriptions before they buy, or they expect one thing and get another. There's not much you can do with that. But every so often, you get one or two people who will give you constructive, objective feedback on your work. This is priceless. In this case, the reader outlined what worked, what he enjoyed, what he found a little jarring and the like. It was an honest conversation between a reader and an author. They may come few and far between, but they make wading through the useless stuff worth it.
  3. Gratitude Is Everything. Above all else, keep this in mind. The reader did not have to buy your book. They didn't even have to download it for free. Money is a little hard to come by these days, and time is even more scarce. So when someone decides to devote both of these finite resources to you, appreciate it. Even if they tell you something you don't want to hear. Especially when they tell you something you don't want to hear.Truth is, most people you come across are pretty decent and just want to be heard. Treat them with respect. Thank them for their time. Listen to what they have to say. Don't listen to reply, listen to learn. Writers live and die on their fan bases, and repeat customers keep us out of the top ramen section. Treat your readers as best you can and you will reap the benefits.
    I thanked my reader for the feedback, the criticism, and for pointing out the plothole because hopefully, I won't repeat the mistake. He didn't ask about my other work and I didn't pitch it. Everything happens as it should, and trying to force things can lead to disaster.

Overall the experience was nowhere near as horrifying as what I was expecting, or what I've already endured. I'm learning to love this part of the job and I hope you do too.

Have you ever dealt with a reader, player, or fan? What was your experience like? Share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. 


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