It is important to understand that being friendly isn’t the same thing as being nice or polite. Everyone on the convention floor should be polite and frankly nice. But being friendly is a step up. It’s thinking about the other person’s comfort as well as your own. It can be approaching someone because they seem alone or in need. It can even be phrasing things so that the person has a chance to do you a favor and to be appreciative.
I really wanted a copy of the promotional piece being done for Chanukah Lights, but I had arrived too late to get tickets. As the line got shorter, I went to the publisher there and nicely asked if there were any way for me to get tickets, as this was one of the only ticketed authors I had wanted to see today. I asked if I might be able to wait until the ticketed participants had gone through, but she was able get me a ticket. At the signing I shared how happy I was to be there and Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda signed the lovely image of an old-fashioned apartment for my Grandma’s 100th birthday, which made everyone feel good.Be Sincere
In a world of hyperbolic marketing, sincerity comes through. In the above situation, it was true that this was one of my highest priorities, and the publisher could tell. Also it wasn’t as much a hyped author and illustrator as some, and she knew that too. So both my honesty and my delight were genuine. Generally, as I go through the exhibit floor, I comment and compliment a lot. I look through books and tell the publishers specifically what I like about the author, illustrator, or art. If I see a good promotion or swag, I tend to mention it. If I enjoyed a conversation, I say so. I do so without expectations, and yet often leave with books, swag, and contacts. And when I don’t, that’s also fine with me because I shared something that maybe makes their day a tiny bit nicer.
During the last hours of the show, I mentioned to the woman there how much I liked Lulu’s business cards — that I thought they were very eye-catching. The woman seemed unimpressed by my compliment, but a young man leaned over to tell me that he designed them. That gave us a chance to talk about the cards, promotion pieces and the power of good design. The next thing I know he’s giving me a couple of hats for my daughters.Be Resilient
I thought a lot about how to define this third trait. Was it about being confident? No, because I’m always surprised if people know my blog. Is it about being fearless? No, because I do get nervous, flustered, and embarrassed. But I trust in being resilient. I’m not afraid to do something wrong because it’s the price of often getting it right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That’s true, but putting yourself out there means that sometimes it doesn’t go right and you have to let those experiences roll off of you.
Coming out of the stall in the bathroom, I saw a woman wearing a lovely dress. Being friendly and sincere, I told her so. All good. Then she turned around and I said the dumbest thing one can say to a famous author, that being their own name.Does being friendly, sincere, and resilient work? I’d say so. I’ve met people because I was concerned that they looked uncomfortable. I’ve had wonderful discussions from a comment I made. And yes, I’ve been able to turn awkward experiences around into memorable ones. One more example.
Alice Marvels, notably not taken in the restroom.)
On Wednesday, the publicity people were marking down their last hour on the floor. I approached one booth, because the young ladies looked bored, and complimented the title they were featuring. In an effort to engage discussion, I began to leaf through, saying, “John Rocco. John Rocco. What book do I know him from? No, it’s not Wolf! Wolf! Hmmm. Something else...” This went on for another minute before one lady, who was apparently less interested than I thought, said, “Well, the author is sitting right there.”So at your next convention, conference, or colloquium, work that event like a MotherReader. And let me know how it goes.
And yes, not four feet away, probably hearing his name repeated three or four times, was John Rocco. And yes, I could have run. But at this point, I decided that I might as well introduce myself, ask what book I might be thinking of (it was Moonpowder), and talk about his stunning new title, Blackout. He even signed a poster for me, and was all in all quite congenial. (Hey, Jules at Seven Impossible Things is talking about his work with a bonus interview with the man, so check that out.)
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