Some friends were organsing a coffee evening in the local community and asked for some help with letters/posters etc. It was being held in the local town hall and letters were being sent home in the schoolbags of all the local schoolchildren, posters were going up around town and information was flying around social networking channels too. It sounded like fun - local craft stalls, beauty demonstrations, tea/coffee, cakes, chat - what's not to like? I signed child number 1 up to sell raffle tickets and signed myself up to help with the teas and coffees.
"Why aren't you selling books?" asked one of my friends.
"I don't have any spare and there isn't enough time to get more ordered and delivered," I told her.
"Well, can you now just display what you have and take orders?" she asked, undeterred.
I made one of those 'pfft' noises. I may even have sneered a little. "Who's going to want to order a book by someone they've never heard of at a community coffee evening? Anyway, I don't have any proper display stuff, or order sheets."
My friend frowned. "What's the big deal? What would you need?" She pulled her lap top over and began fiddling with a photo of the book cover and a table insert.
I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. "Don't be daft, there's no time to get it organised. The thing's on tonight."
She typed a bit, cocked her head to the side and considered the document she was creating, typed some more. "What're you doing?" I asked, craning my neck to see over the top of the lap top.
She turned the screen so that I could see it. "There. An order sheet. And you have those bookmarks that you had printed, you could bring them. Do you have like a poster sized print of the book cover? We could put that up."
I gaped and then licked my lips. "No, I don't think this is a good idea."
"You're right," she told me, "It's a bloody great idea, now away on home and gather your stuff together. I'll see you about half past six."
I went home, paced a bit, gathered books and bookmarks into a bag, took them out again, paced some more, drank some coffee, welcomed the children home from school, ironed some clothes, paced again, made dinner for the children and their friends, drank more coffee, chewed on my lip a little. And made up my mind that it was a ridiculous idea and I wasn't bloody well doing it. So there!
The phone rang. "Did you get your stuff organised?" she asked in a tone that said she knew very well what I'd been doing for the past couple of hours.
"Look, this is a really bad idea," i told her, "I don't think I should do it."
"What's wrong with you? This is an opportunity to get your book under more folks' noses and maybe even sell some." She sounded annoyed. I chewed on my lip a little more as she listed more reasons in favour of doing it.
"Look," I cut in eventually. "I'll make an idiot of myself, you know I'm useless at all this self-promotion stuff. I blush and stammer and just act like someone who can't string three words together never mind write a whole book. I'm a terrible advertisement for my work. I'm much better hiding behind the words on the page instead of representing them."
She sighed. "Look, there's no-one who thinks they're good enough at what they do - we all feel the same, no matter what our job is. But I can tell you this - you're not going to get your book read unless you tell people that it's there. Take a chance, put yourself out there. If you still feel uncomfortable after half an hour then you can quit. Okay?"
"I'll think about it," I told her in my very best 'grumpy-five-year-old' voice. I sulked for a bit (well, she'd used the 'quit' word), polled all the kids that were in the house on what I should do and then took what is cheerfully referred to in my neck of the woods as a 'head stagger' - this is where you do something random or out of character - I went for it.
By the end of the night I'd had 8 orders, interacted with loads of people and given away quite a few book marks - I even had an 11 year old come and tell me that she'd read the book 3 1/2 times and wanted her parents to get her book 2 in the series for her birthday.
So, yeah, I was wrong. Getting out of your comfort zone isn't easy but it can really pay off and in future when one of my friends has a marketing idea, I'll listen and use the area of my brain that isn't connected to my internal panic button before dismissing it! I have good friends who are much smarter than me - I should remember that!
My friend, Deb, at the 'Demon's Daughter' stall.