I met Delia Ephron once. You know, the author of Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog and Hanging Up, and frequent collaborator with her sister Nora.
It was at a LitQuake event in San Francisco. After watching her interviewed by local favorite Ellen Sussman, I dutifully stood in line with book in hand for her to sign. Delia was very personable, as we talked about her new memoir and exuded patience as my husband tried to figure out the complexities of my phone's camera. There she was, making small talk with me as we posed endlessly because he didn't realize he was shooting video. Once we finally got past the pictures, I handed her the book for signing.
Here's where I'll tell you one of my little secrets; anytime I have something signed, I always hand over my business card "because my name is so hard to spell!" It's a very passive aggressive way of getting my card to the person with the hope that they later will be so intrigued with my eye-catching image that they'll take a look at my sites. When we walked away from Delia, I told my husband with excitement, "Did you see? She kept it!" Later, I followed it with a message to her Facebook along the lines of "Thanks, it was great to meet you. If you'd ever like to take a look at my work..." and gave a direct link while thinking yeah right, little fish in a big pond.
And then I forgot about it.
It was a month later that I received a response. I had been going through a lot of personal issues and hadn't been maintaining my blogs for months. The last few posts were more personal rants than crafted essays. But there was Delia; "I promise I will check out your website."
When?? Today, tomorrow, a year when she might think about it? Holy crap. What did I have on the first page? Was it that nonsensical one? And that's the moment I got a lesson about being prepared.
Not every post will be a standout. However, I try more now to keep the better essays on the top page. I'm never caught without cards in my hand - three different kinds for whatever need of the person receiving one. And now I've published two books, so dutifully keep copies in the trunk of my car, and in my bag too whenever I'm attending an event.
I spend a lot of my time hearing lectures and attending industry functions. Just last week, I drove two hours to hear a memoirist tell me how to turn facts into page-turning stories. I was making small talk with a fellow author and thought his novel sounded very interesting. I like to support the locals and like to have signed copies, then showcase them to my friends and colleagues while being able to tell a little about both the writer and the book. "I don't have any with me... I guess I should carry some in the trunk of my car!" Something we all hear. A lot. Some advice is worth listening to. "But it's available on Amazon." My attention span unfortunately doesn't last that long. "How am I supposed to have you sign it if I buy it online?" I countered.
The author I'd come to hear spoke to us for over an hour, and even read excerpts from her book, which was decent. Okay. Then finishes it with "But I only brought three copies with me" to a crowd of 50+. "I'll be doing a reading though at the library in two weeks. You can come buy it there." Well, no, I came here.
We're taught as writers to stay away from the cliché. That's fine when putting pen to paper, but we need to heed tried and true wisdom This goes too for any industry; in business, always have a verbal resume in mind, and a card in hand. In art, always have a product available or make yourself so memorable they absolutely need to go find it right then and there to buy. For myself, I have ulterior motives - I make more profit when I sell in person.
People are fickle. Seize the moment. And be prepared!