Why I don’t do book signings, AKA: Social anxiety & me.

I get asked all the time: “Are you doing a book signing any time soon?” “Are you going to the RNA conference?” “Are you going to the **insert local town** festival?” And my answer is always “No”. Why? Because I suffer with social anxiety.

Hubby and I joke about me being anti-social. I distance myself from people all the time. I turn down coffee mornings, I make excuses so I can’t go to parties and events, I even avoid going into town if I can. Social anxiety sucks. But is it really that bad? Is talking to someone really going to kill me? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop me feeling like I am about to die. So what are the symptoms of social anxiety?

*Sweaty palms

*Feeling sick

*Chest feels tight

*Need to go to the toilet every five minutes

*Churning stomach

*Aching muscles in my neck

*Headache

*Panic attack (feeling faint, chest pains, can’t breathe properly, arms and legs start shaking)

*Feeling like everyone is looking at me

*Running over worst case scenarios in my mind

Imagine going through all of this at just the thought of having to talk to people. That’s social anxiety. You can read more about it here.

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At the Festival of Romance in 2014

Every time that I have done a book signing or gone to an event I have had to take someone with me; my mum, my husband, my two best-friends. I cannot do it on my own. And even then, when I stand up and do a reading, I feel like I’m going to pass out and rush through it so that it’s done.

I can’t help my social anxiety. I’ve had cognitive behavioural therapy, which has made it easier (I can go as long as someone I know and trust is with me, as opposed to just avoiding them all together), but I still struggle on a daily basis to meet new people.

I would love to organise a book signing, and get my face out there, but the prospect of being an utter failure (like the Festival of Romance where I sold 2 books and gave 1 away, and then came home with 50 books in a suitcase that I am STILL trying to shift) weighs on me. I don’t want to be that sad, lonely author sat in a bookshop begging people to buy a book – and yes it does happen, because I’ve had it happen to me. I was a reader, and an author literally cried because nobody would buy his books. I ran away and hid in the children’s section until I could sneak behind him without being grabbed again. I don’t want to be him.

I want to go to more events. I want to interact with other authors and readers. I want to sell my books. But even meeting people I’ve met before can be tricky. I feel like I’ll look like an idiot, because I’m very good with faces, but I’m convinced that nobody will remember me. That’s happened before too. Not in an author / reader setting, but I started chatting with someone I’d met a few times through Yeovil Creative Writers, and she ran away because she clearly had no idea who I was. Super embarrassing because it happened in front of a group of other people who saw it all. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, and I’ve avoided bumping into her since, in case it happens again, or she laughs about how she didn’t know who I was. Ha, ha, ha.

Equally, there are times when I don’t know who people are – for instance, authors who like their anonymity. I’ve never seen their faces (because we’re friends online), but spoken to them loads. I’m supposed to know them. I don’t want to be that person who runs away and feels awkward because I can’t put a name to the face. See, that’s another problem. Something that might be construed as “do you remember that funny time when I didn’t know who you were, and how we laughed…” for “normal” people, is an event that makes me want to curl up into a tight ball and cry.  So, I avoid group events where I could bump into people I’m supposed to know, or where they are supposed to know me. Just in case that awkward “who the hell are you?” moment happens.

So, I sit at home with my social anxiety, trying to convince people to buy my books online, because I can’t physically meet anyone.

It’s not you. It’s me. And my stupid anxieties.

Festival of Romance, Bedford

I got back on Sunday, and after having chilled out a bit, I am almost back in the swing of things. As it was my very first event as an author, I thought I’d share what happened with you all.

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First stop – Nando’s!

I took mother with me, since hubby had to look after the ratbags, and I didn’t want to go on my own. We stayed at the Park Inn, which was on the same level as a Premier Inn – comfortable but basic. It was ideally placed, and only walking distance from the venues.

On Friday evening we went to the Higgins’ Museum to listen to some readings from some amazing historical romance authors. My TBR list was suddenly extended. We were also given an impromptu private tour by the lovely William Coles (if you’re reading this – thank you for showing us the teapots!!)

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Evening view of the Great Ouse from the hotel dining room

Saturday was when the fun started for me. We got to the Harpur Suite at 8.30 a.m. to set up, and I shared a table with Lucy Felthouse. I have to admit to being a little bit overwhelmed by it all. I was surrounded by authors, many of them having been featured on the Sunday Times Best Seller’s list. I was meeting people I’ve been following on Facebook and Twitter for a while, and authors whose books I have on my shelf, like Miranda Dickinson.

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The set up

At 10.30 I followed everyone down to The Lane, and waited to do my reading. To say I was nervous would be a severe understatement. I was shaking so much that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to read the words. But armed with Citrine point (my birth crystal) for luck, a copy of the book, and my glasses I took my place and read the opening scene from Seven Dirty Words. I think it went okay…

And after that we headed back to the Harpur Suite to pick up sales. Well that bit didn’t go as well as it could have. I sold 2 books. And now have a box of 47 sat in the boot of my car. But hey-ho! I did give away a fair few bookmarks, postcards, and business cards, and quite a lot of people did say they would download it on Kindle – I only hope they are true to their word.

I try to look at it as experience. I did a lot of networking, made a lot of connections, and “put myself out there”. Overall it was a good day, and I had fun.

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Listening to the Baby Shower readings

Saturday evening was the ball, but I was shattered and so was a party-pooper, heading for the hotel, a cup of tea, and QI in bed.

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But not before a second Nando’s…

A quiet drive home, and I am now back with my babies and the hubster, planning a massive market-drive next week to try and shift some of these books and swag. (Watch out for a giveaway in the next week or so!!)

But I am looking forward to next year’s Festival of Romance!

A break before a break!

I use Grammarly’s grammar check because bad grammar is like an ex-boyfriend and with hindsight they could both have been avoided!

Talking of ex-boyfriends, love lost, and romance – it’s the Festival of Romance 2013 in a couple of weeks. I shall be there, in Bedford, signing and selling books so make sure you get down there. I have 50 books that need a new home!

But before mother and I hit the road and head for a comfy hotel, I shall be taking the kids up to Nottingham to see the “Northern Bunch”. I am well aware that Nottingham isn’t technically in the North, it’s East Midlands, but down here in Somerset anything north of the Watford Gap is considered “Northern”.

I’m looking forward to getting a break, although I will miss the hubby (he has to work – boo!!) and I’m 99.9999% sure the kids will too. With grandparents, aunties, and a (fairly) new cousin I doubt I’ll see much of them. I am wondering if I should warn Grandad that William is bringing his Nerf gun and fully intends to play war games with him. Oh, and Rebecca has written a lovely song that she’s going to play on the recorder for both Grandma and Grandad… Nah… It’ll be a wonderful surprise for them both!

With the kids sending the grandparents up the wall and around the bend, I’m hoping that I will get some precious laptop-time and get some more of my latest novel, The Black Door, written. Yet another smutty romance about a 37 year-old single Mum, it’s a step away from the spoiled poor little rich girl books I’m used to writing.

We shouldn’t forget that November (yes, that’s only a week away folks) is also home of NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). Yet again I have challenged myself to write 50,000 words in the space of 30 days. I didn’t complete it last year due to having major surgery, but I have no excuses this year.

It’s also the month of my son’s birthday. So, NANOWRIMO, Festival of Romance, my son’s birthday party, Bonfire Night, several more birthdays, and a desperate need to prepare for Christmas… November is going to be a busy month. I’m going to need this break before I break!!

Low Sales and a PMA

I got a sales report from my publisher yesterday. The first thing mentioned in the email was that all sales were down during July. But hey! That’s okay! Everyone has a slow month! And then I looked at the figures… I sold a whole book. Not even a book. An e-book. And that’s where the PMA comes into play – that’s Positive Mental Attitude for those of you who are not fluent in acronyms.

One book is better than none.

KeepCalm

Thank you to that sole person who picked up their Kindle and downloaded Seven Dirty Words.

Sadly one book does not pay the rent. All of this got me thinking about how I can market my book better. What am I missing out on? There must be a shadowy corner somewhere that I’m not seeing. So, I scoured the internet, read the books, checked the information given to me by my publisher, trying to find out what I’m doing wrong. The answer? Nothing.

I have a Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn account, website, author pages, authorgraph account and blog (obviously – you’re reading it). I’ve done giveaways, I’ve contacted bookshops (that’s all I can do – I can’t force them to take my book and let me do a signing there!) and I’m going to the Festival of Romance in November. I’ve asked for reviews (again – I can’t force someone to leave one), and have had some positive feedback. I’ve featured on guest blogs, done the interviews, and joined in social media promotions. The book is available on all formats – Android, Kobo, Nook, Kindle, print…

Bar paying for reviews and marketing, there is nothing more I can do. Is that my next route? Paying someone to promote the book? Paying for someone to leave me several 5-star reviews? No. That is always something I swore I would never do. I want honest reviews, not a bunch of fake ones that cost me X amount. And, I can’t afford to pay anyone to do anything anyway.

Is this what they call a ‘Catch-22 situation’? I can’t do A because I need B, which I can’t do because I need C, which I can’t do because I need A…

PMA, PMA, PMA…

It’s only one month!! I’ve always sold well during the other months… Or so I think. Plus, RHP has set a target of selling 100 books a day, if even only 1 of those is mine, that’s 30 books sold during the month! I can hope and dream.

I suppose I should concentrate on the fact that Four Letter Words will be coming out in less than 6 months, and I’m currently editing April’s Baby (seriously need a new title), while Touch of Silk sits for a bit while I think about how I get out of the corner I’ve written myself into, on top of the new fantasy series The Second Moon – which will be a minimum 6 books written under my pseudonym ‘Lark Dumas’… Not forgetting that it’s the summer holidays so I have the two sprogs at home, and we’re trying to clear out the garden and house and make improvements so that we can become more or less self-sufficient…

Busy, busy, busy!

So I guess in the grand scheme of things, selling one book in July is not so bad. Like I said, one is better than none!!

Festival of Romance 2013

Are you going to be in Bedford, UK between the dates of 8 and 10 November this year? Yes? Then you need to come and visit me at the Festival of Romance! Supported by Piatkus Entive, Mills & Boon, Choc Lit, Pulse, XCite Books and loads more, it is set to be a fun weekend for all us romantics. But most importantly, I will be there!

I will be on a table with copies of SEVEN DIRTY WORDS to sign and sell. If you already have a copy, why not bring it along and talk to me? Not only that, but during the Coffee & Cake event, I will be giving a short reading. I can’t tell you how nervous I am. Panic attack begin!

Last year they also had stalls selling gifts, and tasting chocolates so you can bring your unromantic friends and partners along and there is something that they’ll enjoy too. For all you budding authors, last year they also had a Pitch Your Novel event, where writers were invited to discuss their novel with a panel of publishers for constructive feedback. There’s also an awards ceremony, where readers (that’s you!) get to decide which are the best romance novels published this year. Should I enter???

It sounds like it’s going to be loads of fun, and as nervous as I am, I can’t wait to meet everyone and perhaps get a few sneaky autographs of my own!

Dates and timetables have to be confirmed yet, but I will update you, and you can always check out my website or FB page for more information.