It’s a funny thing, being both the creator of such an intimate and personal product as a book and the one who has to do most of its peddling. This contradiction — asking authors to throw what’s often deeply private smack into the public realm for commercial purposes — can have strange effects on behavior, such as making us go suddenly tongue-tied when we actually have to use that one-line description we’ve practiced ad nauseum. (Sound familiar?)
And that’s just one example. At two recent events – the AWP conference in March and Grub Street’s Muse & the Marketplace conference this past weekend, I was reminded of another that’s been a bit of a pet peeve of mine, since it’s a big publicity faux pas: It can be summed up with these two simple words. “My book.”
On panel after panel, I heard authors talking about this amorphous…thing…they referred to as “my book.”
Each time, I cringed. “Doesn’t it have a name?” I wondered, “A title? Something to give it an identity beyond: ‘a very personal endeavor I’ve slaved over for years that’s become inseparable my very existence?’”
Which leads me to this quick, ridiculously simple promo tip for every writer out there (bonus: using it is cost-free!):
Always refer to your book by its title.
Or by an abbreviation of the title if it’s long. Especially when addressing a group.
- Using a book’s title helps your audience recall it. Even if they know you and know what you’ve written, chances are they know plenty of other authors and book titles, too. Make yours stick.
- The subliminal message conveyed by the phrase “my book” is that it’s yours and only yours, not an item available to the public. And even though readers enjoy meeting authors, when they buy a book they want it — and the reading experience — to be their own.
- “My book” sounds awkward and intimate. Squishy. It insinuates a private relationship between you and said work of fact or fiction. This can make it hard for an audience to feel a connection with it — especially if you’re not speaking about the book itself, but about a broader topic such as querying or craft.
- “My book” smacks of the ugly “me me me me!” An audience finds value in hearing things relevant to itself, not to you. Losing the possessive pronoun helps bridge this gap.
- “My book” suggests “my ONLY book.” Even if it’s your first book and the only one in print so far, you’ll have others. (Right?) Don’t let your audience imagine even for a second that you won’t.
- Using the title sounds professional. A polished author can state the title of his or her work with poise and a tone of certainty that implies, “I know you’ve heard of it.” Without feeling awkward or self-conscious.
- Though simple, this isn’t easy. You may find yourself blushing when you hear yourself say the title – kind of like catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror while out in public — or reciting that dreaded one-line description.
But if you stick with it, including with the working titles of your WIPs, you’ll find that in addition to supporting your promotional efforts, it’ll help you gain or solidify that poise you’ll need for them to be successful.