I used to hate meeting new people. Throughout my teen years and into most of my twenties I was so scared of first impressions that I tried not to make any at all. This had the effect of creating the very negative opinion in people’s minds that I was an aloof snob who thought he was better than everybody. This was true, of course, but they had no way of knowing that at the time.
I’m kidding. It wasn’t true. I was firmly convinced everyone was smarter, funnier and more attractive than me, so I stayed shy. I expect most people, especially other writers, feel that way at one time or another while growing up, but I carried it with me for longer than I should have. This isn’t to say I didn’t make friends. I did. By being in the same classroom as others and then later in the same workplace, it became easy to talk to people about the the things we had in common – namely school or work. Eventually, when I’d become satisfied that someone wasn’t actively trying to avoid my company, a friendship might develop.
So, if you’re having trouble in that area yourself, that’s a good blueprint to work from. Later on, when you feel more comfortable with your prospective friend, you can show her your collection of locust husks and amateur hentai drawn with menstrual blood and mucus. ProTip: Be sure to have a waste basket, bottled water and a clean towel nearby, just in case.
It wasn’t until I became a computer game designer that I started to embrace meeting new people. I was a little bit older, and with age comes a certain amount of “who gives a fuck” in regards to first impressions, but also because I had gained an enormous amount of self-confidence. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Did you misread what I wrote at the beginning of the paragraph? I was a computer game designer! I had the coolest job on the planet! Of course everyone wanted to meet me! In fact, I was pretty sure most of them wanted to be me!
Even though none of that was true, it didn’t matter. I believed that it was true, at least to some extent, so it gave me enormous self-confidence. I still suffered from my own peculiar brand of first impression jitters, namely that for an hour or two after meeting someone new I obsessively went over every word I said to them in my head, almost panic-stricken with fear that I came off as a jerk, doofus, douchebag, milktoast or somehow gay. Seriously, I still do this. I can now laugh at it while I mentally torture myself, but it still happens. Anyway, although that remains a small issue to this day, I was no longer, nor am I currently, encumbered with paralyzing shyness.
But the real reason was not that I thought I was so much cooler than the average middle class white guy, but that I had built something that I could talk to anyone about. I had a product to sell. Sounds greasy, I know, but bear with me. You see, I no longer had to sell myself to people based solely on such ephemeral things like my looks, brains or common lifestyle circumstances like work or school. No, I had a product that I built and was proud of and even wanted to sell you! The company I worked for, Mad Doc Software, sent me places to talk up the games we were making from time to time. I wasn’t terrible at it, but I’m certainly no salesman. No, what’s important here is that I went from a shy kid not wanting to risk meeting anyone to being a man who wanted to shake your hand and tell you all about this great game I got right here.
And that’s still with me. My career in computer games may be over, but I’ve got a product I’m even more proud and excited to tell you about. The Grant Scotland series is fun, smart, snarky and its approach to fantasy is down to earth without being too dark and gritty. But how to tell everyone about it? When I was a computer game designer, I could go to game conventions and expos and find a ready audience of willing listeners. But now? Finding my audience has certainly proven far trickier. There are several reasons for this and all of them are legitimate and mostly beyond my control, but I’m not interested in throwing up my hands, saying “oh well, I tried, but you see of course how the whole world is against me” and admitting defeat.
I just recently had a brainstorming session with my marketing team – namely, my brother and his good-for-nothing, boozy friend (just kidding, Brad). We started talking about all sorts of ways to get the Grant Scotland brand out there. Some were good, some were ridiculous and some were just out of the question. The point where I draw the line is outright bribing people for Amazon reviews. The point came up that in order to be successful, you have to be willing to be a little unethical. I agreed that this was probably true, but there are limits. For instance, I would never give money to someone in exchange for a review. However, I would be willing to enter a fan who gave me a review (good or bad) into a contest for some free stuff.
See the difference there? I know. It’s subtle, but to me it’s important. Sure, there’s an ethical gray area I am more than willing to walk around in and make myself at home. That doesn’t mean I’d ever be willing to go full Trump and completely abandon my moral compass in some useless struggle to achieve success at any cost.
One day I’ll stop punishing myself with that guy, but… IT IS NOT THIS DAY!
By the way, they never suggested I do any such thing. We just talked about it. We also talked about getting so drunk we’d get thrown out of the place we were eating. “Local author and associates cited for disturbing the peace” was a marketing strategy we toyed around with for a while. Hey, worked for Peter O’Toole, right? We decided to shelve that plan for the time being. Maybe plan ahead next time. Get some young and hungry local reporter to be on scene.
Anyway, the point is that I’m trying to be true to myself and at the same time sell you a great product. I’m a mediocre salesman at best, I know, but with a little time I’ll win you over. The product, after all, will do most of the work. 😉
Stay tuned! I’ve got a great holiday treat coming up soon. You won’t want to miss it!
So long! Be well! Review a book! Tip your driver!