Most writers prefer to work at their computer in their home offices and never step out the door. In today’s digital world that dream can happen. Most of us rarely leave our computer safe environments. Unfortunately if we do not learn the art of schmoozing, either through our social networks or face-to-face, our hermit-style world will not lead to success.
On the flipside there is nothing worse than the author who is constantly hawking their book. You meet them and the first thing they do is tell you about this wonderful book they wrote.
So, what’s a person to do? We must get out of our caves and start to schmooze, but we shouldn’t overly sell our books?
In today’s environment schmoozing has become an art. Whether you are a newly published author or building a freelance writing business to be successful, you must learn how to communicate in a way that builds rapport. Ask your most successful salesmen if people buy from strangers. They’ll tell you that people buy from people they know and trust. They don’t have to know you very long, but they must feel they can trust you enough to buy your book or purchase your writing service.
According to Susan Roane, in How to Work the Room, the word schmoozing comes from a Yiddish word that means to make prolonged, friendly conversation. It does not mean trying to sell your product. It does not mean hard sell (hawking your book to every Tom, Dick and Harry you see). In building relationships, you take that first step toward trust. The schmooze isn’t sleazy. It’s a comfortable, sensitive interaction.
Let’s look at some tips for face-to-face schmoozing, say at a conference:
- Break the ice. Introduce yourself in a way that is light. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t try and sell yourself or your book in the first five seconds. Be open and honest about who you are and what connects you to the event you may be attending Give the person you’re meeting something which will engage them. “I’m here because I’m a writer and I’ve just published my first mystery. So what brings you to this event?”
- Listen. Pay attention to what the other person says. How do they introduce themselves? How are they connected to this event? Ask open, non-threatening questions. Use humor when you can.
- Look for a connection between you and the person. Do you like the same sports? Do you live in the same town? Do you both like to travel?
- Talk about up-to-date current events that are non-political. Try and find common ground through pop culture or things that are happening in the world or relevant to your community. Steer away from controversial subjects even those that are only controversial within that company or environment.
- Don’t always be the one to “tell” the story. Instead, be the one to encourage the other person to tell his/her story and listen attentively. It’s always more fun to be the one telling the story. Laugh even if you’ve heard the joke before.
- Watch practiced schmoozers. Pay attention to what works for you. What kinds of things engage you with someone else? Who are the people you’re drawn to and what do they do? How do they connect with you and with others?
Schmoozing is a practiced art. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become. When you start out, do not expect to win friends each time. There will be some people you won’t connect with. That’s fine. Move on. There is always someone else, standing alone, just waiting for your gracious handshake and hello.
In my next post, after my author interview with Sara-Jayne Townsend we will look at the difference between schmoozing and networking, and we will examine how to schmooze or network online.
What are your thoughts? Are you a good schmoozer and if so, what tips might you add?
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