Are You Prepared To Answer These Simple Questions?

I wasn't.

I, an extremely introverted author, recently found myself at a birthday party with a large group of strangers. (Okay, Athena, you can handle this.) 

The subject of my novel’s release came up. (Crap, this is scary. But it’s an opportunity. You’ve got this.)

I received the usual questions: What’s your book about? (It’s a historical romance with Eastern spiritual themes. You can find it on Amazon.)

Did you self-publish and are you making money? (Yes. And ha ha ha.)

How long did it take to write? (7 years.)

Then someone turned to me and asked “Why should I read your book?” (Oh God. Cuz… it’s… um… good?) 

I stumbled through some kind of half-hearted response about my book being “different.” You could literally feel the energy in the room drop.

Then she asked “As a writer what are you good at? (*danger danger* Retreat now!)

I could have said a dozen different things. I write stunningly evocative love stories that entwine spirituality and history in unique and interesting ways. I am great at creating tension and desire between characters that builds throughout the story. Etc. But did I say any of those things? No. I mumbled something about being good at writing passion. In response I could hear the crickets chirping.

I know I’m a good writer. I know what I’m good at and I know my book is amazing. But I simply hadn’t prepared for such questions. I’m not a natural salesperson and when put on the spot I didn’t know how to sell myself.

I blew an opportunity to gain new readers. But I did learn an important lesson, so it’s not all bad. And now I can pass that lesson onto you!

The lesson is: be prepared to answer these questions – in person – not in writing.

But until you find yourself in the spotlight at a party full of strangers, tell me in the comments… Why should I read your book? And as a writer, what are you good at?

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  1. says

    My heart was working overdrive as I read your party story. That sounded scary. I often find my selfing stuttering and stumbling over my words when friends and strangers ask me similar questions. So this is great practice for me to type out the answers. Here I go — You should read my book because it tells a story that you need to hear. It was written to show the reader that even in her darkest moments, she is never alone. You should read my book because it will remind you that from life, to death, and beyond, we are all in it together – whether we act like it or not. And as a writer, I am good at telling the truth. …Phew! I did it. Thank you!

  2. Kye Reen Paradise says

    My book is a colection of short stories about growing up during summers in the north woods of Maine. People should read my book because they will love my down-home characters and vivid descriptions of life in the Maine woods.
    I am not good at many things, but one thing I can do is tell stories. I have been storytelling since I was four years old, and I specialize in historical family stories.

  3. says

    What’s your book about, Shawn?
    It’s a young adult novel inspired by the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale about the challenges of giving too much of yourself away online.
    Did you self publish?
    No, I’m entirely too lazy for that.
    How long did it take you to write?
    I’ll let you know if it’s ever really finished. I suspect I’ll still be re-editing and releasing special editions of it in twenty years.
    Why should I read your book?
    Let me answer that question with a question. Why wouldn’t you want to be awesome?
    (Party guest looks visibly annoyed)
    As a writer, what are you good at? (asked with a snippy tone)
    Making sweet, sweet love to your corpus callosum with the written word, baby.
    (This effectively ends any conversation. You’ve either made a lifelong fan or earned a restraining order)

  4. says

    I found your blog through Pinterest–and oh my, what great questions! I relate very much to this quandary. Since high school, I’ve always been dragging around one novel or another in progress, and you’d think I’d be quite practiced at answering questions about my writing. In high school I told people it was a high fantasy political intrigue, and if I didn’t lose them there I’d probably get deeply involved in telling them the entire story–because summaries are awfully hard. Most people stayed interested in the story, though. So I guess that is something.

    These days I’m writing a web serial about a clever girl who was a princess, but after her city falls to the empire next door, she finds that her skill set of war and diplomacy set her up for a successful mercenary career. The current story is about that transition. You should read it because it’s a fun adventure story. It’s about serious things, told by someone with a sense of humor. As far as what I’m good at: I’m good at showing a lot about a character in their dialogue. I’m also pretty good at setting a scene and writing action sequences. It sounds so proud to say that!
    Abigail C recently posted…mastering a poseMy Profile

  5. says

    At least you could summarize your book in one line! I have to think about it, even though I wrote that summarize-your-book-in-one-sentence deal to capture readers. One reason I started writing is because I got sick of people eating up these awful books that have the weakest female characters in the world. They’re not role models and they sicken me. So if anyone asked me why they should read my book, I’ll answer: “It’s not Twilight.” Guaranteed I’ll get some laughs and people happily offended (fake hate, or whatever you wanna call it). The ones offended understand why people hate Twilight, but they still liked it. A guilty pleasure, maybe. I am one to criticize others’ work because I expect them to do the same. I’m hard on others because I’m hard on myself. You don’t have to slam other authors to get your point across. That’s just me. People know Twilight. They’ll get why I’d say it. It makes them laugh. It makes the author approachable. The more the potential reader connects with the author, the more they’ll want to read it. If you can’t show them your brain in person, why should they go out of their way to find your brain on pages?

  6. says

    Wow this had given me so much to think about, thank you. I recently was asked a similar question by some people I’d just met., ‘So if I were to read your book why would I then tell others to read it? I had to seriously think about it. Not just because I wasn’t prepared but because I hadn’t even put myself in the shoes of the reader. So I answered as honestly as I could. ‘ I wrote the book I myself wanted to read. It’s ultimately a contemporary love story , set in the 1980s. It depicts the life and loves of a girl who has yet to discover how wonderfully inspiring and how horrible cruel the world can be. The book charts her journey. I hope readers can not only identify with her but also empathise as I did when I was writing her character .The heart and soul of the book revolves around hope, it’s tinged with sadness but ultimately it is an uplifting novel. So if like me you have a positive hopeful heart you will enjoy the book’ they nodded wisely. What was interesting was it opened up further dialogue about my book which I felt more confident to answer. So my top tip – be bold and proud of your work, you write because you have a passion. Don’t be afraid to let others have a glimpse of it. They are not as scary as they first appear. So as a writer what am I good at? Now that is tough tough tough. I would have stumbled with this question. So to be prepared for the future here goes – I am good at putting words around feelings, taking everyday situations that we all encounter and making them personal and intimate to each reader ( I hope). Phew that was hard, I need to work on that. I hope my first experience will encourage you. Thanks for making me think.

  7. says

    I have a problem with this too, anytime anyone asks me even remotely about it. I just don’t know what to say!

    I tell myself that my focus on character over horror/fantasy elements sets me apart, but most writerw should do that, anyway.

    As for skills, I have been told I’m good at dialogue, but I always focused more on description, and thought I was better at that, rather than dialogue.

    In both cases, I definitely think I need a second opinion.
    Ash recently posted…First Week in JapanMy Profile

  8. Ashley says

    I have this same problem! Whenever anyone asks, I can barely find anything to say. I think I have to plan on paper first what to say, because I don’t even know what I’m good at, or how my (admittedly unfinished) book is different. It’s really hard to know.

    Generally, I tell myself that its focus on character rather than straight horror/fantasy elements sets it apart, but everyone should do that in stories anyway, so I don’t know.

    As far as what I’m good at, maybe dialogue, though I’m not as confident in my ability in that so much as description.

    Either way, I definitely think I need a second opinion.

  9. says

    I enjoyed your post. It gave me a lot go think about. I am still reviewing/editing my book at the moment, and have nothing else published. However, I feel like these questions are something i need to at least try and answer. So I’ll just talk as if my book was published.
    You probably shouldn’t read my book. It will draw you in and get you attached to the characters and their flaws. Then you’ll have to watch as they suffer; as everything they care about is taken away and they go on in spite of the pain. You’ll scream at them as they make the same mistakes again and again. Then you’ll see what their mistakes reap, and you’ll probably want to throw the book in anger by then. Save yourself the pain of watching weak characters grow stronger through suffering, and dont read my book.
    (What do you think somewhat convincing at all?)
    As for my skills, that is a tough one. Some days I feel like my dialogue is groundbreaking, but other days I feel like that same dialogue could’ve been written by a four year old. There are days I am proud of different aspects of my writing, but there are also days where I wonder why I even try to write. Yet, there is one thing that I am good at no matter the day. I can actually sit down and write. I can find time almost every single day to write, even if it’s just for an hour or so. So I may not have the best skills, but I improve what I do have every single day. I really wish I could remember the source for the quote, but one day I was in college and avoiding actually writing by messing around on the internet when I saw something. It was a quote that basically said that a writer is only a writer on a day they actually write something. If you aren’t writing, you aren’t a writer. I know it’s different for everyone, but that has helped push me to try and be a writer by that definition every day of my life.
    Thanks again for the article, and I apologize for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Oh, and the length of my reply as well.

    • says

      No apologies necessary! I love it. Now practice saying all that in front of a mirror. 😉
      You reminded me of the quote about a non-writing writer being a monster courting insanity. Good for you for doing the work. It certainly isn’t any easy thing to do.
      Best wishes on your book.

  10. says

    I hear those same crickets when adults ask me about my children’s book, The Rescuers. I think I answer with passion about wanting us to build character education for the new generation, but I get the feeling it’s not projecting that way. However, when children ask me, my enthusiasm becomes contagious. They get my desire to help them navigate the world while making the right choices.

    Why should you read my book? If you have a child between the ages of 5 and 11, and you want him/her to learn the power of kindness and to follow your good example, my book can help drive that message. You see? I can do it in writing. I’ve always said I’m a better writer than I am a speaker.

  11. says

    Great post. I, while studying for my degree in Creative Writing, came face to face with a writer signing her books in our local bookstore. I am an introvert and I simply couldn’t walk up to her and speak to her. I felt like an amateur standing in the presence of a true professional – which of course she was. Now, several years later I realise I missed an opportunity to interact with someone who was living my dream. As introverts out greatest weapon for this is our imagination. If we can rehearse the questions you pose etc we may stumble a bit and feel odd but we will get there.

    I am not published (unless you count one poem) but I am working on a YA novel….

    What am I good at? Seeing strange events and observing people and making them even more odd and magical.

    Best wishes for your writing and passion.
    Philip R recently posted…On Hold…but not blocked…paralysed possibly.My Profile

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