This post is part of a project tentatively titled Sans Spam: Self Promotion For Authors. I’m releasing this book in sections on my blog, but when it’s all finished I will offer the whole thing as a single eBook. Everyone who donates toward its production (use the coffee cups to the right, note that it’s because of this effort) will get a free copy of this eBook. You can find all the posts here.
So you’re an author (or writer, whichever title you prefer).
While this alone comes with a certain level of prestige, that’s not enough to get someone to remember you. Not when there’s dozens (or more) authors at conventions.
At the beginning of every panel, presentation, and reading – along with most articles – you have about thirty seconds to sum your life up, get someone’s attention, and give them a reason to remember you. If this sounds like the “hook” and “elevator pitch”, you’re on the right track. Except instead of applying to a project, this is applying those principles to yourself.
Your biography or name can be enough to provide that hook. I’ll give you the two examples I use.
My name: “Hi, my name is Steven Saus – that’s pronounced like spaghetti, but spelled different.”
My bio: “I inject people with radioactive material as my day job, but only to serve the forces of good.” OR “I rent virtual apartments for real money in Second Life.”
Like our other hooks, these all sound like coherent sentences, but are just a teensy bit “off”. Each requires some processing in order to make sense, and that’s what makes it a good hook.
Name hooks require some creativity. If your name’s unusual, congratulations! This is the first time in your life that it’s helpful! Even if your name is something like “Smith” you can make a joke or observation on it. “My name is John Smith. You can find me – and my five zillion namesakes – by googling me, so make sure to search for ‘author John Smith'”.
You have done something interesting and unusual in your life. Even if it’s not the focus of your day-to-day experience, you can use it as part of your bio “hook”. Even better is if it’s related to the topic at hand (often writing). “I often ask my goldfish for writing advice, but then I remember I’m not supposed to do what they tell me anymore.”
That example points out a necessary caution with crafting this kind of hook. A better hook would be: “I got serious about writing when I realized making money writing was a lot better than Taco Bell…and paid about the same.” It’s not too bizarre, and it’s something your audience can relate to. The goldfish thing is close (not quite, but damn close) to being nonsensical. Nonsense turns most people away. Your hooks, just like elements in stories, should always, always have a payoff for confusing the audience. They must be able to figure it out, and soon. The stranger your hook, the sooner the payoff.
You can also create visual hooks – a trademark hat or purse or bag – or a verbal hook like a catchphrase. These are also effective, but also can’t be too strange. You want to avoid things that are already associated with a franchise. Celery on your collar has been so done already, and that fez is rapidly approaching the same state. Be known for you, not for another franchise.
Depending on where you’re at, you may also fade into the background as being too “normal”. Finally, and most importantly, visual hooks and catchphrases limit you. Consider carefully if you want to be known by those forever.
Important note to costumers and cosplayers: What you do is not the same as a visual hook. Costuming and cosplaying are displays of skill, and different than a single eccentricity.
This post was part of Sans Spam: Self Promotion For Authors. I’m releasing this book in sections on my blog, but when it’s all finished I will offer the whole thing as a single eBook. Everyone who donates toward its production (use the coffee cups to the right, note that it’s because of this effort) will get a free copy of this eBook. You can find all the posts here.