I suck at networking.
It's not that I don't like talking to people; I was once a stand up comic, so I'm not exactly shy and retiring. It's just that it's so bloody soulless. Frankly I would rather gargle leftover lipo fat than network.
Which is why I was delighted to discover that this week I would be attending a networking event.
You see I have become an accidental e-book bestseller; accidental in that no one, including me, knows how I've done it. But then I've quickly learned that marketing a book rarely makes any sense. I appeared in the national press and sold 25 copies. I spent a week drinking in Spain and reached number four in the Australian travel bestsellers list. It's not really an exact science.
This confusing level of success has angered Kay, my marketing guru. But then many things anger Kay. Whilst certainly one of the world's most beautiful women, possessing the kind of, delicate, Asian features that look like they'd shatter in a brisk wind, she is also one of the most ill-tempered, caused I suspect by currently being one of the most heavily pregnant. In the benefit of full disclosure I will say that she was pretty damn militant before she got knocked up. But she has stuck by me from the beginning; through the low of getting dumped by an agent the night before my birthday (thank you for that Sarah, by the way, the hangover was dedicated to you) and never charged me a penny.
Her reasoning behind this particular event is that writers need to become adept at talking about their work, to do so quickly and confidently and without slipping into the embarrassed tone many adopt. This is known affectionately as the elevator pitch; summing yourself up in five floors, which Kay once made me do repeatedly in an actual elevator.
"Ready to kiss some babies?" She asks as we enter. She didn't trust me to come alone, suspecting that I would in fact go to a pub and lie to her about it. Which incidentally was my original plan. She eases herself into a chair with good site lines of all the major exits in case I decide to make a break for it and sends me off into the throng.
The first thing I do is grab a glass of luke-warm Cava, staple of every networking event the world over, and then down it, feeling Kay's eyes burn into me the whole time. But then she currently believes that if she can't drink no one else should either.
My first conversation is with a lady in her forties with a rather severe fringe who perks up when I tell her I'm an author. "What kind of thing do you write?" She asks.
"Comedy and travel mostly." I tell her.
She sighs in disappointment. "I'm more of an E.L James kind of girl." Which left me wondering when that became a socially acceptable thing to say.
A long, uncomfortable silence followed. "There's bottom sex in the first forty pages." I tell her after a while.
Which left me wondering when that became a socially acceptable thing to say.
Next up was a man in his fifties. "I do a bit of writing myself," he tells me, on learning what I do.
"Really? What kind of thing?"
"Well I'm not going to tell you," he says, with a stern look, "you'll steal it."
"I promise I won't." I assure him.
"And I'm supposed to take your word for it, am I? Cos that's not going to happen."
Several glasses of cava later and I'm actually getting into it, though diligently avoid any further mention of bottom sex. Then I see Kay making throat cutting gestures which I take to mean call it a day, or that I'm doing worse than I thought, or that possibly the world's longest pregnancy is about to come to an abrupt and very public end.
Kay, who it turns out can lip-read, almost passes as happy with my progress. And on this one I admit she might have been right. Word of mouth is the best, if not the only, way to sell a book. It is the only method rooted in truth and not mired in manipulation. If a writer can't craft a compelling reason why someone should invest time, energy and emotion getting to know their characters, either in person or through the back cover then why the hell should you?
I guess it's all about touching people. And I mean that emotionally as apposed to groping them.
Next Week -- Social Media -- I'll Like you if you Like me.