Category Archives: Interacting With Professionals

The Extroverted Introvert – Faking It Until It Becomes Real

All stories require at least two participants: the storyteller and the audience. While this is obvious in the performances of bards, campfire storytellers, and stage actors, I would argue that writers are also intrinsically performers. We simply project that experience across space and time. And yet, writers and non-writers alike seem fixated on the idea that authors must be introverts to be successful. This is only true to a point.

Writers must be comfortable spending hours at a time in solitude. We need the time free from distractions to produce and polish our fiction. For that sort of work, having an introverted personality is very helpful. However, we must also be able to interact with fans and fellow professionals at conventions, book signings, and via social media. We must be able to promote ourselves to our target audience, discuss craft in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, and interact as business people. As such, writers must also be extroverted. Or have spent the time stocking our social toolbox with the extrovert’s tricks and tools.

Though the idea of an extroverted introvert seems like a fundamental conflict in dichotomy, I disagree. It really depends on how you look at the whole situation. You see, much of the discussion on introversion/extroversion recently has treated the issue as a matter of extremes. The dialog has taught us to think of them as two separate things. Instead, I believe that the difference between introverts and extroverts is more of a matter of where the individual gets their psychological and social energy, rather than being a fundamental characteristic of personality and social skills.

I am an introvert. I am a writer and an engineer. I spend most working days at my bread job in my office running calculations, researching, and solving problems. I collaborate, sure, but I can always retreat to my office and close the door when I need to focus. On the other hand, parties are work for me. I often enjoy myself, but leave the gathering feeling mentally and emotionally drained. I have to expend effort to be social, and will often feel refreshed after a weekend spent alone working on writing, watching movies, bicycling, and reading.

In contrast, I have a friend who is an extrovert. Let’s call her Jane. Jane recently started a job as an ER nurse, and so she is constantly interacting with patients, doctors, and other people. When we met in college, Jane lived in her sorority’s house, a building which was packed full of her sisters. When I expressed that I couldn’t live that way, she smiled and wistfully told me that she loved the energy of the house. When Jane surrounds herself with people, she’s excited and energetic. By my definition, she’s a classic extrovert.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy being around people, because I do. My groups just tend to be smaller than Jane’s. The most important thing to note about Jane and I is that we are both capable of functioning alone and in groups of people. It just takes effort. Jane is much better with people and social interaction than I am because she enjoys doing so and has had more practice. She’s helped me catch up over the years and taught me tricks and behaviors that I can use as an introvert to appear to be extroverted.

Social skills can be learned, practiced and perfected. At first I was faking my extroversion, but over the years, I’ve crept away from one extreme and now rest happily closer to the middle. In fact, people now insist that I must be extroverted. In my time at conventions, I’ve seen writers flub fan interactions. They may try to brush their behavior aside with the excuse “but I’m an introvert,” but they still lost a fan. Bad news for a businessperson. If they had practiced their extroverted skills that wouldn’t have happened.

Okay Nathan, you’ve convinced me that extroversion is important, but where can I start? Good question! Here are my top 10 favorite tips for being an extroverted introvert.

  1. BE GENUINE – Most people are very good at reading subtle body language cues and will know if you are faking interest in them. So, don’t try to fake it. Instead find common ground that you and the other person share as a passion. (Hint: This is what small talk is designed to do!) Then, you can be genuinely interested in the conversation. This also extends to insincere compliments. Just don’t do it.
  2. SMILE – People want to know you enjoy their company. One of the easiest ways to express this is through a simple smile. You don’t have to grin. In fact don’t as that is creepy. Even a small and genuine smile makes a big difference. Again, remember tip number 1. Try an experiment with me. For the next week, each time you approach someone make brief eye contact and smile at them. I promise that it’ll change how people interact with you.
  3. REMEMBER PEOPLE’S NAMES – I suck at remembering people’s names. It’s no excuse. Do whatever memory tool/covert glancing at badges it takes to address people by their first name. This will make them feel important and therefore more favorable towards you. One of the smartest businessmen I’ve ever known once told me that the key to success is remembering people’s names. Considering that he now runs a trucking empire that started with him driving a single pickup truck, I’d tend to believe him.
  4. BEING TIRED IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEING RUDE – For introverts, working a convention is hard. It exhausts us, makes our feet ache and puts us in a fowl mood. These are all personal problems. Our fans are at conventions to interact with us. When you are in any public space whatsoever you must have your game face on 100% of the time. Make sure each and every interaction is a positive one.
  5. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR EXHAUSTION – As a corollary to tip 4, never call attention to the fact that you are tired by apologizing for it. Chances are, if you are doing your job they didn’t notice. By apologizing, you’ve made the other person feel like they are imposing on you, which isn’t a positive experience. However, if you’ve accidentally been rude or dismissive, be sure to apologize for that and be genuine.
  6. LET THE OTHER PERSON DO THE TALKING – “People have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in their proper proportion.” ~ Jane. A benefit of this approach is that you get to conserve your social energies. All you have to do is listen, reword and repeat what they’ve said at appropriate intervals, and then ask them leading questions. Conventions are about your fans, their experiences and what they want out of you. Let them be selfish and hog the conversation. If they start apologizing for doing so, refuse their apology and insist that you are interested in what they say and ask them to go on. After an appropriate amount of time has passed, find a way to delicately remove yourself from the conversation.
  7. MASTER THE ART OF THE SOFT SELL – Nobody likes feeling pressured to spend money. Everyone you interact with on a convention floor is a person, not a mark. If you make selling to someone a difficult or unpleasant experience, people will start avoiding you. Instead, try to form a real bond with the person you are selling and if the opportunity comes up to talk about you or your work, be casual about it. Put the book in their hand and see if they buy. If it doesn’t come up, wish them a happy con and let them walk away. No social interaction is wasted time. Who knows, they may remember that nice author that took time to talk to them and look you up when they get home.
  8. IF SOMEONE IS RUDE OR HOSTILE TO YOU, KEEP YOUR COOL – You are a professional, and professionals don’t get into shouting matches on the convention floor. Especially if the other person deserves it. Stand up for yourself as necessary, walk away when you can, but always maintain your dignity and composure. The person who loses their cool first is the person who loses. Let them make an ass of themselves.
  9. TAKE RE-ENERGIZING BREAKS – I always have a set of ear buds on me when I’m at a convention. If I get flustered or need a moment, I find an uncrowded restroom, close myself in a stall, and listen to something loud and energetic for five minutes. I love music. It energizes me, helps me find my center, and lets me feel alone even when surrounded by people. It’s amazing how refreshing a small break is when you’ve been on the con floor all day. Experiment and find your re-energizing activity. Indulge for five minutes (set a timer if you have to) and then go back to work.
  10. NEVER EVER CRITICIZE ANYONE OR ANYTHING FOR ANY REASON, ESPECIALLY IF PROMPTED TO DO SO – Remember, fans attend cons for positive experiences. Not only is it tactless to criticize someone who can’t defend themselves, it makes you look bad. Remember the old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say, be noncommittal or change the subject. Would you rather so-and-so hear that you’ve been singing their praises or criticizing their work? Writers travel in small circles, so we hear about what others are saying about us.

Writers are semi-public figures, and so we must have the skills to appear to be extroverted especially if we are not. We don’t get stalked by paparazzi or stopped on the streets by adoring fans, but we still need to be able to function in large groups. We need to be able to have meaningful interactions with complete strangers in the time it takes to sign a book and hand it back. We need to be able to feel comfortable to conduct business for the entire duration of a weekend convention. Ten years ago, I would have found that daunting. I hadn’t practiced my extroverted skills, and so it took Jane’s advice, and one of her favorite books (Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People) to teach me the importance of those skills and how to use them for my own benefit. I might not be an extrovert, but I’ve faked it so long that it has become somewhat true. In the end, that’s what matters.


About the Author:NathanBarra_Web
Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” Visit him at his webpage or Facebook Author Page.


Putting Together a Book Tour

A guest post by Katie Cross.

As an indie, I don’t have the luxury of traditional publishing distribution and connections, but I do have connections, so I did a week-long book tour in my hometown of Idaho Falls.

Here’s a breakdown. Note: this post has been cut down for The Fictorians so if you want to see the full post and all numbers then just click here.

Stats and analytics from my Idaho book tour by @kcrosswriting.

School Presentations

How I connected: I emailed the head librarian at my old high school and she set me up with 2 presentations.

Taylorview Junior High:

The presentation: I put together a presentation that combined elements of writing, a lot of memes and pictures, and talked about the writing process and what it was like to be an author. (If you want a copy of it, shoot me an email or a message and I’ll send it your way.)


—Reached about thirty kids per class. In all, I probably taught and met about 100 students.

—Had posters/slide advertising my public library appearance and book signings.

Connections made:

—A lot of the students were on Wattpad.

—I pitched my story Bon Bons to Yoga Pants and increased my following by 20 people. I followed back, read, and critiqued).

Worth it?

Definitely. This was a perfect way to find my target audience and not only get Miss Mabel’s in front of them, but connect, make friends, and learn more about the reading/writing habits/ interests of kids that age.

Idaho Falls High School:

How I connected: My old history teacher Mr Morris is an author and wanted to have me in his classroom as a guest speaker.

The Statistics and Analytics of my Idaho book tour. @Kcrosswriting

The Presentation:

—Focused on the daily life of an author, how to put a book together (I showed them cover progressions like you’ll find here and went through the editing process, marketing, etc.), and why writers write.

—I presented 5 times. 4 history classes (Mr Morris’s), 1 Honors English, 1 regular english class. About 175 kids.

The Outcome:

—I gave away 20 books (one set each class and a few others at the end).

—I sold about 10 books.

—Gave away at least 100 bookmarks.

—Mr. Morris was kind enough to copy the flyers announcing my book signings and the public library event to distribute to those interested. At the end of the slide show, I had a slide with my contact info. Lots of kids took a picture of it.

Worth it?

The kids who were most interested spoke with me after class. Many of them emailed me portions of their writing, or messaged me on Wattpad to ask for feedback.

I had around 7-10 people attend the public library event because of these two schools combined.

Emerson Book Club

How I connected—Through a friend of my brother. He worked at Emerson school, took a book to the library when it released, and the librarian decided to do it for their book club. When he found out I was coming, he asked if I’d make an appearance.

Presentation—This was the most laid back because it was on the students lunch break, I just talked to them and answered their questions. No powerpoint.

—Met about 10 students and 3 adults/teachers.

Blue Sage Writers of Idaho

Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting

This was taken from their blog website. Click on the photo if you’re interested in more.

How I connected: I googled ‘writing groups’ 2 months before the tour.

Presentation: Since they are a writing group (and have been for twenty years) I mostly wanted to meet them and talk with them, which I did. I ended up chatting with them about my experience in indie publishing.

—2 of them came to my presentation at the library.

The Idaho Falls Public Library

How I connected: I emailed the library (about two months in advance) about doing an author event. Publishing and Writing 101 with @kcrosswriting at the Idaho Falls Public Library May 14th, 2015

How I marketed it: Announced it at every appearance beforehand. (Schools, book club, writers group).

—Asked local friends to share it on Facebook.

—Facebook ad targeted to the Idaho Falls area.

—Promoted pin for the Idaho Falls area (I ended up paying $3.42 and it had 1, 667 impressions, 8 repins, and 9 clicks). I don’t know if anyone came based on finding it from Pinterest.

—Community calendars online (at least three- the first ones that came up on Google).

—NPR radio (announced it over 5 stations) and one of the other local radio stations that reports community events.


The presentation: Powerpoint slideshow. (Click here to let me know if you want a copy).

—Printed out contact sheets, provided a sheet of paper, a pen, a bookmark, and a free Miss Mabel’s Caramel.

Statistics and Info from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting
Statistics and Info from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting

Outcome: 40 people attended. I had only anticipated and hoped for more than 10. We ran out of tables and had to line chairs along the edges.

—Only 4 were my family members.

—I knew/had some connection with only half of the people who came. The rest were organic.

Book Signings

Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting #indiepublishers


How I connected: I called Hastings and made the arrangements over the phone about two months in advance.

Marketing: Facebook, handed out flyers at presentations, and word of mouth.


How I connected: My old high school friend Courtney worked at Starbucks. I worked through her to get permission from her manager, who was only too happy to let me come.

Marketing: Facebook, handed out flyers at presentations, and word of mouth.

Overall Numbers

Total money made: at least $450. (I haven’t tallied all of it up from checks, cash, and credit card). I also gave discounts to students, teachers, and friends.

Total books sold: Uncertain, but around 70.

Books given away: around 50 (to students mostly).

Effect on ebook sales (amazon only): After pulling out of KDP, my 5-7 sales a day (not including borrows) decreased to an average of 1 sale per day. During my book tour, I sold at least two books per day.

This does not reflect my sales on Kobo, Nook or iTunes, which also saw an increase.


Effect on Wattpad: My following increased by about twenty followers. My story, Bon Bons to Yoga Pants continues to rank anywhere between #11-18 in chicklit, but my number of Unique Visitors increased to 105 in one day.

10560333_10100601156785714_8565122733714974256_oKatie Cross loves cookies, weight lifting, and talking about her indie author experience.Visit her website KCrossWriting to see more posts on analytics and statistics of her journey. When she’s not running in the mountains with her two vizslas, she’s writing YA fantasy stories about dragons, castles, magic, and kick !@#*($ females who don’t need a man to save them.

Six Degrees of Separation

Make friends with your fellow writers.

Who, the people I’m competing against for publication contracts, agents’ attention, spots in magazines and anthologies?

Yes, them.

Why?  I need publishers, editors, reviewers and readers.  But I’m the writer.  Why do I need other writers?

Very few people are good at everything, and, particularly when you’re starting out, you can save a lot of time, money, and or mental strain by getting some advice from someone who’s done something before.  If you’re in a tough patch, a fellow writer may be more than a sympathetic ear:  they may actually know a coping strategy that worked for them.  And who will know your field better than a fellow writer?

I remember expressing frustration that I couldn’t take part in a book launch event because, at the time, my only publications had been in anthologies and the event was for novelists only.  If I’d been on my own, my aspirations might have ended there.  Instead, I vented to a writer friend of mine.

She said she knew two other writers in the same position as me, and maybe we should get together and do our own launch.  We could call it an “Author Launch” since the books we were in had multiple contributors.  I was in.

Where could we have it?  At the time, I was working for a Business Improvement organization.  One of our member businesses provided us a meeting space, free of charge, on the proviso that the invitees purchase a certain dollar amount worth of food and drink.

Another person knew a guy who specialized in film and photography.  Another person knew a bigger-name local author who agreed to be our master of ceremonies.  Another person designed and printed some posters, which we all helped to distribute.  The authors were invited to be on a radio program.  The local sci-fi community came on board.

We packed the room.  We sold books.  We had fun, and got our names out there.

I could never have pulled off that event all by myself.

Fellow writers can introduce you to key people:  agents, publishers, editors.  They can let you know about new markets, calls for submissions, convention events.  If you want to know who designed their web site, their book cover, their business cards:  you can ask them.

Going to a convention is a lot more affordable when there’s four people splitting the cost of  a hotel room and gas.  This blog is created by a group of writers who met via Superstars Writing Seminars and decided to start a blog together.  I certainly couldn’t maintain the demands of five blog posts a week all on my own!

One big caveat.  The idea is that writers help out other writers, but nobody wants to be friends with someone who is just using them for contacts.  If you take and take and never give back, people will notice.  If you only talk to someone when you want something, people will notice.

In order to benefit from the Six Degrees, you have to be willing to give back.

In every group you will find people you click with and people you don’t, and that’s okay.  If you spend time with people who have a common interest (writing), you will naturally gravitate towards some of them.  It’s likely you and they will have other interests and commonalities–the foundation of friendship.  Some people may not be interested in getting to know you, or may be too busy.  That’s okay too.  Let them go, and focus on the people who return your interest.

If you say you are going to do something for someone, do it unless an extreme circumstance arises.  Being hospitalized is an extreme circumstance.  Putting it off until you feel like it is not.  Most people will be understanding of an unexpected emergency, but if over time you develop a reputation for not making good on your word, it will be hard to shake.

Every writer has to strike a balancing act between writing (what we’re all here to do) and non-writing activities in support of our writing.  Some of those activities may include blogging, conventions, writers’ groups, and hanging out with our writing friends.  It’s your responsibility to decide how much socialization is important (because career-related discussion, venting, support and advice is very important) and how much is procrastination posing as time well spent.  You can’t volunteer for everything if you hope to get your writing done, so choose carefully what you’re going to do:  pick things that will support your career, allow you to give back to your fellow writers, and still leave you time for the writing itself.

The Miracle of Mentors

clouds-aircraftI hadn’t even finished my first novel. I’d written one exceptionally strange, not particularly good, short story, but was on my way to my first World Fantasy Convention. I had no idea what I was doing. The flight was full, but as fortune would have it, I happened to sit next to two writers. As Gini Koch showed her cover art for her first published novel, “Touched by an Alien,” to her friend sitting next to me, Glen Glenn, I worked up the courage to intrude on their conversation. It took me a minute–I’m shy by nature–but I finally leaned over and asked, “Are you both writers?” That simple question launched one of the best friendships and best mentoring relationship I could have ever imagined.

I talked with Gini and Glen through the rest of the flight and she told me to find her at the convention. That gave me the motivation I needed to attend the upstairs parties the next night, where I found Gini and she started introducing me to everyone. I met agents, fellow authors, and so many nice people I could hardly keep them all straight. Gini and I kept in touch, getting together for lunch, and she continued to give me loads  of great writing advice. Through her mentoring, my writing ability jumped by leaps and bounds. For a while, Glen and I exchanged our writing material on a regular basis, which also improved my writing. The best bonus: I made some great friends.

Now jump ahead about three years. I’d attended multiple workshops, Superstars Seminar, conventions, and received a nice pile of rejection letters amid a few short story publications. I scraped up the money for another writing adventure, attending David Farland’s rewriting workshop, but I had other matters on my mind besides my manuscript. The seminar was great, and everyone loved my work, but I was starting to feel discouraged.

I’m a mother with five children, and all of the writing “investments” were starting to take their toll on the family finances. David didn’t know it, but I was questioning the value of my work. It was time spent that could have gone toward improving my home or working a more profitable job, and it was money that could go toward retirement or fun family activities. What was I doing going to seminars, conventions, etc so I could write fantasy stories?

At every seminar Dave gives, he takes some time and has breakfast, lunch, or dinner, one-on-one, with each of the participants. So we sat together, I remember a delicious aroma of broccoli-cheese soup so I think it was a Paradise Bakery, and talked about writing, publishing, and self-publishing. Probably because it was on my mind, the conversation turned to the social value of what we do as writers.

I’m paraphrasing, but Dave said something akin to, “The stories we write might be made-up fiction, but they come from who we are inside, and they can help people in ways we can’t imagine.”

I’d heard it before, but the way he said it that day, the way it pierced my soul, dispelling my doubts and fears and replacing them with absolute calm, changed my entire outlook. I still get discouraged, and the publishing world has done flips and turns that leave me mind-boggled, but I love to write, and I’ll continue to write, because it does make the world a better place and it makes me a better person. We need stories to work through our own values, emotions, and social perspectives.

They aren’t the only mentors who have boosted me up at just the right time, but these are turning points that have stuck with me. Have you had any turning points in your writing adventure? If so, please leave a comment and share your experience.