Monday, May 15, 2017

Finding my Niche and My Confidence

By: Natalia Brothers 

I’m awaiting approval for a juried event, a Holiday Gift Fair. I have accepted that writing is a never-ending learning process, and while I still experience occasional spells of self-doubt at three in the morning—though I swear last night it was my Chihuahua who woke me up—my writing career is unfolding one tentative step at a time. My book was released last November. I told my husband that this is what I’d be doing this year, participating in various events as an author in hopes to figure out how to sell my creation.

Darwin's Orchid
My long-time passion is to grow things. I’m accustomed to introducing myself as an orchid expert. For years, I earned my living as a plant specialist. Someone who knew how to bring to bloom finicky Phrags and Masdevallias. Someone who could tell you which fertilizer would keep your houseplants alive in less-than-perfect lighting conditions. Someone addicted to fabulous scents of blooming Neofinitia and Angraecum, Darwin’s Orchid.


And what I discovered quickly was that selling a book is very different from selling an orchid. No matter how many beautiful Russian shawls and scarves I used to create the book’s stage, the vibrant displays weren’t drawing passersby to my booth.

Whenever I face a new project, I expect a learning curve, but in this case, the only new part happened to be the item I was trying to sell. I had no problem talking about my orchids—my pride, my passion. Now I needed to figure out how to introduce my novel. My pride. My passion.

I was fortunate. On my second attempt, I shared the table with a YA author who had experience in such events. She listened to my pitches and mentioned how her interest perked up when I explained that the story was rooted in my family mythology.

Armed with this information, I plunged into my next venture, a metaphysical fair.
Besides the book, I offered hand-decorated bookmarks. My creativity allowed me to come up with dozens of unique designs, and those colorful pieces became my little “orchids.” I used cards to open a conversation. The blue-and-purple front side complemented my book cover and offered my website address and places where the ebook could be found online. I speak with an accent, and if someone had trouble understanding my English in a noisy auditorium, I simply referred to my loglines printed in the other side of the card.

A few days ago, I attended a presentation by Pam McCutcheon, How to Talk About Your Book. I’ve been to many of her workshops, and I always benefit from her talks. For the next event, I’ll be tweaking one of the sentences because when I designed the card, it slipped my mind that it’s better to tell who the character is rather than mention his name.

When I looked at my transactions after the fair, I realized I did as well as if I were still in the orchid business. The three-day event was demanding and tiring, but for the first time, I could proudly say, “I’m a professional writer.”

What are the next steps I’m going to explore as an author? I signed up for two more events, for which I’m building a stately bookmark holder, a tabletop tree that will allow me to expand my display vertically and make it more visually appealing. Last night I had a message from my publisher. They wanted to know when they could expect to see my next novel. I would love to be able to offer two books at my table. I’ll be busy the next couple of months, rushing to finish the new manuscript.

I also hope that one day I’ll start feeling confident enough to give workshops. I want to share my discovery of a simple and efficient source of learning how to write a successful query letter, the hashtags I used to gain 5,000 followers on Twitter, and the most important things I’ve done to become a published author. For me, public speaking is another challenge, but not because of dry mouth, sweaty palms, and aggravated heartbeat that affect me whenever I talk to an audience. It’s my strong Russian accent that is impossible to overcome, and for now, my self-doubts prevail over my confidence. Will my passionate presentation keep my listeners in their seats? I hope so. Maybe, when someone on his or her writing journey faces the next obstacle, that author will remember a class presented by a woman with a funny accent and think, “She wasn’t afraid. I can do this too.”

Author Natalia Brothers
About the Author:  Born in Moscow, Natalia grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Natalia realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Natalia is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.

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