First Cup of Coffee – August 11, 2022

Thoughts on author events and how much heavy lifting is placed on them to bring a readership – and financial support! – to the event. Also, on self-publishing, common mistakes, and how things can go wrong.




Transcript
00:01.83
jeffekennedy
Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious today is Thursday August eleventh and beautiful morning here in Santa Fe sunny sunny morning I’m also running a bit behind so it’s sunnier as than usual, we went for a walk this morning I also set up the cover reveal for shadow wizard. Yes, so this will be a book one. And renegades of magic and it’s um, Jadren and Selly’s story for those of you who have not been following along I didn’t light the mosquito candle this morning. So um, I’m doing the cover reveal on Instagram bit by bit. In fact, that reminds me I should have done another one but I haven’t yet I’ll do it as soon as the podcast is done. So um. So I had to get that all set up this morning. Got the preorders set up last night. It’ll be out september Twenty Ninth um fingers crossed I’m I’m past 50000 words on it I think it’s it’s going all right. Not sure how it’s going to end where it’s going to end. But um, that’s typical for me, right? All part of the I think it’s funny when authors say that that’s part of the fun for them that they ah the gardeners of the pantsersers. The ones who don’t pre-plot. Ah, say that the fund goes out of it for them if they do that and I’m like I don’t know I don’t know if it’s if I would call it fun but it’s it’s how it works for me sometimes as those of you who are a long time podcast listeners will know. It’s decidedly unfun for me now. So um, a few different things to talk about today I even have notes. So.

02:29.46
jeffekennedy
I’m trying to decide if I could talk about this one thing. Ah I’m kind of sorry I’m waffling let me pause all right I figured out a way I can talk about it. Ah recently I was asked to be. Part of a thing I mean that’s great. That’s I appreciate being asked to be part of things but then it came out ah I was asked I was actually not asked. This was part of the problem I was given instructions on how to share it on social media. And I was told that I must share it on social media in order to bring my platform bring my readers to this thing which I find very interesting and it’s not the first time this has happened and I may have talked about this before but. There are any number of events who ah I don’t want to say demand but they they sometimes they demand they ask an author to participate and then. Expect that the author will bring their readership with them to support the event which is if it’s like for charity or something like that understandable um, you know like that pixel project that was raising money to end violence against women. Yeah, sure I’m going to ask my readers to come and be part of that but there are other events where they’re totally depending on the authors to bring their readership in order to float their event. And this is partly what was amazing about Apollycon was Apollycon ah invited us to participate and they brought the readers I recently heard of another convention I think I talked about this but I’ll I’ll revisit it because I still find it so shocking. Another convention that has for a long time been famous for ah Nick and diming authors and demanding demanding. You know say more money and this particular story. It actually counts as a demand where an author who attended this paid. Upfront and it was a considerable amount that you had to pay up front to attend this convention. Um far more than the readers or attendees have to pay and then there’s all sorts of opportunities for sponsorships that cost more and more and more money and this author was pulled aside.

05:17.72
jeffekennedy
During the convention and told that she had not brought enough readers to the convention that her platform wasn’t big enough and therefore she needed to cough up a thousand dollars to sponsor something at the conference right? then and there and this author was devastated I mean. There are so many levels of awful and wrong about this this particular convention I’m not surprised that they did it I absolutely believe it happened the sources are impeccable. They might try to claim that there was a misunderstanding but the author in question was devastated. Ah, nobody first of all, nobody wants to hear that they’re supposed to cough up a thousand dollars especially if you’re a newer author and you can’t afford it ah and nobody wants to hear that that somebody thinks that you have like got. Shitty ability to bring readers to something.

06:21.16
jeffekennedy
Ah, so so it’s a thing um that this whole oh well, you need to bring your readership and in this particular case. Ah they were very specific supplied social media examples. And usually the right way to do this the right way to do this is people say um, hey here’s some graphics to share with love if you would share this on your social media boom they might give you some suggested stuff but you know you’re not required to do it. Um. Being told that I must do something that the event won’t be successful unless I do this thing is ah it gives me pause because as an author, especially if this is not a charitable event. Why am I doing this if. They don’t have the umph to bring their own readership to it. Ah you know I understand it’s hard. But yeah it um it it. It really bothered me it. It annoys me and. I talked to David about it and he said well you know can you imagine if somebody asked well he always uses big examples. He has an exalted idea of who I am but he’s like can you imagine if they asked Billy Givens to come play and then told him that oh but he needed to. Tweet certain things to make sure that enough people showed up for the event. Ah yeah, there’s just ways to do things and ways not to and um, you know one thing about social media and I know I say this often. Is even if you decide to schedule things or if you have people help you with it. Social media is about connecting personally right, it’s about doing things the way you do them. Ah and so you don’t I don’t do my social media like somebody else tells me to do it. Let’s let’s just say that’s a hard stop so that was something that was on my mind. Um, and then there’s been discussion. Um on Twitter and it’s interesting because I don’t follow enough on Twitter to. Always know the origins of things and I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of tracing back. So I’m not sure where all the conversation about gatekeepers has come from I know some of the things that I’ve been talking about in the last week about how much money authors do and don’t make on tread publishing so there was a.

09:11.70
jeffekennedy
Tweet thread from someone who said, um, talked about self-publishing and I will link to her Twitter thread. Ah, she’s gotten a lot of quote tweets and retweets and likes on it. Not an astonishing amount. But. Ah, she talked about her experience with self-publishing. Um, she said for her, it cost a lot and she earn very little and and I I think it’s great that she shared this. Um i’m. I’m glad that she ah you know gave the actual numbers and she says that the books were classified as new adult fantasy which is not really a thing in traditional publishing and they probably didn’t hit the right market in indie either because they weren’t sexy enough. Um, so I would kind of lie and then she goes on from there and she talks about how much money she spent. Um, she spent $5000 on the first book in its first six months which is a lot a lot to spend on a book when you’re. Ah, newbie self-publisher and I touched on this earlier this week where I mentioned that um if you don’t have a platform already. It’s hard to get started in self- publishing and and she did end up selling like the mythical. You know, average of one hundred and only to friends and family. But I think there are a lot of reasons for this and $5K is putting a whole lot of that money upfront into that first book without having the second one ready. Ah. And then the way that it sounded let’s see I won’t go into her whole thing. But.

11:17.90
jeffekennedy
Yeah, it took a long time for the second book to come out. She really invested a lot in trying to get that first book to happen which is just not how it works for self- publishing. Ah. She said when the second book launched she sold like 100 copies on the first day ultimately like one hundred and twenty nine copies of the first book and 112 of the second before she pulled them from the market and it’s not clear to me why she decided to pull them from the market. Ah. Once you have once you’ve invested once you have put them up. It doesn’t cost you anything to keep them up so it’s not clear to me why she decided to pull them. Ah, she does say at the end that you know her conclusion is um. There’s no easy way to publish. There’s no get rich quick path in this industry so that’s what she wants to warn people of and and that’s absolutely right? It’s a good take home message. She also says um, there are ways not to make the mistakes that she did. Ah, to make self-publishing a business and to succeed at it and I just wanted to talk a little bit about what I saw her doing she says um, $10000 she spent um, 2.5 years on these books. Selling two hundred and forty one copies of her books and netting something like $750 the transcript’s going to hate these numbers. It always hates numbers. Um, but 1 of the first things I notice I mean there are a number of things that didn’t go well. Ah especially if you are doing a series if you have both books ready. Maybe she didn’t but it’s really worthwhile to have that second book ready so that the people who do want to read can read right away once you have a readership they’ll wait if they’re still getting to know you they won’t wait. Especially if they’re not sure if you’ll finish the series and it’s a real thing if you’re an unknown quantity if there’s a you know destroy needs to be resolved with finishing the series or finishing the second or the you know second and third books. Ah, people want to know that it’s there before they commit because they’ve been burned before. Thank you George RR Martin um, the other thing that.

13:52.45
jeffekennedy
Is a real red flag at the beginning is when she said that it was new adult fantasy which isn’t really a thing in traditional publishing and I’ve mentioned this before self publishing is great for grabbing niche markets that. Traditional publishing won’t touch. This is so true it’s true for my books it’s true for a lot of fantasy romance. It’s true for a lot of science fiction fantasy and romance crossover. There’s not a great place for it on the bookshelf at the bookstores the brick and mortar stores. Because those are 2 different bookshelves right? So they don’t know which one to put it on if and as soon as they have to make a decision. They feel like it’s gonna be bad. They’re not happy if it’s young adult yeah, something just hit my face I don’t even know what that was ah. Felt like it was flung but there’s a little bit of a breeze. So maybe that was just liberated by the breeze a young adult has now become its own category and when people rant as I’ve seen various editors and agents do that young adult doesn’t count as a genre. Because you have all sorts of genres within young adult. Well, it’s true except that there are young adult shelves in the bookstore and once it’s a shelf then they know where to put it and it has a market in the brick and mortar stores. The online stores. Often reflect the brick and mortar stores they have more shelves and can put things in multiple places but still, there’s there’s some some correlation between the 2 so all of this is a long way of saying that if you want to publish your book that you love which. You know, bless you? Of course you do and you know do it? Definitely do it but know that if it’s a book. That’s not really a thing in traditional publishing. It’s going to make it harder for you to sell as a self-p publisher especially if you don’t already have a readership. Right? It’s um, it’s just it’s and and especially if you’re you know, not already a savvy marketer which not many of us are especially when we start right? So you, you’re stacking the odds against yourself. Why this gal pulled them from the market I don’t know and I almost want to ask her and I could follow the Twitter thread if any of you have the leisure follow the Twitter thread and see if somebody asks her or ask her yourselves. Ah there there isn’t a good reason to pull it.

16:41.44
jeffekennedy
And maybe she had one but otherwise the money is spent leave them up and maybe they will gradually gain a readership part of the problem with you know, spending money on advertising is. If. You advertise something. That’s not really a thing. How do you advertise it? What I’ve got and now it’s itchy on my face where that thing hit me wherever it was. You know if how are you going to advertise it if you don’t really know what it is and you’re. Not able to tell the readers what it is new adult fantasy um with and you know it’s that’s an a frequent I don’t want to say excuse but I hear authors say a lot like oh well, it didn’t do well because it didn’t have enough sex in it because. I didn’t want to I don’t know there. There’s always a little and I don’t know that she means this at all. She may not but there’s always a little bit of a sense of you know I wanted to maintain my standards and not put sex in that and therefore um because I didn’t kowtow to the. Ah. Sex loving masses. It didn’t do well maybe that’s not what she means by that. But there are plenty of books that do not have hot sex on them that do very well I’m reading one right now I’m waiting to see if there ends up being a sex scene in it. I’ve read a couple recently that um you know, slow burn romances don’t have any sex in the first book at all, you know, maybe there’s a promise of it later we we kind of know by authors. That’s part of having the reputation having the readership. But no, you don’t have to have it in there. Um. Yeah I’m I’m sorry that this went badly for her but she also spent 2.5 years on this. Um, that’s a long time to spend getting two books out in self-publishishing. It’s just it’s way too long and I know that not everybody has luxury of. Ah, time to spend on it and not everybody writes fast, but it’s just something to keep in mind. There were a lot of things stacked against her on this and you know it would be great if somebody would step in and help her out and say you know let’s put those books back up and let’s see if we can get them to go somewhere. The other thing is is if you are are a new author and you have not yet published anything. It’s hard to know if your books are good. Um, or you know good. You guys know that you all know that I don’t like the use of the word.

19:30.55
jeffekennedy
Good but you don’t know if the books will really grab people if you haven’t established a readership yet and it could be that those books should be trunk books I don’t know I haven’t read them. Not all books are gonna do well that’s just life. Um. There’s books of mind that you know, but the second novel I ever wrote I still love that novel. But if I’m gonna put it out there I’m gonna have to rewrite it because I I know a lot of the things that are wrong with it now and those are just things you learn with time. So. Just wanted to to talk about that. It’s it’s an unfortunate piece of self-p publishing that many many authors get into it because they decide to self-publish the book that they couldn’t sell the trat and. Certainly I’ve done that but I know at this point why it didn’t sell the tread. Ah you’ll have to know is it. Did it come close like was it really because they didn’t know what shelf to put it on. Or was it because everyone was like you know this book isn’t done cooking yet. It’s hard to listen to that feedback I saw meme the other day of somebody like showing like an author getting their ah feet criticism and like cutting up their heart on a plate and I it’s like well that’s probably. Probably you should um, have a little bit more objectivity than that. It’s not your heart. They’re cutting up. They’re talking about something you produced. But yeah, you got you got to listen to what kind of feedback are you getting on the book. Why why does traditional publishing not want it. And it’s not always because they’re messed up in the head which is tends to be the kool-aid on that note I am going to go get to work and write the book that I just put up the pre-order for ah, watch for the cover reveal. Taking shape today I think it’s kind of be kind of cool and preorder link in the show notes and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.

First Cup of Coffee – March 24, 2022




Transcript
00:00.80
jeffekennedy
Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Ah happy chair dance. Today is Thursday March Twenty Fourth only a week of March left and which means that the first quarter of 2022 is almost gone. How did this happen. We don’t know it’s a mystery. I always love that line in Shakespeare in love with the I can’t think of the afters name but the date owner where he’s like it’ll work out. People are like how how and he’s like I don’t know it just ah yeah, something like that that was probably bad. Ah. Not a brilliant anecdote. There’s another movie quote from you for you. Ah, so my week is going well the ah 2000 words a day is working remarkably well um, I’m yeah on track so far this week we’ll see what happens yesterday Darynda proposed a slight change to our um. Morning routine. So we’re starting at Eight o’clock this morning well almost eight o’clock I there eight o’clock was the plan and then I as you guys may or may not know I don’t set an alarm I wake up naturally which is like something that I cling to I don’t want to have to set an alarm. Now that I’m a full-time writer. It’s like the one gift I give myself. It’s a a special thing for me that I get to wake up naturally otherwise I tend to be a real bitch of a boss so this morning for whatever reason it It’s very interesting if you do sleep on a natural calendar. You will find that and I’ve been doing this for what almost seven years now wow ah your sleep time or at least my sleep time waxes and wanes from night to night. Some nights are shorter and some are longer and last night was a longer night for whatever reason. Um, because as I recall I think I was in bed by like nine I usually I’d start turning into a pumpkin after about eight o’clock and of course the daylight savings time.

02:34.82
jeffekennedy
Has kind of messed that up. But you know my evenings are very low key and I start winding down early and I’m one of those people who falls asleep really fast. So I was asleep for a few hours and then my elderly cat Isabel beautiful fluffy Isabel. She doesn’t get as much press as Jackson does I’m not quite sure why maybe because Jackson was like the kitten and Jackson’s very charismatic and I think feel like Isabel does get short shrift because sometimes people will say well you know does because because. Visitors you know Jackson is so gregarious and so engaging and charismatic and everyone’s well people will say be like well does isabel do anything almost in those exact words you know like is there anything special about her Isabelle’s also a main coon cat and she is blue smoke. Min ku cap and I’ll put her photo on the show notes here. So and I realize I’m going off off topic but hey that’s the brand here at first cup of coffee. So last night. Isabel Isabel is now 16 and she sleeps a lot and she’s deaf and last night every once’s while she wakes up I don’t know if there are nightmares or I’ve tried to look it up and it’s like ah a kind of dementia in cats. Otherwise she doesn’t seem to have any kinds of dementia but she woke up and she was crying and crying. And she has this very loud meow now that she’s deaf and I was sound asleep. But for some reason that penetrated which very little does I’ve often joked or I don’t joke David says that the great thing that he brings to our relationship is that if the house burns down. During the night that he will carry me out of it and save my life because he thinks I’d sleep through it. So this penetrated and I got up and I didn’t know David wasn’t in bed. He’s often up at night. So I went blially out looking and. He like came out of the kitchen and I said where is she and he said I don’t know and she was back in his office and that was at Eleven Fifty five so I’ve been asleep for a few hours and so I picked her up and brought her in. Bed with me which she just doesn’t come do on her own anymore. She used to sleep with me every night but now she sleeps in his office which is the warmest room in the house and I think that’s why I’m interested to see if this changes as summer comes on but we have um, brick floors with radiant heat.

05:21.90
jeffekennedy
And I have the temperature in his office. David’s just I mean he’s skinny skinnier than I am and and he’s just ah, you know as he gets older. He gets colder so the warmth in his office come guest room is. Up there and Isabelle has this little throw rug that we’ve put down for her and it’s this one corner of the floor that she’s figured out is like where the radiant heat gathers. There’s certain places where the floors definitely warmer than others and the cats have found those in their feline way. So she. Spends a lot of time sleeping on that little rug in his office and but I brought her into bed with me since she seemed disturbed and she slept by my pillow for most of the night so that was nice because I know I woke up once around 4 and she was there and I went back to sleep. And normally if I go back to sleep like that it means another hour and a half and sometimes I’ll calculate it because it’s like far is a little early to get up but usually like another hour and a half and that’s right in line with you know, like scientific studies on sleep cycles that a full cycle is an hour and a half more or less. So but then I woke up at six thirty oops so um yeah we’re supposed to start at 8 it’s seven fifty seven now but we moved at tape 15 at my behest during it was ready because she said she wants to. To start and were earlier which is big because she originally for her meeting me at 9 was a lot for her and I had you guys know I track everything you know I was like well you know I’m usually starting by 9 we could just make it be 9 but for me writing wise the earlier I start the better off I am and I do have graphs to show that I get better work counts if I start earlier. So this works great for me. It’s just a little bit of adjustment. Especially after daylight savings time kicking in but it’ll be interesting to see how that works I’m going to keep doing the two k per day this week and then next week I might see if I can go up to 2.5 um, yeah, we’ll just sort of see I’m going to experiment a little bit I’m going to be curious. We have some travel coming up so that’s going to change things around some we are going to go up to Blackhack Colorado.

08:10.51
jeffekennedy
And meet up with David’s siblings for a couple of nights just a little get together and I’m going to do the It’s a it’s a casino hotel thing and I don’t really like and I’m like. But they do have a spa and I’m going to do I’ve been dying for a body scrub and they do a body scrub and wrap so very excited for that and then at on April Seventh and eighth I will be down in portalis. New Mexico fabulous Portales which is ah where Doronda Jones lives ah and it’s down right near the Texas panhandle but it’s where Jack Williamson famed science fiction writers from. And I’m going to be down there and doing some panels and stuff I believe they will also be streaming looks like some interesting panel topics too. There’s a new guy in charge this year David Sweeten who seems to be I haven’t met him in real life yet. But he seems to be just really on the ball I’m really smart and he thinks I’m a great writer so you know clearly he has excellent taste and discernment. So I’m looking forward to this last year I was on a weird panel that it’s it’s this happened. To me a lot and I think it might be the whole crossover fantasy romance um woman writer with kissing in her books is ity a is it really not fantasy confusion but there are certain conferences. Especially these very little ones where I think what happens is that the organizers don’t really this always sounds bad. They don’t know who I am ah and I think this can happen to any of us you know, like there are certain people that they know what they write. But what happens is is if you are a writer that like quivers doing programming hasn’t actually read if they don’t know much about you then they end up sort of sticking you on panels in weird places like I got put on a panel that. Like a great transgressor on this and I’ve complained about it before is mile highcon up in Denver which I like to go up there because I have family up there. Denver’s my hometown. A lot of people in the area I know.

10:55.37
jeffekennedy
I’d like Mile Hi Con but they always put me on these fucking weird panels like once they put me on a superhero panel. You honest like I don’t really write superheroes or not even really I don’t write superheroes at all and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. And so last year with the old organizer on the Jack Williamson lectureship I got put on this panel on what was it was like writing science fiction or something. I wish I could remember the topic but it was really kind of strange I was like I do not know why I’m on this panel and the bad thing is is there are a couple of reasons for writers to do panels 1 is that it’s fun. Um, some of the. Most gratifying times that I’ve had as a writer is being on a panel with other wonderful writers where we end up having these amazing conversations. That’s the pinnacle because then you get a lot out of it being on the panel. So that’s good reason. Um. Reason that we do it is promo is to know, get ourselves out there um have people know who we are the other reason to do it is to be nice to you know, pay it forward contribute to the community. It’s like and I and a lot of writers view it that way. Because they’ll be like I don’t want to be on more than one panel for the conferences and I’m like really then why are you going? What are you doing there. They’re like oh it’s so exhausting. Really you know it’s like you know they’ll be like I’m on three panels cisconfer and. 1 every day and it’s exhausting like oh well, what do you do all day I know I’m bitching I just think about people who have jobs that you know like where they actually have to work really hard i. Well I will always say that being a writer is mentally draining and you really have to balance that creative flow and be smart about how you do it, especially if you’re a full-time writer or not even especially, it’s I think it’s worse if you’re trying to maintain another career and kids and family and all of that too. You know you really have to balance that energy but you know some of these writers I know for a fact have like never had a full-time job and you know there are jobs that you know like if you are working at it all day long. That’s all it’s a lot It’s.

13:37.90
jeffekennedy
Just you know a lot of running around in meetings and dealing with stuff and I will always say that the most the hardest job I ever had was being a cocktail waitress you know, full stop I am so glad that I don’t have to make my living as a cocktail waitress. Because waiting tables sucks you guys it sucks and it’s really hard and I know that people who haven’t done it sit back and be like well she goes a scurry back and forth between the kitchen. It’s like you have no idea absolutely no idea which is why I always tip well unless somebody really. Sponning it in anyway. So I’m sure I had a pointer in there somewhere I got interviewed on um, was it Tuesday afternoon yeah Tuesday afternoon by the kingdom of thirst podcast Abigail a great interviewer. We had so much fun I really enjoyed her podcast I should go ahead and link to it in here. So that. In fact, I’m going to type that in right now so that you guys can check it out but my old air. And a couple of weeks um kingdom of podcasts but she was talking about this podcast about first cup of coffee and just saying how. Relaxing. It is that it’s zen and I love that I love that it’s she said it’s just like having a conversation with your friend over coffee and it’s just like a nice chill thing to do and I love that I think that’s awesome. So. If I can’t think of stuff to stay say I feel like I can always fall back on the fact that that I’m just offering a zen experience here. Actually really, it’s more of a Dallas experience but we’re not going to to quibble lines there. So um, my point and I did have 1 oh that darinda and I are starting earlier. Um and maybe trying to get our 3 hours done by noon which is great and yesterday I was done by like 1130 and I got more stuff done on the to do list. You guys will be delighted to hear it i. Um, trying not to obsess about like getting everything off the list which I think is helpful. You know it’s that um, you’ll like the measureable goals. The ones that you can actually reach so but I got several things done off the list and so that’s great I got.

16:24.41
jeffekennedy
Bright Familiar uploaded, the audiobook. So just waiting for approval on that and then that will be out soon and other just little piddly things. Oh and so this is where I was had kind of started with all of this I did register for. World con in Chicago at the end of August beginning of September – Chicon. So I am planning to attend that and I also went ahead and registered for world fantasy con in November so planning to be at that and I will be at a polycon. In July so I need to get fact, let me make a note tear put this on my list I’ll get carene to put these appearances on the website.

17:20.45
jeffekennedy
So that’ll be good. So it’s like um, yeah for but but that’s the sound of the ah the world gradually sort of like revving up again. We’re kicking into gear. The other thing that happened yesterday is I got to. Email with an amazing writer someone who I particularly fangirl cut to exchange emails. You guys I can’t tell you what it is yet, but it’s very exciting, very exciting news. Not my career related but otherwise related. So. If you are canny. Your little brains will be thinking about what could this be? Ah yeah, so it was um yeah, particular little fan Girll moment there that I got to email with this writer from my myer. Who I admire I almost never use whom I just dislike whom I once had an editor my quiinsington editor had a special note saying this author hates whom don’t use it. So so yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how shaking it up here. A little bit will do and. Feeling good about things. So on that note I’m gonna go and meet up with the fabulous Darynda Jones and I will talk to you all tomorrow you take care bye bye.

Advice for Introductions at Conferences

Spring is here, which means the start of conference season!

Well, if we *get* to have a conference season this year. Hopefully COVID-19 won’t ruin all of our plans. The SFWA Board met yesterday and we’re planning to go ahead with Nebula Conference at the end of May. We’ve talked with the hotel and put contingency plans in place, but for now we’re still on.

One thing that’s been on my mind to mention for a while is introductions at conferences. People talk about this from time to time, but I think it’s always worth revisiting. Here’s a little story I want to tell you, to explain why this topic is evergreen.

Not long ago, I was on a call with a number of people. One of them was new to the group. We’ll call her Sally. I said, “Hi, Sally! Have we met before?”

She said, “Yes, Jeffe. Like four times.”

Of course I felt bad about that. And I remembered her after that! But how do I remember her? As the person who called me out. My feeling shitty about not remembering her is now the feeling I most strongly associate with Sally.

Introductions are not an easy thing to navigate. And I freely cop to this failing of mine. Yes, it’s a failing, and I’m not getting better as I get older. I’m terrible at recognizing faces. I’m pretty good at retaining names – I’m primarily an auditory learner – and I’m likely to remember obscure facts you tell me about yourself, but I might not put your name to your face. I’m the person at the table who has no idea what the server looks like. I once mixed up Matt Dillon/Matt Damon & Ben Stiller/Ben Affleck, because Something About Mary and Good Will Hunting came out around the same time. Never mind that these people look nothing alike, nor are the movies anything alike – but look at the cadence of the names and titles.

This is how my brain files stuff. I’d say it’s annoying, except that overall it’s a pretty good filing system. I can recall a lot of information and my brain has served me well all my life. I’m a great test-taker. I’m not so great at remembering faces, or if I’ve met someone.

That’s the other thing. I meet a lot of people, especially at conferences. I hit overload pretty quickly, too, often after the first day. I can be a gregarious person, but I’m functionally an introvert. I live in the country where it’s quiet, with dirt roads and no street lights. I can go days never seeing another live person besides my husband. We don’t have many visitors, besides the birds, coyotes and bobcats – and I can’t really tell them apart either.

I know I don’t remember people well, and I’m not proud of it. But I also loathe leaving people unacknowledged. So, I err on the side of reintroducing myself. I’ll usually give my name, and ask if we’ve met before. Most people are super gracious about it if we have. What I love is if they offer me context. Something like, “Yes, we met last year at Nebula Conference and were on the burnout panel together.” Then I’ll be all “Oh, right! And you talked about how you went through x, y, z.” I just need that contextual trigger.

You know how I remember them after that? With pleasure. And I’m more likely to retain that identifier and remember them next time.

One year, when my Twelve Kingdoms series was first taking off, I went to a conference and was introducing myself, as I always do. Only that year, for the first time, when I said, “Hi, I’m Jeffe Kennedy,” the other person said, “Oh, I know.” People, this happened not once, not twice, but at least three times. Maybe more. It was a total conversation killer. I don’t know if they meant it flatteringly – or if they’d heard unkind gossip. But it was most unsettling. I can tell you this, too – some of the most famous authors I’ve met have introduced themselves. I think that route is far better than expecting everyone to Know Who You Are.

So, what’s the advice?

  1. Introduce yourself to everyone you’re not sure you know.
  2. Don’t be shamed if someone says you’ve already met.
  3. Feel free to look at name tags. That’s why we wear them.
  4. Don’t be shamed if someone calls you out for looking at their name tag.
  5. If someone you’ve met before doesn’t remember you, don’t be offended. Don’t call them out. Be gracious. Maybe offer a helpful bit of context for when you met before.
  6. If they still don’t remember you, be cool about it, because this is your opportunity to create an impression with them. Don’t make it a shitty one.

 

Remember: we go to conferences to meet each other and celebrate our shared profession. It can be awesome.