Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a book talk given by Kimberla Lawson-Roby. She’s a prolific women’s fiction author who has written over 24 books in the last couple of decades. So when she talked, I listened. I also took notes because, one day, I fully intend to be able to get a hundred or so people in a room to discuss my books and writing process, too!
From Kimberla, I learned a few things.
Be yourself. People came to see her because they like her books. But, they also like her. Otherwise, they could have bought the book, read it, and let that be the end of it. She was personable and engaging.
Go with the Flow. The person who gave her introduction mentioned that Kimberla’s husband was her biggest supporter. She used that as an opportunity to share about how she first started out (self-published, by the way!) and to give her personal/professional background.
Know your audience. The event took place at a library that was also hosting a large gathering of authors. She not only spoke about her books, but also specifically gave tips and encouragement for aspiring writers.
Invest in your talent. Kimberla left a well-paying career that she was already established in to pursue her dream of being an author. Initially, she attempted to obtain a book deal with one of the Big 5 and that didn’t pan out. Instead of giving up, or continuing to chase publishing houses that weren’t checking for her, she invested in herself and independently published her first book. Her dedication to writing, marketing and engaging with readers paid off. Eventually, one of the Big 5 came knocking at her door and the rest is history!
Stand by your work. A large body of Kimberla’s work speaks on the hypocrisy of some churches in general, and a man of the clothe by the name of Curtis Black in particular. Some critics took offense at the fact that Kimberla chose to ‘expose’ the church by writing on topics of infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc as it relates to church folk. Kimberla stood by the fact that she wrote what she saw and experienced in some churches. What you choose to write may not always be pretty, but speak your truth and be prepared to stand by it.
Promote yourself. I almost wanted to do a fist pump when she effortless segued from a question that had spiraled into a rather long discussion and gently ushered in the title of her upcoming release. From there, Kimberla proceeded to read the opening pages of her next novel, sharing just enough to wet everyone’s appetite. I’m sure her pre-orders had a spike that day!
Show your appreciation. I couldn’t count the number of times Kimberla made it a point to show her gratitude and appreciation for her readers, the library staff, the book clubs in attendance and everyone who came out in support of her. I always say that appreciation and grace are the marks of a true lady, and I saw that in her.
I thoroughly enjoyed being in the audience that day and witnessing first hand the impact that a single person can have on so many people through her dedication to the art of writing. Writers spend a lot of time alone as a part of the job, but moments of engagement help reinforce that it’s all for a very good reason.
As a reader, what do you most look forward to at book discussions? As a writer, what do you do most hope to accomplish? For me, as a reader I want some back story on the characters, and as a writer I want to be remembered enough for them to buy my book!