Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fighting Insecurity at Conferences and Events with Jennifer Hillier

In the past three years since my debut novel was published, I've been fortunate to have attended five conferences (four ThrillerFests and one Bouchercon), I've gone on a book tour in the Philippines (which included a feature spot at the Manila Book Fair), and I've done a variety of other book events across the US and Canada, including a charity ball for the Toronto Public Library. It's actually not that much when you compare my schedule to that of other authors, but for someone like me – who's relatively new to publishing, and naturally shy to boot – in-person events like these can be terrifying.

For starters, the other authors I meet at these events seem to be so much more confident. They've been around longer. They know they belong. Unlike me. I'm always wondering if I have anything to contribute to the conversation, and I'm always scared that I don't. Whenever I receive a panel schedule only to discover that I'm discussing serial killers with authors who are consistently on the New York Times bestseller list and who have movie deals in the works, I always want to email the conference coordinators to ask if they made some kind of clerical error inserting my name in with theirs. That little song, "Which one of these is not like the others?" always goes through my mind.

And then, of course, I'm genuinely amazed that anyone even shows up to my panels. Surely the audience isn't there isn't to see me, when everyone else on the panel is funnier, smarter, and more interesting than I am. After the panels, when I'm sitting at the signing table, I always assume someone is lost when they approach me. Even if they're holding a copy of my book in one hand and a pen in the other, I'm still thinking they probably just need directions to the bathroom.

At the Book Lover's Ball, a charity gala for the Toronto Public Library, I found myself at a table filled with corporate sponsors who'd paid good money for a chance to talk to a published author all night. The hotel ballroom was packed, and each table seated eleven people – ten dinner guests and one author. And even though there were exactly ten copies of my book at the table, I still found myself waiting for the real author to show up. I had a hard time accepting that the author for my table was me.

It's an insecurity that I doubt will ever go away. I think I've managed to write each book more confidently than the last, but when it comes to feeling like I belong in the publishing world, I still feel like a fraud most days. I keep waiting for the moment when someone will tell me that I'm in the wrong room, that my name was accidentally added to the panel, and that the kind-looking lady approaching me really does need my help finding the bathroom.

If she does, I will gladly show her the way.

* * *

Jennifer Hillier is the author of the psychological thrillers THE BUTCHER (2014), FREAK (2012), and CREEP (2011). Find her on Facebook at JenniferHillierAuthor, and on Twitter at @JenniferHillier. She blogs at Serial Killer Files and her official website is here.

22 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Alex and Jennifer - what a great guest post .. congratulations to Jennifer - you have hidden attributes that make you stand out to others .. sounds like you also have the right attitude ... this is such a good read for IWSG day ... good luck - those psychological thrillers look to be a good read .. cheers Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again, Jennifer!

NASHVILLECATS said...

A wonderful post Alex, as I was reading this it reminded me of Toronto which I visited a few years back.
You deserve all the accolades you have achieved and who knows the "Cassa Trio" may be at the cinemas......Here's hoping!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jennifer, that's a good attitude to maintain though. It will make you humble, gracious, and relate-able. When you start thinking you do deserve all that, you're going backwards at a frightening pace.

Susanne Drazic said...

Jennifer, thanks for sharing this great guest post.

Linda Kay said...

Since I have my first book signing coming up in the next week, this was good for me to see....I'm terrified, and am at this point having no expectations.

Pat Hatt said...

Having that attitude will sure keep you grounded though. Must be a great experience all around.

Christine Rains said...

I can completely relate. I am amazed at the confidence of other authors. I've always been shy, but since my writing is such a part of me, it makes me even more so. I've not done any signings yet. You amaze me that you've done all those!

Jennifer Hillier said...

Thanks for having me, Alex! :)

Marsha Sigman said...

You are an amazing writer, Jennifer! You do belong! But I love that you shared this, because I'm sure you are not the first new(er) author to feel this way. The idea of speaking in front of anyone makes me nauseas.ha

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for sharing your insecurities with us Jennifer. If someone as successful as you still experiences those occasional doubts I know it's okay for me to feel them too.

Gisele LeBlanc said...

I'd be willing to bet that many of those authors that we see as confident are just really good at hiding their own insecurities. :)

Lynda R Young said...

Conferences can be scary, but the fear is what helps us to keep complacency away and makes sure we're prepared. Wonderful post, Jennifer.

Anne R. Allen said...

I once spoke at a conference where they put me in a huge auditorium. Even though I had 60 or 70 people signed up, they looked like a handful. As I started to speak, all ten people in the front row filed out. I never knew why. Probably just the wrong class for them, but if you ever want to feel insecure... that sure did it for me. Luckily a bestselling author walked in the back and I pulled him up on stage and got him to answer my questions while I worked on getting my mojo back. So I totally relate to this post!

cleemckenzie said...

This would be a great post of IWSG Wednesday!

Denise Covey said...

Great post Jennifer. I'm with you...aargh.

Stephanie Bird said...

You and your work are obviously valued and it looks and sounds great too! Belief in yourself will come in due time. Putting yourself out there in the meantime is extremely brave.

Theresa Milstein said...

Jennifer, it's interesting to hear your POV on the other end of it. I cringe when I think how long I've been at it with no full book to my name. You should be proud of your accomplishments--of course you have something to add!

SittieCates said...

What a wonderful post! Love reading stories like this. Congrats to Jennifer!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Jennifer, I think your confidence will continue to grow. Best of luck on your thriller. We write the same genre, so I get where you're coming from.

Michelle Wallace said...

A great post!
Thanks for sharing this.

Doreen Shababy said...

The Guidebook looks great. I will read it when it comes out in HARD COPY!!! Not all of us like or can read from e-books... just sayin...