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#19How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they say?”

Unfortunately, I have a problem with something very similar: nodding and smiling when I don't care what they are saying.

Both of these pertain to impressions. Of course, you've heard the old adage that you don't get a second chance at a first impression. This holds true for job interviews, meeting new people, wishing to be accepted by prospective in-laws, or your adoring fans who you hope will buy your book and stand in line for an autograph, maybe to shake your hand, or want a picture with you.

I'm reminded of a joke I heard from Shelly Berman. I don't think he created it, and it has several versions. A man is sitting down to dinner with his fiancee's parents of whom he is meeting for the first time. It's a lavish dinner and everything is proper, respectful, and elegant. At one point during the meal, he glances down into his lap and discovers that he has forgotten to do something terribly important. Surreptitiously, he reaches down and mmmmaaaakes the adjustment, and everything is fine. Minutes later, he rises to excuse himself...and the whole tablecloth goes with him.

Yeah, not much you can say to spin that situation into a positive.

Thinking back to the 2011 Killer Nashville writers' conference, I must admit I don't think I made a very good impression to some folks. The KN committee moved the conference to the Hutton Hotel, a ritzy pricey place downtown. My friend and I wanted to be there on Thursday evening for the trivia contest. When we reached the floor there was another conference occurring with about a gazillion businessmen milling around the hall and one guy wanting to herd the group into one room for dinner. Now these guys were dressed casually to professionally and I'm below casual in shorts and a polo shirt. Shorts and a shirt. It's Nashville in August, folks, and I'm going to game night, so work with me here. Anyway, off to one side I see a fantastically attractive brunette observing the proceedings of this business meeting. We're eyed each other because we both knew I didn't belong to this group and she probably wondered if I was about to cause a scene. Nope, I just asked her if she's one of the hostesses of this shindig. She replied she's part of the hotel staff coordinating and overseeing the event.

Yeah, big oops. I figured asking her out to dinner for the next evening just got shot out the window.

I also erred in the panel I was on. I loved the panel of authors and was honored to be included. Three cops with over 90 years' experience and me, the lone martial artist. It was a great panel and people enjoyed it and some said it was the best of the conference. However, I made the mistake of mentioning my book in a couple of BSP moments while answering some questions. I didn't mean to push so hard and nobody said anything, but I later learned that I should have stuck with the topic at hand without trying to push my book. I didn't do it too overtly, but on later analysis, I did put a toe over the line.

At the time I wrote this piece I was a week away from traveling to Nashville for the 2012 conference, where, once again, I was honored to be included on a panel. I planned to make a better impression. This time, however, I get to pump my book as will the others on the panel be able to pump theirs. It's a reading-Q&A session and sounds very fun. *Note: the conference went fine and my only concern was that there were too many people on the panel for the audience, in an hour, to really get into the authors' works.

Anyway, first impressions. Strive to remember names. Listen to what somebody is saying even if you think that person is the most boring person you've met. Smile, shake hands, thank them for buying your book. You might even go so far to ask them a few questions. Remember, everyone you meet is a potential reader and purchaser of your book. Don't be stupid.

It's why I've backed off on the political postings on FB. I admit that sometimes I can't help myself when somebody makes the most ridiculous statement and they're flat out wrong I just have to comment...see what I mean? I've backed off because the last time I tried to have a discussion I was insulted three times. I realized the person probably didn't mean to be harsh (maybe this person did, I don't know), but the final comment to me really hit me and I stopped replying. I also realized I wasn't going to change this person's opinion (which I never saw as possible in the first place), but I also thought I needed to back away because I had more important things to worry about than stating my version of the facts (which can't be disputed because facts is facts. Lol). Will this person buy my book? I doubt it. Am I saddened I may have turned somebody against my writing? Sure. Live and learn, right?

Remember, as an author who is trying to sell books (which should be your ultimate goal however subtly you reach it or what path you take), what you say, do and how you act will determine, to a large extent, your success.

So, smile, shake hands, remember names, and remember to zip your fly.

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