Become the Belle of the Ball

  • Becky McGraw at a book signing


    By Becky McGraw

    Have you ever noticed how some people just have a magnetism that just draws others to them?  At dances and social events, there’s always that one girl who may not be the prettiest there, but all the guys notice her, even if she’s wearing a turtleneck.  Do you wonder why that is? What she has that you don’t?  Belle-ism.  That girl knows how to send off signals that she’s friendly, approachable and interested.

    It’s the same way at book signings and conferences.  I know some of you have been next to an author at a conference whose table is always a hotbed of activity.  They have a buzz going that can be felt throughout the whole building.  Excitement, energy—and momentum.  It’s pretty frustrating, when those folks leave that crowded table, and instead of stopping at yours they look down the long aisle of tables and move to the next one with a crowd.  Do you think it’s because those authors are more popular?  Have more fans?  Better swag?  No, ma’am it isn’t.  It’s because those authors have learned how to be the Belle of the Ball, instead of a wallflower, just like that one girl at the dance.

    Most book people are introverts, and I should know. I am one, have been one all of my life.  I have wallflower tendencies, but have forced myself become a Belle.  Being a Belle is a conscious choice, not some mysterious something that other people are born with that you don’t have.  You can develop your Belle-ability, but it takes work, stepping outside your comfort zone and making yourself approachable.  The people on the other side of your table, readers and bloggers, are going to gravitate toward those authors who are most welcoming and friendly.  They are already intimidated, because they are introverts too.  If you don’t reach out to them, in all likelihood they will not give you a second glance, even if you are Ernestine Hemingway.

    Belles have the confidence to make eye contact, smile widely and speak first, stick out their hand to stop people and introduce themselves enthusiastically at the signing or at the bar.  They often compliment the person they’re speaking to about something—their hair, their spectacular shoes.  Genuine compliments are a good icebreaker and conversation starter.  What Belles don’t do is sit down behind the protective shield of their table and wait for people to come to them.  That is why those people leave the crowded table and move on down the aisle instead of stopping at your table.

    Don’t let that happen to you! You’ve spent a lot of money to be at that conference.  Make yourself noticeable and memorable. Wear something happy and fun, something that says you are a people person and want to meet them.  Create a brand for yourself, whatever your brand is.  Besides being a country girl at heart, I write western romance, so I often wear cowboy hats and boots to signings and events.  I have big eye-catching banners, and always have my table filled with fun swag and bookmarks.  It doesn’t have to be expensive swag, just something fun and unique.  Your banners are an investment in your career.  Think of them that way, and have them professionally done.  It’s worth the few extra bucks you’ll spend to have them look professional.

    Remember, you are making an impression—make it a good one.  When readers and bloggers leave the conference you want them to think of you as a friend.  If they do, they will continue the buzz you’ve started at the conference, and that is what sells books.

    Do yourself a favor, develop your Belle-ability, study that author with the crowded table and learn from her, instead of being envious.  That could be your table at the next signing if you do.  Book conferences are not about selling paperback books, they are about selling yourself.  If people like you and remember you, they will buy your books.


    A jack of many trades, New York Times, USA Today and Amazon Bestselling Author Becky McGraw has been an optician, a beautician, a legal secretary, a real estate broker, web designer, graphic artist, and romance writer. She knows just enough to make her dangerous, and her books varied and interesting. Becky resides in Florida with her husband of thirty-three years and her dog Abby. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America Published Authors Network. You can contact Becky McGraw here:






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