Hobbies For Serial Killers… and Writers.

One of the things I like to do–as a point of interest, not as a career path–is to take the information that people hand out without a second thought, go to the internet, and see how much more I can come up with. It’s a holdover from my time writing thrillers, and the truth is, everyone should probably take a step back and think about how much information they really want to give strangers.

The correct answer?

I don’t know. I mean, I have a blog, don’t I? A Twitter account?  I post information on the internet, and for the most part, I don’t get a whole lot of negativity. I’ve never gotten any trolling, or threats. Of course, I’m also not really advertising to a full cross-section of the world, either. My blog focuses on readers, writers… uhm… mostly not homicidal maniacs.

I still believe you should think about what kind of information you’re giving away… particularly if it connects to minors.

There’s not a whole lot of advantage to giving away personal information.

So, the game goes like this. You see a stranger. It could be one of those SUVs with the stick family on the back, or it could be that Booster Club Mom with the giant buttons with her kid’s picture and the Sports Team T-shirt. Anyone, really. The goal is to get from watching their car drive by to knowing enough to get them to believe you know them. (I’m not actually suggesting that you act on this.)

You are not allowed to talk to the person, or to communicate with them in any way. No asking for more information,  no hinting, no introducing yourself in hopes of hearing the person’s name, or getting them to chat about their high school glory days.

You take the information they hand out freely, and you go from there. Is their kid an honor roll student at Herbert Hoover Middle School? Does Dad have one of those license plates that lists his ham radio call letters? (You can pull up radio license information, and usually a home address with one of those.) Those nifty Team/sport/name/JerseyNumber bumper stickers are suddenly weirdly creepy.

Because people really do give away a lot of information on their cars, sometimes on their bodies. Hobbies. Interests. The number of people and pets in the family. Do you really want people walking by your car to know you own an attack cat instead of a Doberman? Do you want them to know that your daughter’s name is Chelsea, she goes to Franklin Middle School, where she plays volleyball, and then goes to dance at Baby Ballet is us? Would you like that same stranger to know what her brother’s name is, and what kind of car to tell her broke down?

And yes, one of my villains does wind up choosing victims based on the bumper stickers on their cars. It’s not as detailed as this, but… well, it’s the kind of thing that gets a girl to thinking. Be safe out there.

What do you think? Where do you draw the line on giving out information?

Safety, Common Sense, and Selling Books

So, you already know I was on a mini-vacay last week. I needed that. The stress of stress would have eaten me alive, if I hadn’t gotten out. Nothing quite like grabbing a friend, ditching real life, and hitting a neighboring state.

And, as it turns out, there was another writer in the motel.

It wasn’t me that ran into her.

“There’s one of your people in the elevator.”

My people, by the way, can mean anything from my close friends to whole groups of people I happen to belong to. And, let’s be honest, my mind shot straight to dancers, because they’re easier to pick out of a crowd, and because I actually do know dancers in KC.

My friend was a little wigged out, though, so my mind skipped from dancers to band members, and maybe a few specific individuals she might be able to recognize as “my” people. Mutual acquaintance type “my” people.

I asked.

“One of your book people.”

Okay. So, I’m lost. How could she possibly know that someone she met on an elevator was a book person? I mean, we’re pretty mellow, compared to some of my acquaintances.

Turns out the woman had gone all Bookseller of Prey on her.

She was pretty shaken, after an elevator pitch that had gone from small talk, to buy my book, to let’s-trade-room-numbers-you’re-my-new-bestie all in the course of three floors. I don’t blame her. My head was spinning, just thinking about it.

But, I was also thinking about the other woman. Was she someone I do know? Someone I will know in the future?

I’m not sure freaking out strangers on an elevator (in a motel!) is the best way of selling books. The thing about an elevator pitch is… well, at the other end of the elevator, your target winds up in an office, full of his or her trusted co-workers. You aren’t necessarily alone in the elevator, either.

And I’m pretty sure that inviting strangers back to your hotel room to get the books that you don’t have with you isn’t the safest idea, either. Remember that old joke your granny used to tell? The one where she slapped a guy because he invited her up to his room to see his etchings? (And it turned out there really were etchings?)

I don’t really care what risks you choose to take in bookselling… but make sure they are a choice. Make sure they’re a sensible choice, and make sure they’re an effective choice.

This one happens to be an unnecessary and ineffective risk. You’re taking all the risks your mother warned you about in luring strangers back to your motel room–I won’t get into those–and you’re also scaring off your risk conscious customers.

Most women–and probably most men, too– are NOT going to go knocking on motel room doors to buy a book.

Get a tote bag and carry a couple of books with you. That way, you aren’t taking a risk, and you’re not asking your customers to take that risk, either.