Are you vain and susceptible to flattery? Join the club. Just about everyone is. Our self-image would need to be seriously down the negative scale for us not to like hearing nice things about ourselves. And what is really curious about flattery is that it works on us even when we don’t believe it. We could all do with upping our game when it comes to this flattery malarkey -getting and giving compliments. I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about getting too many compliments. And while someone might (foolishly) reject a compliment (e.g. “you’re just saying that”), don’t be conned into thinking they’re not still glowing inside.
What has this got to do with promoting books for free? Well, more than might be immediately obvious. And it’s a simple “trick” i stumbled upon, when someone who didn’t love my book posted a picture of it online next to their pretty and smiling face. So hundreds and possibly thousands of people came to learn of the existence of my novel who otherwise probably wouldn’t have. And, hopefully, some of them were intrigued enough to sample it and, who knows, actually buy it.
Here’s how this strange event came to pass. The girl with the pretty young face had won the book in a raffle and I had signed it without meeting or knowing anything about her, other than her name. But nevertheless I signed it with a cringe-worthy flattering dedication. And she was so chuffed about the dedication that she wanted everyone she knew to read it. “Look what Tom Barry is saying about me”, as if I was George Clooney or something. And although she only gave the book 3 stars, she gave me 5 stars for my audacity.
I’m going to suggest that anyone who gets their hands on a book with a flattering personal dedication is going to want other people to see it. They are much more likely to talk about it, show it around, and to leave it in conspicuous places – the coffee table maybe, if the personal dedication says nice things about the owner. And I have to admit I have few scruples in this regard; if I have met the person I’m signing the book for, in a bookstore for example, I can always find something nice to say about them (man or woman). “Stunning, fascinating, enchanting, inspirational, gifted” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I’m capable of. And if I haven’t met them, say they won my book in a promotion, well, I just roll the dice. These are people who read fiction after all, and we all know that people who read fiction are the most brilliant, mysterious, empathetic, discerning of types, overflowing in warmth and generosity of spirit. (Have you ever heard anyone say they are mean spirited!)
(For those who liked my 20 Tips for better book signings, here’s number 21. Never ask the customer at a signing “Would you like a personalised dedication.” Just do it. If you feel that you really must ask permission, then go with “Is the dedication to you or a friend?”)
Could this back-fire? Could the person getting an obviously insincere dedication be offended? I guess so. They might think it childish or sexist or demeaning or patronising or any one of those afflictions. But on a scale of 1-100 there is a very low risk of this reaction. If you like the idea of compliments in dedications, but are wary of a negative reaction, then there’s always the low road option, a compliment so generic it will apply to everyone (or, rather we will all agree it applies to us!) “Thoughtful, interesting, sincere, caring, generous, considerate” are typical adjectives in the ‘least risk of rejection’ category. But fear not, in my experience most people are likely to react just like the young woman who posted a picture of my dedication, with a smile on their face and their tongue in their cheek. And if our dedication can make someone smile, it must be doing something right
(You may request your own personal signed copy of When the Siren Calls in the comments section below).