New Year, New Me (sort of)

Happy New Year everyone. My goodness, January has started off well! I just came back from an invigorating run, my juice fast has left me pounds lighter and with a glowing complexion and my royalty statement hit six figures for the first time. Life is perfect! 

It’s OK! You can keep reading. I made all that up for a laugh. I broke into a trot last Wednesday when I realised I’d forgotten to put the bins out, but apart from that, life remains much the same. I ate a lot of satsumas over Christmas, but they were accompanied by mince pies and Christmas puddings and selection boxes and suchlike. I’m still waiting for the royalty statement, but I don’t suppose I can retire just yet. 

Last year, I took the plunge and booked myself on to a series of events all over the county. At each one, I met lovely people and learned how to dress my table and present my books. Height, interest and texture are all important and so is your pitch. It’s no good sitting glumly behind a stack of untouched books and silently willing people to come over and be terribly impressed that you’ve written them. 

I always struggled with the elevator pitch. Summing up my work in just a few words was tough, but as I attended more events, it got easier. Prospective readers would often say, “What’s your book about?” and I got better at answering in a few snappy words. By November, sitting under a crystal chandelier in a posh marquee in Woodbridge at a particularly well organised event, I found myself luring in people with a much more confident pitch. But it wasn’t until the end of the month when I took a huge leap of faith and booked myself onto all three days of the Christmas Market in Bury St Edmunds that my imposter syndrome finally packed its bags and left and I got my pitch down to a tee. 

With the best will in the world, many events are sparsely attended. Each stallholder sits behind their table wearing a brave smile and thinking, “Please, please come over and talk to me. Please look at my products.” At Bury, comfortably installed in an aisle between a cake stall and an artist in the Cathedral, I had no such issue. 10,000 people came in over the three days and by 10.00 on Thursday, I realised that I needed to forget my English reserve and SELL!

Hordes of people moved slowly around gazing at the stalls. There was often a queue in front of me as people waited for cakes and this was the ideal time to engage. I was rarely silent. If anyone so much glanced my way, I would smile charmingly and invite them to have a flick through my sample copies. Anyone under 25 was lured in with my pitch about my heroine being a TikTok and Instagram influencer. Those of more mature years were attracted by my description of a busybody who likes telling everyone what to do. Men who had become detached from their wives were offered the perfect, easy to wrap Christmas present.

It worked a treat. By Friday evening, I was slightly hoarse and had heard Wham’s “Last Christmas” 6 times. On Saturday, my cake selling neighbour and I were engaged in a race to see who could sell out of cakes (her) and the Diary of Isabella M Smugge (me) first. She won, by a nose. I sold 83 books, ran out of the first one completely, gave away all my business cards and realised that I no longer suffered from imposter syndrome. True, I was speaking in a husky whisper and had mad staring eyes from all that vivacious chitchat and an ill-advised caffeinated beverage, but it was worth it. 

I believe in my product. I want people to have Isabella M Smugge in their lives. And if that means I have to go out on the weekend, eat home-made cake, drink tea, chat to people and hone my pitch, then so be it! Someone has to. 

What did you do differently last year? I’d love to hear about it.

Images by Pixabay

Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer, the author of “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” and “The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge”. She writes for a number of businesses and charities and blogs at She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter at ruthleighwrites and at her website,


Peter Leyland said…
Well that sounds like a successful day Ruth. 83 books is brilliant! Last year I learned to be patient, that it might take a year and two full revisions for an article to be published. I also learned that you can get an unexpected commission with an honorarium by making a determined pitch.

Believe in your product, that's a good line.
Ruth Leigh said…
Yes and how hard is that, Peter? I don't do patience terribly well but you obviously do. And great news about the commission! Well done. Happy New Year.
Just possibly, my heroine is far too boring, as a just graduated geneticist trying to solve a problem and to impress the un-impressable potential in-laws), to be talked up into a pitch! SO, my WIP, (which is told by her daughter, a 16 year old, doing the coming-of-age thing),MIGHT be pitchable - but... we'll have to see... congrats on hitting the right button, I love Issy too!
Gillian Poucher said…
From a few events in the last quarter of 2022, I relate well to that manic smiling person behind the stall, desperate for visitors to translate into customers! But that brief sentence caught me and I lingered over it: 'I believe in my product.' That's what any of us authors struggling with imposter syndrome need to do: believe that that book is a good read with a message. Thank you for that thought going ahead into 2023.
Ruth Leigh said…
It sounds interesting to me, Clare! And stepping out into new things is terrifying at first, but it really does hone new skills. Let me know how you get on this year. Thank you. Issy is delighted to hear it.
Ruth Leigh said…
Gillian, as I wrote it, it seemed so true. I had never voiced it as a thought before, but when I spoke at the British Christian Writers' Conference last year about selling more books, I said something like, "Your beautiful words need to be heard." And they do. Do believe in yourself. You made something amazing and it's going to change people's lives. Isn't that wonderful?
How interesting - I often tell myself to get out there and have a stall at some event but have only done it a couple of times in the past, and of course there was a long spell when there weren't any local events at all. Well done for being so good at it!
Ruth Leigh said…
Oh listen, do it Cecilia! It's fun and once you get over the fear, it's so fab.

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