Marketing is a big bugaboo for writers. Face it, most of us write because it’s better, easier, more comfortable than being around lots of people for lengthy times. I have training in how to be an extrovert when needed. But left to my own devices I would far rather curl up with a book – even a not-so-good one – than go to a party. Fortunately, the internet saves me from having to schmooze.
Even though the world of marketing as we know it has changed radically, there are still good marketing techniques, and bad ones. We have this perception of salesmen as being the stereotyped used-car guy, greasy, smarmy, and wholly untrustworthy. Some are. But not all of them. And frankly, my dear author friend, you have a product you need to sell. Ergo, you are a salesman. So, you have a decision. Are you going to be that guy?
Dale Carnegie wrote this way back in the thirties (1930’s!) when he was writing the foreword for one of the best known sales-traning books in the world, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and it is obvious that someone was asking him the same questions that we indie authors get. “Why, then, did I have the temerity to write another book? And, after I had written it, why should you bother to read it?“
Really good question, isn’t it? Of course, what you and I write is unique, original, absolutely not just another get-rich-quick book. But we do have to figure out how to answer that question, because we want to get readers. I’m suggesting that the best way to win readers might not be by selling to them. No one wants to visit a blog where the only posts are “buy my book! Look at my fabulous covers, looove my personal appearances/signings/what-have-you.” In this new world, where information moves fast, and internet denizens move faster, you have to catch attention and offer incentives, not bore your potential clients. One term I have heard applied to this is ‘content marketing’ and it’s much more than selling a product.
This blog, for instance, is a platform for writers. All of us have books and we all want more sales. But the big idea here is to offer you, our readers, more than just those books. We’re trying to make sure you have something interesting, funny, or informative to read, to keep you coming back. And we hope that once in a while you will buy a book, because you have a relationship with us, and you already know that we write decently, if sometimes unorthodox, we’re possessed of a wicked sense of humor (well, some of us are *eyes Kate* more wicked than others). Besides, Sarah, Kate, Amanda and I just would NOT look good with our hair greased back. Dave, hm… (ducks and runs!)
So as a shy author, what can you do to win readers? Well, try branding yourself. NO, not with the hot poker (put that thing down, and step away quickly!) but with a reputation. When people see your name online, what do they think? How often do they see your name? It’s a big ocean out there, and we are all little fish. And for goodness sake, don’t buy into the myth that all publicity is good publicity. If you respond to a negative review and get into a public fight (and any fight with someone via internet is public) this is not a good thing. However, if you get to the point where, when a potential reader sees your name as a byline and thinks “hm, this guy is always interesting” then you have won a reader.
Influencing friends is harder, and not something you really want to try to do, more of an unconscious process, but something to be aware of so you do not beat friends and family about the head and shoulders with your books that you want to sell. We’ve all seen that lean, away from someone who has a one-track mind, and the person being jabbered at glazes over with boredom. After a while that friend becomes less of a friend, as they distance themselves from the author who never talks about anything other than their books. Sometimes it’s hard not to be that narcissist. What we do is fascinating to us (surely you all want to hear about my research process for a short story set in Camp Lazear! No? Why not?) but not necessarily to others. Make sure that your online presence is lively, interesting, and not a one-trick pony. Although I like ponies… not that way! Geeeshh…
So play nice with your readers, and remember, if you impress them enough, they may tip the author!