Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beyond the Sale

So, you're selling books.  Great!  But if any of your buyers are anything like me, selling the book isn't always enough. 

I love being able to support my fellow authors, if not for my own reading, I at least love to have a copy of their book in hand so that when I talk about the writers themselves, I can show the books as a visual. People like tangible things. Simply saying "I heard this author talk about blah blah" and it's just another name to remember, another story we've all heard. Seeing the book gets the feel of the author into their heads. 

For me, the hard part is a) finding time to read the ever growing stack of books, and b) not inner-editing them as I go. Occupational hazard. 

I used to love to read. I don't know that it's why I became a writer. I've always felt the need to express myself and this just seemed the logical way to do it. Over the years, too many critique groups and classes and manuscripts have taken some of that magic away. I find myself wanting to find that spark again, but like a midlife hormone change, the feeling just isn't there. 

I think we all have more readers like that than we want to realize. We practice smart marketing methods, contractually bind ourselves to agents and publishers and sell our souls to sell a book, but then what?  I wonder how often our books end up sitting on a dusty nightstand or crammed into a forgotten bag.  

Today I met author Kevin Smokler (Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School) and he asked me what was my favorite book to read in high school.  It was Black Boy, by Richard Wright. It was the only book I was required to read that I actually did. All of the others I'd skimmed just enough to get by. 

Kevin and I talked about why it's important to read other writers, and how he managed to find the time. Then he challenged me to go home tonight and while my husband watched his beloved football to read just ten pages. "It's only ten pages!"  

I'm not sure if he's devious enough to know that if go home and read the first ten pages of the book he just sold me or if he never gave it any thought other than to give a push to a fellow writer, but I went home and read Kevin's first ten pages. And it wasn't even because I was trying to get out of football or figuring out this space age new laptop. It was because his love of words made me want to see what he had to say. 

So, when selling or networking or engaging with others, remember that not only are you asking for them to boost your sales, you're asking them to give you their time, and that's the best benefit you will ever receive from selling a book. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Showing Up

Engagement. It's not just for marriage. 

I can't stand selling anything, which is funny because I love money. I do love marketing, however. Someone asked me recently what the difference was.  

Selling is "Hi, buy my book."  It's boring, and no matter how someone tries to sell, the aura of desperation is never impossible to hide whether it's a car, a sofa, a dream vacation or a book.  

Marketing is more interactive, therefore more interesting to me. If I'm at a table with my books on display, I won't first push my book under their nose. Instead, I ask questions, because I find that more appealing. What brought them to the event?  What authors do they like?  Do they write?  This tells me if they'd be interested in my genre, or more importantly in my services. I come from the fortunate position of not needing them to make a purchase, but to hopefully remember me. If they don't make a purchase, perhaps they'll go online and read what I have to say.  That's my true goal as a writer. 


I like to support local authors.  I will buy their books, refer them to others, name drop in a professional setting.  But when people ask me about the author, or speaker, because people are my specialty, I am quite honest.  Every thought shows on me, it's pointless to hide it.  My impressions become stories that I share when trying to network. 

Last year, I bought a book because the dog-story premise seemed interesting. Not so much for myself but I thought it would make a great gift for my sister, a serious dog lover. I tried to engage in conversation with the author, who seemed nice enough  but unresponsive. I explained that I'm more of a cat person, and asked that she sign the book to my sister.  It wasn't until later I looked inside and saw "Enjoy your cat experienced!" and her name. 


And there the gift was ruined, because she wasn't paying attention. 

I saw the author again recently, and felt the same vibe. Only wanted to make her announcement, but there was nothing personal in her interactions. It was all very polite and nice as I watched, but I'm curious how many really retained the information. 

So, if you want to make an impression, come bearing the ring, and engage.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ready Writer

I met Delia Ephron once.  You know, the author of Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog and Hanging Up, and frequent collaborator with her sister Nora. 

It was at a LitQuake event in San Francisco.  After watching her interviewed by local favorite Ellen Sussman, I dutifully stood in line with book in hand for her to sign.  Delia was very personable, as we talked about her new memoir and exuded patience as my husband tried to figure out the complexities of my phone's camera. There she was, making small talk with me as we posed endlessly because he didn't realize he was shooting video.  Once we finally got past the pictures, I handed her the book for signing. 

Here's where I'll tell you one of my little secrets; anytime I have something signed, I always hand over my business card "because my name is so hard to spell!"  It's a very passive aggressive way of getting my card to the person with the hope that they later will be so intrigued with my eye-catching image that they'll take a look at my sites.  When we walked away from Delia, I told my husband with excitement, "Did you see?  She kept it!"  Later, I followed it with a message to her Facebook along the lines of "Thanks, it was great to meet you.  If you'd ever like to take a look at my work..." and gave a direct link while thinking yeah right, little fish in a big pond.

And then I forgot about it.

It was a month later that I received a response.  I had been going through a lot of personal issues and hadn't been maintaining my blogs for months.  The last few posts were more personal rants than crafted essays.  But there was Delia; "I promise I will check out your website." 


When??  Today, tomorrow, a year when she might think about it?  Holy crap.  What did I have on the first page?  Was it that nonsensical one?  And that's the moment I got a lesson about being prepared. 

Not every post will be a standout. However, I try more now to keep the better essays on the top page. I'm never caught without cards in my hand - three different kinds for whatever need of the person receiving one. And now I've published two books, so dutifully keep copies in the trunk of my car, and in my bag too whenever I'm attending an event. 

I spend a lot of my time hearing lectures and attending industry functions.  Just last week, I drove two hours to hear a memoirist tell me how to turn facts into page-turning stories.  I was making small talk with a fellow author and thought his novel sounded very interesting.  I like to support the locals and like to have signed copies, then showcase them to my friends and colleagues while being able to tell a little about both the writer and the book.  "I don't have any with me... I guess I should carry some in the trunk of my car!"  Something we all hear.  A lot.  Some advice is worth listening to.  "But it's available on Amazon."  My attention span unfortunately doesn't last that long.  "How am I supposed to have you sign it if I buy it online?" I countered. 

The author I'd come to hear spoke to us for over an hour, and even read excerpts from her book, which was decent.  Okay.  Then finishes it with "But I only brought three copies with me" to a crowd of 50+.  "I'll be doing a reading though at the library in two weeks.  You can come buy it there."  Well, no, I came here. 

We're taught as writers to stay away from the cliché.  That's fine when putting pen to paper, but we need to heed tried and true wisdom  This goes too for any industry; in business, always have a verbal resume in mind, and a card in hand.  In art, always have a product available or make yourself so memorable they absolutely need to go find it right then and there to buy.  For myself, I have ulterior motives - I make more profit when I sell in person.

People are fickle.  Seize the moment.  And be prepared!