I’ve got a secret for you:
We all want to sell books.
Crazy, I know. But it’s true. Whether we’re self-published, indie published, or are lucky enough to get signed by one of the Big Four, we all want people to buy–and hopefully read–our books.
Here’s another secret for you:
If you’re an author, and you’re as yet unknown–as so many of us are–and your idea of marketing is to constantly barrage and bug people with pleas to “Buy my book!” you’re not going to sell many books. In truth, you’ll probably sell less than you would have if you’d simply remained silent.
But how am I supposed to sell my book if I don’t tell anyone about it?
Great question. The answer may be simpler than you know, and here it is: Don’t tell “people” about your book. Tell ME about your book. Better yet, tell ME about YOU. Tell me about your kids. Tell me about your life. Talk to me.
Not Facebook users. Not Tweeters. Not Instagram-ers. But Joe Smith, Ada Reinhardt, Melissa Johnson, or whoever it is you interact with.
Marketing is based on relationships. That may be oversimplifying things, but at the core, it’s true. Why do you go down the block to the local market to buy your groceries, instead of the Walmart, where prices might be lower? Because the owner, Bob, knows you. He always gives your kid a lollipop when you check out. He asks how your dad is doing because he knows your dad was in the hospital. He knows you; he cares about you. Even if it’s only on a small scale, hell, even if it’s just a facade he puts on, he makes you feel like an individual, like a person, like somebody who is different than every other person that comes into his store. Because he does, you reciprocate by giving him your business.
We, as authors, have to do the same thing. We have to get to know our readers. We have to establish relationships. We have to give people a reason to trust us. Anybody can slap a book on Amazon these days. Some days it seems like everybody has. There’s plenty of garbage out there, we all know it. So we have to make the effort to set ourselves apart from all of that. And we do that, not by banging people upside the head with “I wrote a book, buy it, buy it, BUY IT!” (which, IMHO, screams desperation, not quality), but by paying attention to people, talking to people, getting to know people.
Let’s look at two different scenarios real quick, shall we?
Let’s say I join a group on Facebook. We’ll call it “Authors Anonymous.” On Day 1, I post the following:
“Hi, I’m Briana Robertson. Check out my book, “Reaper” on Amazon. It’s only $.99!”
I proceed to go around putting similar posts in every writers/readers group I’m part of. I don’t bother to scroll through the group’s page, I don’t read anyone else’s posts, I don’t interact with anyone. Every other day, I go into the group and post a “Buy my book!” post until, eventually, somebody gets pissed enough to bitch to the admin, and I get booted.
I again join Authors Anonymous. On Day 1, I post the following:
“Hey everybody, I’m Briana! I’m an emerging spec-fic author. I tend to write mostly fantasy and horror. I’m married, have three little girls; I love the Chicago Bears, and I’m addicted to Dr. Pepper. Can’t wait to get to know you all!”
I proceed to scroll through the group’s page, perusing, and skimming. I come across a guy’s post that says something along the lines of, “Got a couple thousand words in today, despite the baby’s teething. I’ll take it.” I decide to comment on his post. The following conversation takes place:
Me: Awesome job! I know it’s hard when the little ones are teething, mine just started cutting her upper two. I haven’t been able to put her down for two days. Hoping to get back to the writing soon.
Him: Yeah, it’s rough seeing ’em hurt like that. We rub diluted peppermint oil into his gums; it works pretty well. Have you tried that?
Me: I haven’t. My husband’s a big fan of the whiskey remedy, lol.
Him: Yeah, I’m cool with that, but my wife tends to prefer the peppermint oil. Figures it’s a bit more PC.
Me. I get that. And if it works, why mess with it, right?
Him: Sure thing.
Me: So what are you working on?
Him: It’s a zombie apocalypse novel, told from a zombie’s point of view.
Me: Oh, that sounds cool.
Him: Yeah, it’s been a challenge, but I’m excited about it. What about you?
Me: I’m working on a fantasy novel. It’s about a young monarch who doesn’t know she’s a monarch and her bodyguard.
Him: Very cool. My wife loves fantasy novels.
Now, based on those two scenarios, which one is probably more likely to gain me a reader? I won’t bother answering that. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
The point here can be summed up pretty simply: Don’t be an annoying asshole of an author. (How’s that for alliteration?) We all want to sell books. And because we want to sell our book, we’re aware you want to sell yours, too. And if you’re a decent person who is willing to treat us like we’re decent people too, there’s a decent chance we’ll shell out the money to purchase something you’ve worked hard on, or (if you write in a genre that’s not our cup of tea) at least point potential readers in your direction. If you treat us like nothing more than a money pit, we’re going to give you the figurative finger. Talk about your book, by all means. We want to know about your book. But we also want to know about you. And we want to feel like you want to know about us, too.
Also, we’re authors. We know what you’re going through, so we may give you a bit more slack than the rest of the world.
Don’t annoy your audience. Get to know your audience. Talk to your audience. Make friends with your audience. The benefits of doing that will last a lifetime, and the rewards will be so much greater than the profits earned off a handful of copies of your novel.
I guarantee you.