Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sell More Books (By Always Being Ready To Sell More Books)

I'd like to start this week's entry off with a story. There's a local Chinese buffet in my town, and when I have a big story on my mind along with a big hole in my stomach I like to go there with a writer friend of mine to talk over plot while eating until I feel I have ingested my money's worth. Several years ago I was engaged in this pleasant past time, and discussing a novel idea I was contemplating. We were going back and forth on the finer points of plot when a woman I'd never met before stopped at our table and asked what we were talking about.

"We're writers," my friend said with a pleasant smile.

"Oh," our guest said, returning the smile in kind. "Are you working on a book?"

"Indeed we are," I said.

Right here is what professional authors whose books aren't flying off the shelves refer to as the sweet spot (or some variation thereof). What I had was a total stranger who had approached me of her own volition, and who was interested in my craft. The appropriate response for such a chance encounter would be to perhaps ask if she liked to read science fiction or fantasy (I had a story of each genre available for sale at the time), and if she was a fan of either/both genres to hand her a business card and tell her to take a look at my work. Perhaps I could even go so far as to offer her a free digital copy for finding the author "in the wild" instead of at an event.

That isn't what happened, though. Instead we all sat in a slightly awkward silence before she walked off, and my friend and I went back to our food and our conversation.

Five minutes later, I did this.
It's all too easy to let yourself sink into a routine, as an author. When you go to a book signing event, or you're at a convention as a panelist or a guest, you've got your professional face on. You're there to show people how awesome you are, and if all goes well to persuade them to buy a copy of everything you've ever had published. When you're just living your day-to-day life, though, you tend to leave your game face at home.

If you want to sell more books, don't do that.

I'm not saying that you should carry a briefcase with a full press kit in it everywhere you go, but it's a good idea to keep your professional face in your back pocket along with a few business cards and maybe a promotional bookmark or two. When you're at a bookstore or a convention you're fighting for attention, and it's kind of like you're one of a hundred other people in an orange vest during deer season. You're competing with all these other head hunters, and the readers know you're gunning for them. But if someone just walks up to you at a party, in the park, or in a restaurant it's like you're sitting on your back porch, rifle over your knees, and a deer just walks right out of the woods and stood there in your sights.

So what's your book about?
There's another benefit to this author-in-the-wild setup as well. At a convention, a book signing, or any other event, you're an expected presence. Finding an author at a convention is about as surprising or unusual as finding an 80s action movie on TV on a weekday afternoon. This means that unless you pull out all the stops and make a big impression you're going to fade into the background.

Meeting an author in a place you don't expect to meet one, though, makes the experience special. It's like how seeing a tiger at the zoo is no big deal, but seeing one while you're at the coffee shop is something you're going to talk about for weeks. As a tiger who writes books, this can be a huge advantage for you. Not only will you have no competition for a reader who is enthralled that a creature like you can be found in such a normal place, but that reader is more likely to tell other people about you. Whether she has a few friends in a reading group, or a thousand followers on Facebook is impossible for you to know. If you send her away with your business card, a smile, and the promise of a free book, however, you're a lot closer to finding a fan (and even better a fan that will talk about you) than you were five minutes ago.

While we're on the subject of selling books...
As a closer, did you know that May is National Short Story Month? As my last post for the month I'd like to let all my readers know that my new book New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam is now available! You can find it, along with a dozen other books, on my Amazon author page. The first two stories are free, so why not click over and see if this is the book you've been looking for?

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1 comment:

  1. I really love this, sightings. Plus it applies to life, the things most people do, dentists-in-the-wild, or luthiers... Thank you.