Today I read an article by Charles Lambert regarding the atmosphere of bookstores in Italy. Here’s a link to the story: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/06/buying_books_in_italy_from_gro.html
He said something I’m going to blatantly take out of context.
“...the customer isn't right or wrong so much as a nuisance.”
Mr. Lambert was referring to bookstore clerks feeling this way; I can’t help but wonder if we writers often think of our readers in a similar fashion. If we value them, why do we bemoan and complain about having to get out there and promote our books? Don’t we want them to buy our books, read our stories? Putting in the face time, making them feel valuable and getting to know us is a big part of that. We treat book promotion, and our readers, like a nuisance...something bad to be avoided. Surely I cannot be the only person to see the backwardness in this.
An online publisher, I now work for, notes how their authors who heavily promote, have higher sales. I can see that. What you put into this is reflected by how much you get out of it. I learned that selling make up and it certainly applies to books.
I firmly believe promotion starts long before any book is ever sold. This is where you are out in the book community (be it online or in person), making yourself known and putting a friendly face to that name. Yep...branding YOU!
Then when that book comes out, you want people to see the promo or ad and say, “Hey, I know this author!” They’re far more likely to hand over their hard-earned money to someone they’ve come to know and trust than someone who shows up on an email list or message board for the first time to promote their new book.
If you’re uncomfortable calling them online friends, then how about acquaintances? We all understand the friendliness we can share with coworkers and customers in the “normal” job workplace. It’s just as important here.
One of the best ways is to make use of the online communities like MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Writerschatroom. You don’t need to give away your shoe size or social security number to anyone but you can open up a little to potential readers. Let them in on the writing process of a book you’re working on. They’ll want to buy it because they feel a vested interest in the project...after all, they were there with you through the writing.
Pat yourself on the back when those kudos come. People love to celebrate with one another. The plus side is it peels away a layer of that solitude writers are supposed to be famous for. Reaching out to readers is never a nuisance. It’s a necessity and not just for our pocketbooks...but for ourselves as human beings.
Remember: attitude is everything. If you go into it with optimism, it will reflect in your online relationships. These marketing sayings of how fifty-percent of promotion is useless or how it takes contact with a customer seven times for them to buy your product, don’t need to discourage you. Let it encourage you. You need seven contacts? Try for nine. Only getting fifty percent out of a hundred? Then shoot for two hundred. Let it justify in your mind, the time you ARE spending in promotion. All you need do is schedule an hour of your time a day. Give it a try!