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Authors Must be Marketers at Personal Appearances

The business of writing requires marketing skills. You have to get the word out to sell books. Some writers only want to deal with the art and leave the business aspects to a publishing house. Small publishers and university presses often have little or no budget for marketing. At one time, large houses provided marketing such as advertising and paid book yours. Not anymore. Unless you're John Grisham, a very good author who sells millions of books, even the largest publishers are not going to promote the books of most authors beyond perhaps a mention in Publisher's Weekly. To sell books, all authors need to hone their marketing skills. They need to participate in social media and make public appearances.

When giving a lecture, book reading or signing, authors must engage with readers and bring their message forward. They will never sell books by quietly sitting behind a desk at a bookstore while waiting for someone to approach them. Reach out, look people in the eye and say "Hello" to everyone who walks through the door. In smaller communities, most people will say, "Hello" back. In larger settings it can be a different story. One problem is that when too many people live too close together they tend to look on those that they do not have a close relationships with as if they were trees deserving no notice. If you are noticed, you might be thought of a trying to get something out of them. There is also the worry that if they talk to you they become obliged to buy something.

Don't let these people deter you. Keep a positive attitude. Be genuine in your greeting. Don't think of others as possible sales. Your inauthentic attitude will be telegraphed. Know in your heart that you are giving people an opportunity to learn about a book they might enjoy or that could change their lives. You have to believe in yourself and your work.

When you do catch someone's attention, have a 10 second elevator pitch ready to deliver. That's as much time as you will have. Boil down the 200 or more pages in your book to a single sentence. Bring out the main theme of the book and why people will want to read it. For a detective novel you might say, "Police detective Joe Doe must expose a crooked police commissioner with ties to the mob before he has Joe killed." An author of a non-fiction book about elementary school education might say, "My book reveals ways to teach your children how to excel in school with proven techniques that I have used in my career as a principal." The shorter the better. Don't go into long details or explanations yet. Get them hooked. Fans of detective stories will want to learn more about Joe Doe and his plight. A parent with young children who are having trouble in school will be enticed by the principal's message. If the people you are talking to show no interest, don't try to convince them. Thank them for stopping by and let them go. You will never sell a book to them. Concentrate on the next person.

If the people respond to your short pitch, give more details. Demonstrate how the book is different from others, how it will help them, how it will entertain them.

For fiction, talk about the main characters, overviews of the plot and themes. If appropriate, give the age range. Don't go into too much detail. Give a feel for the work and leave questions unanswered that readers will want to discover. In the theater we say, "Always leave them wanting more."

For non-fiction, you will need to present your credentials as to why you are the perfect person to write the book. If it is a book about politics, are you a journalist or politician. If it is a method of raising children are you an experienced parent or child psychologist. If it is a memoir cover what is unique about your life experiences and why people might identify with them. Potential readers will want to know that you can speak about the subject with authority and that it is something they are interested in. Describe key points that readers will want to know. Provide one or two solutions or answers, no more. You want to show that your book will serve them and you want them to buy the book to learn the rest.

Once you see that they understand what the book is about, ask them to buy it. You have to be polite and direct. Say something like, "Does this sound like a book that you would enjoy? I am here signing copies today. Can I sign one for you?" Don't wait for them to ask you to sign a one, but be careful not to sound like you are only seeing them as a sale. Always remember to present yourself and your book as a service. You have to know this to the core of your soul because people can detect disingenuousness.

If you are in the middle of giving your pitch and the person says, "I'll take one," Stop selling. Continuing can only ruin the deal. Just ask, "To whom should I delicate this copy?"
This will be difficult for some authors who fear public speaking and are terrified by rejection. You have to get past that if you want to make sales. Most people will not stop when you say hello. Most of those who stop will not buy. That does not matter. You are not actually selling books, you are selling your brand and you are the brand. If you can be personable, honest and present your book as a service, you will be remembered.

Don't be put off with responses like, "I'm fine" , "Not now", "I don't read (which is obvious because they couldn't read the sign over the door that said ‘bookstore' and probably thought they were in a pizza parlor)" and "I'll come back." Most people who give the last response never will, but some do after thinking it over. One person who came back said that he had looked me up on the Internet and was impressed with my bio. You never know, so be polite to everyone. Some people will come back to the store after you leave and purchase the book because they just didn't want to feel pressured. Those who you talk to might tell friends and family.

If you establish a solid brand that people find informed, authentic and pleasant, you and your books will be remembered.

David A. Wimsett is the author of Beyond the Shallow Bank, women's literature with a hint of magical realism, and Dragons Unremembered: Volume I of the Carandir Saga, an epic fantasy novel set in a gender balanced world. His articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. He is a member of the Writers' Union of Canada, the Canadian Media Guild, The Professional Writers Association of Canada and the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia. He is a professional photographer, a film maker and an actor.

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