Whether you have a publisher or you do it all yourself, you still have to be involved in the promotion and sales of your work. And that’s pretty tough. I started out being a writer because I could do it from home and fit my work around my young children. Also, I’m naturally a quiet, private person.
So the idea of promoting my books at a stall, or standing in the middle of a store for a book-signing filled me with horror. But somehow or other, you have to build a relationship with your readers and encourage them to try your books.
Surely, I hear so many people say, this is the age of the internet and you never have to meet your readers in person? Well, even now, that’s only half the story, because to communicate your writing, you have to communicate a little bit of YOU.
And here’s what selling your soul to reach your readers looks like:
If you are shy, though, be warned – you WILL ENJOY meeting your prospective readers, no matter how introverted you are! At the same time, you will be exhausted by the end of each event.
The orange circle is about reaching your readers through proxy sellers, ie book stores. Most books will sell via booksellers online, but it’s always great to have a book on a shelf in an actual book-store, because it gives your readers a chance to browse while you are not there. And also it’s a great photo-op!
On a table near the back? This is still a good option, particularly if your book is with similar popular titles for interested readers to browse. On a shelf? Still okay, providing it’s on the right shelf for the genre, and preferably with that wonderful book cover you paid so much for, facing the readers as they wander around the store.
If you want good sales, it’s worth chatting with the bookstore manager to discuss what the options are (or checking out the promotional options online.) He or she is communicating with the readers on your behalf.
Which brings me back to book signings, back into that red circle. These are hard work, but can be worth it to build a relationship with the store manager. (For my first book-signing, the manager forgot I was coming, which was not only humiliating, but tells you a lot about my struggle to get my books into the book-stores at all.) ,
Sadly, very few book signings attract a big crowd. Only the big celebrity names get a queue forming. So don’t be disappointed. Try and arrange for a few friends to drop in during the signing to say hello. An author sitting there, being avoided by the passers-by, is a sorry spectacle. I know, I’ve been there. I prefer selling on a stall, and you can read my advice here in Setting out your Stall.
The outer-most yellow circle in the diagram represents those readers you will only ever meet online. They may never see your book in a book-store, or meet you at an event – though some you meet in person will seek you out on social media.
But this group of readers might buy your book only because of a relationship they have with you online. This can be via social media, your website, a mailing list, a third party promotional service – whatever it is, I’ve found that these readers would like to have the same impression of you as if they were meeting you in person. They may click ‘like’ on your book’s page on facebook, but if they really like your book, they will want to be friends with you as well. Not in an invasive way; just because they like your writing. Sometimes it’s part of the reason they choose to buy your book and not someone else’s.
The groups in the three circles have something in common though: they want an authentic you, not a faceless bookseller, not a fake, not a corporate brand, but a real person they can relate to. That might mean just a few minutes chatting at a stall, or answering their question at a talk, or responding to an facebook message. But human contact is the key.
So before you sell your books, you have to decide who YOU are, as a writer and as a person, and be prepared to give away a little bit of you with each sale.
With the right attitude, you can enjoy the process. And I do, but I have a confession – I’m not the most exciting person and I’m aware that I sometimes disappoint readers expecting to meet someone special.
I’m not special, I’m just a writer who spends her days inventing characters.
Which is why I still don’t really understand why readers would want to meet me… But I am grateful for each and every one. I didn’t realise selling my soul would be so much fun.
So feel free to say hello.
Lots of love,