Are there any authors out there who honestly love marketing their books? We all know it’s an absolute necessity, but if you’re anything like me, you find excuses not to do it nearly as much as you should. Larry Thacker, author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, seems genuinely to enjoy it, and he has a lot of great tips I’m passing on today. Larry’s book is chock full of fascinating tales of supernatural sightings in Appalachia. I hope you’ll check it out, and leave comments too.
THE HOWS AND WHYS OF BEING YOUR OWN MARKETING MANAGER
By Larry Thacker
As you’re already finding out, marketing your book, even when others at the publishing house may also have that responsibility, can be a wonderful and challenging experience. Besides the pleasant anxieties of having to learn – often by teaching yourself – how to be a self-promoter, you have to get quickly comfortable with everything from interviews to tabletop displays, from speaking gigs to press releases. At the end of the day, the only person losing any sleep over who hasn’t heard about your dynamic personality and your world-changing book, however, is you. Whether you like it or not, it’s mostly your job to get that book in the hands of readers. This is a fine arrangement since, of course, no one knows your material better than you, no one can give that twenty second blurb about your work better, and no one should be more excited about what your book has to say to the world. In other words, you are your best marketer.
Unfortunately, most of us authors are not marketing managers. Most of us don’t have MBAs and wouldn’t know a viable marketing plan if one crashed from the sky and split our signing table in half. In fact, depending on our personalities, self-promotion may be quite an uncomfortable expectation. Your silent attitude might be, I’m an author not a marketing manager, but if you want to get your book and message out, get used to it.
If you’re not quite comfortable yet with the salesperson role in this endless sea of struggling authors, perhaps thinking about your work as a message will make it taste better while you wait on that next curious-looking, but only window shopping book buyer. Your book, no matter what the genre, is your message; a message about something important that you are passionate about. People need to hear what you have to say, don’t they? When I’m most frustrated, reminding myself of the purpose of my work re-energizes me.
We have to eventually realize there are no days off. Like most of our day jobs, work stays at work when we go home. Not so with writing. We are author’s 24-hours a day. People will approach you all the time about your book. They’re interested. And though you might not be in your best mood and may be tired of parroting your same spiel a thousand times, you must approach the conversation like it was your first ever. Being ready for those out-of-the-ordinary situations is a must. Expected opportunities can sometimes disappoint, while unexpected opportunities can be fruitful. Your constant awareness will bring opportunity. I promise.
New authors often associate “promotion” with the romance of book signings. That’s what popular culture has shown us as the writer’s public life. I’ve had mixed experiences with these and have determined that book signings alone don’t accomplish much. Unless you’re a huge name that draws lines before the store opens, sitting behind a table at a signing on a slow day will most likely frustrate and discourage you, perhaps even make you wonder why you bothered pouring your life into such a project in the first place (we have such delicate egos, do we not?) But sitting alone waiting for a “bite” offers a lot of self-reflection. Finish that doodling and make good with your time.
Here are a few suggestions for marketing your work:
Speak first, then sign: Book signings by themselves? Not so great. Book signings AFTER a presentation? Guaranteed better results. In these difficult economic days, people are more apt to purchase after they’ve been drawn into your unquenchable enthusiasm and convinced they have to be reading your book before the night ends. Other means of getting your word out before you sign can be press releases, radio and television interviews, and classroom presentations. If you can’t talk first, have a table with several authors. A crowd draws interest.
Holidays: Figure out what popular holidays mesh with your topic and plan for presentations and events during the two weeks leading up to the holiday. Additionally, that familiar crazed look in shoppers’ eyes the week before Christmas says, “Get out of my way! I need something unique and I need it now!” Be that unique item. Get yourself a visible table at the entrance of your local bookstore and watch that stack of books melt away. I once sold twenty books in two hours like this.
Speakers Bureaus: Get on a speakers circuit. Though your talk may only be vaguely connected with your book topic, that can lead to other talks and additional interest in your writing work. For instance, I am a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. One of my presentations is closely related to my book, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. You can bet I’ll have copies of my book there post-speech.
First impressions: Have more on your table than just your book and an eager autograph pen. My publisher has been great at providing stacks of slick bookmarks and promotional postcards covered with reviews and quotes. I display these in a nice twisted antique basket that fits the mood of my book. Whether they buy or not, give them a business card or a bookmark. Send them away with a reminder.
Search out your book: Always search for your books at whatever store you’re in. If you can’t find any, approach a manager and ask where you might find your book. If they’re not carrying them, offer some promotional material and ask them to consider making an order.
Autograph your books: When you do find your books on the shelves, gather them up and take them to the counter and ask – with an assuming attitude – if you can autograph them. Autographed books sell faster. They’ll more than likely have “signed by the author” stickers as well. If they’re low, suggest they reorder.
Your own website: Nothing is more frustrating when someone wanting to buy your book finds the publisher’s website down. Not everyone wants to purchase through Amazon and the like. Even if it’s a single page, have your own just in case. Include ordering information, reviews, blurbs, important links, past and upcoming events. Make it eye catching, professional, and update it regularly.
The trunk: Consider the trunk of your car as your mobile sales office. Have copies at all times. Be able to put a copy in anyone’s hand whenever the opportunity presents itself. And be flexible on the price! Selling it for a little less might make the sell. Hopefully they’ll talk.
A second book: Be working on a second book. Or a third. Or a fourth. I’ve been asked many times when “the next book” is coming out by satisfied readers of the first. Having two or more published books on your table will lead to additional sales. If your second work isn’t out yet, have examples of your other types of writing to show you’re not a “one hit wonder.”
Enjoy yourself: Above all, have a good time introducing the world to your writing! The moment it’s no longer fun, re-evaluate what you’re doing. It should be more fun than work.
Larry Thacker is author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia (now in its second printing, 2007, published by The Overmountain Press, www.overmountainpress.com). He is a frequent speaker and a published columnist, a blogger for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, non-fiction writer and poet. He is editor of the on-line Roadkill Zen Journal (www.roadkillzen.net). A seventh-generation Cumberland Gap area native, Larry serves as Director of Student Success and Career Planning at his alma mater, Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.