The last decade in publishing has truly been a wild whirlwind and authors have had to evolve from lone, brilliant artists to super social creators, marketers, publicists, event coordinators, social media strategists and major book sellers in a matter of minutes. Well...when you consider the overall history of publishing.
And even though you writers are expected to evolve as quickly as the newest iPhone, selling your book is still an icky thing you guys don't like to do. I get it. It feels a little used car salesman-y. A little disingenuous because yes, you want them to love it and tell their friends all about how awesome it is...isn't that what writing is all about? The affirmation? The public acceptance? And yet, you really want, need to make a few bucks off your gem to pay the bills - is that so wrong? Oh, the portrait of the artist as a tortured salesperson!
The act of sales is not icky. And it's not necessarily about you putting your book into someone's hands and saying, "Buy this!" either. Rather, book sales flow from concentrating your energies on the following three actions. So let's think a little more creatively about how to sell your book in this new age of publishing.
Selling begins with passion
The most successful salespeople are passionate about their product (whatever it is) and aren't afraid to put themselves out there to spread the word about it. They don't look at selling as selling - they look at it as, "hey, you gotta check this out!" and mean it. Think about the last time you told a friend they absolutely had to drop everything to read a book you just fell in love with. That was you sharing your love for a book through your enthusiasm. That's just the kind of energy you need to get out there and tell people about your book.
Selling is all about building trust and forming relationships
There are no shortcuts with this step - building trust and forming relationships takes a lot of time and commitment on your part. You build trust by being authentic. You can smell a disingenuous sales person a mile away, right? Your reading public will have the same reaction if you put out an image that is something other than your most authentic self. It's like your writing - you don't think about your voice, or your writing style, it just flows. If you over thought your style, your prose would be self-conscious and unoriginal. Sure you craft, edit and polish your manuscript just as we all use social filters (mostly)...but your core is there and that's what people are drawn to.
You'll never build relationships or trust if you don't put yourself out there in your own neck of the woods and online. If you're just starting out on this path and have just a few writer buddies, start slow and allow yourself plenty of time to connect with others. Seek out and join local writer and/or professional organizations that are right for you, your writing style and/or your professional association. Take this action online and start building relationships by blogging (if it's right for you and you're able to seriously commit to this); by commenting on other blogs thoughtfully and frequently; by contributing entire pieces to other blogs (if you have a story or tips to share); and by creating and being active on a few select social media platforms, for starters. Freelancing articles in your area of specialty or interest is also a very worthwhile way to build trust and readership.
Success can be found through collaboration
Today's author is not threatened by their creative neighbor on the book shelf. Instead of seeing an author within their genre as a competitor, they look at them as a possible collaborateur. I'm seeing a surge of co-hosted collaborative author blogs, multi-author book signings and other literary events, and now online twitter, LinkedIn and other social media groups. Readers don't just read one author. Writing is a solitary enough endeavor; promoting and selling your book shouldn't be. You know the saying, it takes a village.
Your Action: If you're still crafting, just make friends and connections. There's no need to have an agenda (nobody likes a hard pitch). Your main focus should be on writing. You'll have time to consider your events when you have something to sell.
Authors who have a finished project, work on these three things: nailing your pitch; continuing to connect and share; and getting creative about collaborating.
Share what's worked for you or other authors you know!
Have a fruitful week, writers!
*The image used in this post is titled "It takes a village to raise a child."