Monday, April 05, 2010

Writer, Promote Thyself!

I hate trying to sell people things. Especially when the things I'm trying to sell are me and my books. I am not a natural born salesman. Asking people to buy things gives me hives. Why can't people just magically find out about me and my awesomeness? Why do I feel like a little beggar girl or a door-to-door missionary? Am I doing this whole promotion thing wrong?

I heard some Big Deal Authors lately talking about book signings and the way people tend to shy away from the person behind the table, refusing to meet your eyes. The theory (quite a good one, I think) was that they don't want to have to reject you in front of you. In a bookstore, they can wander through the aisles picking up and putting down dozens of books before they find one that interests them, but they never feel guilty for putting one down. With you sitting there, the author adds the guilt factor.

I get that, but how do you counter it? With chocolate? (Bribes!) With excerpts? That way, you can hand them a chapter, they can wander over to grab a latte and a scone, read your chapter in line, decide they love you, and come back to get a signed copy to take the register. I like that approach.

But what about online promo? Why are people skittish to participate there? I'm having a blog party all this month with daily prizes. ( Looking at my website tracking info, I'm getting a lot more hits than I am comments - but only the commenters can win. So are my lurkers shy? Are they not interested in the prizes? (A free book? Who turns down a free book?!) They are under no obligation to buy my books or the books of my guest bloggers. All they have to do is comment, possibly win, possibly discover a new author they love or win a book they can give to a reader-friend who loves that genre if they don't.

I feel weird because I'm running around trying to drum up traffic for this blog party and I feel like it should be easier than this. These are awesome prizes! There is virtually no effort involved in winning them! The big prize this month is a brand new ereader! All you have to do to enter is sleuth around my website to answer five questions (one about each of my books) and send me an email with your answers. Is an ereader not worth a few clicks?

I'm puzzled. And I feel like a realtor. See, I went to the parade of homes with my family a few weeks ago. There were a lot of realtors with a lot of different styles. Some gave away goodie bags or cookies or donuts. One actually followed us through every room of the house commenting on our comments to one another (so irritating!). But the one thing they had in common was that they were representing gorgeous homes. These houses were gems, that's why they were included in the parade of homes. But there were still gimmicks and raffles and staging to make them attractive to buyers.

So even if you write a great book (see, I really was going somewhere with the metaphor!), you still have to make it attractive to readers. (Without stalking them through every room telling them why they should buy it.)

And that is the part where I feel completely out of my depth. Oh, to be famous and rich and hire someone to be my book realtor!

Am I looking at this the wrong way? What makes you buy a book? Word of mouth? An ad you saw? A review?

Tomorrow at my blog I'm giving away a signed copy of my new book Shifting Dreams. All this month I'm giving away an ereader. No purchase necessary. Just a little fun. Come on by and play... or come on by and lurk if you want to feed my neurosis. ;)


Vivant said...

As a voracious reader, I'm open to all avenues of approach. I love finding authors who are new to me. For an almost sure thing, I listen when someone who knows my reading tastes recommends an author or book. But I also love tripping over new finds. I cruise the book aisles - physically, as well as blogs and online booksellers. I read blurbs and excerpts and reviews, and then if I like, I leap.

On the topic of people who avoid looking at the author at a signing, I'm guessing that a lot of the avoidance is just not knowing what to say to someone the reader perceives as living a life that is far removed from their own. I wonder if the reader behavior varies geographically. Are overly polite midwestern readers more or less prone to avoiding personal interaction with the author?

Vivi Andrews said...

Oooh, interesting point about geography! I'd be curious to see if book signings are more successful in certain regions.

I've also heard that having a group of authors signing is seen as easier to approach than a lone person... any theories on that one?

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RJones said...

I never enter promo contests, because I can afford to buy books the good old-fashioned way and would rather leave the contest to the starving student types out there. It's not uncommon for me to see a contest for an interesting book (there has to be some self-promotion going on for me to realize it's interesting!), then I go add it to my powells wishlist. Without entering the contest. Never thought that might bug writers, not being able to read my mind to see why I didn't enter!

Anne Pages said...

I never enter promo contest too. I love buying and borrowing those books already out of print.

Vivi Andrews said...

RJones & Anne - I think I love you. Thank you for giving me your perspective toward promo! I'd never thought that people weren't entering because they wanted to give others a better chance to win. Such noble intentions for my lurkers! :)

Kate Diamond said...

My motivation is a whole lot less wholesome than the others mentioned on this site... I am just disorganized and rarely make it onto a contest page until about three hours AFTER the contest has closed. What a bummer!