Last night, I had dinner with two talented folks – Billy Wayson and Kristin Hicks – so we could talk about our upcoming presentation at the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Annual Conference. We were talking about our work – how to get our books into people’s hands, how to market without being smarmy – and it occurred to me that the keys to good marketing, at least as far as I’m concerned are:
- Take your time
- Be nice
Sure, marketing experts will point out things like branding and message. They’ll talk about repetition and target markets. Those things are all well and good, but when it comes to selling a book you’ve published yourself, a book you usually have to hand-sell, the best brand and message in the world won’t make up for lack of attention or a general bad attitude.
Let’s face it – marketing takes time, time we’d rather put toward writing or reading or watching that show True Detective, which must be incredible given the Facebook updates about it. Plus, many of us writers are a little reserved, so we’d probably rather do anything – kill stink bugs, for example – than promote ourselves.
Yet, if we want our work to get into the hands of people who might want to read it (if we don’t, we might want to reconsider publishing), then we have to get the word out. This takes time. Lots of it. We have to research markets, contact organizations, follow-up on requests, get books to the people who have agreed to sell them, and do readings and speaking engagements. Each of these tasks takes time, and to do them well, they take considerable time.
Time is also a necessary element in building a market – be it on social media, in your local community, or with booksellers. These relationships, because it is all about relationships, require your regular attention and effort. You can’t just slap up the link to your book over and over and expect people to respond (and not unfollow you). You have to engage. Actively.
And to engage well, you have to be kind. To everyone. To the grumpy bookseller who doesn’t act even mildly interested when you ask about stocking your book. To the Facebook contact who wants you to edit their manuscript for free. To the reviewers who lambast your book and include their real name. You don’t have to approve of their behavior, their requests, or their words, but you do have to be kind. All the time. Even when you’re tired from getting up at 5am to write because you have to give the business hours to marketing. (I do speak from experience here.)
As much as we want our books to grow little legs and travel the world carrying our names and only the good parts of our reputations, they are not living organisms. They need us to sell them.
And as much as we need to separate our personal existence and to remember that we cannot control the reaction to or interpretation of our work, we also need to remember that the way we talk to people – online and in person – reflects on our work, too. (Plus, these are people; they deserve respect, even when they annoy us.)
So today, I’m grateful for Kristin and Billy – two of the most kind, generous people I know – for reminding me that a couple hours of chatting over dinner and kind, warm conversation are not only keys to good marketing but also keys to a good life.
What successes have you had in selling your self-published book when you took time and showed kindness to people?