Tag Archive | marketing

Poor pitiful me–I hate marketing my books

Why should people buy my books? And why do I feel such overwhelming anger when they don’t? The answer no doubt lies deeply buried in the most basic infantile needs for unconditional love and acceptance. In my new book on maximizing creativity, I plan to delve into the research surrounding these issues, but today I simply feel the urge to vent.

julie-at-fuusa-crfts-fair-12-4-16

Last Sunday, following the service, my church held a fund-raising crafts fair, and I had a full table to show and sell my books. The early December timing was ideal, I figured. People would be in the throes of holiday shopping, and I’d priced my books to sell: $10 for a single book, with deeper discounts for more than one. Ten per cent of sales would go to FUUSA, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, thus providing an added incentive for people to feel proud of their generosity, or so I naively imagined.

The results were underwhelming. True, I sold a few books, so my efforts were moderately worthwhile, and I would have been there for coffee hour anyway. But I spent half my haul on infinity neck warmers and ginger cookies from other vendors. The annual event is a good place to pick up on stocking stuffers. Books would fall nicely into this category, you’d think, but apparently not. There was a brisk sale in homemade $13 pies and soups. People love stuffing their faces, but reading? Not so much.

I’ve blogged about this problem before. People tell me it comes with the territory and that I should get over it, and I’ve seen a similar phenomenon at conferences like ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, where people queue up in long lines for a few well-known authors while the majority sit forlornly ignored, doing their best to put on friendly, welcoming expressions as they hand out book marks, post cards and candy. I’m as guilty as anyone in passing them by—I already own far too many books, and I can’t afford to buy many more.

Those are excuses I frequently hear from people bypassing my table, and they’re valid ones. I’m especially sympathetic to those who plead poverty, and I admire them for their candor, especially at a place like FUUSA, where the majority of congregants are comfortably well-heeled. It’s the ones who are loaded who bug me—people whom I’ve known for years, who can afford to jet around the world to exotic vacation spots yet never consider supporting a struggling local author.

I first self-published Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders a decade ago, and Eldercide a couple of years later. My vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal, came out last year. This year I reissued my first two in new editions, so the three books make a nice matched set. Over the years, quite a few FUUSAns have bought my books, but the vast majority haven’t. On Sunday I asked a friend if she’d ever bought any of my books, and she admitted she hadn’t. “I never read novels,” she said. Fair enough, so I suggested if she might consider buying any as presents for friends or family who might feel differently. She gave a noncommittal shrug and turned away.

Yesterday some friends from my Nia class at the YMCA met at Panera’s for lunch. I was ranting rather profanely to Richele Corbo, our wonderful instructor, about my marketing problems. She’s not fond of marketing either, but she’s more objective about it. She’s passionate about Nia, which combines nine forms of dance, martial arts and body work, and she talks it up to people who might be interested, but many refuse. Some feel it’s too strenuous, others that it’s not strenuous enough, or too esoteric. One woman told her “Sorry, but it’s a little too ‘kumbaya’ for me.” She doesn’t take the rejections personally, accepting that Nia’s just not for everybody, and she encouraged me to adopt the same attitude.

But Richele didn’t invent Nia,* so it’s easier for her to be objective. My novels, on the other hand, are deeply personal, and although they’re not autobiographical, the first two draw on life experiences that affected me profoundly, so it’s hard not to feel the pain of rejection. I used to feel the same about my paintings, but I’m no longer so personally invested in them, since they’re now a part of my past.

On Sunday I brought two small oils—one a vase of tulips, the other a view of Lake George—to fill out my table display.** I didn’t expect to sell them, since they’re priced at over $300, but lots of people admired them. Strangely, many said they hadn’t realized I was a painter, even though I’ve shown those paintings at FUUSA in a solo show and a couple of group exhibitions. Apparently they had never bothered to look at the walls.

But enough kvetching. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably in agreement with those who tell me to “get over it.” But I’ve got a lot more to say in future posts—including thoughts about a local reporter who was writing up until his death at 84, and about what L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had to say about the importance of admiration.

Please share this post, subscribe, and leave comments so I’ll know you’re out there. Even more importantly, please buy my books! You can’t possibly be finished with Christmas shopping yet. You can order them from Amazon, or I can inscribe them personally and mail or deliver them to you in time for the holidays. To discuss these options, contact me at julielomoe@gmail.com.

julie-at-wpa-swat-truck-aug-16

*To learn more about Nia, visit www.nianow.com. Here you can also find a registry of Nia teachers in your area, including Richele.

**The colors in my oil paintings are much more vibrant than they appear in this photo. I also did the illustrations for the original covers of Mood Swing and Eldercide, which are visible behind the new editions with their wonderful covers by Kim Killion. I still have a few copies of the original editions, although they’re no longer available on line. My stylistic influences include Munch, Van Gogh, the Fauves and the German Expressionists.

Marketing Tips from Larry Thacker

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.

 

In praise of book clubs that actually buy books

Chihuly florabunda rose

Chihuly florabunda rose

I’ve still got a residual glow from my Sunday visit to a book club meeting at Lake George. The women of the Illiterati bought lots of my books – both Mood Swing and Eldercide – and now I’m trying to figure out how to find more groups like them. I’d been feeling increasingly jaded about in-person appearances, and I was terrified on the way up to Camp Wiawaka. Not because of my impending talk, but because I was running late as usual and took a gamble with the gas tank. By the time I was nearing my exit on the Northway, the lone remaining bar on the fuel gauge was blinking ominously, and I glided into the camp’s driveway on little more than fumes. The suspense was worth it, though, because these ladies rekindled my enthusiasm for face-to-face talks and signings.

I was invited by Ruth Van Brocklen, whom I’d come to know through our participation in the Mental Health Players, an improvisatory theater group that performs before a wide variety of community groups in an effort to raise consciousness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Ruth bought both my books when they came out, and she’s a high-energy woman of contagious enthusiasm, so I imagine she had little difficulty persuading the others to choose me as featured author at their annual get-away. I only wish I knew more readers like her.

These women actually expressed a sense of responsibility about buying my books. Since I’d driven 65 miles from home and wasn’t being paid for my time, that was the least they could do, several of them said. That’s the first time I’ve heard this sentiment. I’ve done quite a few readings and signings over the past two years, primarily with the Mavens of Mayhem, the upstate New York chapter of Sisters in Crime, at Capital District libraries and independent bookstores. By and large, sales have been disappointing. Often readers have told me that they’d love to buy my books, but that they’re on tight budgets and they simply can’t afford it. They tell me they’ll get them from the library instead, which would be okay, except that I’ve been remiss about getting my books into the various branches of the region’s library system.

Blaze of Glory climbing rose

Blaze of Glory climbing rose

Maybe it was flying solo that did the trick. I had a whole hour to talk about my books, read excerpts and field questions. The fact that we were all sipping wine in a beautiful lakeside setting didn’t hurt either. With panels of four or five authors, in contrast, usually none of us has sold more than a couple of books. At least one author has theorized that when a group of writers speak, readers feel guilty about buying from just one or two of us, so they end up buying nothing at all. A few months ago, five Mavens spoke at a small bookstore. We outnumbered the audience, and not one of us sold a single book. On top of that, the store’s owner told us afterwards that she couldn’t carry any of our books, not even on consignment, because she didn’t have the space. Just being there to spread the word and build our reputations should have been more than enough, she said. I feel the bile rise in my stomach even as I write, and it’s not just the black coffee I’ve been sipping all day.

But after my experience with the Illiterati, I’ll probably seek out more talks and signings. I love hearing the laughter, the praise for the quality of my writing, and I love signing my books, stuffing cash and checks into my handbag after my talk. When I tallied up the returns after the rainy drive home, it occurred to me that my writing might actually contribute in a meaningful way to my family’s standard of living. What a novel idea! Next time, though, I’ll leave ample time to gas up before I go. After the signing, I managed to get safely back to the sole gas station on Lake George’s main drag, but that kind of brinksmanship and the resulting high anxiety can’t be good for my cardiovascular system.  

What are your experiences with book signings? Which venues work best? Where have you found the audiences most likely to buy? What about group vs. individual signings? Are signings worth the time and aggravation? And the most pressing question of all: how do you find those book groups?

Win a free copy of Eldercide! Read this post on marketing to find out how.

Eldercide (2008)“Kathy and I spent almost all day Sat. sitting around chatting, since we didn’t sell one book at the fair!  There were quite a few booths but most of it was junk.  I did, however, make contact with two possible sources for talks; one for our chapter and another for the historical society for me . . . By three we decided to call it quits, went to get a take-out bar-b-q chicken dinner and left.  It was going to rain anyhow . . . I’m due to go to Schenectady this Sat., for half a day this time. So much for the country fairs, anyway.” 

Ring a bell with anyone? A writer friend sent me this e-mail yesterday, bringing me up to date on her latest marketing effort. I’ve changed identifying names and details to protect her identity, although if she reads this post, she’s welcome to weigh in with her real name. She’d previously sent out word of this great sales opportunity to fellow members of our Sisters in Crime chapter, but she only got one taker. They paid for the table, of course, and the event was far out in the country, so the gas mileage must have been significant. I hope the BBQ chicken made it all worthwhile.

My friend’s an incurable optimist, and she’s coming back for more. Me, I’m not into masochism, so more and more, I find myself passing on these events. I’ve written before about how depressing I find sitting at a table, trying to be sparkling and scintillating in hopes people will buy my books, and coming away with one or two sales. Reading other writers’ blogs, I’ve found many feel the same way. Yet there are those, like my two friends from the fair, who genuinely enjoy these meet & greet events. For the most part, they’re the very ones who avoid schmoozing online and think developing an Internet presence isn’t worth the effort.

I’m sure there are plenty of academics out there studying the personality

Edward Munch

Edward Munch

differences between those who prefer online networking and those who like getting up close and personal at live events. I’m definitely an introvert – probably that’s why I’m an artist and writer – and I suspect most writers are the same way. I like a good party every so often; that’s why I just signed up for a BBQ and potluck in Thatcher Park with the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. But as Brad Paisley sang in one of his many #1 country hits, “I’m so much cooler online.”

Which approach generates more success in terms of sales? I know where I’m putting my energies. Last night I had a dream that confirms my strategy: one of my Blog Book Tours colleagues was celebrating because he/she had just signed a multimillion-dollar book contract with the potential for Hollywood options. I was simultaneously jealous and excited, and I was thinking, “I’ve got to do more of what (he/she) is doing!”

Who was it? I’ll leave it up to you to guess. First one with the correct answer wins a free copy of Eldercide. But there’s a catch: you’ll have to write a glowing review that I can post online.

This fall I’ll be reissuing Eldercide with a new cover illustration and a new title, Evening Falls Early. So perhaps someday this first edition will become a collector’s item.

Contest rules: First person to identify the blogger in my dream is the winner. However, I won’t announce the results until  this Friday, July 17th. This way you’ll have more time to weigh in on which bloggers you think are most likely to succeed and why. I’ll discuss the results in a future post. By “Blog Book Tour colleagues,” I mean all participants in Blog Book Tours, not one particular class. Good luck – I look forward to hearing from you!

What do librarians really want?

 How do librarians decide which books to buy? How much can authors influence their decisions? My local Sisters in Crime chapter learned the answers to these questions and more at yesterday’s meeting with Eileen Williams, reference and outreach librarian for the Guilderland Public Library.

I confess I’ve tended to take libraries for granted, and what goes on behind the scenes has remained uncharted territory for me, but I came away much better informed. Eileen spoke primarily of her own library and the others in the Upper Hudson Library System, but her comments probably apply to others. In deciding what books to buy, they rely primarily on four major sources: Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Book List. Books by bestselling authors like Danielle Steele are ordered automatically and in multiple copies through a service called Automatically Yours. Newspaper reviews are important too, especially those in our local papers – which unfortunately review pathetically few books these days.

So what’s a little-known local author to do? Fortunately, there’s hope. She and her colleagues are receptive to personal phone calls and drop-in visits. She’s less fond of e-mails, and frequently deletes them unread. The library’s definitely interested in local authors, but they’re more apt to purchase books for which they receive a lot of reader requests. So get your friends to come in, talk up your work and fill out purchase requests. They’ll order from Amazon. It’s okay to donate your own books, but with the understanding that they may be donated to book sales if they don’t meet the library’s standards.

I asked if she’s noticed a decline in readership due to online technology and other distractions. On the contrary, she says – circulation is definitely up. She attributes this in part to the economy (fewer buyers, more borrowers) and to the growing number of retirees, who have more time to read.

This particular library offers a lot of community programming, including several book clubs, one of them targeted to mystery readers. She was intrigued by our group, which she hadn’t known about before, and we’ll probably be on their calendar for a program in the near future.

I’d welcome your comments. Any experiences or advice to share about building good collegial relationships with your local libraries?