Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Personal Touch

by Jaden Terrell

I recently read a blog post by Jane Friedman. It's about ways to immediately improve your your book marketing efforts. If you're a published or aspiring writer and you're not familiar with Jane's blog, you should check her out. I don't think you'll be sorry you did--unless you spend the whole day reading the archives and forget to do the laundry or write that looming chapter of your next opus.

The premise of the article is that it's personal connections that help drive book sales. How many of us click on those ads that pop up on the Facebook sidebar? Not so many. But how many of us have bought books from authors we've met at conferences, on newslists, or on social media sites? More, I suspect. And how many have bought books from authors we've become friends with, either online or off? Does that number get higher still?

I'm not saying (and neither is Jane) that we should cultivate "friendships" for the sake of selling books. That's just...skeazy. I'm just saying that maybe the best thing we can do for our book sales is not shouting through bullhorns or slipping copies into the shopping carts (or pocketbooks) of strangers, but rather by being genuinely interested in people and cultivating real, meaningful relationships. Some of the people we get to know will be interested in what we write, and others won't, but if we've made a real friend or managed to help someone else, we come out winners anyway.

This blog sort of proves the point. Leighton and Mark take us vicariously on their travels. Ben keeps us up-to-date on weapons for our sleuths. Bill brightens our days with his humor. Jean shares her delightful interviews. Carola gives us a charming look at life in Cornwall and shares photos of her remarkable garden. And on, and on, and on. Thank you all for your generosity.

Reading Jane's article was a tremendous relief to me, because I'm a terrible sales person. I mean, terrible. When I was in college, I had two extremely short-lived sales jobs. One was selling Avon and the other was selling encyclopedias. They were great encyclopedias too, some of the most beautiful books I'd ever seen, with stunning color photographs and full-color transparencies. I would have bought a set myself if I could have afforded one. I get chills just thinking about them. Can you tell I really, really loved those encyclopedias?

Guess how many I sold. Not one. In both cases (Avon and encyclopedias), I had no trouble knocking on people's doors. I had some delightful conversations, some of which lasted for hours. Everyone admired the books. Everyone took a copy of the Avon catalog. I never sold so much as a single lipstick. So you can see why the marketing aspect of this writing business sometimes makes me break out in metaphorical hives.

But making connections with people I like and trying to promote fellow authors whose work I admire . . . that I can do.

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