The author reader connection, how do we create it? How do we create any sort of good connection between people? Allow me to teach you what my father taught me.
I am the daughter of a newspaperman. Ink is in my blood.
My father worked all his life for the Springfield News and Sun in Springfield, Ohio selling advertising. I grew up watching him create ads on his drafting board, watching him deliver proofs. Every Saturday he took me with him on his rounds. Sometimes late at night he would take me down to the paper to watch the presses run. Ink is in my blood. From the letters of the typesetter, to the large round rolls of paper, to the production line of folding and inserting the Sunday inserts, all this went into the raising of this author. Even now I can close my eyes to see and hear and catch the scent of the newspaper being produced, being born. The stories of our lives went into that paper and the advertisements were what made that possible. Ads could also tell a story. That of businesses opening, businesses being passed down in a family, or businesses closing.
If you are an author, you don’t have to look far on the internet to find blogs, articles and books written about marketing your book, PR for authors, what to do to gain readers. It would be easy to spend enormous amounts of time and money chasing this subject. The goal of all this is to get those sales numbers up and sell more books. Authors need their books to sell if they are to make a living as authors, not dishwashers. Readers need authors to write those books so they will have new fiction to enjoy. Like the newspaper mentioned above, the selling of books is intricately tied to the writing of them and the production of them before the reader can sit back and enjoy that story in their hands.
Like it or not, whether you are a writer or a reader, there must be a way to sell books. Which means selling. There are those who are born salespeople and those who are not. Those who are may love the art of the sale. Many of us have to work harder at it.
Not long after I moved to the Memphis area I took a job selling advertising for the Collierville Herald, a weekly newspaper. Yes, I was following in my father’s footsteps though he worked for a daily newspaper and this was a weekly. I was hired to bring in all new accounts, not given a territory and I was on straight commission. Let me tell you now that was damn hard. Challenging and in many ways exciting and stimulating, but also damn hard because I am a writer, an introvert. I worked hard to bring in new clients and by the end of the year I had built my sales up to match the sales of their top salesperson. I’m still proud of that, but it took a lot out of me and I got very little writing done that year. I did learn a lot about selling and about why my dad was such a good salesperson, continually winning bonuses and top sales person awards at the paper.
Have you ever been around a salesperson who got on your nerves? I’ve been around a lot of them. There are things I didn’t like about selling, such as those business mixers where everyone is handing around business cards and you know the only reason someone is handing you their card is to sell you something while they barely glance at yours. Most of those cards are going to get tossed in the trash, sometimes before the person ever leaves the building. The room is full of salespeople hungry for a sale. I had a unique position at those events because by running an ad with me I could help them make those sales. But still there would be the sizing you up, the glance at that card and sometimes the discard. I call this discarding people and it is one of the things I dislike the most about salespeople. That I cannot sell to you therefore I discard you mentality.
That is not how my father sold advertising. He was a man who truly cared about people, as people. Not as an ends to a means, as way to make those sales. He was there to help them sell whatever they were advertising and he would have been the first to tell them if he thought something wouldn’t work and what might be better. When he retired, his advertisers liked him so much they didn’t want to lose him, nor did the paper, so he came back to work for them part time, delivering proofs. My father knew every person who worked at that newspaper, in even the smallest of jobs, and he always remembered their names. The complete opposite of the type of salesperson who would discard you mentally, to my father everyone mattered, sale or not. He was a man who was well loved by many.
It’s interesting that with all the marketing and sales “buzz words” I’ve heard in my lifetime, I am finally hearing sales is about relationships. Something my father either knew many years ago, or it was such a part of his personality he never thought about it, just did it. Finally the sales gurus out there have figured out selling is about relationships and they are starting to apply this approach to the art of selling.
I had a great example in my dad and it carries over into all areas of life, selling being just one of them. People matter. Relationships matter.
I’ve spent a few years trying this thing and that to sell my books and have come to realize the things I enjoy most are those which allow me to engage with my readers on a more personal level. Because of that, I prefer to attend smaller events, which allow me to meet and talk to readers on a more personal level. One of my greatest joys is hearing from readers and I treasure every email. I read every review on Goodreads and they make me smile. Without such things as reader emails and reviews it’s hard for an author to know what readers do and don’t like about their stories. So I am always thankful for the opportunity for feedback.
The balancing act is taking part in events, which allow me to connect with readers in person and balancing that with my writing time. I no longer try to wear more hats than that, because I am the only one who can write my books. I have a PR firm and they handle my social media, PR and marketing, which allows me more time to write.
What can you as an author do to connect with readers and to sell more books?
1.) Write the best book you can and then write another and another…..
2.) Anything which is not writing your book…. is not writing your next book.
3.) Beware the time suck, which is the Internet, and limit the time you spend there. (Set an egg timer or your phone alarm to gain control of this.) Selling should be a fraction your time because if you spend too much time selling your book you’ll get behind on writing the next one.
4.) Find someone to partner with you on selling your book. Selling is a skill set not everyone has and what works for one will not work for another. What is your publisher doing to help you sell books? If they are getting a percent of the profit, they should be doing something other than just producing it. If you are running an ad somewhere, is there a co-op program? Can you partner with other others in an ad? Build relationships within the publishing industry to help you sell your books. Try something new and if that does not work, try something else.
4.) Continually ask yourself what your readers want. What do they enjoy? How can you best serve your reader? Your bottom line should never become more important than your readers.
5.) Building a reader base takes time. Building a relationship takes time. Writing books takes time. With each book you are building your base. Make that as solid as you can.
6.) Never let making a sale become more important than the people you are trying to sell to.
Always remember that people matter. Relationships matter. Perhaps in the end, this is all that matters.
Please do leave comments. I love to hear from you.
Love and light,
This post is dedicated to my father.
Thank you John (Jack) Bishop for everything you taught me. Infinite love and gratitude. I will miss you.