Authors, Schmooze or You Lose
Guest Post by Irene Watson
Too many beginning authors focus on writing the book without giving any thought to how they will market it when it’s done. Then when the time comes, they soon give up because they are “not good at marketing.” Most of the time, I think these authors mean they are introverts and afraid to be in the public eye, but marketing is really not that difficult if you grow your network one person at a time.
Few things frustrate me more than authors who give up on their dreams. They’ve always wanted to be an author, and they’ve finally written a book. They’ve done everything right from doing research to having the book professionally edited and having a beautiful cover designed. They’ve even built a website and had the book listed at online bookstores. But then the trouble starts.
All these activities they’ve already done can be done from the comfort of their homes. That’s part of the problem. Up to this point, these authors haven’t had to go out into the public eye or even had to pick up the phone to talk to people.
When you meet these authors and ask them how their book sales are going, they will tell you, “Slow, but I’m not good at marketing.” And they will have a resigned air about them, sadly accepting failure. At times, I have suggested to such authors to join a publisher or writer’s organization so they can learn how to market their books, to which these authors have told me, “I don’t go to conferences. Those are just social gatherings.” Obviously, they feel more comfortable staying home, not meeting anyone, and not selling books. “I don’t want to schmooze,” they will say. Sorry, authors, I hate to tell you this, but here goes: If you don’t schmooze, you lose.
Do these authors really, truly want to stay home in their shells and be failures at bookselling? I doubt it. But they are afraid of trying. After all, “schmoozing” sounds scary. And I understand that. I know that trying to promote yourself or your book can be really difficult when you are introverted and you feel a stigma attached to promoting yourself. To face the publishing world, the bookstores, and all those potential readers can be daunting, but guess what? It can also be exciting and energizing. And it can be done one step and one person at a time.
Here are a few simple ways to market your book by networking (making friends) with other authors who will slowly help you to step outside of your comfort zone.
Join a Toastmasters Group: Toastmasters is an organization where you learn how to become a public speaker. It requires participation, of course, but the assignments are fairly easy, and you only have to give speeches as frequently as you feel comfortable doing, and the speeches are usually only five to seven minutes long. You can get to know the other members before you start to give speeches by participating in shorter and easier activities. And then, surely, you can stand and talk in front of a few people you’ve gotten to know for five minutes. If public speaking makes you nervous, Toastmasters can be your first avenue to overcoming shyness and promoting your book. I know it still sounds scary, but would you rather sell your books or spend the rest of your life feeling scared while your books collect dust?
Attend Writing Groups: Even after you’ve gone to Toastmasters, perhaps you’re not ready yet to go to a national conference or even a local conference. It’s easy to feel like a number at these events. But maybe there are writing groups in your area, places where just a few writers, maybe only two or three, get together and share their work and discuss their books. Join one of these groups and meet a few fellow writers. These people can become your friends and supporters, and soon you will become comfortable talking to them about your writing.
Offer Help and Ask for It in Return: You don’t need an ad in “The New York Times” or even for your book to be placed in the front window of the local bookstore to sell books. Now that you’ve started to meet other authors and writers and you’ve started to feel comfortable with them, offer to help them. By helping them, you’ll be helping yourself. I’ve heard authors complain about going to writing conferences because no one there bought their book—of course not! All those authors are just like you; they are there to sell their books, not to buy yours. But you can help those authors and they can help you. Befriend them and then trade books with them, but with the understanding that you will read their books and post book reviews online for them and they will do the same for you. If you or they have blogs, that’s another great way to feature each other’s books and promote them to a new audience.
Enter the Public Eye: Now that you’ve made some fellow author friends, it’s time to enter the public eye. No, not by yourself. That’s why you’ve made friends. Start small. Go to a craft show with an author friend and sit in the booth together to sell your books so you don’t have to be alone and feel like you’re on display. If you’re not comfortable talking to prospective buyers about your book, tell them about your friend’s book and ask him or her to do the same for you.
Next, branch out. Have a book signing at a local bookstore or gift shop and dare to advertise it so people come. Don’t do it alone. Invite your author friends. If you can get a program together with three or four of you, then you each will attract a few people—at least friends or family—and you’ll become comfortable talking to people who are all supportive. Better yet, your friends’ supporters might just buy your book and your supporters can buy your friends’ books, thereby helping to spread the word, the wealth, and the fame.
Now finally, plan a public reading. And don’t just read from your book, but give a little talk about writing the book as well. Again, do it with your author friends. Plan for each of you to talk or read for fifteen or twenty minutes—that’s not so long in the limelight that you can’t do it. Make it a party—buy appetizers and punch—you’ll split the costs so it won’t be that expensive and it will be more fun if you all do it together. Don’t forget to advertise the event and invite everyone you know. Be sure as people arrive to greet them, introduce yourself, and be friendly; then they will feel more inclined to buy your book. If you attract any other authors or wannabe authors to your event, befriend them and organize future events with them. And no matter how it goes or how many people end up coming, celebrate that you’ve done it. You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and become a public author!
Networking for authors is all about making contacts—making friends with other authors—and in time that will spread to finding readers, getting to know people who own bookstores or are in the media, and a host of other supporters of authors who can, ultimately, not only help you to get the word out about your book, but also help you to have a good time while you do it.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.