Contacts, Acquaintances, and Friends in the Biz

I've been writing about promotion, and like any type of sales, it gets interesting at times deciding who is a friend and who is a potential customer. I once worked in a candy shop where the owner was so focused on sales that if you stopped to tell her the building was on fire she'd have responded, "Would you like to buy some of the best, freshest candy in town to give to the nice firemen who'll be here any second?"

As you've deduced if you've been reading these posts, that isn't me. You won't get a sales pitch unless you ask. Here's how I view potential customers and business contacts.

People I know already are made aware that I've written a book. They may ask for a copy, and of course I have one in the car, but they'll never be put in a position where they feel they have to buy a book.

People who attend my presentations--book talks, workshops, etc.--get a brief overview of the book at the outset. I refer to it sometimes within the talk as an example. The book is available for sale afterward, and of course I sign them. Every attendee gets a bookmark so they can find the book later if they decide to. It's a great reminder. I also ask these people for email addresses so I can let them know when a second book is available.

People in the business get the whole enchilada. I have sell sheets, bookmarks, business cards, and a lovely colored flyer that four Five Star authors put together as a joint selling effort. Bookstore owners and librarians get an assortment of those in a nice folder with my name and book cover on the front. I do these myself with basic scrapbooking tools, and they are often commented upon as looking attractive and professional. As I said earlier, I like to deliver it personally when possible. When I work with these people I try to be professional and friendly, making them aware that I realize their value in the book business. I would never leave a library or bookstore employee hoping she never has to see me again. I always buy at least one book at a bookstore, and I send a handwritten thank you card by real mail within a couple of days. I'm not just selling MACBETH'S NIECE; I'm selling future dates with other books as well.

Friends in the business: other writers, reviewers, and people associated with publishing, are a bit more difficult. You want them to know what you've done so they can tell others, but we're all in the business, so it's a matter of exchanging information more than selling a product. Doing favors is a good way to get people on your side, but I won't write a review or recommend a book that I don't feel strongly about. I can't expect anyone else to, either. What I can do is keep in touch, rejoicing with other authors' successes so they feel like rejoicing at mine. If this sounds calculating, it isn't. We all know what we're doing, and writers are great about helping each other out.

Another group to consider is those people you'll never meet: the people online. They are a huge audience. They surf the web daily looking for interesting stuff, and sometimes, they find me. I've sold books to complete strangers who liked the subject matter, the cover, or my website. Some even connected through this blog. Not a bad idea, then, to keep my "web presence" friendly, fresh and interesting. They can easily move on to some other site if I'm too pushy, so I try to keep my content worthwhile.

The key is treating people as people, not as potential sales. Because I enjoy the exchange of conversation and hearing people's view and experiences, I don't look for potential customers. As I look for interesting people, I find that the customers come naturally.

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