Here is the fourth great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! I found it great that Kevin took the time to write about this topic. It kind of seems like common sense, but you would be surprised at some of the things people do and say when promoting their products or books. Kevin speaks to the little voice that creeps inside our heads from time to time, but gives you thoughts to ponder.
I also have a tip about media interviews; I found this out when I was being interviewed for my TV show. It is shocking how many people actually cancel their interviews which sends the show’s producers scrambling to find a new person for the host to interview. You be the one to step in and help out. Call your media stations, especially your local ones and let them know what you are up to (remember the first post in this series and stay tuned for the sixth installment for support with this)
Tell the producer: “Do you ever have cancellations? Well, if you ever need to book a show at the last minute, call me. I’d be happy to help you out in a pinch.” This gives you professionalism and shows them that you’re on their side. I got a client booked on a talk show with this method after the producer said their fall lineup was full! My client was on TV 2 days later.
All the best,
Book Promotion: Part IV: It’s all About Good Manners
Thus far in our series, we’ve focused on how to describe your book, how to enlist friends and allies, and how to get your life in proper order before the promotion process begins. Since these are all pre-publication assignments, you may be thinking (or likely, screaming), “Are we at the actual promoting part yet? Hurry the hell up!”
We’re almost there. Today’s segment is all about good manners, and why following some basic rules our parents taught us in grade school can float or sink a book’s promotional efforts. If up until now we’ve been talking getting you and your environment ready for the day your book comes out, today we’re going to focus on the attitude you want to have when that day comes. And made no mistake: without the right attitude, your promotional efforts will resemble a sluggish, ill-fitting drag, like wearing someone else’s pajamas. And would you sleep well in someone else’s pajamas?
The right attitude to have when promoting your book is polite, humble, thoughtful, and grateful. Which may sound exactly the opposite of adjectives we usually attach to “promotion.” Promotion is all about ego, aggrandizement, and yelling “pay attention to me,” right? It is if the product is aftershave and the year is 1961. For you and your book, promoting well is a tricky balancing act of selling while appearing thankful for the opportunity to do so.
It sounds harder than it is. With few exceptions, successful book promotion is built on the basics of etiquette that we learned as children, rules like, “say please and thank you,” “listen,” “don’t complain,” and “treat others as you would like to be treated.” Applying these to the least comfortable aspects of book promotion puts you, the author, in the right frame of mind to be a successful—if reluctant—book promoter instead of a reluctant and resentful one.
“I hate the whole idea of promotion.”
I understand. Most authors do not write books so they can haul themselves across the country talking about them. Writing is an introverted, solitary activity, and promoting one’s writing is an extroverted, exhibitive activity. Authors are usually uncomfortable with the activities surrounding book promotion and therefore make one of two mistakes:
- Viewing promotion as prostitution, which leads the author to act stiff and socially awkward, all in the name of not dirtying their hands.
- Grabbing onto the traditional definition of “promotion” too strongly and selling their book like a car salesman hocks a used Cadillac.
Both are incorrect and miss the point. Most authors will never be comfortable with the idea of “selling” their book, no matter how necessary they realize it is. So when they come to me, pain in their eyes, and say, “Kevin, does that mean my book is doomed?” I tell them to look at promotion in a different way.
Promoting a book is saying thank you to your present and future readers.
Readers like to meet authors (or musicians, painters, or any artist they admire) to peek into the DNA of their creations. Your reader has taken considerable time out from not only other books but from their lives in order to read yours. When you give a reading, appear at an event, or talk to the media, you are giving them privileged access not only to it but to you. It’s like the chef inviting his best customer into the kitchen. You are thanking them for their support.
“I’m tired, I’m stressed, etc.”
Book promotion is hard work; hard work that often must fit in around jobs, family, and other responsibilities. In the last segment we discussed freeing up as much space as possible but, try as we might, time to promote one’s book often comes out of time we’d normally spend on ourselves—eating right, exercising, relaxing, and getting a good night’s sleep. The result, naturally, is that come the tenth event, twentieth interview or hundredth email telling someone about your book, you’re sick of it. You’re tired, crabby, want it to end and are ready to vent to someone.
That “someone” cannot be your readers. Few things are more off-putting for a reader than hearing the author complain about what a burden doing book promotion is. It not only embarrasses the reader (“Is my being here such a nuisance?”), but it also seems ungrateful. Many readers are aspiring authors themselves, and promoting a book means having a book to promote. Complaining about something your readers dream about seems ungrateful and bratty. Ungrateful brattiness does not sell books.
You are not made of steel, I know. Before your book comes out, compile a list of three close friends and ask them nicely if, when promoting is at its hardest, you may call them and vent. If they are good friends, they’ll say yes. Keep your complaints to them.
“Doing this interview/event/blog post/random task is a waste of my time.”
If your book is the next Eat Pray Love, and you’re due on The Today Show on Friday, it probably is. More likely, it can feel this way when a blog with sixteen readers wants you to guest post or a radio station in Nowheresville wants you to do a phone-in interview at 5:30 AM.
But most likely it is not. The overwhelming majority of authors are responsible for their own book promotion, and every little bit helps. And a blog/radio show with sixteen fans may be exactly the right sixteen fans to take interest in your book.
Before trapping yourself in the negative spiral of “How much good is this doing?” do this:
- Be grateful someone is asking. It is much worse if no one is interested.
- Weigh how much time it will take against the probable result. Ten minutes on the phone with that Nowheresville radio station is still only ten minutes. But if that sixteen reader blog wants you to write a 5,000-word essay, decline gently and offer to do something smaller you can finish quickly.
- When finished, thank them for their interest. If you had a particularly wonderful experience, take five minutes and write a thank-you note by hand. Old fashioned, but impresses every time.
I’m not spending any time writing my next book.”
I’m sorry, but you probably won’t. This is the sad reality of book promotion. Do it right and it takes up most of your available time even for writing. Looked at practically…
- The more opportunities that come, the better indication of interest in your book.
- Without your efforts, you are assuring your book will not do as well, thereby making the issue of your next book, at the very least, complicated, and at the most, irrelevant.
Make peace with this. There is no other way. Or carve out a bit of time to begin your next project. Either way, complaining about it is like yelling at the tide. Out loud, it’s a turn-off to readers who don’t even have a “next book” to complain about.
“My aim is to sell more books. Is any of this working?”
The eternal cry of each of us authors. All this time and effort and money, and for what?
No one knows what will work when promoting a book. We do know this, though:
- More promotion is always better than less.
- Thoughtful, well-executed promotion is always better than sloppy, throwing-spaghetti promotion.
- All else being equal, authors who are polite, kind, and grateful for the opportunity to share their book with its readers will do better than those who are rude, entitled, or resentful of having to promote.
Your aim is to sell books. No one wants to buy what a jackass is selling. Perhaps once every three years a book is so unstoppable in the marketplace that its creator may be standoffish, highhanded, a real jerk and it won’t matter. Most likely this will not be your book.
My research tells me that an author’s lousy attitude will have a direct, negative bearing on book sales in the following ways…
- Their publisher will be reluctant to put them and their lousy attitude in front of the media and readers.
- Booksellers and librarians won’t recommend their book to customers, because why extend goodwill to a not-nice author when their store is filled with good books by nice authors?
- Members of the media find excuses to set aside coverage because there are plenty of deserving books with nice authors.
- Word spreads amongst readers that X author is a heel and, all else being equal, why buy a heel’s book when there’s plenty to read by authors without a crappy reputation?
Manners get a lousy rap these days. As a culture, we’re too quick to judge them as fussy trivialities from an older time when using the right fork meant more than who had the right to vote. In our current time of global competition, between long commutes and being glued to our Blackberries, who can risk the wasted time of please and thank yous? Doesn’t putting another’s needs before yours make you less of a nice person than a chump?
Someone else can have that cock fight. For my money, I wish to support my fellow authors who believe discussing our books with readers is an honor, not a burden. You are working in service of your book, of your artistry and the years of time spent on it. You are speaking well on its behalf. And if you don’t, who will?
BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.
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