Thursday, May 3, 2012

The art of sales for writers

Before you begin selling make sure you have researched the market and your audience thoroughly. Understand what appeals to them and why. Figure out what other writers, publishers and agents have done to promote similar books and whether the techniques they used worked for them. If you are dealing with specific people or groups research them and find out what would be the best way to approach them.

Preparing to sell is much like preparing for a job interview, arduous and painful but well worth it in the end if only for the sake of not embarrassing yourself and alienating others.

That old thing... Do we have to, again? Yes.

People skills
Many people find socialising easy. It comes naturally to them and so they don’t bother fretting about half the things an anti-social person would. But others find it difficult but if they wish to personally sell their work they will have to learn and overcome their nervousness.

Remember that if you are selling your book personally, whether face-to-face or via the Internet, then you and your behaviour are the face and personality of your work.

If you are truly, and you believe irredeemably anti-social, there are many courses available that can help you develop your people skills and cover many aspects such as questioning and listening skills, giving and receiving criticism and praise and using assertive behaviour.

But if you are anti-social by preference rather than necessity (you will understand me if you are anti-social by necessity) then take the time to gradually build your network of peers, ease into conversations with strangers and realise than not everyone is out to get you from the get go.

Above all, remember that politeness is absolutely essential as is the ability to take the answer “no”. You’ve probably all experienced pushy sales people and have likely wished they’d just go the f away or drop off a cliff. Just remember that if you are promoting your own work then you are a salesperson and if you’re too pushy and objectionable then the person or people you’re trying to sell to will think a lot of mean and violent thoughts about you, not recommend you to their friends and family and give you that “no” answer.

Developing people skills is often difficult for the anti-social but try anyway.

First impressions really count
If you are having your first book club meeting, press conference, book signing, radio show, interview, Internet chat or anything else then remember that first impressions are really important.

The majority of people make their first impression within 15 seconds of meeting you and as you know from judging covers, that impression can make or break a sale. Dress respectably (semi-formal to formal), act politely, show your personality but not in an aggressive manner, directly acknowledge those seeking your attention in a friendly manner and if the ice hasn’t broken by then show some of your likable inner drive and enthusiasm for either books or writing (without over expounding on how great your own work is so it should be bought – no one likes an egoist for their ego).

You never would have thought...

Starting a relationship
Once you've successfully made the first contact you need to build on the relationship you have with your customers, promoters and enthusiasts. They may all be strangers to you now but soon you’ll find many of them talking to you on a regular basis, if you allow it. And it is advisable that you do talk, listen and understand their needs even if you can still be labelled somewhat reclusive. Responding promptly or regularly, making appearances, recognising and valuing feedback and the nature of those who are fans is essential to maintaining the good accord you established during your first meeting. None of this has to be pushed or forced on your part, in fact the more naturally friendly you are the better.

Yes, there may be the occasionally over-zealous fan or odd question you can’t answer, there may come a time when there’s too much to respond to and so you’ll have to pick and choose but there are ways of dealing with such situations. Formatting the meeting, limiting the number of questions asked by assigning a time slot, finishing time or a number can all work but make sure the instructions are worded as an opportunity not as a warning.

Why you want to build a relationship with so many people is because they are the ones helping make that living you are after. Without them your work would just gather dust, be forgotten and then be mulched. Also, once you've developed a friendly relationship, shown that you understand and have earned their trust you are on the right track to making them a regular customer. In other words, loyal fans nearly always buy the next book you write.

There is more to it than just what's on the Internet but this should help you get started. Oh, and don't forget that last bit - treat yourself.

Relationship building and maintenance
To build on the relationship you have with your fans and supporters it is important to maintain regular contact through meetings, appearances and the Internet. If you don't have any presence at all then your fans and supporters will dwindle away either because they are moving on to read other books and find more exciting interactions or they have become embittered by your lack of response, supposed arrogance and aloofness and your inability to show you valued them.

Make sure your direct supporters know that they can contact you on your email, work number and mobile while your fans can contact you at meetings or through an Internet site or social page. If every one of the people you’ve built a relationship with, no matter how close of distant, believes they can reach out to you if they wanted then you would remain in their thoughts and esteem.

As the anti-social amongst you know all too well, silence can be read many different negative ways and only one of them is likely to be correct.

It takes many working as a team.

Listening to your fans and supporters
Your fans and supporters might mention a problem that they are currently experiencing either in relation to your work, with the content of your work, how your work is being promoted or anything else. Don’t just ignore their words or think they have no right to say such things because they do. What they don’t have a right to is changing your actions for you. It is up to you to listen and change, if you want, on your own.

If you can solve whatever the problem is then don't be afraid to give them your advice, provide the solution or make the necessary change. If you want to. If you don’t then all the consequences, good and bad, are for you to deal with. No everything will be a crisis but listening and changing little things along the way will help a great deal with your lack of change when a crisis hits. People will be more likely to listen to why you are against changing if they believe you don’t take such a stance just because.

Even if no one asks for your help, if you see a problem then work to fix it. Be confident and helpful.

The hungry hordes must be fed.

Sell the benefits
Sell the benefits of your work aren’t just in the sales. Remember that your book is providing entertainment or information to your fans and supporters. The benefits of reading your work, new and old, are in the content for all your fans. There is no benefit for them in simply buying your work and not reading it so sell the content. Appeal by writing great content (I don’t mean content writing I mean what’s between the covers – not sheets either) and promoting your strong characters or message.

Readers have their own worlds. Provide them a world.

Don't rush the sale
Never let a potential fan or an ardent fan feel like they are being rushed or pressured into a sale. This can make or break a relationship, as mentioned with regards to the pushy salesman. Slow down and tease people into being interested in your work. Don’t shove it in their faces. The most sales will be gained by getting a message of presence out there so that they’re aware of your work existing but having that message free of any demands or expectations of your audience acting to buy. Everyone likes to feel like their free will is respected so respect their choice to buy or not to buy. There is no question here.

Do! It! Or else.

Remember a promise is a promise
If you promise to do anything, whether it is a favour relating to your book or an appearance at a fan meeting, then make sure you keep that promise. Broken promises without an “I’m on my deathbed” notice will not be regarded with sympathy. You will loose fans and supporters by behaving badly and disrespectfully. So no matter how much you don’t want to put your game face on and get out there.

If there is a deadline with your supporters, be it the publisher or your agent or editor, make sure to provide whatever is needed at least a day before. This isn’t a case where a teacher can grudgingly sign off a late essay. This is a business relationship and you must always remember that whomever you’re working for is also working for someone else and needs to keep up a reputation of his or her own. Your lateness is their lateness and a risk to their livelihood so they will hate you for it.

If you're forced by unforeseen and irreversible circumstances to extend the deadline then contact whoever needed straight away and let them know. That way they can pass on the deadline change to their superiors in time and escape the falling guillotine. Your notice shows consideration and consideration goes a long way towards maintaining good relationships.

Pinky swears can't be broken.

You're the expert
Never forget that you're the expert of your work. Make sure your fans and supporters know that they can turn to you for answers with regards to content, direction, changes, problems and promotions.

Even if you aren’t managing the sales personally be aware and conscious of what is needed by your sales manager and support the sales however you can without stepping on toes. Smile when ordered because they won’t order lightly. You and your work are the focus of attention. So make it work for you even if you feel like you’re a puppet on a string.

By this point you understand the industry your in and have the knowledge to provide advice and share good practice with either your peers or those who wish to become writers. Share and support, don’t hog, as this way you will gain a reputation for caring and being approachable.

No comments:

Post a Comment