Are You the One for Me?
I knew my husband was “the one” the first time I went out with him for coffee after a computer class. I’d been on a lot of coffee dates in the twelve years since my divorce, but this guy was different. He was kind, responsive, shared, listened, seemed interested in what I had to say, had no “agenda” that I could spot, and he made me feel good about myself. It was nice to know that good men still walked the earth. I was interested.
So then how could I get him to see things the same way? My friends gave me dating advice, most of it involving pursuit: “Buy tickets to a soccer game/movie/play and invite him; make him a picnic; ask him out for coffee again after your next computer class.” Another friend suggested the opposite tact: “Let him chase you. Men know how to do that.”
I scoffed. Her advice sounded old-fashioned and manipulative. “Don’t be silly,” I told her. “I have to do something, take action, not just sit there like a shrinking violet. If I don’t ask him out after class I might never see him again. It’s the last class.”
I waited anxiously through the final session, plotting out my approach — a note? a swift sprint over to his seat before anyone else got to him? Or maybe I should wait until he started walking out of the classroom and nab him in the hallway.
I was a bundle of nerves trying to decide how to make my move. Thinking back over a dozen years of similar dating challenges, I had to admit that being the pursuer in love, given my upbringing and introverted writer’s personality, hadn’t worked for me. I kept snapping up reluctants who were there only because I’d made it easy for them. I hated that feeling of being with someone who’d rather be elsewhere but was too gutless to say so. That made me sick to my stomach.
Seconds before the class was about to end, I had a sudden paradigm shift and said to myself: “If he wants me then he’ll just have to come and get me!”
I was so afraid I’d break my resolve that when the class was officially over, I bolted out of the room, dashed down the stairs, burst through the double glass doors and into the parking lot where I ran over to my car, unlocked the door, and was about to jump inside when I heard my name being called: “Sylvia!”
I froze. I stood there next to my car and waited as he jogged over, by now breathless, and said, “You’re a hard woman to catch!”
We were married for twenty-eight years until his death from lung cancer in 2013.
Find Me, Love Me, Read Me!
What does all this have to do with book marketing? A lot. Newly published authors today, whether traditionally or self-published, are competing with more books than ever in a whole new publishing environment. Sales success is no longer the publisher’s job, or the agent’s job, or the publicist’s job, or the book-store’s job — it’s the author’s job. Talk about pressure!
My own”indie” published book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press), had come out just a few months before my husband died. By the time I’d recovered enough from that blow to think about book-marketing, I was coming from behind and felt overwhelmed. I read up on book marketing and scrambled to pursue every suggestion — do a blog, give a seminar, hold a workshop, create a website — three websites! — speak, pass out flyers, brochures, and bookmarks, send out postcards, send out emails and newsletters, “do” social media, run a free writing group, create my own YouTube channel, make “Animoto” videos, write press releases, listen to webinars, buy print ads, ship my book to the Frankfurt Book Fair (for a fee, of course), even write about my new book in my college “Class Notes.”
And guess what? I wasn’t selling many books!
What helped me at last was hearing about the latest publishing industry buzz word, “discoverability.” (The term “platform” had been hot for years but was now “so yesterday.”) This new word clicked with me. It did something to my thinking, as did a 90-minute YouTube webinar/video that I’d stumbled upon when Googling for “discoverability.” (“Driving Discoverability, Engagement, and Revenue in the Publishing Industry – with Murray Izenwasser). Basically, what it was describing, without using the term “flirt” (which is mine) was “flirt” book marketing.
Just as I’d had a shift in my thinking the night I decided not to pursue my husband, but let him find me instead — and just as the Twelve Steps recovery groups talk about being “a program of attraction, not promotion” — I made a similar shift in my thinking about book marketing: Stop pursuing; start attracting.
Think “Flirty” When Book Marketing
I once asked my husband what qualities in a woman most appealed to him. He didn’t hesitate: “Warm and friendly.” Well, that can work for book marketing, too. You’ll still have to take all those marketing actions mentioned above (website, handouts, blog, videos, and all the rest of it), but now do it with a “flirty” mindset, not with the mindset of a desperate pursuer: “Gotta make that book sale!”
Apply “flirty” marketing to the following two main book marketing areas: Your Website, and You.
Don’t let your website languish and get stagnant. Reinvent it. Do a make-over. Freshen it up and invite the world to see it. Bring out the good china. Pretty it up with immersive, evocative, and emotional photos. (I once attended a seminar just because of the photograph they used to market it). Go to Morguefile.com for free pictures. Or take your own.
Make your website “a good date” — warm and friendly. Approachable. A little mysterious (“Click here to see a gift I have for you!”). Whisper those important keywords into your readers’ ears. Keep your site well-maintained — but not “high-maintenance.” Don’t make it so complex that you can’t fix it or change it by yourself and end up having to contact your web designer.
Be entertaining and charming. Have useful information and interesting things to say on your website that will make the lives of your readers easier. Know what’s going on in the book industry and share it. Be generous with content. But be careful of clutter. Avoid TMI. (There’s one site I avoid that has plenty of good content, but there’s too much of it. It’s like being in a conversation with an intelligent person who won’t stop to take a breath). Edit your copy down; have “white space” so readers can get a breather.
Let your website tell potential book-buyers who you really are. If you have a sense of humor, or creative new ideas, or if you have a quirky take on things, show it off — perhaps in your blog. Your blog should be on your website so that whenever you put up a new post (Oh, I am so guilty of not doing this often enough!), the snoopy search engines will be alerted to a new moving part on your site and will zero in to check it out. To make it easier for people on your email list to read your blog, send them an email: “Hi, here’s my new blog about ___________. Click on this link.” The link takes them right to your latest blog post. (Also make it easy for them to unsubscribe! Don’t be a stalker.)
Always give your readers and potential book-buyers a reason to come back to visit you to see what else you’ve got to say. Ditto the media: Have a great online media kit and be easy to contact.
Author, show yourself! Don’t be a shrinking violent. Get out from behind your computer and strut your stuff. You are important. You are the star of this whole show. Without you, there would be no book to market. Besides, many articles and studies have shown that readers really want to know more about authors. Why do you think Amazon gives you a special Author’s page when you have a book for sale on their site? They know it helps to sell books. And don’t just stick words on your Author page. Have a bunch of photos, including smiley ones (“warm and friendly,” remember?).
Beg friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers, to write a customer review of your book and put it up on your book page on Amazon and other online booksellers, such as BarnesandNoble.com. Aim for 100. Then aim for more. Enter contests. There are many of them and if you can win, place, or show — even if it’s just in one category — you can buy gold seals which look great, no matter what your book cover, blog, Facebook page, Pinterest page, website, or various marketing materials, are wearing.
Speak! One speaking gig, like one date, can lead to another. Don’t isolate. You never know when you’ll be “discovered” by book-buyers who didn’t realize they were in the market for a book (just as my husband didn’t realize he was in the market for a wife!) until you showed up and talked about it. Join Toastmasters and talk about it some more. If there’s a local bookstore willing to host a Q & A, do so — even if only three people show up. Their advertising for the event will reach many more. Treat the ones who do show up like royalty. Have handouts with smiling photos of you. Record an Amazon audio version of your book. Have videos of you talking about your book on your website, blog, YouTube, on your YouTube channel, and on your Amazon page. Keep them short and sweet. Two minutes tops. Don’t bore people. Just whet their appetites.
And keep reminding yourself, you need to do all this with a “flirty” mindset. Your goal isn’t selling a book, it’s “discoverability.” Then, once discovered, definitely make sure your book is pickable.
(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT, The Therapist Writer