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This blog was featured on 08/28/2019
Meaningful Book Promotion for Authors Who Aren’t Salespeople
Written by
She Writes
August 2019
Written by
She Writes
August 2019

This guest post was written by Rayne Lacko, author of A Song for the Road, available now. 

Every writer hopes her readers will love her books. But if you’re an introverted writer like me, you may dread popular marketing methods, like hitting the public-speaking circuit, or hawking your stories from behind a table at a book fair.

There is a hopeful dreamer inside me who’d like to propose we all write a scene where our stories leap into the hearts of book lovers while we type away at our next work-in-progress, our tea warm by our sides, our cats asleep in sunbeams, in the hope our combined energy creates a new reality for book marketing.

If that fails, I’ve come up with another (tried-and-true) marketing alternative I’d like to share with you.

There is a common agreement among those who don’t like to “toot their own horn.” Perhaps you’ll recognize it. The non-horn-tooters don’t like salespeople. They don’t like sales tactics. They don’t like to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch.

While you may or may not relish the spotlight, I trust your journey to publication has created a deep sense of accomplishment. Chances are, between crafting your opening words and orchestrating your closing scene, you’ve adopted new knowledge, skills, and wisdom. You may be a different person now, having written your book(s).

It’s true for me and it begs the question: how can I go about selling my book when I’m turned off by sales tactics? I’m confident I’ve learned something worth sharing, but the idea of having people come to a bookstore talk, for instance, to hear me talk about myself and my process isn’t a thrilling prospect. Does this sound familiar?

A proven solution that works: replace SELLING with GIVING.

(No, I don’t mean you should give your book away. Charge the list price, please.)

The solution to book promotion that has the most potential to attract and satisfy your potential readers is to give what you’ve learned as a result of having written your book.

You couldn’t have written your book without learning a whole lot about something. What is that something for you?

As an author who is deeply fascinated by both writing craft and the business of publishing — and who could talk about writing and books all day — I have found opportunities to change out of my writing uniform (fuzzy cardigan) and shuck my hermit-esque lifestyle for a few hours a month to volunteer for a non-profit that organized literary events; I’ve taught teen writers at an after school writing workshop for four years; and I’ve run a successful teen creative writing camp. Never once did I sell a book out of the back of my car, but on every occasion it was appropriate for me to mention my name and book, and to — this is important, I promise— help others.

What Can You Give

Writing your book gave you valuable knowledge that others want or need. Think about the themes from your book. You created an entire world around them, so you’ve likely reached a certain level of expertise. Perhaps your book covers topics like cooking, history, parenting, or women’s issues? Is there a cause dear to your heart that is connected to your book? There are lessons or skills you can transfer to people who are as interested in these topics as you.

…And What Will You Receive?

The truth is that your most ecstatic book reviewers will be those who most closely identify with your book. Therefore, your best opportunity to promote yourself and your writing is to reach out to the people who share your interests. I’m talking about your people—fans of the very stuff that fascinates, motivates and fulfills you. They live in your community; it might be fun to hang out with them. These people are poised to become your most fervent supporters if you give them something, if you satisfy a need. You can create this positive give-and-take by sharing your knowledge with like-minded people. The lovely thing about helping others before yourself is that kindness tends to go both ways.

I’ll let you in on a secret: they’re eager to find you, too. Your future fans are looking for opportunities to  increase their knowledge and meet like-minded people. Give them a good reason to change out of their own fuzzy cardigans. The side benefit of surrounding yourself with like-minded people is you’re more likely to feel secure, inspired, and confident. When you’re around people who are excited to hear what you have to say, you can feel safe being yourself. Through proactive, practical giving you’ll discover and/or expand your tribe. To a hermit, ahem, introverted writer like me, this can be deeply affirming.

HARDBOILED FACT: Sharing is Caring

Think about what you researched to complete your book, and ask yourself what kind of workshop, lecture, or hands-on craft or skill you’ve learned or refined as a result. That’s your gift. Give it to others.

When you introduce yourself in your event’s bio, mention how you’ve come to know so much about your topic. In this instance, your book becomes your business card. Think of it as your proof of expertise, your “license to share” the subject, craft, or knowledge.

Statistically, most books find early success in smaller niches. Perhaps you fantasize about sitting on a talk show host’s couch discussing the movie created from your book. That day may come because you first planted the seed in your own community.

But Isn’t It Still Public Speaking?

Just thinking about getting up in front of the teen writers at our monthly workshop is nerve-wracking. But I still show up. I remind myself that it isn’t about me. It takes the pressure off public speaking when the point of my talk is about helping others. I give up on caring what others think of me and instead focus on what I want to share, what I think is important for them to know if they want to improve their writing skill, enter a poetry contest, or get up and dare to read their work aloud. I’ve been in their shoes, and I can share what I’ve learned the hard way.

Just like you, I dream of building a fan base of happy readers. Unfortunately, the comfortable scene with my tea and my cat isn’t going to help me reach my key readership. If my comfortable mode of writing (tea + cardigan + cat = hermit life) isn’t resulting in significant book sales, I need to stop trying to be comfortable all the time. Anything that you or I want and don’t yet have is going to require us to venture beyond the familiar, and I can guarantee it’s going to be uncomfortable. Until it’s not. For me, it stops being uncomfortable when a participant in my workshop smiles at the improvements in her craft, or when another announces they’ve won a literary award, or improved their grade on an essay. In order to have the courage to get out there, place your focus on who you hope to serve, what you hope to give. And have fun. You’re surrounded by your people.

Rayne Lacko believes music, language, and art connect us, and she explores those themes in her novel, A SONG FOR THE ROAD (SparkPress, August 2019).

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  • Hyba Revising

    This is a really good point! I think I'm certainly one of those people that tends to shy away from selling or sales tactics (or events with lots of people). This definitely puts things in a new perspective! Thanks for sharing!