early March I stepped into Hairmasters for a trim of the few hairs I
“How are you doing today?” the
lady at the front desk said.
“I’m doing fantastic. The
biggest dream of my life has come true.”
“Really? What’s that?”
“I’ve wanted to be an author
since fifth grade. On April 1 my first novel will be published. I’m
pretty excited. Actually I’m very excited.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re
kidding, you wrote a book? That’s awesome. What’s it about?”
“A young Seattle software
tycoon inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a
physical manifestation of his soul.”
“Ooooo . . . wow, that sounds
cool! So tell me . . .”
She proceeded to ask me a bunch
of questions about ROOMS. By the time we finished
yakking, four other ladies had crowded around me, ready to head across
the street to Barnes & Noble on the first of April.
This is marketing. The most
powerful marketing you can do for your novel.
Many authors are reticent about
promoting themselves and would never be comfortable approaching a
stranger about their books. Is that you? No worries; you don’t have to
have a gregarious personality to make this work. All you have to do is
answer their question, “How are you today?” (which, as you know, people
ask constantly). It’s the perfect intro to tell about your books as I
did in the story above. Truly, they’ll lead the conversation after
In January I was buying
groceries at Safeway and answered the checker’s question the same way I
did at Hairmasters. Turns out she is a voracious reader with lots o’
friends in her book club. She told my wife last week she can’t wait for
ROOMS to release and
she’s telling “everyone” about it.
Remember, no one can sell your
book like you can. No one has the passion for it, the belief in it, and
as much lightning in their eyes when they talk about it. You don’t have
to “sell” anything, just talk about your excitement. Attitudes are
contagious. If yours is worth catching, others will pick up on it.
“But, Jim,” you say, “I get the
point, but I can’t meet enough people one-on-one to get the kind of
sales numbers I need.” I agree. However, remember that 80 percent of a
novel’s sales come from word of mouth. You start the right fire in the
right place and it can sweep through thousands of readers.
The other day I got an e-mail
from a stranger excited about reading ROOMS. Where
did she hear about me? In December I flew back from a Marketing Fiction
workshop I’d done back East. One of the flight attendants was reading a
book, I started chatting with her about it, and soon we were talking
about my novel.
She told her friend about me and
suddenly I had another person interested in ROOMS.
Why would this flight attendant tell her friend about me? Authors are a
big deal to many people.
many of us know a lot of other writers, we tend to forget how rare it
is to be an author. Think back to the days before you jumped into the
publishing world. How many novelists with a royalty paying house did
you know personally? How many people did you know that had
self-published a novel? I could’ve counted the number I knew even if I
had no hands.
You’re probably aware that
around 80 percent of Americans want to write a book. So when they find
someone who’s done what they’ve dreamed of doing, they’re impressed.
Simply saying you’re an author will get people interested in talking to
Your elevator pitch
isn’t just for editors and agents.
Make sure you’re ready when
someone asks what your book is about. Just like pitching agents or
editors, you need to capture people’s attention fast. My e.p. for ROOMS
is twenty-three words long and that’s pushing the upper limit for word
count. (Randy Ingermanson has an excellent series of blog posts on how
to develop a short, compelling sell line.)
If you can entice people with
your elevator pitch, they’ll start asking questions and carry the
conversation. But when they ask more about your book, it’s not the time
to launch into your five minute synopsis. It’s not time to launch into
your two minute synopsis, or your one minute synopsis.
In media—radio, TV, newspapers,
magazines, etc—interviewers look for sound bites—short, pithy
quotes—they can work into a story. Learn to respond this way when you
answer a follow-up question about your book. Shorter is better.
Before you say good-bye, ask
about them. A great question is “What do you like to read?” Remember,
if you’re writing books to make God famous, this adventure isn’t about
you or your novels; it’s about your readers. Care about them. Be
interested in them.
Gotta go, but before I do, did I
tell you about this really cool novel called ROOMS?