I teach at writing
conferences, I boil what marketing is down to one simple sentence:
Marketing is getting people to like you.
At its core, that’s all
marketing is. Get people to like you and they’ll more likely buy your
books. If you’re pre-published and an editor likes you, he or she will
be more likely to offer you a contract. Agents will be more likely to
you. Other authors will be more willing to endorse you or give you
counsel. If you’re a bookstore owner, customers will more likely return
to your store and buy more product.
It’s very simple. Get people to
like you. (I know, you’re saying, “How?” We’ll get to that in a
Getting people to like you is
what an effective radio ad does. It’s what successful TV ads
accomplish, what magazine ads and Facebook posts do. They entertain,
give needed information, or solve a problem. And because of these
things, people are drawn to the person or product.
Have I belabored the point long
enough? You get it? Great. Let’s apply this truth.
No, I’m not suggesting you do
radio, TV, or magazine ads to get that reader, editor, agent, author,
or shopper to like you. I want you to do something much more difficult.
I want you to listen to people.
Really listen. Deeply care about what they’re saying. Then listen some
more. Relationships are the key to the publishing business just like
they’re the key in every other business. And the most effective way to
build relationships with others is to care about them.
Time to get practical. Here’s
how we can do it:
1. Ask the person you’re with a question.
2. Really listen.
3. Ask him or her another question.
4. Really listen.
5. Ask another question.
6. Really listen.
7. Repeat steps 1—6.
People are desperate to know
three things: Am I valuable? Does what I have to say matter? Is what’s
inside me interesting and worth listening to? By asking questions and
truly caring about the responses, people will fall in love with you.
Very few people ask questions in
our society. Think about your own relationships. When is the last time
a friend asked about your world, and then asked another question after
you stopped talking, then another question after that, and one more
after that before talking about themselves in a nonstop monologue? My
guess is most of you are answering, “Never.”
Why did I state that my
suggestion is difficult? (I shouldn’t have said difficult, I should
have said near impossible.) Because we’re deeply ingrained in the
habit of talking, not listening. We’re desperately locked into the
needs I noted above and trying to get an answer to those questions. So
we talk. And talk. And talk.
when I speak, I tell the
audience exactly what I’m telling you now. They nod their heads and
smile. Then for the rest of the conference I’ll watch people who were
in the audience and see if they’re talking or listening. I notice how
people interact with me. No one takes my advice. They keep talking.
We are so fixated on ourselves,
it’s a huge paradigm shift to invest time in hearing the deep things
going on in the people around us.
Try this for a month: Commit to
asking everyone you come in contact with three questions before you say
anything about yourself. (“Hey, how are you?” doesn’t count as a
question.) The next time you meet with an editor or an agent, ask him
or her three questions before you launch into your pitch. The next time
you meet a fellow writer, ask her three questions about her life. If
she tries to ask you something before you’ve asked your three
questions, simply say, “I’d love to tell you about that, but first, do
you mind telling me a little bit more about how you came up with the
idea for your book? And I gotta ask you, what kept you going when you
wanted to chuck the whole thing?” Trust me, they won’t be offended.
They will love you.
I have to be careful. Some of
you reading this might be thinking, “Uh, Jim, it sounds like you want
us to pretend to be interested in our friends or people we meet in the
publishing world just so it will benefit us.”
No, I’m not saying that. I’m
basing my suggestion on the belief that you do truly care about people.
That you realize the primary commandment for followers of Jesus is to
love on people. So do that. With no expectation of return, no ulterior
motive. I think we do care about people, but we might have a blind spot
when it comes to how we interact with others.
And I promise, if you start
loving on others in this way, there will be a bountiful return.