Let me tell you a little story about when I was a stockbroker. The company I was working for at the time was making a big push to gain greater market share. This primarily involved an emphasis on sales and a focus on increasing “wallet share” of large account holders.
In order to make this transition, they had us all take personality tests to help us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. The test asked us about two hundred questions and then gave us a score based on our answers. One of the fields it measured was our perception of salespeople and the act of selling. In essence, what was our “sales identity?” I scored a 4/100.
I don’t like being sold to. I don’t like salespeople. I absolutely don’t want to BE a salesperson. However, I would like people to buy my books. And, if they’re so inclined, I would love for them to review my books.
How am I going to be able to reconcile the differences between my personality and my goals? This is the next challenge I’m facing as my release date draws nearer.
Then I read this article by Delilah S. Dawson: Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work. And all I could think was, “Oh my God, yes!” This woman is speaking my language. Here’s a quote:
Social media is PUSHING.
And today’s reader doesn’t buy things because the author pushed them.
As a reader, I want a book to pull me.
Now, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that social media is pushing. I do think it’s accurate to say people who forget the “social” in media can be pushy. At the end of the day, social media is just a tool. In the same way a hammer is just a tool. You can use it to build a house, or bludgeon someone to death. Either way, it’s not the hammer’s fault how it was used.
But, there is such a huge difference in feeling pushed or feeling pulled into reading someone’s book, isn’t there? I never want to fall into the trap of being “that person.” I need to remember what my roots are and what got me started on this journey in the first place.
First and foremost, I’m a reader. A voracious reader. I buy books because I *want* to read them. Because something about the description, or the cover, or even the author compelled me to hit that little “Buy now with 1-Click” button.
Delilah goes on to say:
I don’t want to be the object that is acted upon. I want to be the subject that makes a conscious decision, that feels a twinge of curiosity and discovers something amazing. I want to be the person who acts, not the person who is acted upon. I don’t want to be badgered and nagged and wheedled and urged and threatened and cajoled and whined at.
Yes, now I’m also a writer. Would it make me insanely happy if someone decided to read my book? Of course! Would it throw me over the moon if they then decided to write a review? You bet! I’d be thrilled if they let me know what they thought about it – even if it’s less than glowing.
As a writer and a reader — as someone who loves books in general — I want to be a part of this vibrant, interesting community full of intelligent, interactive, and generous people. Who wouldn’t?
It’s not a hardship to get into interesting conversations with people across the country about the latest book they’ve read, or the struggles and triumphs they’ve encountered while writing. It’s not a difficulty to learn about a great new event in the area that features a lot of people whose work I admire.
This is not work, people! This should be a joy. If it truly is that difficult to connect with others who share a common interest, then why are you doing it? If the only reason you can come up with is for “marketing,” then I hate to say it, but you’re doing it wrong.
On the other hand, if you don’t communicate your wants and desires, you probably won’t ever get them. I know many authors have struggled to define (with varying degrees of success) what the fine line is between being a pushy salesperson and genuinely wanting to get the word out.
I recently attended a talk on branding and marketing hosted by my Newburyport Writers group. There were two speakers, Michael Boezi and Connie Johnson Hambley and they both had a lot of good information. At one point, Michael made a comment that I thought was the perfect metaphor.
He said, in a lot of ways social media is like one big cocktail party. You wouldn’t want to get cornered by someone where all they did was talk about themselves and ask you for things. Why would anyone think it was okay to have their internet interactions be like that?
However, you also don’t want to be the wet rag who refuses to open up and tell people about yourself, or never has anything to contribute to the conversation. Both extremes make for an awkward dinner party.
I suspect I will continue to have moments of doubt about this. However, my plan going forward is to maintain a presence that keeps me accessible. Be receptive to meeting new people and fostering friendships. Be open to new experiences. Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. And to stay authentic and genuine and true to myself. Pretty much good advice for all of life, I think.
Oh yeah, and remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about the reader.