A recent survey asked publishers and authors, “What’s the best form of promotion?” The largest percentage of people responded that they sell more books when they have personal contacts with readers. The thing is, readers want a relationship with authors, and they tend to be loyal to those authors they know something about through intermediaries such as Facebook, blogs, radio shows, and especially through face-to-face encounters.
If you doubt the power of in-person contacts, try engaging more people in conversation about a book of yours and see what happens. Talk to people at bus stops about it; show it to folks who are waiting in line at the grocery store; bring it up at business meetings and social events where appropriate; share it with members of the congregation after services. Potential readers who meet you in person are more apt to buy your book either now or in the future than those who have not had contact with you.
Here’s a recipe for selling more books face to face:
- Hone your public speaking and communication skills by joining a Toastmasters club and participating for several months. Or take a speech class at a local college. If your book is fiction, poetry, or for children, consider getting involved in a storytelling group to learn how to entertain through storytelling techniques. This will also do wonders for your fear of public speaking and your confidence level.
- Practice, practice, practice. If you don’t feel ready to address your audience yet, ask friends to gather and allow you to present your material. Give presentations in the security of your Toastmasters club. Take on jobs and volunteer for committees that require speaking in front of groups. It doesn’t matter at first whether you’re talking about your book or another topic. The point is to become more comfortable and confident in front of an audience.
- Locate speaking opportunities in your community and beyond. Start close to home and then branch out to other cities and states, if feasible. Generally, it’s easiest to get bookings for meetings of civic organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary, and Optimist. Program directors for this kind of organization are always on the lookout for interesting speakers.
- Create speaking opportunities. Approach organizations, schools, and/or corporations relevant to your book and ask to be placed on their program agendas. You might also offer to design a program for their members, students, and/or attendees.
- Arrange for presentations or book signings. Although the average author doesn’t attract many people to bookstore events, you might generate quite an audience at a busy coffee house, pet store, hobby shop, bakery, sporting goods store, or children’s store, for example, depending on the content of your book and the effectiveness of your publicity.
- Develop educational programs related to your book. A great way to address your audience is through classes, courses, and workshops. If your book lends itself to them, your readers will learn from you and buy your book and you will have the opportunity to learn volumes from them. Their feedback could be priceless for your future presentations, blog, articles, and books.
- Take your book to book festivals. A book festival is a great place to meet people who may have never heard of you or your book. Be prepared to talk about the benefits that the book provides. Have attractive handouts and give them away generously. Also have a signup sheet so you can collect names and email addresses of interested people. A follow-up email is a great way to keep potential customers from forgetting you.
- Once you have a track record as a presenter, apply to speak at major conferences related to your book. Conducting a workshop or giving a presentation or keynote speech at a conference attended by your readers can give your book a huge boost.
- Be creative. Have a booth at a wine festival, the county fair, a flea market, or local sporting events, and engage people as they walk past. If you have a children’s book, you might say, “Do you know a child who likes to read?” Or you might ask parents with children, “May I read a short story to your child?” Also be ready to listen. Sometimes a visitor just wants to tell a story or rant about an experience. If your book addresses some of the issues raised, say so and the visitor may become a customer.
- Build speaking dates into traveling plans. When you’re arranging a trip, research opportunities in the cities you will be visiting, and arrange for presentations, signings, radio/TV interviews, and so forth.
Of course, publicity for any of these activities must be well-planned, widely disseminated, and on the mark. This will not only help attract more people, it will also put your name and the title of your book in front of many additional prospects. You might get 15 or 115 people to show up, but your message might reach 500, 1000, or many thousands more potential customers through the publicity you generate before and after the event.
Promotion afterward can include posting pictures and reports about the success of each event via social media sites, your website, and your blog. But always remember that although there are many ways to entice potential readers to buy your book, the most success seems to follow from meeting your readers in person.
Patricia L. Fry is the author of hundreds of articles and more than 40 books, including Talk Up Your Book, How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences, and More. The founder of Matilija Press, in 1983, she is also the executive director of the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN). To learn more: www.matilijapress.com or www.patriciafry.com