Wednesday, March 12, 2014

hand-selling books

Month two of The Moment Before launch is done and dusted. Well, nearly. This week I'm thinking about what has worked, what could have worked better, and what's next.

To be sure, selling a book is a full time job. It can feel soul-sucking, but in my experience, it hasn't. I actually was prepared to be exhausted and wrung out. I'm sort of shy. Not comfortable in crowds. But somehow, after this two months of events and social shouts and meeting/greeting, I only want to do more.

Surprise!

The events I did at Voodoo, at Annie Bloom's, at Elliott Bay and at Broadway Books were all unique, and involved a "support crew" and/or co-readers, but the biggest thing they had in common was an overwhelming outpouring of love, support and whimsy. Accent on the whimsy.

Oh, and books were sold, too. The audience member-to-sales relationship was pretty amazing. That's what I mean about support. Folks bought books. From places OTHER than Amazon. That makes me more than happy.

I'm not going to rant on my issues with Amazon in this post. I plan to at some point, but now is not the time. Let's just say that having lived in Portland, Oregon for 25 years (almost), I may have adopted the independent spirit and boxless orientation natives of this fair city are prone to. Or, I may just be congenitally ornery.

Michael Powell once told me that his whole impetus for the phemon that has become the number one attraction in Portland was "putting more books in the hands of more readers." Whether those books are new, used, genre, literary or out of print. So now, we live in this crazy entrepreneurial age where we can all be Michael Powells. At least of our own books. Think about it. No longer are we dependent upon the gatekeepers of the Big 6 5. When it comes to publishing, we can be indie or hybrid or traditional or self. Or all. So if the goal then is to "put more of our books into the hands of more of our readers" - the tools, avenues, support infrastructure is there. But in order to navigate it successfully, you really do need to think like an entrepreneur. And work like one.

Here's a terrific blog series on just that. "Marketing" is apt and exactly right, but I can't help it, I HATE the term. I despise what it conjures, which, to me, brings to mind huckster tactics and double speak. I know, I know, I'm being simplistic. But remember, I live in the "fuck normal" city, known for work-arounds and tactical hedonism. If I had to label my brand of "marketing" I might call it the hand-sell. Hand, as in human. Hand, as in helping. Hand, as in give me a.

Hand, as in, put more books in them.

So, how do you find "your" readers? That's the big question, right? One I'm exploring now. It feels like writing a novel, actually. Following a certain depth of inquiry where you (as Cheryl Strayed says) "trust the heat." Follow your people, and invite them to invite you to their parties.

Anyone out there? Have a success story to share?

2 comments:

  1. No success stories except those by and about your crew. You guys have figured out this whole performance art aspect of stories and it works beautifully. The rest of it, as you said, is trial and error.

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