I’m not a salesperson. I don’t even like to think about business or money. If I did, I would have stayed at a law firm and pulled in a lot of dough.
I love to read. I love to write. I love to talk to readers about the books I’ve written. But I also appreciate the absolutely true fact that it is only because there is a “business” side to the business that I am in the enviable position to do what I love.
These days writers are unavoidably pulled into the sales and marketing of their books. Some writers enjoy it. I once heard a writer talk about his drive to “move units.”
I also know writers on the other end of the spectrum who resolutely refuse to think about anything other than the writing of the books. I confess that I find this view tempting. Unfortunately, that “strategy” often leads to this:
So what’s a writer like me — neither diva nor salesperson — to do?
I thank my readers — a lot — because they are the ones who give me a career.
I truly believe that word of mouth is the most effective advertising. I still believe that readership can grow incrementally. In a business that increasingly searches for the one-time out-of-the-gate phenom, I want a career like Michael Connelly’s, Harlan Coben’s, Lee Child’s, or Laura Lippman’s — each book getting better and better over the course of years and decades.
That kind of career is built on support from readers. No, not just support. Love. Like, serious wind-beneath-my-wings love. Like, this cat and this dog kind of love:
Last year, to thank my most loyal, loving readers for early support, I promised a “mystery gift” to readers who pre-ordered my novel, 212. The gift was a 212 keychain and a signed bookplate — not much, but a small token of gratitude. My awesome readers not only sent the book into the top 100 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but also earned us a little shout-out in a Wall Street Journal article about author giveaways.
The article was headlined, “How Authors Move Their Own Merchandise” and featured authors who were “becoming more and more involved in the nitty-gritty of moving the merch.” One writer (not me, thank God) was described as “approximately as shy as a Kardashian,” and said, “I have four children to feed. I wish I had the luxury of not being tacky.” Another (again, not me) had a book reading at a sex toy shop.
Hey, wait a second! My cute little keychains were a personalized and organic way to say thank you. Tacky? Nitty gritty of moving the merch?
Suddenly I felt like Tom Peterson, an electronics salesman who used to run TV ads in Portland, boasting “Free is a very good price!”
Well, it’s about three months before the launch of my new novel, LONG GONE.*
Once again, I’m trying to find a way to thank my awesome readers, but my publisher and I are really struggling with the best way to do it.
Are pre-order incentives “tacky?” Are they so common now that the book gets lost in the noise? Or do readers enjoy being invested in the early momentum? Are they just for loyal readers, or do new readers jump in too?
And what’s better, a little giveaway or a raffle? Would you rather have something small like a signed book plate, or a chance to win something big? And what should the something big be? Something generic but expensive, like an iPad? Or something personal, like dinner together at Boucheron?
And because this blog post is on the topic of raffles and give-aways, your thoughts on the lofty questions above will enter you into a raffle for a signed copy of 212. Act now, and I’ll throw in a 212 keychain! “Free is a very good price!”
*Tom Peterson would be ashamed if I mentioned his name in this blog post without also including the following information: You can pre-order your copy of LONG GONE here.