Monday, August 23, 2010

Dear Reader...I'll Bake Cookies

My proverbial "gears" were already in motion before I read Brendan P. Myers' recent blog on the Futility of Marketing. He lays it out very neatly.

My summary:

"Traditional" advertising doesn't sell books. Word of mouth sells books.

So how, dear reader, does one get his/her book to be the topic of said "word of mouth"?

I've clicked on "read my novel, BAD TITLE HERE, at INTERNET BOOK SITE" links on Twitter only to drown in lousy writing after a sentence or two. Self-publishing crap and then asking people to read it isn't really going to help win readers. Besides, the only people who might have clicked on the link were already "following" the nitwit in question. I'm not getting down on Twitter here, just noticing that 90% of the chuckleheads who Tweet their stuff seek followers for self-promotion and nothing else. Personally, that turns me off faster than a power outage during a tornado. I don't want to be that guy.

If you're going to be your own word of mouth, I expect people (readers) need to trust you (and don't you dare break that sacred bond) and you have to be pimping something damn good. Personally, I don't think a writer can be his/her own word of mouth. Not in the traditional: read this because it is made of awesome sort of way. When is the last time you grabbed a book off the shelf and read it because the author of said book touted how great it was? In the real world, nobody blurbs his/her own stuff. So really, the only hope is to plant the right seeds and wait to see what grows. The right seeds? Quality stories. Entertainment. Writing that transcends. Writing in which you can't see the writer's fingerprints, but you can see the beauty of his/her imagination.

Yes, I've spent a good deal of time thinking about how to market my books. They won't be in bookstores (anywhere save local places which love to carry local authors). Every sale--and more importantly, reader--must be won from the masses involved in a crazy free-for-all battle royal.

For some readers, digesting a book is more than a passing thing. On Brendan's blog, I contrasted reading a novel to eating a cheeseburger (think about how each is marketed differently). I'm sad to say I probably eat more cheeseburgers than I read novels in an average year, but I don't talk about the burgers much after they're gone. The good books, the really special books, linger. I can't push them out of my mind (or from the tip of my tongue). I want to tell everybody: read this book. I talk (and blog) about them years later. The really great ones, I teach (when I'm lucky). The emotional investment is huge--much bigger than it is with a burger. A good book becomes part of you forever. A cheeseburger doesn't stick around after a few hours (if you're lucky).

So, yeah. I hope I have the good, lingering type of material for you, dear readers. I hope you'll give my work a chance. If I've lived up to my part of the bargain, I hope you'll pass on the book. And those other writers...well, they won't bake you cookies, will they?

I just might.


Cate Gardner said...

I'm going to hold you to the cookie promise - I prefer chocolate chip or ginger.

I think you have to put a little effort into attempting to sell a book. If I did nothing at all, I'd feel I'd let the publisher down. Is marketing ever successful? Probably for some (cough - Patterson), but I imagine they're the rare few. But we have to try, right? Stuffing something down someone's throat though (unless it's cookies) is not the way to go.

I will most definitely be part of the 'word of mouth for your books crowd'. I just need to figure out a way to get people to listen to me.

Barry Napier said...

Well said.

They issue I have with getting word of mouth is that it often involves contacting people for reviews or blurbs. And I hate that. Makes me feel like a whore, kinda.

Brendan said...

Well said, Aaron, and indeed, exactly what I meant. Thanks.

Katey said...

I'd say my twitter list is about half and half: people who want to connect with other writers to stay sane, and people who want to spam us with links to their crappy fiction. And I think for the former, it's important to actually point out when you have new fiction available. I *do* think a genuine connection to readers helps with the trust issue.

But you're absolutely right, it doesn't make me want to buy it just because I see it. I click through if I know I can expect good things--if the last time you did it, I got past the second sentence. You CAN be technically successful and write crap, obviously. But you can't be indie, successful, and write crap.

Maybe I'm a snob, but that's one of the reasons I tend to think of indie as superior. I'm not saying I'd turn up my nose at bags of money, because I'd be all over that. I'm just saying I'm more willing to be a whore, as Barry rightly calls it, for something worthwhile.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - Ginger might weather the flight a little better than chocolate chip. The later only seem to have a 2-3 day shelf life (maybe because the boys gobble them up).

Barry - I hear you on "whore". Guess it's something we must get over, huh?

Brendan - Thank you for making me think.

Katey - I think loving indie makes you awesome, not even close to snobbery. Honesty tends to thrive in the indie world. Well said.

Unknown said...

I still remember that giant goldfish.

K.C. Shaw said...

I started ordering lots more books once I found book blogs. If I read a good review on a blog whose taste I trust, and the book sounds like something I'd like, quite often I'll jump over to the B&N or Powell's site and add it to my wish list or cart. Sometimes I get burned, but I find more good stuff than ever that way.

Which is my longwinded way of saying I agree with you, especially about the word of mouth thing. What's especially important is having at least the first page (better yet, the first chapter) available to read online.

Tyhitia Green said...

Great point, Aaron. Word of mouth is best done by people who are fans of your work. So you can count me in on telling folks about your work as well. ;-)

I have a friend who has sold over 1,000 copies of his work through word of mouth just through one venue after his agent was not able to sell it.

Your work will speak for itself. Oh, and interviews and giveaways help too. ;-)

Andrea Allison said...

Did someone say cookies? Got any white chocolate chip?

I've never been good with word of mouth. I'm ok with passing the word around for other people. Not so much for myself.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

I'm just here for the cookies.
*looking around, wondering where they are. sighing*

Aaron Polson said...

KC - I'm glad to know the book blogs work. And samples (cookies or otherwise) are always welcome.

Tyhitia - Thanks. 1,000 copies is a very nice number for something not backed with by the "big houses". There will always be giveaways.

Andrea - With macadamia nuts. Yum.

Cathy - Sorry. The kids ate them. ;)

Fox Lee said...

I like chocolate chips, soft and frugal on the chips.
Just sayin'.