Many of my blog posts are prompted by interactions I have with other people – and this is one of them. I got an email recently complimenting me on my energy and efforts in promoting my book. As I told this person, her comment made me smile a little. I love writing and I love doing research, but – believe it or not - I do not love marketing.
Before my book was published, I had done basically zero marketing in my life. I mostly wrote for magazines. When I would finish a magazine assignment, I would send it to the editor and be done with it. I never gave a second thought to how many people were buying that magazine or how many people might read the article. That was not my responsibility.
In case you didn’t already know this, the same is not true for a book. In most cases, the author is very concerned about who is buying the book and who is reading it. And many authors feel a great deal of responsibility for it. For those of us lacking marketing experience, it can feel like a steep learning curve.
However, I think the most difficult part of marketing is not about knowing what to do – it’s about actually doing it. Most people find promotion to be uncomfortable. It was easy enough to read books with advice on how to promote a new book. It wasn’t always too easy to follow the advice though. But, as with anything else, the more I did it, the easier it got.
Let’s take lecturing for example. I speak at various events and conferences quite regularly. When I first started speaking, I would get nervous. I really don’t get nervous now – unless it’s a particularly large or intimidating (for one reason or another) crowd – or sometimes if it’s a new lecture. I just really enjoy speaking. When my book came out though, speaking took a different turn and I felt myself becoming nervous again.
The great majority of the lectures I gave before my book would come about because a society or library or other organization would contact me and indicate that they would like to invite me to speak. With my book coming out though, I needed a different approach. In order to get the information out there, I needed to speak at more places and I needed specifically to speak about my book. My book was new so nobody would know that the book existed to even consider inviting me to speak about it – unless I told them about it.
Instead of waiting for invitations to come to me, I began choosing places I wanted to speak at. I contacted societies I had spoken at in the past to let them know about my new topic, but I also needed to reach outside my comfort zone. I chose some places that I would drive through on our marathon summer trip or other trips. Then I contacted them. Of course, the least threatening way to contact people is by email. But this doesn’t always work – especially when it’s not really clear who you should contact. Emails fall between the cracks. Phone calls sometimes work better. But they can be scary. I remember calling a major library to pitch my idea for a talk soon after my book came out. I was so nervous that I had a hard time catching my breath while I was talking to the woman. I must have sounded like I had paused my exercise video in the middle to call her!
As I have thought about my marketing efforts the last few months, I have come to the conclusion that I have developed three main marketing philosophies that have helped me.
1) (This philosophy was inspired by words of advice from another genealogist.) I began to think of my pitches etc. not as attempts to sell my book, but as simple efforts to disseminate information. Although really just a shift in my thoughts, it helped me feel less pressure. I also could feel like I was doing something useful (often offering to share my knowledge) instead of something semi-obnoxious - trying to convince people to buy something.
2) I would remind myself that I believe in my book (or for you, it could be another product – your lecturing skills, your research skills etc.). I think my book has something positive to contribute. In my case, I never wrote it with sales goals in mind anyway. I wrote it because I had a story to tell that I believed mattered.
3) Rejection is part of life. Now this was not a new philosophy. This is a necessary lesson to learn if you want to be a writer at all. I would sometimes give myself a little pep talk and say, “The worst this person can do is say no. And then I will be no worse off than I am now.” I wasn’t going to risk missing out on an opportunity just because I was afraid of what someone I would never see again (in most cases) might think of me or my idea.
So there you have it. My marketing wisdom. I am still learning as I go, but I have found that having these basic philosophies in place helps make the path a little less bumpy.