Fraternizing with the Enemy to Sell Books: Self Publishing Authors Unite!
by LinDee Rochelle
It’s true, writing a book is a solitary endeavor. However, marketing your self-published books doesn’t have to be done alone. The old saying goes, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Whether you’re a lofty philosopher and attribute that sage saying to Sun-tzu, the Chinese military strategist (widely considered a misquote), or to Mario Puzo / Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful writing in “The Godfather Part II” (most likely), for an author in the throes of marketing, its POV could take on a whole new dimension.
While preparing to promote one of my books in an authors’ event open to the public, I was once asked why I would consider this form of marketing amidst many other authors, vying for the attention of potential buyers. Honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought until asked. I simply enjoy the literary atmosphere, and believe any exposure is good exposure. But giving the question some reflection, more advantages popped into my little pea brain for selling in a crowded climate of competition, than not. I guess that points to my often wearisome attitude of the “half full glass.”
Why foot the whole bill yourself?
Most events of this nature are in your own back yard – the local book fair, an authors’ conference, a home & garden show, or in SoCal (where I’m based), we’re big on outdoor markets and street festivals. All community related events. You might not consider these types of affairs serious marketing, but real rewards can be had from small, relatively inexpensive venues, especially if you co-op with other authors.
Surely you have at least a small network of authors in your life. If not, it’s time to reach beyond Facebook and broaden your local networking circle! Partner with one or two authors to share the costs and look for an event that will interest the media, and/or has an enticing hook. Of course, the best scenario would be that your books have their own hooks and you can easily reel in the media.
Let’s say for example, you decide to participate in a local writers’ or authors’ conference – some literary events include a mini book fair, or it could just as easily be a community cultural event, or an outdoor market. You choose! Look for other features of the event that may provide spotlight attention beyond the standard vendor table or booth.
Creative marketing sells books.
Will there be scheduled readings on stage, or a children’s hour in which you can read to a gaggle of girls and boys? Are there affordable sponsorship opportunities? Perhaps donations are solicited for attendee goodie bags – part with a copy of your book. We like to think Infinity’s end-of-September annual Express Yourself … Gathering of Authors in Valley Forge is unique, with its Authors’ Bookstore open to the public, and this year, we’re planning a one-hour pilot radio show, which will feature author guests.
These are all creative ways to promote your book and brand – whether branding includes your name as an expert in your book’s topic, or simply supports your book on its own merit. Sharing event attendees with other authors isn’t all about competition. If you were alone in that booth, chances are, only a small percentage of the attendees will stop by and chat with you – with no guarantee they’ll buy a book. You can’t be all things to all people, and the rest of the crowd will not have even a passing interest to stop.
However, with two or three authors sharing a booth, you up the odds that more potential buyers will eye your books, because you’re now offering a wider variety of interests. And your book may not have had the pull-in power on its own, but once they stop, it’s a good bet these potential readers will look at all of the books in your booth. As your booth browser gives your book the once-over, she still may not be interested for herself, but perhaps it’s the perfect gift for her friend’s birthday, just around the corner.
So those two other authors you may have originally viewed as “the enemy” and potential competition, have become your allies; and if they weren’t before, perhaps by the end of the weekend, they’ve even become your friends. In an all-author event, networking is essential, and hopefully, you’ve also picked up a few new marketing strategies from other author-vendors.
Remember … “We can learn even from our enemies.” (Ovid (43 BC - 17 AD), Metamorphoses.) Of course, whether your enemies ultimately become your friends or not, is up to you.
Every effort to market your book is a new learning experience. Take your book to the streets and focus on your local community, with a couple of “pen pals.”
On a personal note: If you’ve read this far, thank you! At Infinity Publishing we’re excited to offer news and notes in our blog, dedicated to authors. In my weekly ruminations and rantings I’ll strive to inform, educate, and empathize on issues like customer service in the publishing industry, creative marketing, writing snafus, and even an occasional dip into the author psyche pool. I hope you’ll come back for more – who knows where my weekly muse will take us?