Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Writers, Start Your Sales Pitch

You're a writer. Why should you need to know about sales?

At a recent writing convention, I moderated a panel about publishing, and asked four editors the question, "What is the difference between an author who does nothing and an author who actively tries to sell their own books?"

The answer: Night and day. A self-promoting author may sell twice as many as a wallflower.

But yet, so many authors are inadequate at making sales. It's embarassing, or beneath them, or uncomfortable, or not their job.

The fact is, all authors should learn how to effectively sell. In fact, you (or someone on your team) has to sell your books six times before you get paid. First, you sell it to an agent, then your agent sells it to an editor, the editor sells it to the publisher, the publisher sells it to the sales team, the sales team sells it to the book buyer, the book buyer sells it to the customer.

If someone isn't buying somewhere in that chain, the book will fail.

Now get ready to hit your print key, because here is the key to successfully selling your work:

The secret to sales is to not make it selling.


Concentrate on value, and what you have to offer. Focus on the experience you're giving, not the cost.

Sales isn't about looking for buyers; it's about finding the people who are looking for your product even though they don't know it yet.

Be funny. Be confident. Be genuine. Be memorable. Be enthusiastic.

In person, I've found the best trick to sales is listening to the customer. Not only their needs and wants, but what they had for breakfast, how their brother in Duluth is doing, and what their favorite TV show is.

Pitch your book like you'd recommend a movie to a friend. This is what it's about, and why you'd like it.

Which is more effective:
  1. This is a book about a guy named Bill who goes on a journey of self-discovery while battling an evil force that's invaded his home town.
  2. Did you like the Matrix? It's like the Matrix written by Stephen King, with giant flesh eating monsters and an ending that you'll NEVER see coming.

Whenever I sell a book, I always use the line, "You'll like this, I promise." This assurance takes the uncertainty out of a purchase, and makes the customer feel like I'm doing them a favor, rather than they're doing me a favor.

Lots more detail about selling is available on the TIPS section of my website.

On the Internet and through snail mail, I've found the best selling tool is to offer freebies---advice, information, stories, signed stuff, and laughs. Give the buyer a reason to keep reading. If it's just an ad, you'll be ignored. But if you're giving them something they want, they won't even realize it's a sales pitch.

So many small presses email me, thinking that a long synopsis will make me rush out and buy their books. They jump right into it: "Here's a excerpt from the latest release from BuyMe Press."

Where's the romance? Where's the foreplay? Where's the sense of fun?

When I send out newsletters, the majority of the text is about giving. Here's a contest you can enter. Here are some free books. Here are some people I'm naming characters after. Here's a free short story. And finally, here's where you can find out about my new release.

In my library mailing, the libraries received content. An interview with two well-known authors. A signed coaster. Reasons why their patrons will want these books, and an easy way to order.

Look at this blog. Look at my website. How much of it is devoted to promoting my writing, and how much of it is devoted to informing and amusing people?

But yet, I'd bet that practically everyone who visits here knows the names of my books.

Is that good selling? You tell me.