Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Follow-Up

I feel I do pretty well at self-promoting.

I meet a lot of key people--booksellers, librarians, and fans--both in person and online. I try my best to make a good impression by being friendly, approachable, helpful, courteous, thankful, and genuine. I know how to pitch, how to give good interview in print, radio, and TV, and how to make sure I hit key points that will hopefully lead to sales, or at least to being remembered.

But I have an Achilles heel. I'm crummy at the Follow-Up.

The Follow-Up is a simple, yet powerful, self-promotional tool. In short, it's reaffirming the relationship (a bookstore meeting, a well done interview, a great review) by responding within a relatively short period of time. Sometimes the response is a simple "Thanks!" Sometimes it's a reminder (my new book is currently available.) Sometimes it's simply a note to say we should keep in touch.

A Follow-Up makes a person feel special, while also keeping you in the forefront of that person's mind. It takes very little time to do.

Yet, for some reason, I stink at it.

Here are some things you (and I) should be working on to better our Follow-Up skills:

  1. Answer Email. This should be a no-brainer, but if you're like me and your In-Box is larger than your last novel, keeping up with email is a daunting task. Every few weeks I get obsessed and go on an email-answering frenzy. But it's much easier to keep control of your email with this simple trick: Respond as soon as you read it. Then there are no huge, daunting pile-ups, and everyone who contacts you, whether they be fan, peer, or newbie writer asking for blurbs, gets a timely response rather than thinking you're an ignorant jerk.

  2. Respond to Posts. If you're like me, and you lurk on writing message boards (http://www.bksp.org/), listservs (http://www.dorothyl.com/), Yahoo Groups, newsgroups (news://alt.fiction.orginal/) other authors websites and blogs, and the many other places on the Internet that allow exchanges of information, you'll often occasionally post something. It's easy to post once, then disappear, thinking your work there is done. It's a much better idea to stick around and have some conversations. Remember; No one enjoys being sold something. But people do like to communicate with authors. Like a good website, or blog, it's about what you have to give, not what you ant to sell.

    This also applies to your own blog. If you're getting a lot of responses, it's easy to forget to say thanks to those with kind words. Here's another tip: Check your old posts every so often. Google links to posts that are years old, and people will find them and leave comments, then check back to see if you've responded.

  3. MySpace. I'm awed at how much time I'm spending on MySpace lately, and the truth is I should be spending even more. I get a lot of MySpace messages and comments, sometimes a few dozen a day. I've been pretty good a bout responding to messages, but when someone posts a nice comment about me, I often don't reply. This is stupid. From now on, every time someone posts a comment on www.myspace.com/jakonrath, I'm going to immediately post a comment on MySpace page. This not only makes the commenter feel good, but then my comment (along with my book cover and link) is on their page for all of their MySpace Friends to see. Ditto responses to your MySpace blog.

    Stay away from spamming. But a nice, personal comment is always welcome, and if it mentions you also have a new book coming out, not many people will mind.

  4. Amazon.com. We all know that authors can blog on Amazon. You can also create Listmanias, sell stories on www.Amazon.com/shorts and post reviews. A new Amazon option allows people to respond to reviews directly.

    If you're an author, you should blog. You can read my Amazon blog, Listmanias, and reviews, by clicking on any of my books and scrolling down, or by checking out my Amazon Profile.

    There's a new feature that allows readers to comment on user reviews. I DO NOT recommend getting into a flamewar with the moron who gave your book one star. Authors should be above that. It's petty.

    However, if they guy is a real brain donor, go ahead. I love posting positive reviews of books I love, and following up by gently correcting the negative ones.

  5. Booksignings. You would think, with all the bookstores I visit, I'd have a master list of every single bookseller I've ever met. Sadly, I don't.

    I have business cards from many of them, but I rarely follow up after dropping by. A simple, "It's was great to visit your store!" email or postcard would go a long way toward getting booksellers to remember me, but I'm lax in this department.

    However, I'm working on changing that. In Dirty Martini, I thank over 1300 booksellers by name in the acknowledgements. And each store I stopped in on the Rusty Nail 500 got a free copy of the book, along with this letter:

    A note from author JA Konrath.

    Hello again! I'm saying "again" because I visited your bookstore last summer while touring the country for my third Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery, RUSTY NAIL. That tour took me to 29 states, where I signed books at 618 bookstores.

    This store was one of them.

    Hyperion and I want to thank you for your support, so we've sent you a free copy of the newest Jack book, DIRTY MARTINI. Everyone else has to wait until July 3 (the release date) to read it.

    If I was lucky enough to have met you, or any of your co-workers, last year when I dropped in, I've listed you by name in the acknowledgements pages at the end of the book. If I spelled your name wrong or accidentally omitted you, email me at haknort@comcast.net and I'll make sure you're in future editions.

    If I didn't get a chance to meet you last year, or if you haven't read my books before, DIRTY MARTINI is a good place to start. It's a fast, fun beach read, sort of a cross between the suspense of James Patterson and the humor of Janet Evanovich.

    Some of your peers have already read of DIRTY MARTINI, and they've said some wonderful things about it. Instead of the standard review snippets and author blurbs, my back jacket features bookseller quotes. I'm sorry we didn't have room for all of them. If you already sent me a quote, or if you like DIRTY MARTINI and want to send me one, I'll put your quote and your name on my website, www.JAKonrath.com. I'll also name a character in my next book after the bookseller who sends my the coolest quote.

    As you already know, booksellers are not only the smartest, nicest, and sexiest people on the planet, they are also hugely influential. I'm humbled and honored that so many of you have embraced the Jack Daniels series, and have hand sold and recommended them to so many people. Thanks so much for your hard work and efforts. You're awesome.

    Hope to see you again soon...

Do you have any Follow-Up tips? If so, please list them here. I promise I'll respond. :)


Katie Alender said...

I saw a really good example the other day of an author who noticed that her book was being discussed on a blog, so she stopped by to thank them for reading it.

I thought it was pretty classy.

Jim Winter said...

I think the immediate response is what should tell you whether MySpace works for you or not. (Or Ning or Facebook or...)

If you can get back to people or keep it fresh, then it's a terrific outlet to keep you in touch with fans and potential fans.

But if you can't maintain it, it's probably just wasted bandwidth.

Of course, my biggest drawback is that MySpace and Ning are blocked at work, so I'm sort of hampered in using them effectively.

Josephine Damian said...

I'm only now getting into the habit on leaving a comment on someone's myspace the very same day they've asked me to be their friend.

I still have about a half dozen comments to leave for people on myspace that I've asked to be my friend, but I'm almost caught up now.

It's really easy to let people fall through the cracks if you don't get back to them right away.

Like email, comments and messages can get back-logged fast if you don't keep up.

Myspace birthdays are also something I'm determined to keep up with, it's a way to drop by and touch base with myspacers I haven't chatted with in a long time.

Jim Winter, no myspace at work? Bummer.

JA, I'm starting to get comments on my blogs now, and I make it a point to at least thank people for taking the time to comment.

I know lots of romance writers will bring a dish of candy or chocolate to book signings. They also bring donuts and the like for the booksellers.

Unknown said...

A writer friend of mine wrote a good essay about thank-you notes, which he called the secret to his success. I think the same principle applies online as offline: when people do stuff to help you -- and for a writer, that includes buying your books -- you should make an effort to thank them if you can.

Mark Terry said...

"I feel I do pretty well at self-promoting."

Congratulations, you've just won the First Annual International Mongo-Mega-Superdily-icious Understatement Award.

Your check's in the mail along with a specially engraved plaque.

Jude Hardin said...

As a follow-up to your last post...

I took my son to see Transformers last night. He said it's the best movie ever.

Have you seen it, Joe? This might sound weird, but it reminded me a lot of your novel Origin.

As for the current blog post, I think you covered follow-ups pretty well. I haven't been blogging lately, but I do occasionally post something on Crimespace. I always try to respond to everyone who adds a comment. I do that on my blog when it's active, too.

Stacey Cochran said...

This has nothing whatsoever to do with "the follow up" but I thought you might be interested in my new TV show...

Stacey's TV Show!

I need authors to interview!

Dora Renee Wilkerson said...

I am a new visitor to your site. I just happened to be stumbling around.
It looks like you have a lot of good information on here to help people out that are just stepping into this field themselves.
I am going to bookmark your site and come back later. I need some sleep now but I'll be back!

Dora Renee' Wilkerson

Aimlesswriter said...

Hire one of your kids to answer your emails.
Can you pay your wife to do it for you?

Stacey Cochran said...

Hey Joe,

You were totally missed at Thrillerfest this year. I can't tell you how many people I told that I wished you were there.

It just wasn't a conference without your sense of humor to keep things in balance.

At any rate, if you'd like to see photos, I've got a few up on my blog (including ones with James Patterson, Jeffrey Deaver, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, Heather Graham, Lisa Gardner [with whom I totally look like a dork]).

And then the usual suspects like Marcus Sakey, Tasha Alexander, Alex Sokoloff, Robert Gregory Brown.

Check out the photos and blog here.

You were missed, man.

Dana Kaye said...

After conferences or appearences, I usually put a mention on my blog of all the cool people I met. That way, it puts people's names out there and it lets them know I enjoyed meeting with them. It might just be a copout so I don't have to e-mail everyone individually...

Also, in addition to what Katie said, I had reviewed a book as well as mentioning it on my blog and I got an e-mail from the author thanking me for my positive feedback. Because of that e-mail, the next time I see that author in my "To Be Read" pile, she'll be floating to the top.

JA Konrath said...

--I love Google, Katie. It's so easy to searchf or myself and see if someone is talking about me.

--I'll check out Zooped. Thanks!

--MySpace continues to amaze me, Jim. I'm selling hundreds of books with a very minimal time investment.

--Josephine, thanks for the comment. :)

--Good essay, Tammy.

--I'm trying to with the Most Humble Author Award, Mark, so I can shove it in everyone's face.

--Thanks, Dora! Welcome to the family.

--Keep up the great work, Stacey.

--Good advice, Aimee and Dana. Thanks!