Friday, 21 September 2012

Marketing Dilemma: Should Authors Do More To Sell Their Books?

Picture this: In one corner, we have authors with placards saying things like, ‘I'm a writer not a seller’ or ‘Selling is NOT my job’ and on the other corner, we have  Marketing and publicity experts with their placards saying, ‘thou must help us sell your book’ or ‘check your contract!’. And so the battle goes with each camp believing they are right.
Marketers will argue that authors need to get involved with the business of selling books. Whilst some (not all) authors just want to be left alone to do the creative thing they do. They don’t want to be dragged away from their passion, kicking and screaming, into our social media driven world.

But is there a merit to the need for authors to adapt somewhat? I will share my humble opinion, wearing both my publisher and author hat for this one…..
I will start off by saying in the defence of marketers (and ultimately publishers) we (i.e. authors) can no longer remain in our cubby holes – lost in our worlds of words - simply churning out manuscripts. Not that I believe majority of us authors are like that but times have really changed! Our book readers have become more savvy and perhaps more demanding. The buzz word I kept hearing in London Book Fair for years was we need to ENGAGE with our readers. That’s what they want.
Readers don’t just seem to want our books but a piece of us even if it is in the form of tweets of what we are up to, plots in our upcoming titles, contributing to the process (giving feedback on sample chapters, book cover designs, etc), acknowledging their reviews and so on.  This just happens to be the world we live in. And I have to say I am now convinced that this is not just the way to go but the norm!
I marvel at the fact that at one time, the only time one shared the same ‘air space’ with an author might be at a book signing or reading. Yet, today, a reader is merely a tweet, blog, fan page like/comment away. What the likes of social media and networks have done is bridge that gap. And I can see the ramifications of this on the bottom line i.e. profits. Because, by engaging, we are building our fan base or as Greg Stielstra, the author of PryroMarketing called it, creating evangelists who will spread the word. Now nothing sells books like word of mouth! He was part of the Marketing team at Zondervan that saw one of our all time best sellers, The Purpose Driven Life (by Rick Warren) take off and sell 25 million copies. Now, there has to be some wisdom in that.
And so, it would seem that the role of the author has changed somewhat in the context of selling books and perhaps needs to change even further – as our times dictate. As for me, as a self-published author, as much as I would like to spend 100% of my time writing, I have to sell my ‘blessed’ books too. For what good is a shed load of books gathering dust in the garage?
And perhaps, maybe the solution is authors and marketers working together for the common good. It could be we (authors) who marketing is not second nature, need more ‘softer’ approaches to selling for authors that does not feel like pulling teeth. Until then, I promise to keep tweeting and….engaging (as much as time permits, of course!)

By the way, anyone got any good ideas for ‘soft’ selling for us creative creatures? Feel free to comment.

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