We’ve just finished Thanksgiving here, complete with turkey and Beef Wellington and dinosaurs.
Thanksgiving is fundamentally about both gratitude and sharing. Frequently at the end of the year, I list some of my charities and invite readers to donate with me. We don’t talk amounts, there are no special prizes, it’s just me sharing some causes and the organizations I trust to do something about them. None of these links are connected to me, I get no kickback or prize for referrals or anything. This is just part of me thanking all of you for helping me to support these groups, who offer help to all in need regardless of identity, creed or worldview, etc.
Last year at Realm Makers conference, I sat in a session with author Wayne Thomas Batson, in which he assigned us a writing exercise. I don’t remember exactly what the prompt was, something about tension, except that it had to be a scene with two people and we had to use two supplied, uncommon character names. (As I wrote in first person, my protagonist’s name is lost to my faulty memory. Ah, the sadness. Edit: Thanks to fellow attendee Andy for reminding me of Biff!)
Okay, rather than snarking at the separate statements which have combined into a irritating whole, I’m just gonna say this over here, as a sort of inspirational rant.
I’m going to use NaNoWriMo and myself as my talking example, because it’s general and won’t point blame to anyone, and also because it’s an easy example this month. But this concept goes well beyond NaNo.
So here goes:
EVERYONE HAS COMMITMENTS. EVERYONE HAS OBSTACLES. EVERYONE HAS EXCUSES.
Let’s talk about human nature, and how we let it boss us around.
Last year I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest, my first try. There are three rounds of competition with a final prize of $5,000 for the winner and still-significant cash for the top ten.
I won my heat in the first round, with a story I love.
I got second place in my heat in the second round, making it into the final 75 — out of thousands of entrants — for the final round.
And then I tanked in the final round, turning in a story I knew was insufficient but just couldn’t fix by deadline. No placement. It was frustrating because I wasn’t just beaten by an excellent story (although I’m sure it was!), which I would have been fine with, but because I didn’t produce a competitive story, and I knew it even as I turned it in.
Let’s talk about something which is discussed a lot but often executed poorly — author tables and hand-selling books at a live event. Here’s a technique recommendation with data to validate my opinion.
If you’re one of those authors who hates selling — great.
One of the things I sometimes try to communicate to fellow authors is that they often kill their book table sales by overselling at live events. There’s a lot of used-car-salesman technique that goes on, and which gets mimicked because that’s what everyone else is doing, and it makes sales harder. It takes a lot of faith, but you can let your books sell themselves.
So here’s the story: I suddenly got an author table I hadn’t been expecting at a fandom convention where I was working. I had books and a banner in the car, but I didn’t have my usual table display materials and I didn’t have my full catalog of titles, just 8. I set up early and then went to help teach a thermoplastics for cosplay panel, leaving my table to be watched (theft prevention only, no sales) by the helpful staff overseeing the charity “flea market” setup. (Table rental went to a local hunger charity.)
I came back an hour later and immediately sold 14 books. One staff member bought every title on my table, the other bought 6. Why? They had felt free to browse, without a creepy pushy author asking “Do you like to read?” and other typically awkward questions. And when they browsed, they decided they wanted to read.
Then I settled down to half-ignore my customers and ultimately I cleared just over $200 in sales in one and a half hours using my patented brand of not-selling ;-) which does involve talking to people and signing books, but feels way less skeezy than “sales.” That was even without my full display or my complete catalog, and with a number of sales lost because I ran out of #1 in a series and they didn’t want to start with book 2. (I *should* have promised a free ebook of #1 if they purchased #2, but that didn’t occur to me at the time…. /facepalm/) And I didn’t accost a single person.
My message is this: If you’re one of those authors who hates selling — Great! you’ll be less tempted to do it wrong. You can sell books without being salesy! Don’t let the live events scare you. It’s not really about pushing sales.