No Sweat Marketing
Marketing one’s books can at times appear to be a daunting task. Like most authors I have a well-developed plan which includes good use of social media, a solid website from which I also blog, make an occasional presentation and promote my books by writing articles for various magazines. But over the past two years I have developed an additional strategy – all due to my wife!
As an Xmas gift I received two sweatshirts, both with slogans on the front. One reads “Ask Me About My Book” and the other, “Careful or you’ll end up in next novel.” At first, I just thought they were whimsical and wore them in the house. But then one day while I was shopping with my wife in Costco, and I was wearing my “Ask Me” shirt, a lady came up to me and asked if I was a writer.
Briefly I explained, “Yes, I am,” and I asked her, “Are you a reader?” When she nodded, I gave her my business card. As we were loading the car, another lady seemed to be staring at me and walked over as if she knew me. “That’s a cute sweatshirt” she said, “are you a writer?” Again, I asked if she was a reader and when she answered in the affirmative, I gave her a business card.
But that evening, as I reflected on the day, I realized that I had missed a potential marketing opportunity. Yes, I had given away two business cards, but what if I had given each of those ladies a signed copy of my book? Maybe they would have read it and recommended it to their friends. How in fact, I thought, could I get to their friends? I needed people to buy my books, so I decided on two things. First, I would always carry a few books in my car that I would have at the ready for any marketing opportunity. I decided I would give them away. But with one condition! It became clear to me that I had multiple opportunities, daily, weekly, to build up a client reader base, without having to do very much. Simply by giving away a signed copy of any of my books the market would come to me.
Secondly, it was clear that I needed to ask more than the one question. After “Are you a reader?” I should also ask, “Do you belong to a book club?” If the person responded in the affirmative, then I would give him/her a free book on condition that s/he took it his/her club as a possible read. I also would offer to meet with the club either physically if it was local, or via Zoom. Book clubs love to meet with authors!
As I started my marketing campaign, I began to learn even better ways to improve my home-made marketing system, which I now call my Pyramid Book Scheme.
It all started with Big O Tires. I took my car into the local shop and the owner, Eric, saw my sweatshirt.
“So, you’re a writer,” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” I replied. “Are you a reader?”
“Yes, I love to read.”
Within minutes I knew what kinds of books he enjoyed best and then popped the question.
“And are you a member of a book club?”
“Absolutely. We meet every month, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
“Can you wait for second while I retrieve something from my car?”
A minute later he was holding a signed copy of one of my books.
“But how much is it?” he asked.
Learning that it was free, his face broke into a huge smile. And when I mentioned his taking it to his book club, he was thrilled.
“No problem. I’m sure they will read it and be delighted to have you join us.”
“But I have another question. How many people in your book club might know people in other book clubs?”
“There are eight or nine of us usually,” he answered, “but I would imagine there are at least two people who have other connections, socially or through church.”
“Then pass on the good news,” I urged. “I will give them a free signed copy if they will present it to those other clubs or groups.”
“Well, this is amazing,” said Eric. “I will certainly do that. But what about my daughter?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, she’s also a voracious reader and is a member of a book club.”
“Hang on a minute,” I replied and scurried out to my car and retrieved another copy.
“What’s her name?” I asked and inscribed it to her.
Through that one connection, I was soon contacted by seven book clubs and two other ladies’ social groups who wanted me to talk to them about why and what do I write.
It’s easier than you think. This is armchair marketing! I am not only selling books every month, but I am also building a base of readers who are eagerly waiting for my next novel.
I understand that writers in general are not great social animals and are often shy about contacting or simply striking up a conversation with people who are usually strangers. But sometimes we have to. Last year, wearing one of my sweatshirts, I had to visit my dentist. Five or six women were working in an administrative pool, and one of them called out to me, “Are you a writer?” And so, it began! By the time I had my teeth cleaned, I had signed and donated two books and was later connected to four books clubs.
I now get phone calls from people I don’t know but are asking for copies of my books so they can later take it to their clubs. Just by initially giving away a few books, I have been invited to speak to church groups, multiple Rotary clubs, Red Hat groups, and Soroptimists. The latter, mainly men, were asked by their wives who were readers to contact me. At each of these presentations, while I do sell books, my focus is on expanding my market, and so I always ask that second question, “How many of you are connected to a book club or any other kind of club?” And so, I collect names and contact information, offer to give away free copies, and continue to build my pyramid.
Blog post by Michael Barrington, an international writer, lives near San Francisco. His first book, The Bishop Wears no Drawers, is a memoir. The Baron of Bengal Street, his fourth novel, will be published January 2023. His short stories and articles have appeared in many publications in the USA & UK. www.mbwriter.net.
P.S. When I asked Michael about where to order these T-shirts, this is what he responded: