Today’s post is about Relationships. Which is another, kinder word for a type of networking, but it’s a networking that goes one step deeper than meeting people so you can both get ahead at something.
However, there was a lot of response to my post about signings last week and, while I could have responded more thoroughly then, I wanted to give it all some more thought. So, before moving on, I thought I’d poke that sleeping bear a bit.
Re book signings:
Stuart said >> Isn’t there a better use of our PR time?>>
Oh, heck yes!
Almost anything on the web is better use of our time! I might post something at sight that gets, at most, 150 readers a day. But that is 150 people who want to know what I have to have to say, who read my genre, and who love books! They aren’t there for the coffee, or the gift ideas or to hook-up for the night. They are there because they want to be there for me, the writer of books! They are there at their convenience, not mine, a feat which, to duplicate, would require me to be at a bookstore 24 hours a day.
EKCarmel said >>an introvert who has been working at coming out of her shell as an adult, those book signing stories sound like a special kind of hell.>>
EK, anyone who knows me now could never imagine the quiet, shy, head-hidden-in-a-book child and young woman I was. While I’d put down the book and champion any underdog who was being bullied (detested-near-to-hated bullies. Still do) I was otherwise oblivious to the social world around me. I am still uncomfortable (and often a bit of an antisocial geek) in social situations. But when I decided to become a writer, and realized that I was not going to be able to write under a male penname and pay my younger brother to impersonate me at signings, (yes, I gave this serious consideration) I knew that I’d have to create a different me, one who was socially acceptable, knew how to laugh at jokes, make some myself, smile at the right time, not be snarky and rude most of the time, be capable of speaking in public, and … well … be nice. It is an ongoing project. I am an ongoing project.
Though I have not been described clinically as one with spilt personalities, I do have more than one. Frankly, when I began writing under 2 names (and now perhaps 3) the division in my soul between who I was and the people I was becoming grew much larger. The last time I called David, I used the wrong name when leaving a message and because I had a cold and sounded like a hard-drinking smoker, he wasn’t certain who I was at first. When I explained that I had 3 writing projects out in 4 weeks under different names and personalities, he used the term bifurcated. That’s me. And if you play your cards right, it can be you!
NewGuyDave told the story >> I heard recently [of] author x sitting beside bestselling author y at a signing table (removed to avoid embarrassing a friend). Nobody to come see x, while the store was lined out the door for author y. Finally, a fan from y’s line asked x if he was one of y’s assistants.>>
NGDave, I have a bit of advice for all the big name writers and wannabe-big-names out there. I am not often the one with the long line, but on the occasions when I am, I make a point to meet and greet and sign, then turn to the person beside me and say to my fan, “And you must speak with author X, here. He writes Insert Book Titles Here, and I love his work!” Being nice is important and many big name writers don’t know how. Or don’t bother.
Edmund said >>The strategy I adopted early on was not to do JUST signings, but to offer some kind of workshop or talk first.>>
Edmund, that works. I did it for over 15 years, often traveling the 250 miles one way to Atlanta. I recommend it to writers just starting out, to attract readers at book stores or libraries. But I’ve had so many events-that-didn’t-work because of bad weather or some other problem, that I’ve almost stopped now. Paraphrasing David’s comment last week—cons are a much better use of my time.
David said >>I am convinced that that vast majority of what we authors do in the name of “PR” is a waste of time. … I really don’t believe that my sales numbers would be that different if I did none of this stuff. I do it because if I didn’t I’d go nuts. When I have a book come out, I feel that I have to do SOMETHING to promote it.>>
Heck, yes. The *I must do something or I’ll go insane* hits all writers. And cons are expensive. And far away. And so I’ve put most of my eggs into the Internet basket. And it is working for me. That said, we all hope to see all of you at StellarCon and ConCarolinas in 2011! (End of plug for cons.)
David also said >>But mostly [at cons] I get to hang out with other writers which pays dividends in other ways. >>
And this leads us into this week’s post. Relationships.
I am still learning how to build relationships. Knowing how is not something that nature hardwired into me. I am having to learn how to build them. Relationships make PR much easier in every way. Here’s one way they work:
MW is a direct response to a meeting at a con attended by Misty, David and one-of-me. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, I am a shy person by nature, so when I meet someone and there is an instant click, a singular moment of, “Hey. I like you,” well, it’s rare enough to stand out in my mind for years. That singular moment happened with Misty way back when. That moment of acceptance that means a relationship is not only possible, but a certainty. And it happened again many years later when I met David. We met at a con, and instantly wanted to do something career-wise together. Brainstorming took us all over the possibilities from signing together (We live over 300 miles from each other, so that wasn’t gonna happen) doing a short tour together (hard for writers from different publishing houses to make that happen) to doing something for both writers and readers, which left us at, “Yeah. Something. I’ll think about it.”
Add Misty into the mix and it happened. She was the missing link. I am pretty sure it was Misty who said, “Why not do a website?” It was magical. In case you haven’t guessed, Misty can build relationships much better/faster than I!
The MW How To book is another result of the relationship magic that can happen at cons. And, BTW, most of it happens at the bar (or in an RV) with copious amounts of libations available, and it happens after hours, when no fans are around anywhere to see us get silly when we let down our hair. We wear comfy jeans or sweat pants, we curl up on the floor on pillows, we kick off our shoes. No one (usually) gets sloppy drunk. Actual drinking is not the only, or even the main, point. The point is that we build relationships with other writers and out of that meeting of the minds, great things can, and often do, happen. The moment when the How To book became a reality was another singular moment, this time with … was it ten? … people. It stands out in my mind even now, six months later, with almost audible click in my soul. Magical. The magic of relationships.
Stuart said >>Since every author I’ve ever talked to about this agrees that book signings don’t usually pan out, why do them? … Isn’t there a better use of our PR time?>>
Building relationships, with bookstore sellers, the few readers we might meet, the rare fan who might show up, is the only reason to do a signing. Now I do book signings in my little indie store when I have a new book release. I’ll do a signhing the day before a con, or when I travel to Myrtle Beach or some mountain town. If I travel to New Orleans I’ll sign. But as means of PR, no. It just isn’t worth it. As a means of building a relationship, I am much more willing. Why
Last week, David also said >>The one thing I try to do that I think IS effective? Talking to bookstore staff in as many local stores as possible. They are the ones who hand sell books. They have the greatest potential influence over my book’s success or failure. But the rest is, in my opinion, window dressing.>
He was talking about relationships. Build them with bookstore people, which is hard because there is such turnaround in them, or used to be. Nowadays, people with bookstore jobs might stay put longer, so it might be easier. And my local indie bookstore attracts and keeps people for years. Always has. Relationships help. Build them. One trick? When I go to a bookstore for the first time, I used to take a dozen Krispy Kremes with my book info taped inside the lid. Booksellers remembered me.
Multi-writer signings are another great way to use relationships to build a fan base. Signing with writers who want everyone at the signing table to make a sale is a great fun. When you can get a bookstore to agree to give 5 or 10% to charity for every signed book sold during the 2 or 3 hours that the signing takes place, or agrees to pay for shipping to overseas soldiers for signed books purchased by shoppers is a great way to get shoppers in. Multi-author signings at Christmas time is a great idea! Use your imagination to think of ways to build on your relationships with other writers.
More next week on PR.