I heard a well-published, best-selling author speak at a conference today. (I hesitate to use his name because I haven’t asked for permission.) I watched him give a talk that is the gist of his new major trade book. During his talk he referenced his new book numerous times and none of them sounded pushy, “salesman-y,” or insincere – it was amazing!
I bring this up because I know this is not an easy thing to do. So many writers I’ve met glaze over when I start talking to them about self-promotion. The words feel dirty: “self-promotion.” As if we were talking about an egotistical running back that wants to brag about how many touchdowns he scored in the last big game. But that’s really not the case.
Marketing doesn’t have to be egotistical. Marketing doesn’t have to feel “dirty.” Marketing, like most things, is most effective when you do what you do best and tell a story. Here’s how he did it:
1) He had books with him on stage. This is a simple one, but one that I see authors often forget about. They give talks on topics near and dear to them. Talks on the same subject as the writing project they’ve poured over for months or years….and then forget to have copies visible. When the book cover isn’t available for people to see, even if they are connecting with the content of your presentation, they’ll have a disconnect between you and the book cover. If they see the cover later they are less likely to connect it with you and your presentation. Don’t forget to have one or two books handy when you speak.
2) He referenced the book the way you would reference something you truly love. This guy was a real writer. I’m convinced. He’s someone that labored over every word in his book and was proud that it was done. He talked about it project like it was a child he was raising. He’d put his heart and soul into it and wanted to tell the world about it. Aren’t we all that way? Doesn’t every storyteller want to tell people stories? Don’t we, in some non-egotistical way, long to have readers of the tales we spend so much time crafting? Why shouldn’t we talk about them like the hard work that they are?
3) He explained the cover of his book. This was a great marketing move that I honestly don’t think he planned. Great book covers take a long time to develop. Ask any author about one of their covers and there is probably a story behind how it ended up the way it is. There are reasons why certain fonts are chosen, why pictures are cropped in certain ways, why certain colors are chosen, etc. etc. etc. This author had a simple, iconic image on the front that had an obvious connection with the title, but also a hidden deeper meaning. He had a story to tell. Not only was it really interesting for the audience to hear about the deeper meaning behind the book cover, but I’m convinced everyone in that room will remember that cover and the hidden story behind it from now on.
4) He read an excerpt. Near the end of his talk he said, “I want to share with you all my favorite story in the book. It’s on page _____.” On stage he had a copy of the book, flipped open to the page he’d just mentioned and read a short excerpt with passion. I don’t believe anyone in the audience thought he was insincere or bragging about it. Again, he was doing what we as writers hope to do best, tell stories.