Sunday, December 14, 2014

Always On Sale

I was sitting in the GM dealership last week waiting for my 11 year old car to finish being fixed when an amiable woman in the chair next to me struck up a conversation.  She seemed like one of those chatty types who got out nervous energy by talking, and I had little else to do, so I participated.  We talked about her son(he just finished Basic Training), her job(she left teaching to become a real estate agent), and what we liked about Hawaii(it's not frigid).

We eventually got around to our interests, and I casually mentioned that I like to write.  Her eyebrows shot up and she asked if I'd been published.  Not yet, although I told her the schedule I was on to do so.  I finally talked a bit about each of my books, and her interest doubled.  It turned out that she liked similar stories, and she asked what it would take to get on my fledgling mailing list.

That round about story was the lead in to remind all of you writers in the audience that you're always on the market.  Perhaps once you've made it big you can sit back and allow your reputation to sell books for you, but if you're just starting out, be prepared to sell yourself and your work at every opportunity.

The catch is that you can't be an overbearing prick about it.  Don't walk up to random strangers and shout, "I'm a writer, and have I got a story for you!"  However, you'll be surprised how often the chance to hawk your wares presents itself.  People love to talk about interests, and writing should be one of yours.

The trouble is that you can't just talk about what a great storyteller you are - you have to show it.  How do you do that?  You talk about your story.  What is it about?  How is it different than what else is out there?  Can you make a favorable comparison to something well known in popular culture?  Do you know what your book's 30 second spiel/book cover synopsis is?

When discussing your story, do so with enthusiasm.  No, not the rah-rah cheerleader crap you see coming out of motivational speakers - just show that it's interesting by knowing what it is and be able to tell just enough to whet the appetite without giving away the farm.  Potential readers will know if you're not enthusiastic about your work, and if you're not into it, why should they be?  You have to strike a balance between being passionate and needy, so expand beyond "My book is sooo great" and into why it's "sooo great."  For Akeldama, I like to start off by tapping into public disgust over sparkly vampires by using a line I stole from the internet - "My vampires only sparkle after the human hero has set them on fire."

If you're not willing to expand your potential base of customers, then you're not ready to do this for a living.  It takes more than writing a great story.  Great stories are nice, but if no one buys them, they won't bring you an income for neat goodies like food and heat.  Always be on the lookout for a new customer, for you never know which one will bring enough referrals for you to break out.

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