In the course of a day, even introverted writers (which I must admit, I’m not) have the opportunity to turn everyday interactions into book buzz.
This week alone, I was talking to the Macy’s clerk and as she hung the cute new dress I was buying, I mentioned that I had a book coming out and planned to wear the dress to an author speaking event. She immediately brightened and graciously asked the next question that almost anyone you open your mouth to about being an author will ask: “Oh! What’s your book about?”
I had my elevator pitch ready to roll and delivered it with a smile. Amazingly, the woman nodded along and said, “Yes, yes, I’ve heard of this.” WHAT? Really? How insanely exciting! She began spitting out information to me about my book; it turned out she had read a big feature story in a regional paper.
Only a few days before this shopping trip, I booked my next hair appointment with the salon owner and told him, “That’ll be my pub day, I’ll be doing a reading that night,” which, as is the culture at salons, got him talking about the launch party. By the time I walked out, three patrons and two other stylists had asked for my cards and wanted to come to the party too. As we chattered, the one man waiting told me he knew about the book (from the same newspaper story) and we had a terrific chat. Later that evening, one of the clients at the salon signed up for my newsletter, I recognized her name. Conversion from conversation.
Here are a few of my tips for chatting your way to some book awareness and sales:
- Mention you’re an author
So even if you’re on the shy side, you can do this. (Really, you can.) Be creative in ways to bring up your writing and have your elevator pitch polished and ready. Below is an example of a conversation progression so you can see how to slip in the fact that you’re an author. Then, if the person asks more, you’re in; if they seem disinterested or move on to another topic, let it drop. Follow their lead. There’s no need, or place, to get pushy about it, what we’re looking for is creating opportunities.
Yesterday, I was at a flower show and complimented one exhibitor’s garden. I snapped a picture and asked if he was on Instagram so I could tag him. He wasn’t which prompted me to say, “I’m finally on it because I’m promoting my book,” and that’s all it took for him to ask for more details. The fact that he’s not likely in my ideal reader group didn’t matter. As we spoke, he told me about his two daughters who are right in my audience age group and I handed him a bookmark.
You must make bookmarks and have them on hand with you at all times. AT ALL TIMES. If for some reason, you’re opposed to bookmarks, have a postcard or some other take away instead, but just this week, author Kelly Ford posted that she’d found a bookmark that her elementary school teacher had given her. This proved the point her publicist had made that people keep bookmarks while they’ll throw away other things.
I’ve pinned mine up at the local dinner on their community board and at the physical therapist.
Hand them out. Leave them here and there: the post office line while you’re waiting to mail those galleys (the armful of book packages are another good conversation starter), the doctor’s office coffee table, the seat on the train. It’s all awareness building and you never know who will pass it along: to grandchildren, neighbors, nieces, friends.
- Wear something that spurs conversation
For my book swag, the only things I got with my book cover on them are my bookmarks, bookplates (for far-away friends), and notecards to mail thank you letters. Other than that, everything has something to do with the book less directly.
For example, I bought fork, knife and spoon charm for necklaces and have used them to give to authors who blurbed my books, beta readers, and reviewers. The beauty of it, is that as I wear my own, people often comment on it and it’s an easy opener to bring up my book (see tip number one).
I also purchased conversation starter T-Shirts that say, “I’m a steak knife.” You and others think, “Huh? What does that mean?” and then perhaps ask the wearer what it means, giving the opportunity for other people to talk about the book. Of course, I’ve wardrobed my husband (my steak knife) with one.
Find something that coordinates and works with your book’s theme or character or location and wear it. A tote bag, jewelry, a scarf, something custom made or bought cheaply online.
- Everyday interactions
Look for places to engage someone while you’re on your errands or going through your routines. Chat with the person checking you in at the gym, at the physical therapist’s office, at the pharmacy drive-through. Can you mention something to the person who makes your coffee in the morning or who serves you a glass of wine when you’re out in the evening?
Sometimes, when you use certain services regularly, you can skip ahead and not need to be as finessed about bringing up your book. You can literally tell the guy who always pumps your gas, “Hey, I wrote a book. Maybe you know someone who would enjoy it. Here,” and give him a bookmark. At the bank just this morning, I did that and handed my regular teller a bookmark. She offered me a complimentary month to promote my book at the bank’s community display table in the center of that branch. One mention + One bookmark = One month free exposure.
- Other tips
Giving someone a physical reminder is important for them to take away, it’s something they can turn into an action like subscribing to your newsletter, following you on social media, or buying your book. They can also share that. People like the idea of meeting a rare, unicorn-like author and may just tell someone, “I met this author while I was in the grocery store today. We should read her book for book club.”
My friend, author Nicole Waggoner, also carries physical books with her in a tote and if someone shows enough interest or asks where they can buy it, she whips out a copy to sell them on the spot. She accepts cash, check, or a credit card purchase using her phone – Square, Flint, Quickbooks are some options. Now that’s conversion!
I’m sure Nicole and I are not the only ones to chat up our books and build some buzz. What tips can you add to this list?
Leah DeCesare is the author of the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Her articles on parenting have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, and The Key, among others. In 2008, she co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, DeCesare worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches, and volunteers in Rhode Island, where she lives with her family and talking cockatiel.
Connect with Leah:
Author photo credit: Erica Shea
About Forks, Knives, and Spoons
There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.
Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys —from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks—all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves—and not to settle in love or life.