Learn To Sell Yourself As An Author

On Saturday, I went to a niece’s bridal shower in Cedar Rapids. Along with the rest of the family I now eagerly await the wedding November 14th. This couple, after five years of making sure this commitment is for them, have decided to tie the knot. We are so excited for them. We are looking forward to having the welcomed edition of this new nephew to the family. To sanction this union, the couple did what we in-laws have had to do for many years. They made a trip to Arkansas to get the approval of the rest of the Risner Clan. That consists of the groom being able to hold his own in bragging rites about hunting and fishing. For the bride, this test means being appreciative of the women kin’s southern cooking. Truthfully, I almost failed that test. I’m not a fan of white gravy but I do occasionally make it because my husband and I were raised eating gravy and biscuits. Where I had a problem was hiding my breakfast egg under bacon grease gravy. My refusal to dip into the gravy bowl the first morning was cause for concern that was only alleviated by my husband’s aunt passing the blackberry jelly for my homemade biscuit. I’ll never turn down any food flavored with blackberries. We’re proud to say the groom to be passed the Arkansas scrutiny test with flying colors. Now we can relax and enjoy this couple as they grow old together.

A book selling instinct kicks in when I least expect it. A couple weeks ago, I was talking to the bride to be’s mother who hosted the shower. She told me 20 women were coming. Many of them friends of the couple and groom’s relatives that I don’t know. So at the bottom of my gift bag under the shower presents I placed my latest book – A Promise Is A Promise (ISBN 0982459505). My niece already owns three of my books. I thought she might like one more. When my niece held up the book, she proudly announced that Aunt Fay wrote it. Fay who? "That woman over there. She’s an author," my niece told them. As the book went along for gift inspection, the guests passed on other items the bride had opened up (barely looking at them) and held onto the book to read the back cover. Questions came fast for a moment. What genre do you write? How do we get your books? Then the attention was turned back to the bride where it should be. This was her moment.

Did it end there? No. I happened to have a stack of business cards with me just in case. Now I didn’t feel comfortable pushing the cards on the women at the shower, but the niece sees these ladies all the time. I had no problem handing the cards to my niece when I went to her house after the shower. I ask her if any of her friends or the groom’s family wanted to contact me about a book could she give them one of my card. She was delighted to help me out. She informed me these same women all belong to a book club. She grinned mischievously as she watched an eager glow light up my eyes at the mention of a book club.

The hardest thing in the world for a self published author of a new book is to sell themselves as an author. Putting the spotlight on ourselves is hard. I came from long line of women too bashful to keep on nightclothes after they got out of bed each morning just in case company showed up early. I live in the country, hidden by seven feet tall corn stalks on all sides for months. Still I find the thought of stepping outside in my nightgown difficult. To my amazement as I drove through town one early morning, I noticed a woman in her pajamas setting her trash on the curb. Her family tree surely had women the total opposite of mine.

Public speaking has been a big help for easing my bashful streak. Knowing my subject (my books) helps me have the confidence to stand in front of an audience. Last June when I was invited to Anamosa for the library’s author day, the other authors and I had fifteen minutes to talk about our books in front of a video camera as well as an audience. I was at a slight disadvantage since I had 13 or 14 more books to discuss than the rest of the authors. Talking about that many books in that length of time took some doing. My husband sat in the back of the room. He told me later while I was speaking he heard one woman remark that I was a good speaker. It must be that my public speaking training was something the other six authors didn’t have. I have no idea what purpose the video was used for, but I can hope that it will be to my advantage as an author.

I went to Author Day convinced that I wouldn’t sell many books. New to the area, unknown author and this is a small town. So I took a basket and a small note pad to use for a book drawing. My three smaller books of short stories, inexpensive to publish, were made to use for giving readers a taste of how I write if they don’t want to pay for the larger books. The audience could pick the book they would like to win. After the day was over, I drew a name and mailed the book to the winner. I sent the library a thank you note for inviting me and being so gracious. Whether I had sold any books or not, I felt the librarian deserved to know how much I appreciated the invitation. The audience was around forty strong. I sold a variety of my 16 books and gave out many bookmarkers for their future reference. From the way the day ended, I am fairly sure I will get an invitation to Author Day next year.

In August for my high school class reunion, I gave away 21 copies of my latest book. For me that was quite a sizable amount of money, but I put an inventory list in each book along with contact information. These former classmates live all around the country. Hopefully, my gift of a book will lead to other sales. Giving each of them a book wasn’t easy to do. Their critiques of my book might be quite critical. (So far I’ve only heard from readers who were pleased.) They have known me for years and never once thought of me as a prospective author at the other reunions. They do now. Since that night, I’ve sold classmates 11 other books which helped me to break even on the give away.

I signed in on Classmate.com awhile back. I spent most of my childhood in southern Missouri so besides signing in for Keystone High School in Iowa, I signed in for Schell City High School in Missouri. Recently, I heard from a former classmate and emailed another one. Now do I expect to make books sales from those contacts. Not really but by word of mouth, one former classmate might say to another, "I heard from Fay the other day. She has become an author. Sells her books on Amazon. Isn’t that something?" The curiosity to see what my books are about might lead these former classmates to check out my books on Amazon and eventually to a sale. After all, one of my books is about a family from that area in Missouri during the Civil War.

During a book sale, one of the hardest things for me to remember is to ask if the buyer would like to have me sign the book. At the start of the Civil War Days book sale in September, I didn’t think of asking until the buyer started away. She liked that about me that I was a novice yet about the workings (pushing myself as the author) of a book sale. However, I did try to remember to ask to sign the books after that. Once in awhile, someone would have to remind me to do it. In one instance, I asked if I should sign the book. The woman said yes because she only buys signed books. My first thought was lucky her. If I waited for a signed copy of books, I wouldn’t have very many on my book shelf. Then it occurred to me I should feel honored that I would be in this lady’s collection of signed books.

Of course, speaking one on one to a buyer is easier than a whole room full of people. Knowing the books I want to sell by heart because I wrote them does help my sales pitch. I talk nonstop about the book a prospective buyer is interested in until that buyer shows me the cash. One man listened to me start a detailed account of my Civil War book and he stopped me. (I try very hard not to give away too much, but I want to make the buyer curious enough to buy the book to get the rest of the story.) That buyer told me not to tell him too much. He wanted to buy the book and read it. I’m so enthusiastic about my stories and eager to share them that I don’t see how that can be all bad.

When I’ve been asked to sell my books, my first thought always is I probably won’t do very well with sales. Each time it has been my experience that I have done very well indeed. I feel it has something to do with that personal one on one contact with my buyers. You see by selling myself, I sell books.