Getting (Them) to Know You
by Mary Ellen Stepanich
In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, there’s a delightful song that expresses an important element in building relationships, “Getting to Know You.”
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me
This notion is especially relevant to the relationship that exists – or at least to the one we hope to build – between our readers and ourselves. In other words, we want them (the readers) to get to know us (the writers) … and buy our books. That’s one reason we join groups such as the Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing Meetup. We want to learn how to make that happen.
One obstacle in getting them to know us is our own naive theory about why people may or may not buy our books. “What is a ‘naive theory,’” you ask? It is a prevalent phenomenon in all human beings. If we don’t actually know why something happens, or the true cause-and-effect correlation of a result we observe, we create a “naive theory” or belief that explains what we see happening. For example, at one time people believed that a rainbow was God’s promise never to destroy mankind with a flood. Now we know that a rainbow is the result of sun shining through drops of water that create a prism separating the light spectrum into its component colors.
My own naive theory about book marketing is this: Because of the advances in technology, coupled with the cultural changes in leisure pursuits, there are now more writers than there are readers. Almost anyone can write a book, have it printed, and make it available to the reading public at a reasonable cost. On the other hand, much of the public doesn’t have the time or the desire to sit and read, or they prefer to have the story implanted in their brain cells by visual stimuli such as Netflix and Amazon View Sticks. If they do prefer to read the written word, that’s usually streamed on a hand-held device at the cost of 99¢ per book.
When I self-published my memoir, D is for Dysfunctional…and Doo-Wop, I knew that a writer must have a “platform” in order to be successful in marketing her book. From reading Chuck Sambuchino’s book Create Your Writer Platform, I learned that a platform is – simply put – how many people know your name. At the start, it’s the combined number of friends you have on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and the hits on your blog. Well, I had only seven friends on Facebook, I didn’t know how to tweet, and I had no blog – and I wasn’t convinced I really wanted something that sounded like a soggy swamp.
So, I took a class on blogging, hired a professional to create my website, and began to write amusing entries for this online journal. Soon my blog was inundated by comments – unfortunately not all of them from readers letting me know how much they enjoyed the posting. No, I had comments from marketers hoping to sell erectile dysfunction medications to my readers and search engine optimization methods to me.
As almost all writers will tell you that marketing your book(s) is hard work. It’s easier to write the book than it is to sell it. Most authors much prefer the writing aspect and detest the selling. Of course, there are a number of sources that provide advice to help a writer sell his work. The trick is to find the one that works for YOU.
One of the getting-them-to-know-you techniques I hadn’t planned but that happened serendipitously became evident when a friend said to me recently, “I loved your book so much that I gave it to my sister in Kentucky. She said she couldn’t put it down, and after she read it, she gave it to her daughter in Michigan.” As a result, there are now quite a few people who know my name who’ve never bought the book. That doesn’t help the sales of my first book, but it might bode well for sales of the next book.
Therefore, I am marketing the novel I’ve just finished by piggy-backing it on my memoir. I’m writing a series of novels featuring my comedy quartet and using the same music style, Doo-Wop, in all the book titles, i.e., Doo-Wops in Paradise, Doo-Wops Hit High C’s, and so forth. When I sell each Doo-Wop novel, I’ll offer a copy of my memoir for free.
I know I’m starting late, but if I live long enough, I’m sure someday there will be thousands of people who have gotten to know me. AND they’ll buy my books. Maybe even buy them for relatives for Christmas.
Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website, MaryEllenStepanich.com.