The Best Way To Make An Impression?
It's likely - but not certain - that the answer is to write a really good book. In fact, everything I say after this sentence is predicated on the assumption that you have written a really good book and that your book also has a really good professional cover and really good editing. Further, an additional assumption is that you are going to repeat the process multiple times, because few things make more of an impression on a reader than multiple books, especially those in a series.
But back to the main topic:
It's likely that the second best way to make an impression is to personally meet readers, talk to them about your book, and, if possible, get them to realize that you're a halfway decent and interesting person. You don't even have to be especially charming, although it's great if you are.
Many readers like to try books by authors they've met. They are naturally curious about writers. “She seemed really smart. I wonder what her book is like.”
Meeting Readers In Person
A person who reads a book by someone they've never met may - if they like the book - remember it and the name of the author who wrote it. But after a few months, their memory may falter. “There's this book I read that I liked, and it was by this author whose name escapes me, and I guess I can't really remember the book, either.”
But if the reader meets the author of that really good book, they will probably remember that author and her books for years and maybe even forever. Then, when the reader discovers that the author has come out with a new book, they may buy it. When they're trying to think of books to give for holiday presents, they will remember the author. And they will be pleased to tell the people on their gift list that they met the author.
Speaking for myself, of all the books I've read and liked, I've probably forgotten most of them along with the authors' names. Sorry! But I remember every single one of those books where I've met the author and also liked his or her book.
Be The Author "Entertainment" At An Event
I do lots of events where I can meet readers. I speak at libraries, service clubs, book clubs, schools, and author events. I exhibit books at all of those plus many art & wine festivals, street fairs, and any other events where there will be a lot of people, such as at the state fair. I've spoken to retirees and little kids and every age in between. I've spoken to cops and firemen and professional women's groups and college students and writer's groups. And of course, I do bookstore talks and signings.
A quick count on the “Events” page of my website comes to about 250 events I've done since 2008. (And that doesn't count dozens of non-public events - private gatherings where I've spoken - that aren't on my "Events" page.) Many of the events I do are multiple-day events. Many are events with a thousand people walking by every hour, most of whom probably weren't even interested in books. But for the 5% who were, I ended up making hundreds or even thousands of impressions.
Ever since my books began selling well enough that I could quit my day job, I've been a full-time writer, which gives me advantages of time and flexibility. But like most writers, during the period I wrote my first four books I had to work the day job 6 days most weeks and constrain book events to my limited time off.
That can be hard. But for most people, there are still 52 weekends a year. That's a lot of time for events. And many people with day jobs can get vacation time off. I did, too, and I spent much of those vacations working on my books and book business.
Like most writers, in the beginning, I focused on bookstore signings. I soon learned that while a good bookstore can do wonders for your career, most do not. At many bookstore signings, I struggled to connect to anybody among the very few people that wandered the aisles.
I soon realized that if I gave talks, I would meet many more people. So I polished up three different talks and gave them for free to any group that would have me.
From there I segued into larger events. I spent multiple vacations exhibiting at the L.A. Times Book Festival where over 150,000 book lovers attend. Exhibiting at that festival is great! But the reality is that I shared that very large crowd with 650 other authors. Same for the Tucson Festival of Books as well as all other author events. (I really like the Sonoma County Book Festival in Santa Rosa.) It's hard to make an impression when you are just one of hundreds of colleagues all selling books.
But those shows are still good to attend, as are any and all events where you personally meet readers.
Festivals Are Where The People Are
Eventually, I discovered that exhibiting at events and festivals where I am the only author, or one of only two or three authors, is hugely more rewarding. As I mentioned earlier, most people attending such festivals could care less about authors. In fact, it could be that many people at such festivals, like much of the general public, rarely read.
But for those people who are addicted readers, I stand out. “Oh, look, there's an author here! Oh, look, he writes mysteries! Oh, look, they're set in Tahoe!”
Next thing I know, I've sold a book or three. And if the person likes my books, they may remember me forever. By the end of the festival I may go home with significant receipts. (Of course, the money is the least valuable part. The biggest reward comes when those buyers read the book that I signed for them and they love it enough to order up all the rest of my books and then tell their friends about it. For a beginning author, making money is the least important. Getting books out there is more important. Finding life-long readers is most important.)
All Authors Need To Learn How To Sell Books
In the beginning of my writing career, I worked very hard to sell a few books. (At one bookstore signing, I sold just a single book. Ouch!)
The first hundred books an author sells are hard-won sales. But you need to buy 100 copies of your book and go out there committed to selling them. That is the only way you will learn the process. Know that it will be very hard. That way you won't be so discouraged.
The second hundred are only marginally easier because, while you have begun to learn what matters to readers, you still won't have built up any readership that one could call a following.
The first thousand books sold are a huge milestone because it proves to yourself that you've learned the basics of how to connect to readers. And it proves that many of those readers liked your book enough to recommend it to their friends. Further, it indicates that when you spend ten times the focus on your newly-refined efforts, you will sell ten times as many books.
Sometimes, an author will seem to be struck by a lightning bolt of success after their first book is published. Their story is splashed across the media. As a percentage of all authors, it's a very rare event.
Most authors build their career bit by bit. Success in most fields only comes after dogged persistence. If you do enough events and do them long enough, and if you write enough good books, you will succeed.
With Time And Effort, You Will Find A Good Audience
I credit much of my career to all those author appearances.
My most recent event was the Candy Dance Festival held in Genoa, Nevada last weekend. The place was a mob scene, and I met a lot of people and sold a lot of books. More importantly, as I've said, I found a lot of new readers.
At the end of the festival, I discovered that one of my author friends, Stan Paher of Reno, was also there exhibiting his books. When I asked how the show went for him, his grin was impressive.
So write some really good books, then get out there and meet people. Keep the faith, and be persistent. You might be surprised at the career you can build.
Gotta go now... I'm exhibiting my books at the Minden Library Author Day in two hours. And then I pack my car full of books to do a Bay Area show in Los Altos this weekend.
|The Candy Dance festival in Genoa, Nevada each fall brings a huge crowd. |
Having an author tent at this and other festivals is a great way to meet readers.