Last week, I launched a series of blogs in conversation with the 2014 holiday season now rapidly drawing to a middle, and I began by addressing one of the common fallacies of holiday marketing for the self-published author––that is, I attempted to debunk the problematic concept of the Book-As-Gift (or B.A.G.). So, if attempting to sell our books to new readers in the name of holiday spirit isn’t an automatic success story, what is?
Thought #2: Not All Gifts Are Created Equal––Some Are More ‘Equal’ Than Others
What I mean to say is, while we can’t count on our existing networks to magically expand into much larger ones by asking our readers to purchase our books and slip them under the Christmas tree, we can hope for something much better. We can dream much, much bigger dreams––and one of the ways to dream bigger is to build more durable networks by investing in our readers. It is the holiday season, after all, and a time of year marked by a profound generosity of spirit. To transform this intangible gift into a bankable profit may seem self-interested, but it doesn’t have to be.
What, you might well ask, am I actually saying? I suggest launching a holiday reading campaign. It’s simple, and better still, it’s a gesture of good faith that benefits everyone involved. How to begin?  Look up the contact details for ten, fifteen, or twenty influential figures in your existing network––coordinators for your neighborhood 4-H club, presidents of your regional cycling club, board members for your local library, and so on––and compile them into a single list.  Send each of these forces of nature a signed copy of your book, along with a truly genuine letter touching on both your desire to connect relationally and on the nature of your book. You may or may not choose to mention that your book makes for a good holiday read––keep in mind that you’re not actively trying to sell your book, but rather establish and cultivate a social network that will get behind you in any and all creative endeavors you attempt from here on out.  Make sure to include your contact information and a note saying you’d love to get in touch with them if they enjoy your book. It’s not a bad idea to mention your status as a self-published author, and hint that you’re looking to build a support network or team to help spread the word that your book is out there in the world.  If you’re hosting a reading or other event at which you and your book will both be part of the conversation, make sure to invite your gift recipients. Keep the sense of obligation to a minimum, but assure them that you are truly––authentically––interested in connecting with them, whether in the public setting of an event, or the private setting of a small luncheon or coffee.
It is vitally important that you remember one thing: books don’t sell books––people do. As with all other ways and means of effective marketing––but especially around the holidays, a time set aside for family and friends and generosity––a holiday reading campaign must be centered on the people you want to reach, rather than just the product you want to sell. As I mentioned last week, there’s a lot of canned advice out there, and there are a lot of people who ‘phone it in’ when the holidays roll around. But if you truly love your book, and you truly love your readers, a holiday reading campaign may make for one great way to show that love and make effective use of the holiday fervor, as well. You don’t have to sacrifice sincerity for sales figures. Your readers will know you care if you take the time to make personal connections.
How effective are these sorts of campaigns? Well, without a rigorous controlled study and resulting data sets to consult, I can’t quote you numbers. But an anecdote: just this morning, a local author got in touch with the Head Librarian at my favorite library an—within the space of two brief phone calls over the course of an afternoon—set up a seminar and book reading. This author doesn’t know our Head Librarian personally, but he did gift a copy of his book to a board member of our City Council, and that board member became a natural bridge between author and library––without the author ever having to ‘push’ the book on an unwilling reader. The no-strings-attached nature of a holiday reading campaign is powerfully attractive in this world of many strings.
Why not give it a try? If you do, please drop me a line here to let me know how it goes!
Check back every Wednesday as I continue my blog series on the happy chaos of self-promotion during the holiday season. If you have any questions, would like to hear from me about something specific, or have other big news to share, please comment below!
|ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.|