Grace and Peace to you from C. Kevin Thompson!
Does anything annoy you when it comes to authors marketing their own writing? A barrage of Facebook posts, perhaps? Sent out like Hootsuite clockwork to all the pertinent reader groups? “Buy my book! Buy my book! It’s only 99 cents for another two-and-half-days.”
Or what about constant twits from the infamous Twitterverse? “Buy my bk! Buy my bk! Only .99 4 2.5 more days.”
Okay, so I jest. A little bit. We’ve all probably been guilty of this kind of annoying marketing at some point. It’s one type, according to Jonathan Gunson, fiction authors should never do on a regular basis.
As I read Gunson’s article, I thought of my morning routine, getting ready for work as an assistant principal. While shaving, getting dressed, etc., I normally watch a local news channel to catch up on the news and weather. There is one aspect of this morning ritual I have grown to despise, however: All the local dealership commercials and car manufacturer ads. Not only are most of the local commercials cheesy and poorly done (the scripts are horrible!), but it seems that every commercial break has at least four. Sometimes, back-to-back-to-back. If you want to know who’s got what on sale, just ask me. It’s been drilled into my brain, like a jack hammer in the hands of my dentist.
Does that make me want to run right out and buy a new car? I think you know the answer to this one. And that’s why I drive a 2006 SUV…
What became crystal clear to me while reading Gunson’s article was something my Bible reading has been preaching to me for months. It’s all about relationships. Gunson mentions the fact that a writer must become “interesting” to his or her readers beyond—and often before—the reader ever picks up the author’s book and actually reads it. Just tossing Twitter salvos into the masses and hoping someone says, “Oh, wow! I’ve got to get me a copy of that!” is pie-in-the-sky thinking, to put it mildly and politely.
Think about it. How did you come across your favorite authors? What drew you to them? Many times, you hear about a book via word of mouth, which is still the best kind of advertising ever, bar none. So, let’s say that’s how you heard about Author X. You follow through and buy the book recommended to you by your best friend or colleague at work. You read it and like it. What do you do next? Check to see if Author X has anymore books, right? If Author X does, you buy another. However, all the while, what else are you doing, if you are a normal reader? You’re finding out about this author. Besides the author bio in the back of the books, you go to Author X’s website when you get a chance. You may even check out Author X’s Facebook/Twitter/Etc. pages.
Now, here’s where it gets real. If you, the reader of Author X, find the author interesting, if you find the author engaging, if you find the author maybe has similar interests or writes about other topics—maybe on a blog or in a monthly newsletter—that help you deal with someone or something, then a relationship is formed that goes beyond the normal, average “author/reader” relationship. You may even seek this person out when he or she is in town to get a book signed. You may even travel many miles to hear Author X speak at a conference or convention.
If you’re like me, you’re not an expert on this field. I’m an author. So, by nature, I’m an introvert. I have “loner-type” tendencies which border on being vehemently hermitic (If I may coin a term). I function best in the world of imagination and the crafting of words. I’ve had jobs in sales before, and I’m glad I can do others things. Otherwise, my family would have starved to death years ago. I’m not a salesman, never been a salesmen, and have never played one on TV. I couldn’t sell a heater to an Eskimo in January during a blizzard.
And yes, my publisher wants me to help sell my books. You just have to grin and bear the logic.
This relationship piece, though, is something I can do as a writer. Over the last several weeks, a thought keeps resurfacing. You’re an assistant principal in a public school, and a real good one, too. You have a plethora of things to offer folks who have children and/or grandchildren in school. Writing about education from the inside may not be what I write about when I take off my A.P. cape and slide in front of the computer, but could it help others better prepare their children for success in the ever-changing world of public education? You betcha. Could it help build relationships with folks from all walks of life who otherwise may never hear of C. Kevin Thompson, the author of fiction? Sure. Would I also be opening doors to other writing ventures not yet real or imagined? Possibly.
No matter how I slice it, it all boils down to relationships, not slick marketing techniques which often have an adverse effect over time. I don’t want to be known as “that annoying author who always sends me the same advertisements over and over again. He’s worse than the Toyota dealership!”
Instead, I want to be remembered as the author who helps readers, too. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12; New American Standard Bible). Then, when I do have a new book launch, I can alert my new “friends” and allow them to be my mouthpiece. It’s that kind of marketing a reader can truly appreciate. Why? Because they are helping a friend.
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (OakTara, 2012; winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1 (OakTara 2013).
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