Friday, September 28, 2012

Small Matters

Last weekend I hosted the Western Writers of America booth at the Mountains and Plains Bookseller Trade Show. It's one of my favorite events. Representatives from New York houses show up with books from their fall lists and bookstore owners eagerly look for books their readers will enjoy.

It's a great opportunity to meet the owners and managers of bookstores and the reps from various houses.

I had a surprising conversation with a representative from Ingrams which distributes books for Poisoned Pen Press.

I was shocked that she recognized my name. Then got a double shock when she told me I don't market my books enough. She didn't hesitate to scold me for not giving enough talks and presentations. I was surprised. And heartened to know that this kind of contact counts for so much. She says when she sells my books to stores, the response if often "never heard of her."

So much marketing has gone to on-line, that I've neglected the hard work of contacting booksellers and libraries. I really don't mind speaking, it's the process of setting things up that I find daunting.

Boy, did I ever hear some interesting advice. I asked her about the effectiveness of on-line marketing. She said small stores feel like this mainly helps the on-line stores. As to writers conferences--she said we only talk to one another while we're there.

Gulp! Nailed!  She's entirely right. At conferences, I tend to seek out my buddies.

So I changed my tactics. I decided to reform right then and there at the event. A man wandered over to our table. He was from a town close to me. He was quite chatty and interested in the books written by WWA members and my mysteries in particular. I asked if he was interested in a signing. His store is small, and we discussed topics that interest his customers.

The town has a lot of Episcopalians. Lethal Lineage begins in a small country church where a sinister bishop is performing a confirmation ceremony. I'm going to see if their local church might be interested in a program about church history,

Signings are difficult. They are hard to get. Volunteering to present a program for organizations gains immediate acceptance. I'll talk and he can supply the books.

Small matters. If this were not true, there are a lot of politicians knocking themselves out for nothing.


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Great to get that kind of useful feedback.

Getting out and about helps me with name recognition, but I seem to do much better when I'm speaking about a topic or leading a book discussion than when I try to deliberately focus on marketing my books. A lot of it has to do with my comfortable level.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie, I agree. I think focusing on the non-fiction aspects of our books is much more interesting. Sitting around talking my own books seems slightly crazy.

Hannah Dennison said...

Actually - I found your post heartening indeed! I've been getting increasingly depressed about connecting with booksellers and feeling no one notices. That's great to know all is not lost!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, thanks. I think I mentioned in a previous post that a lot of bookstores are tired of shilling for Amazon. They sponsor a signing, then a reader comes in with a book bought on-line for a lot less money than they can sell them for and wants the author to autograph it!

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