Monday, September 29, 2008

You Gotta Have Gimmick

Once upon a time, supposedly, a writer could hide away in a remote cabin, produce a magnum opus, mail it to a literary agent, get it published, and enjoy incredible sales without ever promoting it. That was the publishers job. If that ever was the case, it isn't any more. Even if you're published by a major New York house, the burden of promotion is on the writer.

I was at dinner with friends of a friend several weeks ago and one of the psychologists there mentioned that many writers suffer from depression and tend to be introverts. I can't disagree with either of those generalizations.

How do you reconcile the two? If you're like a lot of writers, you don't. You
stay hidden. Maybe you have a website. Maybe you belong to writer's lists. Maybe you seek reviews. Maybe you have friends who "hand sell" copies for you. Or maybe you come out of your cabin and trudge back to civilization for a book festival.

A long time ago, I worked in a boutique in a mall. Observation of the stores around us taught me something - people were more likely to come into the store if there
were other customers inside. It also helped if we looked busy. So instead of parking my ass behind the counter, on very slow days I'd go fuss with the displays up front. If people walked by, I'd make sure to catch their eye and smile, and then get back to whatever project I was doing. That didn't always work, but it did often enough that someone would come in. Maybe they didn't buy, but if they came in, we'd often
get other shoppers.

At the American Book Expo and the West Hollywood Book Festival, the same thing happened. People wandered past the many rows of booths but weren't really shopping. Neither were big book selling events. The idea was to get the name out there so that
people were aware of the product. At both events, I walked around and saw booth after booth manned by obviously bored workers. No one stopped to look at their stuff. That didn't happen at the booths I worked at. I was blessed both at Book Expo and the WeHo Book Festival to have booth buddies who stayed on their feet the entire time and tried to engage almost every person walking by. By the end of the day, we'd talked
ourselves hoarse and we'd given away tons of promotional merchandise. Motion catches the eye even more than color does, so we kept moving. Between smiles, sassy come hither lines, and the energy we put out, we almost always had people visiting our booth. Once people started coming over, we didn't have to work as hard to get others to wander over. Success and positive energy attracts like nothing else. (Free shot glasses and colored condoms don't hurt, either) Sure, we got trapped talking to
lonely people who just wanted to chat forever about nothing, but hey, that's amitzvah. Besides, it looks as if someone is deeply interested in your products. Win-win.

Maybe a better title for this entry would have been "You Gotta Get Out There
And Hustle Your Ass Off." For one day of your life, you can pretend to be one of those bold, perky people who likes strangers and loves giving the same pitch a hundred times. Pretend you're someone else. If you have a pen name, slip into that persona and sell it, baby. Because if you don't, no one will.

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