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Guest Post: 50 Shades Of Crimson – The Self-Publisher’s Guide To Marketing

Guest Post: 50 Shades of Crimson – The Self-Publisher’s Guide to Marketing

fixfairyLong ago when I was a young mother looking for a little extra income, I got talked into selling Tupperware. I love Tupperware, but I am the opposite of a saleswoman (not to mention that I prefer to lurk in the corner at parties, and a Tupperware sales event was billed as a party). I did quite poorly, but I got a lot of Tupperware, so I considered the experience a win.

In those days, Tupperware had monthly sales meetings, which involved (from my non-saleswoman perspective) a lot of ‘rah-rah’ for those who were doing well and a lot of incentives and tips to help those of us who had begun to regret the whole enterprise before the ink was dry. There were tips on presentation, on pitching, and on closing the sale. I absorbed all this information in a theoretical way, but when it came to applying it – I choked. It really wasn’t up to me to decide whether someone absolutely needed the new lettuce keeper or stacking canisters.

I was glad when Kensington Publishing bought my first book (not long after I gave up not selling Tupperware), The Fairy Tale Bride – and then turned it into a series. “Great,” I thought. “I’ll just write and they’ll do the horrible sales part.”

Wrong.

Although Kensington gave my books pretty covers and got it stocked in many bookstores, I was expected to contact bookstores to do signings, libraries to do talks and workshops, create bookmarks as giveaways, and create a website where my readers could find out about the books…all while writing six more books in a year and a half.

It was Tupperware all over again. Who was I to tell someone they needed to read my books?

Cue 2010 and my independent release of that same series in e-book format. This time it was completely up to me to figure out how to get the books out there and to spread the word. I had to do everything I’d ever wanted my publisher to do. Terrifying, and yet exhilarating.

I dredged up the deeply buried Tupperware sales experience: Presentation, Pitch, Close. Gah! I wasn’t going to ask people to have small parties to hawk my e-books. What to do?

I tried doing nothing (build it and they will come). Nope, they didn’t. At least, not in the numbers my ego and bank account needed.

I realized I had to make a plan, what was my goal? John Locke, the very successful self-publishing author, provided an answer: set a goal low enough to hit and high enough to matter. His theory was that the more concrete and yet attainable the goal, the more likely you will be to do what is necessary to reach it.

So I found a goal I could run with. My daughter got engaged shortly after my rights reverted to me and I began releasing my book series, Once Upon a Wedding. Yep, I could leave my personal comfort zone for a goal as worthwhile as helping pay for my only daughter’s wedding (and do a little mommy bragging at the same time).

So here’s how the Tupperware sales training and self-publishing collided, leaving me with a promotional plan that caused 50 shades of crimson to bloom in my cheeks (which I ignored, because I had a clear goal to attain and it mattered to me) while sales blossomed.

  1. Presentation. I created a sustained promotion, complete with cute title and premise. 50 days of blogging about why I owed my daughter a nice wedding: Confessions of a Turtle Mom was born.
  2. Pitch. I informed readers that not only would they get a great book to read, but they would help contribute to a family wedding that would make me, my daughter, and my late father, very happy.
  3. Close. I provided prominent links to Amazon, B&N, Apple, Smashwords, and Sony for readers to buy the ebook at the retailer of their choice. I used the nice slideshow widget that Amazon provides (free) for authors and associates.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But anyone who’s been out there in the independent market knows that it is not. We have to know our readers; then craft the right presentation, pitch and close for them. I was lucky to have books with ‘bride’ in the title to use for a wedding promotion. I suspect a Killer in the Attic series might not have been a good match.

There’s another component that Tupperware taught me (in theory, at least): create excitement that breeds word of mouth. One of the reasons I was talked into selling Tupperware was because I really liked the product. The recruiting pitch was “it sells itself.”

The truth is nothing sells itself without a presentation, pitch and close that makes people not only go “Wow!” but also share their find with someone else.

After crafting my presentation, I then went on the virtual road, begging everyone I could think of for a guest blog spot to subtly work in a mention of my promotion. My hard work (14 hours on an easy day, 18 hours on a killer day) did well enough to get The Fairy Tale Bride on the Top Ten Kindle Bestseller list, and keep it in the top of the Historical Romance list for many weeks.

I’ve done a few more promotions around my daughter’s wedding, and I’ve planned a big promotional push this month and next. But in August, all that excitement will end (naturally, there will be a blog entry on the wedding and my feelings as mother-of-the-bride).

Then it will be on to the next Presentation, Pitch, Close (and another 50 shades of crimson as I find my new comfort zone for showcasing the books I loved writing, and those to come).

What kinds of killer Presentation, Pitch, Close have you all come up with? And what attainable goal have you set that really matters?

Guest Post By Kelly McClymer. For more information, check out www.kellymcclymer.com.

This Post Has 14 Comments
  1. My Supernatural-Thriller, WISHBONE, is doing well; however, I’m frustrated by social media.  It’s clearly the easiest marketing tool but I find I’m usually marketing my book to other authors.  It’s difficult to find large groups of readers seeking book recommendations. I belong to many groups, but the members are also authors. Any suggestions?

    1. Brooklyn, you are not alone. Of course, writers are readers, too. On social media, I tend to look at authors who do attract a large number of readers (Neil Gaiman, John Greene, Meg Cabot, etc.). They have writer (and other industry) followers, but the readers find them because they fall in love with the books. They don’t actually market, either, they just participate in the community and share what interests their followers. So I think it is an organic process that simply can’t be forced. First you attract the writers, then the industry folks, and the readers thread in as they please. You can go into the reader communities like Goodreads, but if you don’t participate as a reader first, you can get yourself in trouble.

  2. When I was a young mother, I was so shy I couldn’t stand up and speak my mind at a PTA meeting. I too went into party selling with Stanley several years later and learned the presentation, pitch and close. That has come in handy over the years as a writer. My favorite thing is to sit amid ten or twelve readers and tell them stories about writing and from my books and answer their questions. To me the laid back approach of a friendly get together has worked much better than a rah rah approach.
    However, along comes the Internet and we have a whole new set of circumstances. Frankly, I like promoting and marketing on the Internet. I love writing a blog and commenting on Facebook and pinning photos from my scrapbook to share my likes with readers. It’s a great new world.

  3. Good post, Kelly. The only sales job I ever had, I quit. Well, actually, my sister quit for me (she called the manager and pretended to be me). If it was up to me, I’d just do my job, writing books, and let readers do theirs, reading books – preferably mine. But it’s not up to me – or any other author these days. And we have to figure out how to reach readers w/o going BUY MY BOOK all the time. 

    1. Fran, speaking for myself, BUY MY BOOK has never made me buy a book (or a car, or a house….). I’m attracted by things that interest and or delight me. Insights, witticisms, gripping themes, humor, scientific exploration, etc. When I find a book that interests and or delights me…I buy it without prompting 🙂

  4. I rely heavily on social media and everyone likes the opportunity to win something free. Add that opportunity to win something incentive and readers tend to buy. I’ve found adding the image of that book cover wherever   you can enhances visibility.

  5. Who’d have thought that Tupperware would provide such a helpful background for book promo? Word of mouth is always the best way to sell books, I think. Congratulations on your success with it!

    1. Actually, a sales background tends to help (not that I claim a sales background, just exposure to one :-). I went to a writer’s conference two years ago in Florida, and had a beachside room. One gorgeous night, my husband and I sat and watched a late night sales banquet (there was some kind of retirement housing sales team conference going on). Even the banquet was rah-rah, reminding me of my Tupperware days, complete with a fireworks finale. In contrast, the writer’s conference was low key to the point of blandness. At least, I’m sure it appeared so to the salespeople. But in those quiet, applause-light conference rooms was an intensity that simply couldn’t be matched by any outside rah-rah. So, I’m glad I’m a writer, and didn’t make it to Tupperware Queen (as if).

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Kelly McClymer

Kelly McClymer has written in many genres in her writing career: short science fiction, fantasy, historical romance novels, and YA fantasy. Wherever her stories take her is where she'll be found, either at the keyboard, or hunched over edits with her purple pen. Her current project is a chick lit novel, The Ex-Files, due to be released mid-July.

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