Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell

Spent the weekend trying not to let a head cold get beyond a minor annoyance, with marginal success. This tends to make me a little short tempered, no matter how much coffee I have. You’ve been warned.

One of the only guarantees about being published is that you can’t force people to buy your books. And, to be perfectly honest, people are going to lie to you and say they did when they didn’t. This is particularly true with friends or family. They may have every intention to do so…some day. But they’ll tell you they have if you don’t live close by to shut you up.

Like most everything else in life, there’s two ways to sell books. There’s the hard sale, where you’re in the face of everyone you meet. Facebook and Twitter is a constant barrage from you about your book. It’s spending half an hour each week and scheduling your tweets for a week, all consisting of buy links and quotes from reviews. There’s buying ads on FB, and including a buy link on each and every post you make.

Then there’s the soft sell. That’s when you try to establish some connection with someone first, build a relationship of some kind. It’s saying hello to new followers, let me know if you want to learn about my books. Talking about coffee and bookstores and kitten stories with people over reminding them hourly that you have books out in the world.

There’s not bringing it up to your friends and family each time you talk with them.

In my opinion, that’s just rude. Presumably, they’re intelligent people. While we can’t control our family members, few of us have friends we don’t think are able to retain simple facts. They know you got a book or ten published. You need sales and reviews. To bombard them constantly with questions about who they loved to hate is going to have them secretly whisper, ‘you, you numbskull! shut up!’ in their brain.

Family and friends can be the biggest supporters an author has. A supportive immediate family (spouse/kids/significant other) is really necessary to give you time to write, console you to try again when you get a rejection from a publisher, celebrate that contract. The rest of them? That gets sticky.

Because they can also be our harshest critics.

Some will rip your cover apart. Others will whine that they don’t like one character’s name. Another will constantly harp on one single typo in the book. Ignore them. They aren’t being supportive, no matter what they tell you. They’re being jealous and trying to tear you down.

I myself prefer the soft sell. The whole process of being ‘found’ by readers takes time. By doing a soft sell, it helps establish a relationship with readers, gives you a solid base that will propel your other book sales. The in your face hard sell? You might sell a few books, yes. But your foundation is going to be full of cracks left behind by readers who read one book and chose not to stay around. Why? Because all you want to talk about is you and your books.

And they’ll start lying to you, ignoring you, just like your great aunt Gertie who is tired of hearing about your book every time you visit her. Or your cousin Dave who thought the autographed copy was the cheesiest (and cheapest) wedding present ever.


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