People can’t buy and read a book they don’t know exists. And they can’t know it exists unless you – or someone else who knows about it – tells them.
But many of the writers I work with feel uncomfortable marketing themselves and their books. They cringe at the thought of even suggesting that people they know buy their books, let alone people they don’t. It feels far too vulnerable, and too blatantly sales-y, like a cartoon street vendor opening one side of his coat and rasping, “Hey, lady, wanna buy a watch?”
These writers have not yet developed a relationship with their readers.
That street vendor doesn’t know a single person who passes his corner. Not their names, certainly. But also not their values, their concerns, their interests, or their dreams. He doesn’t know what seizes their imagination, or what they worry about at night. He hopes they’ll buy what he’s selling based solely on impulse and what looks like the real deal at a knock-off price.
But you, the writer, have an opportunity he does not. From the very beginning, before you even start writing, you can imagine, dream about, and get to know your reader. You can write your book just for them. And you can think about where they hang out, what they like to talk about, and where you might get to know them in real life.
You can build relationships.
I do almost no advertising or conventional marketing, and yet my production calendar is usually fully booked. It’s because almost all my clients come to me by way of word of mouth and referral. In other words, because I have good relationships with people, people tend to pass my name along.
This is how a book gains traction: one reader at a time. A reader who feels connected to the author and/or the work, and who tells someone else – probably more than a single someone else – about it. My writing coaching and editorial business grows one relationship at a time, and so can your readership.
No matter where you are in your writing journey, it’s important to do the work of figuring out who your reader is and writing for them. Get to know them where they tend to hang out. And then, when you ask them to buy your book? They’ll be happy to. After all, you wrote it with them in mind.