Millennial Marketing and Asking for the Sale

by Kristen Lamb

August 2014

One misconception is that social media’s purpose is to sell books. Yes, and no. Social media is for networking, creating community, and generating word-of-mouth (much like book signings once did). When we use social media to create authentic connections, sales will organically follow.

The Time Crunch

Discoverability is the greatest challenge writers face when it comes to selling books. Consumers are strapped for time, worn out and overwhelmed. Anything we can do to help narrow the field of choices is appreciated (and noticed). Consumers buy from those they know and those they like, which is why relationships help us stand out from the din.

That said, social media is for selling books, but we have to do so in a way that appreciates the vast changes in our culture. The Golden Age of Advertising is as dead as that meatloaf I forgot in the back of my fridge three weeks ago…and about as appealing to ingest.

Yet, what I’ve noticed over the years is writers tend to gather at one end of the spectrum or the other. Either they go marketing crazy or they never tell people they have a book(s) for sale.

Millennial Marketing

Writers are in the entertainment businessSelling books is a business. But we also should understand that, as professionals, it’s our duty to study the marketplace and the consumer atmosphere. It’s our job to make life easier. Make the sale as simple as possible.

For example, have you ever found some neat item on-line you wanted to buy? But then the site directed you to a new page, and then wouldn’t let you proceed until you coughed up all your personal information in complicated fields? Then just as you see that super cute skirt, a fabulous pop-up materialized obscuring your goal? To make matters worse, every time you tried to close the ad asking for you to subscribe to their newsletter for MORE COUPONS, you were redirected to an ad for beer? And you needed a beer right about then? And after having to go through so many hoops, you simply closed the tab and decided that skirt wasn’t worth the hassle.

That’s called friction and in sales? Friction is bad juju.

Value the Consumer

I see many writers forking out all kinds of cash for flare, ads, reviews, and paying consultants to tweet for them to “save time.” But what about the reader’s time? Book spam abounds and has a dismal ROI (Return on Investment). Why? Seeing the same tweet over and over generated by a computer is insulting, thus ignored.

I’ve said this for years, but I’ll reiterate—mailing lists and e-newsletters are an archaic selling tool. They waste your time and the consumer’s time. Yes, they were fabulous back in the day we actually enjoyed getting e-mail, but these days? E-mail has gone cray-cray (to use a highly technical term).

According to Joseph McCormack’s book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, “Atlassan, a software development company reported that the average professional receives 304 e-mails per week.” This is an average.

I currently have 1200 unopened e-mails in my professional account and my Yahoo account has now gone feral and is peeing on my hard drive. My Yahoo e-mail stopped counting at 10,000 unopened messages. It was not uncommon for me to have over 700 e-mails in less than a day, so I gave up on an e-mail I’d used for twelve years. Taking the time to unsubscribe from junk I never wanted in the first place was a bad use of my limited time. So was deleting 350 unwanted messages a day.

The next time someone touts the awesomeness of an e-mail list? Take a moment to ponder how much you want to punch your own e-mail in the face before you jump on board.

Savvy authors respect that modern Americans are consuming almost 12 hours of information per person per day. Additionally, the average adult attention span has dropped from twelve seconds to approximately eight in just the past couple of years. One way we can stand apart from all the other writers trying to sell a book is to interact meaningfully.

Less is more.

If we camp on top of Twitter and automate and constantly try to sell people stuff, we’re about as welcome as a Jehovah’s Witness who also happens to sell Amway.

Ask for the Sale

Now this might seem contrary to what we were just talking about, but it isn’t. Some writers dive into too much marketing and too little interacting (and not enough writing). That’s one extreme. The other extreme is the writer who is afraid to ever mention he has a book(s) for sale.

Since social media has exploded with book spam, many authors veer too far to the other extreme, and this makes being on social media useless for selling books. I can appreciate the reticence. On my author blog, below the free but useful content I have a separated section mentioning I have a book. Click and buy. Simple. Feel free to ignore.

I’ve received complaints from people who felt it was gauche for me to sell my book on my blog. Oddly, these same people have no problem benefitting from 6,000+ words of free information every week. Accept that we can’t please everyone.

We write because we love writing, but we also have a right to want to be paid for what we do. It’s okay to ask for the sale, and NOT okay for others to expect us to work for free. On your website, make it easy for people to purchase—place links to all the merchants who carry your book(s) in the sidebar. This is making the sale easier and saving the reader valuable time.

As authors, we should strive to connect, cultivate and create community. We should respect the time and personal space of others. But, at the same time, we work hard. Our time is valuable, too.

Kristen is the author of the new best-selling book, Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a Digital World in addition to the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. Kristen is the founder of the WANA movement, the CEO of WANA International and creator of WANATribe, the social network for creative professionals. She’s a contributing humor blogger for Socialln, a blog that reaches 2.5 million. She also blogs for The Huffington post; feel free to follow her on Twitter at @KristenLambTX and on Facebook.

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