One of my anxieties about going to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac this year was that people might think I was there just to hawk my recently published Beat Generation book, Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”
That was not the case! Now, I’m not going to lie. Of course I wanted people to find out about the book and purchase it. Not only am I proud of the book, but more so if I were someone interested in Jack Kerouac’s literature and literary development I’d want to know about the book. Therefore, I want people to know about the book because I honestly think they’d actually want to hear about it and get value from it.
But I didn’t go to the festival to push the book on anyone. Truth be told, if I’m not into something, it’s really obvious. Sorry, Lady Gaga, I have no poker face. I would probably turn people off from buying my book, if I went somewhere just to sell it.
I’ve been to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac before I ever had a book deal, and I went again this year because I was excited about the festival. I was excited to attend the events. I was excited to catch up with friends. I was excited to reencounter a town that I’ve been reading about for years and that has come to be familiar to me. I was excited to escape the hustle and bustle of New York City for a long weekend.
At the festival, I was happy to talk about my book when anyone asked, but I didn’t shove postcards for it in people’s faces the way one author did one year I was at the festival.
I’m by no means an expert, but these are my top 5 tips on how to promote your book without selling out:
1. Believe in your product. – If you don’t think your book has worth, you shouldn’t be selling it or even giving it away for free. If you honestly believe your book is great, then it’s only natural that you’ll think others will want to hear about it too. People will hear the excitement in your voice. They’ll want to know more, and you’ll be able to tell people about the book without sounding like you’re giving a sales pitch.
2. Be genuinely interested in others. – One of the great lessons I learned while teaching a writing workshop at the Festival of Faith & Writing is that as much as people pay big bucks to learn, the time they spend actually engaging in conversation and talking about their own work and interests often feels more powerful to them. I’ve gotten to spend some time with some of the people that have “Liked” Burning Furiously Beautiful on Facebook, and it’s been so rewarding hearing their stories.
3. Don’t look at people as if they have dollar signs over their heads. – Not everyone is a potential customer. Some people may not be interested in your subject matter—gasp!—and that’s okay. They’re probably still great people. Engage them about themselves and enjoy the conversation. Maybe you’ll even become friends. It’s good to have friends with varied interests. And who knows, maybe they’ll end up being your biggest promoter simply because they have a large network and are enthusiastic about the conversation they had with you. Even if that’s not the case, there’s more value in relationships than money.
4. Enjoy the event. – If you’re just going to work the room at a festival or conference, you’re not going to have any fun and no one’s going to want to talk to you or buy your book. Don’t bother going to events that you’re not actually interested in. It’s just not worth it. Mingle with people, attend readings and tours, let your guard down.
5. Be prepared. – Don’t feel anxious about promoting your book. If it’s something people are interested in knowing more about, you should be able to talk about it in a natural way without droning on and on. If you don’t have the book on hand to sell, have postcards, flyers, or business cards to give. Nothing’s more annoying that finding out about a great book and then not remembering the name of it later on. Also, some people are prone to losing things or not remembering what the business card is for, so it’s good to also get their contact info and follow up with them.
What are your tips for promoting yourself without selling out?
You may also enjoy:
- Michael Hyatt’s 5 Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself
- Building your Book Before You Even Begin Writing It
- The Art of Discovering What You Believe
- Passion and Proximity
- Becoming a New Media Innovator
- Patricia Volonakis Davis on Finding a Direct Line to Your Readers
- Consider This Me Updating My Website
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