Turning Whine Into Gold
Are there any more seductive words for an avid reader? You may be reading on right now just to discover which book I’m talking about.
Never underestimate the power of love.
This is a post about marketing. Set aside your technological age cynicism and its resistance to messages delivered 24/7 to buy, buy, buy. I want to invoke a much older sensibility. The impulse that inspired the first cavewoman to, after adding a few herbs to the game in her kettle, run straight to her neighbor and say, you’ve got to try this!
Why bother, you might ask. It takes a big promotional budget to create a bestseller. Yes, money can work, but so can the long tail of love. For a year after its hardcover release, enthusiasm for Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees spread through book clubs. When the book club-preferred trade paperback released, sales exploded and it hit the New York Times list—where it stayed for two and a half years.
The love you share for your favorite title can, without a doubt, affect book sales.
So. What if that title is your own?
Let’s set aside the upbringing that suggests we are not to toot our own horns. We all know that writing is a magical experience—the characters emerge through the mist, their words shudder through our typing hands, their journeys often surprised us. If we can credit ourselves for anything, it is learning our craft and preparing our minds for the labor ahead. As would, say, a midwife. If you were a midwife, wouldn’t you think it was just fine to share your love of the child you brought into the world?
Might as well face it: Refusal is not an option. With promotional budgets slim, publicists overworked, review pages shrinking and book blogs overwhelmed, the onus is upon the author to spread the word about new releases. Like it or not, we must sell.
Instead of damning ourselves to “selling,” though, why not elevate ourselves to “sharing the love”?
If you have a book in hand, your love for your characters has already brought you so far. It has informed every word you used to present their deep desires and dilemmas in your query, your synopsis, and your manuscript. That love made your premise feel important to the agent that offered representation and the editor who offered to purchase rights.
Why stop there, when it is clear that love can help you sell books?
Now that your book has been published, each in-person event, blog post, and social media micro-post presents a similar chance to shine the spotlight of love on your project. When you hear an impassioned author speak, don’t you want a bit of what they have? Their curiosity, their empathy, their vibrancy? Your readers will want the same from you, and they will intuitively know that they’ll get more of that from your story.
This approach can reinvigorate the dreaded task of online promotion. I’ve written here before about the benefits of online positivity. You will always have haters—miserable cusses who don’t understand that not all books are for all people, who don’t connect to your message, and who wish you would simply disappear. They skulk online, dropping one-star reviews like bombs and then scurrying back into the shadows.
Sometimes, however, such people are book reviewers.
I had an early three-star review for The Far End of Happy that left me scratching my head. By definition that meant she liked the book, but that was a bit of a miracle, since her review said she “hated” all three of my point-of-view characters and the way they reacted to the suicide standoff at the heart of my story.
Months later, when she posted the review on her blog and rather inexplicably tagged me in her tweet, I asked the other authors in my marketing collective not to retweet—fine that she has her opinion, but I saw no benefit in broadcasting it for her.
That’s when the most amazing thing happened.
Feigning innocence, a couple of my colleagues commented on her tweet, saying, “I loved that book too!” Quite a dialogue ensued, in which my advocates specifically stated how much they appreciated my book’s imperfect characters—women like them, who would have no clue how to conduct themselves in a similar emergency. The loving attention they brought to this blogger’s tweet publicly changed her opinion about my title. Soon she was tweeting about how much she, too, loved the book and its characters! Those tweets testified to the transformative power of love.
Reality is, once your book is out in the world, there are factors that affect sales over which we have little control. What if love doesn’t sell enough books? The way I see it you will have arrived at the same place, only your life will have been full of love. I can’t see a downside.
There’s never harm in practicing love. Let’s do it! And maybe your enthusiasm for your work will result in a sale right here, on this blog, today!
In the comments, please share what you especially love about a premise or a certain character, whether in your published novel or work in progress. Don’t forget the title—this is marketing, after all. Let’s spread some love and awareness of our favorite novels—even if they’re our own!
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Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing.
Kathryn lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA.