Friday, September 13, 2013

Be Open. Be Ready. Be Bold. – Building Readership One Person at a Time

I'm an introvert, meaning that I'm more inclined to hunker down in a corner with my own thoughts as company than to go out of my way to talk to other people. Definitely a big 'ole 'I' on the Myers-Briggs scale. During my corporate life, I had to learn how to toggle that trait. At times, I could be all inward focused, living quietly within my own little world. And others, I had to be 'On.' In meetings or presentations, I needed to be the center of attention, to project an air of calm authority and confidence. Once I got back to my office, I turned it off, and reverted back to my quiet, unassuming ways.  

Writing is a solitary endeavor. Sitting at my computer, click-clacking the day away fits my natural, introverted tendency perfectly. And then I sold a book.

Don't get me wrong, selling the book was the whole idea. I wanted to get published, to see my name on the cover of a story I wrote, and have readers laugh, cry and live along with my characters. With the first two items completed, I needed to make the third happen. I needed to find those readers.

Manhandling the power of the Internet and the broad appeal of social media is a great way to attract people to your work. Entire books have been written on this subject by people far more experienced than me. Find and devour them. Use the wisdom contained therein to build your readership. I will too, but that's not the purpose of this little blog entry. Believe it or not, there are potential readers right outside your door. Not literally, unless you live in a shop at the mall, but within the comfort of your own neighborhood.     

Manipulating the forces of Cyber from behind the safety of your computer monitor is all well and good, but at some point you need to step from behind the glass curtain. And when you do, you need to be ready to "turn it on." Pull your head from the cloudbank of imaginary life, and be open to the immediate marketing opportunities surrounding you.

Readers are everywhere.

Before you open your front door and step outside, make sure you have your business cards in your pocket. Business cards are not only for corporate drones. They are a branding tool, an informational souvenir of your meeting. If you want people to take you seriously and also have something to remember you by, hand them a business card. They are cheap and simple. Here's mine:

It's got my symbol, title, and contact information. Neat, attractive, and uncluttered. You can make them yourself or order 250 online for less than $20. Do it.

Like I said, readers are everywhere. So when I say take your cards with you when you step outside your door, I mean it. Take them everywhere

Here are three recent, personal examples to illustrate why this is important.

I went to the dentist yesterday. Yuck, right? Damn straight. It wasn't a six month cleaning, either. It was crowning/filling nastiness totally devoid of Awesome…until the end of the procedure. The dentist was cool. The Licensed Dental Assistant (I wanted to call her a super-tooth-fixer-agent, but my cousin Kris, who's in the industry, told me that title doesn't exist. Pity.) was super nice. The numbing, drilling, and molding sucked, but wasn't horrific. So, all said and done, as I got ready to leave, the Licensed Dental Assistant picked up the book I'm currently reading, Wool, by Hugh Howey, and checked it out. She asked if it was any good. Of course I told her it was. She skimmed the back cover and said she was looking for something new to read.

This, my friends, is what's called a perfect setup.

I told her that Wool was good (Actually it's really, really good), but she should try my book. (Sorry, Hugh. I'll buy you a beer at Superstars Writing Seminar, 2015.)
That's when I got the wide-eyed stare. "You're book!?" Yep. I whipped out a card, and gave her the elevator pitch. By the time we reached the payment desk, she assured me she'd buy my book. What started out as a mundane trip to the house of horrors ended on a wonderful note.

Something similar happened at the Veterinarian's office (the doghouse of horror?) I took my dog in for her semi-annual exam. In between the "She's so cute"s and the "You're such a good girl"s, the Vet asked if I had been doing anything fun. Well, yeah, kinda. Now that you ask…boom! I whipped out a card, and gave her my elevator speech. As it turned out she was also writing a book. We talked about the craft for a few minutes then she said she'd buy a copy for all the people working in the office. Not too bad for a trip to the vet.

While the prior examples had direct setups, sometimes you have to give Fate a swift kick in the butt to make things happen. Develop your own opportunities.

I coach bowling. I'm there for the kids, but when I see someone reading a book, I just have to know what it is. At practice the other day, one of the bowling moms sat by herself reading a book. Stepping out of my comfort zone, I initiated a conversation with a simple question, "So…whatcha readin'?" The answer led to a conversation where I could, without sounding pompous or overbearing, pitch my book and win over another reader, several readers as it turns out. Other parents listened in and participated in the conversation. 

Be careful with this approach, though. I wouldn't just march up to the first person you see, bold as brass, and blurt out your question. You don't want to be perceived as a creeper.   

Opportunities abound! Some are overt and drop right in your lap. Others you have to look for as they might be hidden beneath the open cover of a book. Readers don't just cluster together wherever books are sold, or in coffee shops. No. They are everywhere. Supermarkets, hair salons, doctor's offices, etc. Find them. Talk to them. Spread the word.  

Be open. Be ready. Be bold.


  1. This was insightful. The in person approach actually has more appeal to me than all the online, social media stuff. I find it's easier to make a connection with a person if I can see them. Thanks!

    1. Hi SueJay,
      I agree. I much prefer the face-to-face connection. The Internet cannot replace the personal touch.

      Thanks for reading!