On my train journey home I sat next to a young man who had a real book in his hand. We got chatting about books and I happened to show him mine, which I carry everywhere with me as you never know when you might have a chance to do a bit of on the hoof marketing. Enthused, he photographed it and asked where he could get it, promising to tell his social media followers he’d met the author. It reminded me of my business training days.
An encounter later that day, also on the train, I got chatting to a lady who was telling me a story about her daughter coming to live with her because of a broken marriage. I said I understood exactly what she was talking about and empathised with her worry, saying I’d written a novel based on a similar theme. Now this sounds as if I was taking advantage of her situation but I can assure you that’s not the sort of thing I would do. Again I showed her the book and she took down the details as she wanted to understand what makes a couple turn on each other. She herself had been fortunate to be in a happy marriage for 40 years. When she got off the train she said, and I quote, ‘I think I was meant to meet you today.’ I suggested she got in touch with me if she felt I could help in my role as a counsellor. This morning I received an email and I am meeting her for coffee after Christmas.
Here are two examples of how forming a relationship, albeit fleeting, with a stranger can not only lead to a possible sale of your book but more importantly, can build a loyal following, one by one. People buy from people. You can give something of yourself as well as your book and it’s remembered. I’m not talking about building a fan club of adoring followers but one to one encounters that give both parties a warm feeling of connection.
Soft selling is about finding the right opportunity to introduce your book or product naturally into a conversation. Nobody wants to be trapped in a window seat on a train or plane frantically looking for a way to escape your sales onslaught. Read the body language and the eyes especially to find out whether it’s appropriate or time to shut up. Let the potential customer lead the conversation and avoid boasting or pushing. Find out what sort of books they enjoy reading and why. You can learn so much.
I have a background in business training so for me being able to engage strangers in conversation and know when not to is second nature. Authors are seen as retiring creatures, not exactly starving in their garrets these days, but we do need to connect with readers in some way. I’ve started to receive emails from people who have read The Cruelty of Lambs asking if I have written anything else. I always thank them for their kind comments as I know it would make my day if a writer replied to me. People remember people too.
My new book, The Future Can’t Wait, another psychological drama, is published by Urbane Publications Autumn 2017.