February is staring me in the face like Punxsutawney Phil, the angry Pennsylvania groundhog about to be jettisoned out of his hole to predict the weather. A whole month of 2016 has flown by, and I still haven’t made much progress toward setting up my book-selling goals for the year. I have some, I do. Nebulous, dreamy-eyed plans to get more eyeballs on my work. It’s what every indie author wants. If I were a beauty pageant contestant, I might be rhapsodizing about world peace right now. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
One thing I have learned about goal setting and goal keeping is that those aspirations need to be specific and achievable. And I’m usually pretty good about that. I make plans, I fill in spreadsheets, and I even look at them once in a while. But so far this year, I’ve stayed so far in denial I might as well hunker down with Phil.
I think part of my avoidance is that the market for books is changing and I haven’t gotten my “sea legs” yet. You might have seen this by the flood of book-bargain emails in your inbox. There’s more competition than ever—for your attention, for advertising slots, for pretty much everything. Having a good sales plan is more important than ever, and deep in my little introverted heart, the word “sales” makes me want to barricade myself into my writing room and watch kitten videos until my pulse returns to normal.
But I am a grownup (mostly) and I have chosen this business, so I made a commitment to learn how to become a better salesperson.
To that end, I asked Mama Google for assistance. She gave me an article about the biggest ways salespeople fail. What’s the most common reason for going away empty-handed? Failing to actually ASK for the sale.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Get acquainted; offer a pitch; transaction made. So why the disconnect on the transaction part? I know, as an author, many factors in the promotion arena are out of my control. Book bloggers are busy people, marvelous people who write about books for the love of them, but they have lives that don’t stop because I want them to pay attention to my work. Also, no matter how much advertising spaghetti I toss at the wall, for any number of reasons my books won’t always connect with readers exposed to them. And of those wonderful, wonderful readers who do choose to take a chance on me, only a small percentage will write a review or tell their friends. But I like to think I’ve been paying attention to all the advice I’ve heard over the years about spiffing up my book descriptions, writing more engaging newsletter posts, and generally doing a better job of connecting with potential readers everywhere I happen to find them. And, you know, finding them.
Then it hit me: I could be a better salesperson if I actually started ASKING for what I want!
Yes, sometimes it’s tough for me to get bold and ask for help. I want to be able to handle everything myself, otherwise I’m afraid I’ll look needy, and who wants to play with someone like that? Then I had one of those facepalm moments: I actually AM a salesperson! In the past, I’ve sold my own skill set: I’ve convinced various employers to hire me, even when they didn’t have specific jobs advertised, and they were happy with my results. I’ve asked for things and gotten them.
So, if I could ask total strangers to hand me actual cash money for my labor, what was my problem with asking for a little help to get the word out? Granted, there are nice, polite, professional ways of doing these things. But it can be done. I’m doing it. Not everyone says yes, but most do. And all I had to do was ask.
Now it’s your turn: What are you not asking for?