Book signings and in-person sales events are where most indies make their money. Today’s post is on a subject we indies all want to know more about–marketing our work in person. My good friend, publisher and author Thomas Gondolfi, is quite successful at it, and has kindly offered to share his knowledge as part of the 6-week NIWA Blog tour. Without further commentary, here is Thomas Gondolfi and post #4.
Let me ask you a question. Answer truthfully as the answer is only to yourself. How many times a day are you the center of good attention? My guess, based on some solid data, is that even if you have a focused partner, a loving child, or an exceptional parent, your answer is going to be fairly low. If you don’t have one of those, the number approaches nil. Along comes a vendor who is eager to engage with you as his only focus. He isn’t pushing his product on you. He is genuinely interesting in finding out how you are different! Isn’t that appealing? This is the essence of my F2F marketing strategies.
The essence of flirting is the wholehearted, one-to-one focus that one person can give to another if they are sincere. No, it’s not about trying to get a date. No, it’s not plastered on as a veneer until you can have what you want. No, it’s not about hawking your books at them.
I know you have a preconceived notion of what flirting is. I’ll tell you that you are almost certainly wrong. I have many more credits than those required to have a minor in psychology (but my school didn’t offer one). I’ve done some of my own studies in this area. I find that the meanings given by the professional wordsmiths are wrong. What I’ve learned as a definition: Flirting – To give attention to one or more persons and / or their interests in a wholehearted way.
Sincerity is the key. You must want to engage and find out what is interesting about that person, otherwise you are fighting a losing war. Flirting is of its own, valuable. People have skills they are dying to share with someone who is open to listen and share. You may learn how to knit a yarmulke, garble an herb, or even fly a sailplane. Also, it can, and does, lead to friendships. I can immediately bring to mind three strong friendships, and innumerable lesser ones, that have developed over my years of vending books because of flirting. And if the two above aren’t enough, that level of absorption can also lead to new plots, characters, and skills to use in future writing.
So let’s pull back to our customers and how to flirt. I use the mnemonic HAMER to describe the steps – Hook, Absorb, Mutual Interest, Expand, and Release.
Hook is nothing more than what we do when writing the first few pages of our book/story. We have to grab the attention of the reader in the best possible way. I do this by using hints from the person themselves, usually clothing, hairstyle, tattoos and the like. The hook should have a question attached or the potential customer may just give you a high five and move on.
Absorb means now listening to what the person has to say. No, I mean really listen. It isn’t easy. Don’t think about what books you will sell them, your spouse, the sports tournament, your quilting project. Make them the focus of your entire attention.
Now take the information you got in Absorb and find something that you can share as Mutual Interest. I believe it is axiomatic that if you are interested, you can’t be feigning interest.
Once you have chosen that Mutual Interest you need to Expand upon it and share back. Offer something in your own experience about the topic. Inquire about their experience or expertise in an area. Something to continue the conversation and make them aware that you are paying attention. But keep your response to about half of the time that they have talked to you in the Absorb step. Remember you want them to be the center of attention, not you. Now let them talk again. Do three or four Absorb-Mutual Interest-Expand steps before you get to the most important step of all.
Release is even more important than the Hook itself. Many salesmen do the above steps and will never let the coin in the customer’s purse escape and hold on like a leech. The Release is the key to soft selling. You are telling the person that they are more important than pawning you wares on them (and you would be right). To do this, you find and give a reason to let the person go, such as “I know you have to make that afternoon panel on genre blending,” “I think you friend just went around the corner,” or “I don’t want to keep you from your shopping.”
This is the key moment. If there is any chance at all of making a sale, the customer will look down and ask YOU about what you have available. Often your interest will get people who might be on the fence about your wares to buy because you made them feel good about themselves.
Whether they purchased something or not, you have just successfully completed a flirt. I talk more in-depth about this technique in my book of the same title “Flirting for Fun and Profit” but I’ve summed up the basics here.
Your sales totals will increase. BUT even if you don’t make a sale, you’ve made a connection with another person. It is a win all around.
Founding TANSTAAFL Press in 2012, Thomas Gondolfi is the author (and book parent) of the Toy Wars series, the CorpGov Chronicles, and Wayward School along with numerous other writing and editing credits which can be found on www.tanstaaflpress.com. He is a father of three (real children), consummate gamer, and loving husband. Tom also claims to be a Renaissance man and certified flirt.
Raised as a military brat, he spent twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years giving him a unique perspective on life and people.
Working as an engineer in high tech for over thirty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter, and the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.