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Why do people buy books anyway?
There are millions of books available to read, so why do people buy a particular one? The primary reason is word of mouth, whether that is a verbal recommendation or something you read online or in the paper. Maybe one book recommends another one, or you buy a series based on the first one. Basically, you are far more likely to buy a book by someone you have heard of, or have a relationship with, than from a random author.
I recently read ‘Trust Agents' by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, a great book that says people will buy from you if they know, like and trust you.
It is not aimed specifically at authors, but the same rules apply. Maybe the big names don't need to worry about this, but aspiring/new authors and mid-listers need to drive more sales themselves. (I also bought Trust Agents because I read Chris Brogan's blog and I trust his knowledge as well as liking his writing and videos, thus proving the point!)
How do people get to know you, like you and trust you?
Trust agents are described in the book as ‘non-sales-orientated, non-high-pressure marketers who are genuinely human‘. This is a great model to follow as an author, both for your relationships with readers but also as some who needs to sell books.
Here are some of the main points that I found interesting from Trust Agents:
- Be genuine, real and open with people. Build influence honestly and deliver value to people. It's about being human, not fake. It is very hard to keep up a facade online now so be honest and real. As writers, we want to know the nuts and bolts of how other authors work. You want to know how they write, and when and where the characters come from. So share this information about yourself, your own journey and others will follow you to learn what you know. This is a good model, even if you are still learning. I share my lessons learned here and will continue to do so as my writing career improves. Mur Lafferty also does this at I Should Be Writing, a podcast for wannabe fiction authors.
- People connect with people, so use your face. You expect to see people on social networks with real photos, rather than just a static site with no personality. So make sure you use your real photo on your social network profiles. Put your photo on your blog prominently, not just your book covers. Even if you don't like how you look, do it anyway. After all, you stand out. You are original. People will remember you.
- Be true to your DNA, but also experiment. When it comes to writing as well as marketing, you need to be true to your own passions and skills. But you also need to experiment as you may not even know what you enjoy yet. I was very apprehensive about video. I think many of us are (is this just a girl thing?). I worried about what people would think of me and how I looked and then I just tried it. I started off with a ‘proper' video camera and planned it all out. Now I have a iPod NaNo video and just do 1 take and load it to YouTube, although I do prepare what I want to say first.
- Don't betray that trust once it is built. Think about the authors you love and who you trust to produce books you love every time. Do you feel betrayed if they step outside the bounds of that relationship? Absolutely. So if you start to build a following then respect them and don't betray their trust. People come to expect what you give, so keep on giving it and they will continue to come and to buy.
- “Social benefit occurs as a by-product of being a good citizen, a useful person, and a valuable resource. Exchanges of kindness and social capital, not just money.” This is a great point and one I find is most common online when you begin to establish yourself. Bloggers and people on social networks start to share information and link to each other, when they find the other person is useful. This benefits everyone in terms of content, link sharing, promotion and relationships. This may not directly result in income, but it is definitely social capital.
- Create a positive impression of your brand. “The web is a giant reputation system“. You need to be aware of what impression you create online. One author who went off at a review on Twitter is still known online for her bad behavior, and it has definitely damaged her reputation. The web has a way of retaining all these things, so just be careful. Over time, your online reputation will build, so keep it positive.
- Have a relationship with the customer long before the sale. Start establishing relationships now with readers and when your first/next book is launched, you will have an interested audience. You can't expect people to be interested immediately otherwise. “Nobody minds buying, but everyone hates getting sold to”. So don't sell to people, just establish a relationship and then have something to offer them in time.