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Authors As Salespeople: Is This an Oxymoron?

By Patricia L. Fry

What happens when the creative, right-brain thinker writes a book and learns that he or she must shift into left-brain mode and also market the thing? This is certainly a common scenario within today’s publishing world. Many of you, as you read this article, are nodding your heads—still in disbelief that you have found yourself reduced from author to sales agent for your book. You thought all you had to do was write it. The next step in your carefully laid plan was to retire on the profits or royalties. Right?

You’ve probably discovered—especially if you read this column every month—that promoting your book is your responsibility. And you may already know that there are many avenues through which to do this. Book reviews, public presentations, article/story submissions, advertising, book festivals, book signings and so forth. As part of the marketing process, you’re sometimes required to make that dreaded cold call.

Now of all the salespeople in the world, don’t you know that the group that most dislikes the cold call are authors? Yet, it must sometimes be a part of your marketing repertoire. Why? How?

Maybe you want to approach local businesspeople to discuss the premium possibilities with regard to your book. A banker might want to buy volumes of your local history book or even your historical novel as incentive to attract new customers. Perhaps your recipe book would be an ideal premium item for a new kitchen store.

You might want to approach local psychologists and therapists about recommending your self-help book for parents of addicted teens or your new book on living with ADD. It may be worthwhile to visit radio stations or call the program directors asking to be booked on a talk show.

There are many good reasons why an author must (or should) make cold calls—you will be asking for space in bookstores, requesting book signings, offering to speak for organizations, trying to get your book into libraries and school districts as well as trying to convince countless customers to purchase your book.

OK, so how many of you find the cold call distasteful, to say the least? Do you dread going out after the sale? Do you procrastinate when you know you should be out pounding the pavement or making phone calls? Do you feel seriously deflated when you are told “no”? Here are some tips that might help you get through the trauma of the cold call:

  • Put things in perspective—realize that the percentage of success through cold calls is very low. Most experts agree it is only about two percent. Realize that you may have to talk to many prospects to get the results you are seeking. You decide if it is worth your time.
  • Consider your priorities and your purpose when you're making those cold calls. If you score in the two percent range, how will that impact your bottom line? Is it better to go after that premium package and possibly sell thousands of books at a discount or wait for customers to come to your website and purchase books? That might result in ten full-price sales over the same period of time. Should you push for a radio spot and a few speaking opportunities or hope that people will wander into the small bookstore down the street, see your book and purchase it? The cold call is sounding necessary, isn’t it?
  • Focus on something other than the way the rejection might feel or how uncomfortable you are when you make these calls. Try focusing on your goal—selling X number of books within three month’s time, for example.
  • If someone hangs up on you or behaves rudely on the phone, don’t take it personally. Continue focusing on your goal and keep on keeping on.
  • Introduce yourself by letter or email first and then do a follow-up call. This could soften the blow and probably get you in the front door.
  • Look at cold calling like going to the dentist; it is only going to take an hour or so out of your day. It will be over soon and the discomfort will be gone. You'll feel proud of yourself for having done it and you may enjoy some benefits.
  • Use a reward system. Make five cold calls and then you get to pour a cup of coffee or, if you’re out, go to your favorite coffee house for a latte. Spend the morning making cold calls and reward yourself with a workout at the gym.
  • Set a goal to do cold calls until you get one person to agree to meet with you. If the first or second person you talk to says "yes," then call at least three more. That's an even loftier goal that will give you all sorts of self-esteem.
  • Hire someone to represent your book through cold calls. While I don’t recommend this as your first choice, because I believe that you are the best person to promote your book, if you simply cannot do it, definitely consider hiring someone.

Making cold calls is distasteful for most people. But there are all sorts of ways you can trick yourself into doing it. And once you experience success through cold calls, you will feel so much better about yourself and your project. When you feel confident, you will make more headway with the daunting task of book promotion.

–Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN. She is the author of 27 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book.

For great information, resources and advice every day, read Patricia’s blog:



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