Today I want to look a bit at the business side of writing- being as all writers are business people and Indie writers are even our own bosses. (I really hope the self-publisher-me never has to fire the writer-me.)
I recently went to a convention, never you mind where, it could have been any show. It was a full geek con: actors, artists, toys, and authors and books. LOTS of books. This convention had more writer interaction than some and a number of book publishers where there as well.
Two things really struck me in the marketing end of things. My first observation was a tale of two publishers. Both big names, both there with the idea to get folks excited about their books and grab new readers.
One publisher gave it all away- they must have shipped in tons of books as pretty much they were always running titles through their table- many times the author was there as well. Smiling, chatting, signing, and putting that free book right in the hand of a reader.
The other publisher had a lot of "stuff"....stickers and whatnot. And while they had books out- didn't really give them away. One signing was a raffle, another I saw had a sad looking author sitting next to a man with a credit card machine-aka- they were selling the books.
Guess which booth saw the most traffic by a landslide? The one giving away usually first books in series, designed to draw us poor saps into to buy more? Or the one who raffled off some copies and sold others? (Yes, I was stalking them. ;))
Now, don't get me wrong, as a writer I know we need to sell our books. BIG TIME. But which publisher do you think made the biggest impact on those thousands of readers? I have found many a new favorite author through free books at conferences. (I am very excited about some of the free books I got, as well as those I bought at yet a third publisher).
Free books, especially when the author is there signing said free item of book lovliness, make an impact on a reader- more importantly it makes the reader connect with the author and the publisher. Many times I hear authors say they won't give away their work- we spend a hell of a lot of time on a single book, and now we're supposed to give it away? But once we have a few books out there, we (as Indie authors) can do what that first publisher did- give first books away to bring folks in for the long haul. Traditional authors might need to be more creative, but they might be able to work in free novellas or other items.
Even when I got a book that really wasn't for me, I was so impressed by the author that I made sure to find a friend who would really like it- by meeting that author, and having him put that free book in my hand, I felt responsible for it finding a good home.
The second observation from this convention was a group of writers going outside of the box in their panel. They had a "writing" panel that wasn't at all about writing- but about the Taco Church (not going to explain it here-go search them out http://www.holytacochurch.com/). Basically, they had a lot of fun, pulled in a fairly full room of readers (many writers, but we're readers too) who got to see them NOT talking about their books. But being witty, articulate and sort of goofy human beings.
And guess what that fun, non-book, interaction did? Made me want to find those authors and see if their books were my cuppa tea. Again, a connection with the writer, even outside of the book world, really acts to make a connection to the reader and makes them seek the books- even when they aren't even sure what that person writes.
Ok, this post was long, and it rambled a bit- but the main points here were 1) for all writers- traditional and Indie to realize their readers are people, not "fans" and to think outside the box for ways to interact with them, and that 2) free is good. As the editor at the freebie publisher said, "the first hit is free". But once a reader gets hooked, ya got them!