Are We Authors or Salespeople?

bookI’ve been in a quandary lately. I’ve been writing for 6½ years on my blog, self-published my first book in 2013, and came out with my best book, Hot, Holy & Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, through WordServe and BroadStreet Publishing last year. And I’m still not making much income.

Yes, I wholly appreciate the deal my agency made for me, and it was a solid entry into the traditional publishing market. But the truth is, while we’re happy for the Max Lucados and Francine Riverses of the publishing world, the majority of working authors don’t make a huge income.

Other than good timing and a spat of luck (or is it?), what can we do to increase our income?

Thankfully, I have two close friends with marketing backgrounds. Not so thankfully, they recently told me everything they think I’m doing wrong in marketing myself and my books. Okay, I’m actually thankful for that too, but it was tough to hear them chide me for not pushing my product more.

Why have I struggled with effectively advertising my book? With talking up my writing and speaking? With marketing my brand?

Part of it is that I’m by nature not much of a salesperson. I was that introverted kid who, when asked to fund-raise for whatever activity I was involved in, barely made her quota because selling to people was such a painful experience.

Another part is this sense that I’m in ministry, and shouldn’t my primary goal be helping people rather than making a buck? Yet Romans 4:4 says, “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Even people in helping professions deserve to be paid. And you and I both know that writing a book isn’t an easy task: You earned a paycheck.

Practically speaking, I need to fund my ministry. I could get a job doing something else that promises a specific and consistent income, but then I wouldn’t be able to keep writing—at least not at my current rate. Some of you are currently working jobs you’d love to quit so that you could focus on your writing and your godly message. Increasing our income means we can pay our bills, build a nest egg, and still write. We don’t need million-dollar mansions, but we do need enough to take care of our families. As 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

One more challenge is that while it can be hard to sell generally, it’s even harder to sell yourself. Sure, we sell our content and our stories, but our name is emblazoned on the book cover. And as Christians, we might wonder if it smacks of pride to be pushing our brand — our brand being ME.

However, I’ve realized that it’s not about me, J. Parker, being a success. Rather, I’m passionate about my message. That message reflects what I believe about God’s design for marriage, and it’s a message I want to get out to as many wives as possible. Spreading a godly message or theme is a worthy goal, one many Christian authors have.

Thus, I’m trying to make a mental shift to talking more about my book, to seeking out advertising opportunities, to promoting my writing and speaking in new formats and forums.

In short, I’m becoming a salesperson.

Because when my book sells, my family benefits from more income, but my reader also benefits from reading my book and God’s message is spread even further. That sale is a win-win-win.

How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors

We all know that as successful authors we’re expected to market ourselves and this includes social media sites. Most find Facebook easy to use, but I’ve seen several authors confused or disheartened by Twitter.

I used to be one of them. For basic Twitter use, including #hashtags and follow back explanations, check out 8 Twitter Tips for Authors at the Blogging Bistro’s site. (She’s got great content, search through her archives & consider signing up for her daily tips.)

1. Who are you marketing to? Remember who your target audience is. Every tweet or link you share should provide value to this audience. You should tweet links to your blog posts and website, but here’s a good rule of thumb, for every 10 tweets, only 1 should be about your blog/book/website.

Retweet others, it’s a great way to build report, but remember, only retweet things that you think your audience will find useful in someway.

2. Finding followers. Here’s where #hashtags come in to play. Search for the key words that define your target audience. I often look up #quilting, #crocheting, #cooking, and #christianfiction. Start a conversation with these folks. After all, that’s what Twitter is about. Most times, they will follow you back.

Don’t start a conversation simply for a follow back. Talk with them because you have something in common. People know when you’re being phony. Even if it’s just two folks a day, it adds up over time.

3. Use Lists. I’ve heard the argument that it’s impossible to keep up with hundreds and thousands of friends/followers. Yes, that’s true, but Twitter has the glory of lists. You can make a list and categorize your followers there. I have several, you can make them private if you don’t want people to see how you have them listed, or public and others can follow your list.

For example, I have a list of readers where I put folks who chat about the books they’re reading. I have one for my fellow writer friends. The possibilities are endless and you can pull up your list and chat w/ folks about that subject when you’re in the mood or have time.

Lists are the key to making Twitter work in my opinion.

4. Engage with other users. If you never talk with people, you’ve missed the point of Twitter. It is called Social media for a reason. In fact, if someone follows me and I check out their profile (I always do) if I don’t see Tweets including other people’s @handle, then I don’t follow them. I want to talk w/ people, not have them just talk at me.

Are you a Twitter user? What’s some of your tips or cool people who you’ve found via Twitter?

Follow me on Twitter and let me know if you found me from this blog. 🙂