Sunday, September 6, 2009

Marketing Tip: Have Fun

With great pleasure, I welcome today’s guest, Sylvia Dickey Smith, who will talk about marketing. I know Sylvia to be an excellent writer and a world-class marketer of her books. I also know she once sold 170 books in one weekend, so I think every writer would be wise to read what she has to say on the subject.

Earl Staggs

Marketing Tip: Have Fun

Often, I’m asked to speak on the topic of marketing and promotion. I call my presentation Marketing For Fun & Profit. (Of course, we know it takes a long time to get to the profit part of that equation.) My philosophy on marketing is if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing—stop—do something different. Try another strategy, learn to enjoy just being. Relax, don’t get hung up on sales, simply enjoy the event. Yeah, I know, that sounds rather Pollyannaish, but it works.

At a recent Barnes & Noble book signing in Beaumont, Texas, I wore a pirate costume and toted a wooden treasure chest filled with “play” jewels, skulls, gold-wrapped fun-size Snickers, a pirate rally flag, and coordinating paraphernalia. The B&N CRM, Cindy, walked up to me and said, “I just love when you come to do a signing. You put yourself into it. You bring something to the table. You’d be surprised how many authors show up and sit behind a newspaper. They never look up or speak to anyone the whole two hours.”

Now that’s a mystery. Why would anyone take up space in a bookstore and not try to meet the customers, invite them to take a look at their books, enjoy free candy, and then wish them a nice day whether they buy their books or not? If I were a CRM, I wouldn’t be happy if an author came in and sat there like a blob, breathing my air and taking up floor space that could be well-used by someone else.

Speaking of mystery, folks tell me I’m one because I not only market for myself, but for other authors as well. Why? I embrace the belief that what goes around comes around. What I put out I get back.

That is why I conduct Murder, She Writes, a radio talk show where I interview mystery writers. Web address:*

After taking on a newspaper column with interviewing authors of both fiction and non-fiction, I decided to cancel the radio program due to time shortage. Soon as I started notifying scheduled folks of my intent to discontinue the show at the end of the month, I received word that the program has been selected a listener favorite. Now, how can I quit with that? So, for the foreseeable future, I will keep doing both. If readers are interested in being featured on either one, email me at for more information. And if you were scheduled, you still are. I’ll be in touch.

Have fun marketing!

*NOTE: If anyone has a marketing question, I am happy to correspond in the Comments section of this blog, or at the above email address. As a friend often said, two heads are better than one, even if one is a goat head. (The goat head being me.)


Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Okay folks, I know it's a holiday weekend but surely someone's got a question or an idea about marketing! (smile)

Morgan Mandel said...

Welcome to Make Mine Mystery, Sylvia.

You're welcome to stay on here through Labor Day, since you have a great message. You're so right. We should have fun when we promote.

I like the idea you had about dressing up in a pirate costume.
Sometimes it's something that's unusual that can attract readers' attention. Even a small thing like handing out bookmarks is better than sitting behind a table and waiting for people to come to you.

Morgan Mandel

Dana Fredsti said...

Sylvia, so pleased to see you here today! I love the idea of showing up in pirate drag - I know I"m more likely to buy a book from an author if they're engaging in person!

Mark Troy said...

Good tips, Sylvia. I do agree that what goes around comes around. At one of my signings I convinced a reader to buy all of Loren Estleman's Amos Walker books, but couldn't sell him mine. When I told Estleman about it, he bought me a beer.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I don't do costumes, but I do always decorate the table where my books are, sometimes with a Native American theme, other times a black tablecloth with crime scene tape. Either one attracts people.

I used to always take candy but got bawled out by an independent book seller for doing so. (I've never gone back there, but it made me a bit paranoid.)


Kevin R. Tipple said...

Nice to see B&N, at least the one you were in, relaxed their policy against authors bringing in candy. Back in the day when I worked at ones here and handsold copies (which was also discouraged if you spent more than 30 seconds with a customer) candy, food and drinks were forbidden and authors were strongly encouraged not to come in costume. They were supposed to dress as business professional and men were expected to wear a tie at least. If an author moved from his or her table, an employee was supposed to shadow him or her until they were back in place. It was corporate policy as I saw the five page directive on author events and had to sign for it many times as fiction department leader with many invited in authors being fiction authors.

Kevin R. Tipple

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

That sure doesn't sound like fun, Kevin! I'd probably have said no thanks. And Marilyn, your table sounds great. It is hard to go dressed in costume, and I still am not satisfied with the one I have, but I wear it anyway.

Mark, neat that you sold books of your friend. That's when it really gets fun. LOL

Morgan and Dana, I agree with you. It is much more fun to walk up to someone who is having fun, than someone who is bored.

Any other ideas from readers?

Chester Campbell said...

My wife is quite famous on some of the lists for her performance. She stands at the store entrance and greets customers with a smile and "Do you read mysteries?" If they do, she hands them my small promo folder and tells them the author is signing "over there." On our first trip to a local B&N, the CRM told her she'd have to stay near the table. The next time he wasn't there when we started. He came in and saw how many books we were selling, and now he's our biggest booster. Thanks for the ideas,

elysabeth said...

I don't dress up but I make my tables interactive since I'm all about the United States and the kids. I offer prizes (USA map puzzles) for the winners and have other state related items on my table that are freebies, and I always try to engage the customers if for nothing else just to try their hand at my "What State Am I?" quiz or the other things I've found to use as enticements to the table.

I try to keep a large map on display also. I want all the participants to be a winner.

I was at a fairly local event a couple of weekends ago - Mint Hill (NC) Sunday Afternoon in the Park - and the folks from Carolina Conspiracy who allowed me to share their tent until they decided to leave made a comment about me giving a lot of stuff away and they didn't see how I could make anything on my book sales from all the things I give away. But honestly if I weren't giving things away and having fun, I wouldn't be there. That is what I want to do - is have fun and get the kids involved. - E :)

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Great suggestions Chester and Elspeth. Gee, Chester, I'd like to take your wife with me next time!

And Elspeth, I agree, if I weren't having fun I don't think I'd do it at all. Life is too short!

elysabeth said...

I think another fun thing would be to do a book signing with another author or two. Maybe in a different genre, maybe the same as yours. It would help pass the time for those times when there don't seem to be any customers in the store. I've had that happen but it was okay - the few I had gave me some good suggestions on some games or things (I turned one of the suggestions into a game in my activity booklet which is available on my website -

And I agree - I like Chester's idea as well - getting a helper to detour folks your way - depends where in the bookstore you are - lol. See you all in the postings - E :)

PS Sylvia - my name is Elysabeth not Elspeth (not sure where that came from - lol) but hey - I'm glad you came back and responded - E :)

elysabeth said...

Hey Chester - what exactly do you have in your "promo" folder? Is it like a brochure, a flyer, a sell sheet? I'm curious because I think I could do something up for mine - in the shape of the United States of course - lol - Just curious - E :)

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Elysabeth!! Sorry--brain overload! Thanks for letting me know. I hate getting someone's name wrong!

Those promotion packets sound good. I'll have to build some. It has been great visiting with everyone. I'll keep stopping by and work really hard at getting folks names correct! LOL

Earl Staggs said...

I enjoy meeting people at signings so it's not a problem to strike up a conversation when people stroll by. I usually offer treats of some kind--cookies or candy--and find that to be a good ice breaker. I also offer wet wipes so they won't mark up books when they browse after eating my treats. Thanks again for guesting here, Sylvia. I knew you'd do well and you did.