I’m no expert, but I do know that writing is a unique career. It’s the same as other businesses, and yet it is not the same. It requires the same level of dedication, professionalism, and hard work. However, it is also a lot different than lets say, selling your neighbor a bar of soap.
Reading takes a lot of time. It is on a level that is a lot more personal. Readers actually get very sensitive when it comes to buying a book that sucked than buying a bar of soap that also sucks. People are also easily bored these days, so as authors we have to constantly keep our ears to the ground, discovering what’s trending and what’s throwback. It is for this reason that readers tend to find an author they love and stick to him or her. If you’re that author, great, but the story does not always end this way. As I thought about this, I started to really think, not about selling books, but being of service. As I babysat these thoughts, I ran across some great advice from one of my subscription blogs:
“Don’t SELL to your readers, SERVE them. With the changing dynamic between readers and writers, authors need to listen, gather knowledge about readers, foster communications, collaborate, and build long-term relationships.”
We have to be realistic. Authors are constantly told not to sell. But full time authors, those who don’t hold secondary positions elsewhere or receive money from additional sources, have bills to pay, food to put on the table, and needs that require monetary investment. So we can’t just tell writers that they should not sell their books no more than we can tell bloggers not to get excited over new readers. Despite how we gloss it up, the reality is that an author’s end goal is to sell you this book. But here is where being of service comes in:
For me personally, anything that I bring into my space should teach me something. This just means it should advance me in some way. Will it make me laugh? Cry? Think? Discover? Will it inform me? Teach me? Show me? What does this book, more than any other book, do for me? This is the same way that I look at Blogging. I am more than likely to bond with blogs that have something to offer.
Now, back to soap:
When you’re selling soap, I want to know that it’s because the benefits of this particular soap outweigh Irish Springs; not just because you’re trying to make a quick buck. If you can convince me that your product is of some significance to my life and you can back this up, then I will be more than happy to become a dedicated supporter. I have enough sense to know that you have bills to pay, but I also see that your purpose is bigger than dead presidents on paper. Why does this matter to authors?
Because people want to matter.
I believe this is true in everything that we do, and not just writing. But specifically, the first clue to readers that they matter, is the amount of hard work we put into the end product. Our professionalism, or lack thereof, speaks volumes far before these books hit the shelves. So I just want to encourage my writers out there to do the best you can, because it doesn’t get any better than your best. And I believe this is the difference between selling a product and being of service to the people. Readers (and bloggers) want to know that they are getting something out of the process. So I wouldn’t say don’t sell to your readers, instead I would just say to be of service to them.