Unplugged and Internet-free. Sounds like heaven to me. Why am I posting on this? Well, someone in the last post commented and asked me to blog on how to sell books without the Internet or social media. If it was even possible.
Is it even possible to sell books unplugged? Good food for thought. Of course, my first thought was, ‘Is it even possible to get unplugged in the first place?’
Funny to think that it wasn’t too long ago that a half-baked plot with a terrible love story captured our hearts. A horrible movie (by all accounts) made us all misty-eyed, because of these three words…
You’ve Got Mail...
I remember the giddy feeling whenever I’d hear that ping. Someone sent me an EMAIL. OMG!
Now? I’ve got mail.
*weeps and drinks straight from the Hershey’s syrup squeeze bottle*
I remember loving email.
Hell, I remember LOVING the movie The Matrix. You wanna know WHY I loved The Matrix? Because I wasn’t LIVING IN IT.
I miss being unavailable. My Yahoo email went feral about four years ago. It pees on the carpet and bites people, so we leave it alone.
Same with my Gmail. No matter how many systems and filters…the spammers find me.
There is no way I’ve found to remain unplugged…even a little.
Now? My business email is close to joining the Yahoo and Gmail. If I am not on my cell phone deleting spam messages like Satan’s version of Space Invaders?
I lose stuff.
No joke. I had to create another business email (which, of course, I forget to check). It’s a never ending game of Hell’s Whack-A-Mole.
Oh, and I recently got sick, and couldn’t cull the endless author newsletters I was force-added to against my will because so many @$$hat branding gurus swear by newsletters as the key to wealth and fame to the point they are SELLING email lists to total strangers.
People like me who want some unknown author’s free book about as much as I want a free upper G.I.
Kill. Me. Now.
I’m a Gen Xer. We’re the sarcastic middle child who trusts nothing and no one, crushed and forgotten between the Baby Boomers and Millennials.
We’re young enough that we were a major force that set off the digital revolution. Yet, we’re also old enough to remember what life was like before computers.
Which is why we drink heavily or want to.
We remember what it was like to have to walk over to someone’s house, knock on a door and ASK IN PERSON if they wanted to hang out. Or, to CALL. And if the person wasn’t there, to have to…wait for it…call back LATER.
There weren’t even answering machines.
Hell, there wasn’t even ‘call waiting.’ You got a busy tone. Oh, the things my son (Spawn) won’t ever experience.
We lived our lives unplugged, not even knowing we were ‘unplugged.’
Now we track everything from packages to exes. These days, I can’t even have a conversation in the car that suddenly there aren’t ads popping up in my feed for something I was just talking about.
There was a time I TRIED to remain unplugged. I refused to use email and wanted all my bills on paper. I’d reset all the settings on my phone and clear browser histories, and… *taps out*
Problem is, everything is optional…until it isn’t.
Want to get really freaked out? Go read Fahrenheit 451. These days, I’m too old to mess with it and as a writer, I find great entertainment researching murder and poisons on-line just to see what sort of ads pop up on Facebook.
Apparently a LOT of ads for pre-paid legal, therapy, and hardware stores. I wish I were making this up.
Can We Even Live Unplugged?
Not to freak y’all out, but before we even posit the question if it’s possible to sell books off-line, we need to ask the critical question. Who’s even living off-line? Because if Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) is our target market?
Then there ya go!
But, even Ted communicated using the newspaper, which was the equivalent of the Internet during his day. He put out personal ads searching for a wife who wanted to live off the land, cut off from the world.
Wonder how many of us might take him up on that these days?
Considering that most of today’s population is glued to their phones, addicted to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs to the degree that specialists are treating new never-seen-before joint, back, eye, and psychiatric disorders….
Whether we like it or not, folks these days aren’t sharing word of mouth in person as much as they’re sharing among peers their on-line social circles.
***To be clear, this doesn’t mean they’re NOT sharing in person, just proportionally they’re sharing more on-line.
Additionally, people are shopping more on-line than in stores.
Not only are the deals better, but there’s also the added convenience. I’m just as guilty. For instance, Spawn’s birthday is RIGHT near Thanksgiving.
I didn’t have time to cook, work, write, clean, and shop for birthday gifts. So, I hopped on Amazon and ordered the game he wanted…which was delivered to my front door while I frosted his birthday cakes.
In sales, we had a saying, ‘Fish where the fish are.’ Safe bet the fish are schooling on-line.
Bookstores & Location
Though, for NOW, I think it will be tough to sell books unplugged, that trend should shift. The reason? Borders and Barnes & Noble decimated the indie and mom-and-pop bookstores.
Granted, CBS recently reported some good news (which I also predicted on this blog a few years ago *gets cramp patting self on back*).
The small bookstores are booming after being nearly wiped out, which is fabulous.
The problem is that the big box chains all but annihilated these small stores, and there is a LONG road back from the edge of extinction.
Consumers will eventually shop at bookstores, but, as the founder of Barnes & Noble realized only after it was far too late, shoppers tend to gravitate to the store that is closest and most convenient.
In the October 21, 2016 article in The New Yorker, What Barnes & Noble Doesn’t Get About Bookstores, Leonard Riggio, the man who bought Barnes & Noble forty-five years ago and turned it into a giant finally conceded this mistake:
The No. 1 consideration of where someone will shop is how close it is to where they are. It has nothing to do with pedigree or branding. If there’s no bookstore close to them, they’re more likely to buy online. If there’s one close, they’re more likely to buy if it’s a block away.
While we await the recovery of the local ‘Shop Around the Corner,’ odds are folks will mostly buy on-line. That’s business reality.
The Centrifugal Bumble-Brand
There are all sorts of gurus who’ll sell authors (or anyone)
snake oil a sure-fire get-rich-quick scheme for using social media to make the big lists, sell so many books, etc. etc.
Mailing lists, pay-to-promote, ads, marketing campaigns, on and on!
I’ve never done any of this, and my blog gets well over a million unique visits a month, which is pretty good for a blog with such niche content for a niche audience.
My book and classes are fun and never go out of style because the focus is on people, not technology.
What captures people’s attention? How do we make them care? If we have to use social media, then how can we find our tribe? And have FUN and time to write books?
What can we do to attract those people who like what we like and are most likely to enjoy our content and probably enjoy our stories, too?
CLUE: How about post stuff they WANT to see and SHARE? Imagine that!
Technology changes, people don’t.
Whether we are plugged in or unplugged, how we interact with people is roughly the same if we want to be successful.
Even before social media, we didn’t like people who only talked to us when they wanted something.
We were NOT fans of people who were constant sources of drama, negativity, self-centered, manipulative, the list goes on.
We enjoyed people who made us laugh, who noticed US, who were genuine, who asked us about our day and our life (without an agenda) and who listened, instead of everything being about them.
Even before computers, we liked people who made us smile, who made our day better just being around them.
We ran from people who drained our energy, who took more than they gave. People hung out with people who shared at least some common interests, with just enough variety to add something new and exciting.
This has nothing to do with SEO.
Well, not directly. Humans are the same on-line as unplugged. They don’t want someone trying to sell them something all the time, etc. etc.
Relax on social media. It’s really what we used to do off-line only on-line. Yes, we have to filter it, but we had to filter it at parties if we wanted to be invited back, right?
Remember, we aren’t trying to make EVERYONE happy. We CAN’T.
For instance, if you don’t have a dark sense of humor, you’re probably not going to enjoy my books either. I can’t please everyone. But when I please the right people—MY audience—they do the heavy lifting.
Almost a thousand shares and I didn’t have to pay Facebook a dime. Here’s the thing. My goal is not to sell this blog or my classes or my books to EVERYONE. I can’t please EVERYONE, so I don’t try.
But I CAN please YOU….
And probably even you…
And you…over there.
Yes, I have seven cats. Actually six. My *whispers* dog, Pippa, thinks she is a cat. Don’t tell her.
Anyway, what were we talking about before all the funny cats?
Oh yeah…no social media.
How would we share cat memes?
That and right now I started a pretty hysterical (and morbid) thread on Facebook that might earn us all an FBI van for Christmas….
But the comments are too funny! See? No marketing gimmick, just people having some seriously dark and disturbing fun.
I write mystery, suspense and thriller so those are the sort of people who are my audience. Many of the people in the thread having a good time, I KNOW FOR A FACT are not writers. They are READERS (or potential readers).
Which means these are the folks who DO go over and like my fan page and who DO subscribe to my blog here.
Oops, I meant #TrueStory.
I know I’ve danced around the question, though I’ve not meant to. Can we sell books without social media or the Internet? Sure.
But for most writers who break out in hives at the mention of sales, the idea of setting up a table in some store and hawking a book with a PayPal card reader pales in comparison to building a social platform.
Thus, the only remaining way to sell books off the Internet (unplugged) is through the quality of the story.
We must write something SO spectacular, so singularly unique and well-crafted that it stands out like the Hope Diamond perched, glinting in the sunlight, on a pile of rubbish.
It must be so brilliantly crafted that it generates a tidal wave of buzz among readers, and then eventually the booksellers in the emerging small bookstores. Stories that booksellers will not only stock, but will go out of their way to recommend to the browsing shopper.
This said, judging from most of what I see? The future is not looking too bright for most writers.
With the rise of self-publishing, it’s been too easy to skip the hard parts….like learning how to write well.
When I began as an editor almost twenty years ago, the samples I received were trying to pass a NY gatekeeper. Now? Most wouldn’t pass 7th grade English.
It’s downright depressing.
I encounter far too many ‘authors’ who know more about advertising and marketing than they know about story structure, POV, pacing, scene and sequel, etc.
Instead of reading, taking classes, applying what is learned to writing and then rewriting and practicing, too many authors are fixating on-line.
They’re more concerned about building numbers on their mailing list, their book covers matching their Facebook headers than whether or not the ‘books’ they’ve already produced are even readable.
They spend more time worrying if they should shift to Instagram than trying to understand why no one’s buying their existing books.
The hard truth is great writers do what anyone who’s a master at anything does. They make writing appear easy just like an Olympic gymnast makes the parallel bars seem easy.
Writing a novel is anything BUT easy. This is a skill that takes time, training, blood, sweat, tears, mentorship, and probably part of your soul to even become moderately good.
When we skip steps—either out of pride or impatience—there are consequences.
The most common consequence is our book will die a lonely death in obscurity. What is ignored offline will likely never thrive online. So YES…
Book Sales Unplugged
The technically correct answer is that we’ve long passed the event horizon that any sale happens off-line…technically. We’re living in a world that, short of a zombie apocalypse or a. nuclear war, the Internet will be a factor in the sale somewhere.
BUT…before the Internet ever gets a vote. Before Insta-Snap-Chat-Face-Twit is ever part of the equation, a story starts with us. The author.
Every sale happens offline when we write the book. Then, when the reader reads or listens to our story and our story makes their heart beat faster, keeps them up all night and generates so much excitement they cannot WAIT to tell someone?
That is the books sale unplugged. We have to get booksellers excited enough to be a street team without us even having to ask or offer an incentive.
They’ll VOLUNTEER. The best sales are always a passion project anyway.
In the meantime, READ, READ, READ. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. READ, WRITE, FAIL, REPEAT!
And know I’ll never fuss at y’all without offering help 😉 .
Go to THIS BLOG where I have a long list of resources—who aren’t necessarily me—to help make y’all
better legendary authors (blogs, books, classes, etc).
Give yourself some goodies for Christmas.
I also have some treats, like a BRAND NEW class I’ve never taught before, and it turned out FANTASTIC. ON DEMAND Dark Arts: HOLIDAY SPECIAL Building Your Villain is usually $55 and for the next few days is only $25. Three hours of psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, pathology and how that applies to writing.
It is like the Behavioral Analysis Unit for Authors. Tres FUN! Villains are some of the most enduring characters in literature. Why not add your own legends to the list?
I’m also offering ON DEMAND! Holiday Sale! Story Master: From Dream to DONE. This class is to train you how to plot whether you’re a plotter, a pantser or a mix of both. It’s also a crash course in creating dimensional characters.
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages (5K words) of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or fewer).
October’s Winner is Charlotte French.
November’s Winner is rachelwordsmith and thanks for the blog idea, too!
FYI, one page is 250 words. Calculate accordingly, please. Send your WORD doc double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point font, one-inch margins to kristen at wana intl dot com. If I fail to respond within ten business days after sending, please know I am VERY human and send a follow up message. I may have lost your email or accidentally nuked it in my Hell’s Space Invader’s game.
In the meantime, PLEASE treat yourself to a class! We have a TON of classes that we will be deleting or putting into cold storage come January and will no longer be available. So STOCK UP while you can.
The BIG SPECIALS (other than what I mentioned above)
Usually $55 and now only $25.
This is a THREE-HOUR class on guns, knives, weapons, fighting, law enforcement (from local cops to international espionage) and more. Everything you need to build a bad@$$—male OR female—and get the details CORRECT.
Usually $75 and now only $40.
Get prepped and ready for the new year, new you, new blog.
Thursday, December 12th, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST (NYC TIME). Use New20 for $20 off.
Friday, December 13th, 7:00-9:00 P.M. EST. Use New10 for $10 off.
NEW ON DEMAND CLASSES
Use New20 for $20 off
Use New20 for $20 off
Popular On Demand Classes
Use Binge10 for $10 off.
How do we create characters that readers will fall in love with, characters strong enough to go the distance? Find out in this THREE-HOUR class that also comes with detailed notes and a character-building template.
This class dovetails with my previous class: