Friday, March 22, 2013

The Art of Asking... people to buy my books

Sorry for the extended blogging absence. I fell down a writing hole... of the very best kind! Most of my conversations over the last 2 weeks have gone like this:

Husband/child/dog: *expresses need for food and/or attention*
Rachel: CAN NOT LEAVE THE PRECIOUSSSSssssssss...... (clutches laptop)

I did manage to poke my head up to watch a very good TED talk, though. It doesn't specifically deal with writing per se, but I still found it very relevant.

I've been on the fringe of the Amanda Palmer storm for years now, but this talk convinced me to drink the Kool Aid. The whole video is totally worth watching, but the gist is about how difficult it is to ask for help and compensation vs. how much others want to give it. "Asking [as an artist] makes you vulnerable," Palmer says. "There's always that voice in the back of your head: get a job."

This talk REALLY hit the nail on the head for me, because the single hardest thing I've had to learn as a writer is how to ask people to buy my books without feeling like a huckster or a fraud. It's not that I'm shy. I'm the opposite of shy. I am the biggest extrovert you will ever meet. But asking someone to pay money and read my work is harrowing in a way I have trouble putting words to.

I constantly joke to my friends that someday this writer thing is going to dry up and I'll have to go get a "real job." But the kicker here is that writing is a real job, and not just in the "you should treat your writing as a job if you want to be a professional" kind of way. I mean that writers are entertainers who provide a service, a book, and that is worthy of compensation.

When I ask people "buy my book?" I feel this overwhelming sense of shame and guilt. Who am I, after all, to ask these people to put forth their hard earned cash to take a trip through my imaginary world? But it's all in my head, a product, ironically, of my own pride. In asking someone to buy my book, to like my story, to invest in me, I have to open myself up to the fact that might say no. I have to make myself vulnerable. But as Palmer says, when you trust in people, most of the time, they trust back. If you give them an honest experience, a good story, then don't begrudge you the asking, or the money.

The point here is that writing, singing, entertainment, these are real jobs that provide real benefits. We've all read books that we would have paid twice as much for. There's no shame in asking people to buy my book, it doesn't make me a fraud or a huckster. It doesn't make me a sell out. It makes me a working writer, and that, I gotta say, is the best job ever.


Jay Requard said...

Great post! I think one of the reasons why people are scared of asking for people to buy their product is because there is a stigma attached to being a salesman or saleswoman. People kind of paint those people as being scummy, and most of the time they aren't. People like being talked to and asked about what they want, and if you can convince them that you have something they might want, then they usually buy it.

Judith said...

More stories! We need more stories! It is a pleasure to buy your books. You are doing people a favor by asking them to buy your books. You are also doing the world a favor by figuring out how to make a living doing what you do. If the artists don't figure it out, who is going to?

Skitty.jann said...

I LOVED this TED talk. I have been a AFP follower for a few years now. My big claim to fame is she actually replied to a tweet of mine the other day!! Anyhow, it has been my pleasure to buy your books because they are full of awesome.

Sommerset said...

I'm right there with you about asking people to buy my book -- it feels like Lame-o-tron 3000. The irony is that my day job is in sales.

I can sell crap I don't care about, but pushing my own stuff feels like rampant absurdity.

Aren't we supposed to just be so super cool that we never have to ask? People whisper behind their hands about how awesome the book is, climbing over each other in their haste to purchase it?

That happens right?

Yodamom said...

Great video . Thanks for sharing it

Maure said...

Thanks for putting up the video; I'd seen it a couple other places, but hadn't gotten around to watching it, and... WOW. That was lovely.
big differ

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