Book sales are abysmal, and the ‘normal’ ways we counted on to reach buyers, don’t work anymore.
Facebook has failed us (in too many ways to count) and Twitter has been taken over by politicians and other strident folk. Bookbub is picky and expensive. Amazon keeps changing its algorithms and rips off reviews. We put time and effort into book signings, but sales are few. Yes, we must build e-mail lists, but we must also broaden our readership beyond those who ‘know’ us.
Clearly we’re going to have to test odd, new ways to get books in the hands of readers. What more fitting month to start than foolish April?
So I’ll get us started with out-of-the-box thinking. After all there’s nothing more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one we have. We are right to be dissatisfied with the status quo. Somehow we need to think differently about what we’re seeing. We should be coming at the problem from a brand new direction, and slay a sacred cow or two in the process.
In this foolish month I say we consult a fool about our poor-sales conundrum. In the days of pharaohs, the kings would seek a fool for advice.
The fool was expected to offer jokes and odd observations to elicit fresh approaches to the problem. Reversing assumptions, being irreverent, denying the problem, applying rules from another arena, providing metaphors…the fool helped people gain insight on the issue. Roger von Oech, author of A WHACK ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD, maintains foolish thinking is what we need right now.
For fun, we get to play the fool, with lots to say about the problem of selling books. The ‘fool’s approaches (below) are von Oech’s; the examples for writing, mine:
The fool is metaphorical: If a novel were a food, how would you entice a stranger to eat it? Give them a delicious sample that would hook them for life.
The fool reverses standard assumptions: Why not pay people to read our books?
The fool is irreverent: Write scenes short enough to read while sitting on the toilet.
The fool denies the problem exists and reframes the situation: If we can’t get people to read during their busy lives, we should sell books wherever they vacation.
The fool is absurd: Ask each person for a story they want written, then have them pay you to write it.
The fool notices things others overlook: 80% of the book-buyers are women. Find out what would make men buy books.
The fool will apply the rules of one arena to another: If artists have ‘showings,’ how come we don’t have ‘showings’ of novels? (different from book signings)
Take one of the approaches above and provide your own CRAZY example. The more we ‘play’ with new ideas, the closer we’ll get to a unique way to find readers.