The Soft Sell
by Rachel Spangler
My buddy Jove Belle invited me to write this blog a month ago. That’s right, a month ago, and yet here I am on the day it’s due trying to figure out what I want to write about. It’s high school all over again. I know vaguely what I need to do. Surprise, surprise: I want you all to buy and read my new release Does She Love You?, but I can’t just say that. First of all, that would make for a very short blog, second of all we all get tired of hearing “buy my book, buy my book,” in any of its many formats.
We all know that author who just doesn’t know when to stop. They tweet endless quotes of their own books; they constantly remind you how many awards/good reviews their book got. They find a way to work their book’s information into any conversation or the comment section of pictures of random things like kittens or food. We’ve all met that person who sees a picture of my kid, and it just happens to remind them about this one time when they were writing their award-winning book in which one of the characters said, “And that’s why I don’t have kids.” Which of course caused one Amazon reviewer to say the book changed her life, and to think it’s available on Kindle for just $9.99.
Seriously, that person gets hidden from my Facebook and unfollowed on Twitter. We all get tired of the constant pushing and nagging. I don’t want to be friends with those people, and I sure don’t want to turn into one of those people.
On the other hand, in an attempt to avoid the hard sell, I also see women I admire, women I adore, women whose writing I am in such awe of continually put themselves down or fail to engage readers at all. These people aren’t as loud, so you might have missed them, but they say things like, “I just write romance,” or “It’s not much but….” or “It’s probably not very good…” I was recently at Golden Crown Literary Society’s annual conference, and at least six different authors started their readings with an apology of some sort. Why do women do that? Why aren’t we comfortable saying, “I write, and I like what I write, and I think you will too.” Why do we feel the need to constantly manage expectations or offer excuses for things we should be proud of? I get that no one likes a braggart, or a pushy salesperson, but there has to be a middle ground here.
When I was studying political science in college, my father made me take a golf class. He explained that in his line of work very few people were overtly sexist, but women often got left out of the conversation because they didn’t do the casual kinds of boasting men do, the kind of networking that can’t take place in a board meeting or the celebrating that would be inappropriate in a corporate setting. He explained these types of conversations often took place on a golf course, and you didn’t even have to be good at golf; you just had to know enough not to make a major faux pas.
That lesson has always stuck with me even though I never went into politics or got very good at golf. As I sat down to try to think of ways to promote Does She Love You?, I found myself wishing I could take each of you for a round of golf. I wished we could talk about the weather and our wretched chip shots. I wish I could ask about your family or your job. Then I wish the conversation could wander until you asked me what I’d been working on lately. I could then casually say, “I have new book out.” You’d ask what it was about, and in between putts I’d explain that it was about two women who couldn’t be more different except they were both dating the same girl. As we drove to the next tee you might say, “That’s an unusual premise for a romance,” and I’d nod solemnly admitting it was a stretch for both my craft and my emotions. Then with a grin that was more bashful than boastful, I’d confide that those challenges made me a better writer, and to be honest I was pretty proud of the final results. Maybe you’d say you wanted to read it, maybe you’d laugh at me for finding a sand trap, and we’d leave it at that. I don’t know, but I think I’d really enjoy having that conversation.
The thing is, I don’t really golf much anymore, and you might not either. Even if we did we likely live miles, or states, or continents apart. The odds of us ever having a casual chat about my new release or my current writing projects are pretty slim. I think that blogs like this might be one of the closest things you and I have to a golf course, but I’m still not sure I know all the rules for navigating it. So I guess what I need to do now is hear from you about what you would like to hear from me. What kind of book conversations do you want to have with any author? Do you like to read blogs? What kind? Do you follow authors on Twitter or Facebook? What kinds of posts interest you? Where do you hear about books? How do you decide which ones you buy? Most of all, how can we authors talk to readers about our books in ways that goes beyond the sale pitch and get to the heart of the work we all love?
I hope you’ll take the time to offer your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section, and as a way of saying thank you, I’ll send a free e-copy of Does She Love You? or any one of my other books to one lucky commenter.
P.S. Buy my books. Please?