Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Follow-Up

I feel I do pretty well at self-promoting.

I meet a lot of key people--booksellers, librarians, and fans--both in person and online. I try my best to make a good impression by being friendly, approachable, helpful, courteous, thankful, and genuine. I know how to pitch, how to give good interview in print, radio, and TV, and how to make sure I hit key points that will hopefully lead to sales, or at least to being remembered.

But I have an Achilles heel. I'm crummy at the Follow-Up.

The Follow-Up is a simple, yet powerful, self-promotional tool. In short, it's reaffirming the relationship (a bookstore meeting, a well done interview, a great review) by responding within a relatively short period of time. Sometimes the response is a simple "Thanks!" Sometimes it's a reminder (my new book is currently available.) Sometimes it's simply a note to say we should keep in touch.

A Follow-Up makes a person feel special, while also keeping you in the forefront of that person's mind. It takes very little time to do.

Yet, for some reason, I stink at it.

Here are some things you (and I) should be working on to better our Follow-Up skills:

  1. Answer Email. This should be a no-brainer, but if you're like me and your In-Box is larger than your last novel, keeping up with email is a daunting task. Every few weeks I get obsessed and go on an email-answering frenzy. But it's much easier to keep control of your email with this simple trick: Respond as soon as you read it. Then there are no huge, daunting pile-ups, and everyone who contacts you, whether they be fan, peer, or newbie writer asking for blurbs, gets a timely response rather than thinking you're an ignorant jerk.

  2. Respond to Posts. If you're like me, and you lurk on writing message boards (http://www.bksp.org/), listservs (http://www.dorothyl.com/), Yahoo Groups, newsgroups (news://alt.fiction.orginal/) other authors websites and blogs, and the many other places on the Internet that allow exchanges of information, you'll often occasionally post something. It's easy to post once, then disappear, thinking your work there is done. It's a much better idea to stick around and have some conversations. Remember; No one enjoys being sold something. But people do like to communicate with authors. Like a good website, or blog, it's about what you have to give, not what you ant to sell.

    This also applies to your own blog. If you're getting a lot of responses, it's easy to forget to say thanks to those with kind words. Here's another tip: Check your old posts every so often. Google links to posts that are years old, and people will find them and leave comments, then check back to see if you've responded.

  3. MySpace. I'm awed at how much time I'm spending on MySpace lately, and the truth is I should be spending even more. I get a lot of MySpace messages and comments, sometimes a few dozen a day. I've been pretty good a bout responding to messages, but when someone posts a nice comment about me, I often don't reply. This is stupid. From now on, every time someone posts a comment on www.myspace.com/jakonrath, I'm going to immediately post a comment on MySpace page. This not only makes the commenter feel good, but then my comment (along with my book cover and link) is on their page for all of their MySpace Friends to see. Ditto responses to your MySpace blog.

    Stay away from spamming. But a nice, personal comment is always welcome, and if it mentions you also have a new book coming out, not many people will mind.

  4. Amazon.com. We all know that authors can blog on Amazon. You can also create Listmanias, sell stories on www.Amazon.com/shorts and post reviews. A new Amazon option allows people to respond to reviews directly.

    If you're an author, you should blog. You can read my Amazon blog, Listmanias, and reviews, by clicking on any of my books and scrolling down, or by checking out my Amazon Profile.

    There's a new feature that allows readers to comment on user reviews. I DO NOT recommend getting into a flamewar with the moron who gave your book one star. Authors should be above that. It's petty.

    However, if they guy is a real brain donor, go ahead. I love posting positive reviews of books I love, and following up by gently correcting the negative ones.

  5. Booksignings. You would think, with all the bookstores I visit, I'd have a master list of every single bookseller I've ever met. Sadly, I don't.

    I have business cards from many of them, but I rarely follow up after dropping by. A simple, "It's was great to visit your store!" email or postcard would go a long way toward getting booksellers to remember me, but I'm lax in this department.

    However, I'm working on changing that. In Dirty Martini, I thank over 1300 booksellers by name in the acknowledgements. And each store I stopped in on the Rusty Nail 500 got a free copy of the book, along with this letter:

    A note from author JA Konrath.

    Hello again! I'm saying "again" because I visited your bookstore last summer while touring the country for my third Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery, RUSTY NAIL. That tour took me to 29 states, where I signed books at 618 bookstores.

    This store was one of them.

    Hyperion and I want to thank you for your support, so we've sent you a free copy of the newest Jack book, DIRTY MARTINI. Everyone else has to wait until July 3 (the release date) to read it.

    If I was lucky enough to have met you, or any of your co-workers, last year when I dropped in, I've listed you by name in the acknowledgements pages at the end of the book. If I spelled your name wrong or accidentally omitted you, email me at haknort@comcast.net and I'll make sure you're in future editions.

    If I didn't get a chance to meet you last year, or if you haven't read my books before, DIRTY MARTINI is a good place to start. It's a fast, fun beach read, sort of a cross between the suspense of James Patterson and the humor of Janet Evanovich.

    Some of your peers have already read of DIRTY MARTINI, and they've said some wonderful things about it. Instead of the standard review snippets and author blurbs, my back jacket features bookseller quotes. I'm sorry we didn't have room for all of them. If you already sent me a quote, or if you like DIRTY MARTINI and want to send me one, I'll put your quote and your name on my website, www.JAKonrath.com. I'll also name a character in my next book after the bookseller who sends my the coolest quote.

    As you already know, booksellers are not only the smartest, nicest, and sexiest people on the planet, they are also hugely influential. I'm humbled and honored that so many of you have embraced the Jack Daniels series, and have hand sold and recommended them to so many people. Thanks so much for your hard work and efforts. You're awesome.

    Hope to see you again soon...

Do you have any Follow-Up tips? If so, please list them here. I promise I'll respond. :)