Thursday, September 25, 2014

When Good is Bad and Bad is Good

Copyright © 2013 John Foxjohn
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2011
Over the last few years, many people have asked me what I think is the key to self-promotions. To be honest, I’ve answered this different ways.
Recently, I presented a class on characterization to SOLA (Southern Louisiana chapter of RWA). Afterward, they took me to lunch and we had an hour-long question and answer session. As it so often happens in these informal, fun gatherings, the subject can and does change to other things.
This one changed to self-promotions. Now, SOLA has a male friend of mine as a member and he was in this session. Along with him, there were also some who have taken my online self-promotion classes. As it turned out, Nick was giving them as many answers on self-promotions as I was—and he was actually giving them my answers.
At one point, I asked him if he’s taken my class, and he said no, he used to be a salesman.
He really has a leg up on me because I haven’t ever been in sales. Most of the information I have obtained in self-promotions has come from a combination of common sense, willingness, and trial and error. Unfortunately for me, more error than trial.
But the simple keys to self-promotions lies in what I just said: common sense and willingness.
One of the things that we talked about at this little session was if you want to sell a book, you need to get that book into the reader’s hands. I had no idea this was a sales technique—I just knew that people who didn’t pick the books up didn’t buy them.
In a way, that is common sense on my part, and trust me, the only sense I do have is the common kind.
But along with common sense, willingness to self-promote might rank right up there at the top. Here is the common sense part of me speaking. I think promotional ideas need to have several key ingredients:
First, they shouldn’t be too expensive—there is nothing wrong with getting the biggest bang from the buck.
Second, they should draw attention to what you want them to. This attention should be to a book, you, or both.
Third, it should help the target people remember what you are promoting.
Here’s an example. I wear a set of small handcuffs on my lapel. People now know me by those cuffs. It’s like a calling card. They see them—they remember me. Here is my point: I obtained those cuffs from another writer at a book signing. The writer had a bunch of them and was giving them away.
The cuffs have nothing on them, no writing, name, anything, and I have long forgotten the name of the writer who gave them to me, and I am not sure I ever knew the name of the book he or she was trying to sell me.
These cuffs have helped me sell thousands of books, but probably didn’t help the original person at all. That writer was giving them away to people, but I wore mine and came up with a catchy little phrase to help people remember me.
My willingness to look at them in a different way is what helped me–not intelligence or sales ability.
Recently, I got to looking at another approach. I’ll be the first to tell you that I have come up with some very bad ideas. I am not afraid to say that an idea isn’t working and never will and ditch it. I think that is important. You can only ride a dead horse for so long.
But I digress. If I have a book in my hand, I want to find ways to get people to ask me about that book. However, if I don’t have a book in my hand, I try to find ways to get them to talk to me so I can tell them about my books.
Like I said, I have come up with some bad ideas, but I have also come up with some really good, original ones. My latest may just fall into the later category.
I had two t-shirts made up: one black with gold lettering, and the other white with black lettering—and yes, I chose those colors because they show up well. On the front of the t-shirt, the bold letters say, “Be nice… I kill people for a living.” On the back, it says, “You could end up in my next book.”
I can’t tell you how much attention I get when I wear these shirts, and ninety-nine percent of it is positive. Some people do edge away from me, but people ask me about them, talk to me about them, and it gives me an opportunity to give them a business card and talk about my books.
That’s my idea of self-promotions, common sense, and willingness to try.
John Foxjohn, the author of the best-selling true crime, Killer Nurse, epitomizes the phrase "been there--done that." Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, he quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen: Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, policeman and homicide detective, retired teacher and coach, now he is a multi-published author.
Growing up, Foxjohn developed a love of reading that will never end. In fact, he refers to himself as a "readalcoholic." He began with the classics and still lists Huckleberry Finn as one of his all time favorites. Later, he discovered Louis L'Amour and besides owning every book he wrote, Foxjohn says he's read every one of them at least five times.
However, when he was twelve, Foxjohn read a book about Crazy Horse, and decided right then he would also write one about the famous Lakota leader. After many "yondering" years as L'Amour called them, he spent ten years researching his historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit, now titled The People's Warrior.
Maybe because of his eclectic reading habits John has not limited himself to publishing in one genre. In fact, he has published mysteries, romantic suspenses, historical fiction, legal thrillers, and nonfiction Killer Nurse.
When he's not writing, teaching writing classes, or speaking to different writing groups and conferences, Foxjohn loves to spend time square dancing, working in his rose garden, or in his garage doing woodwork. However, his passion outside of family and writing is without a doubt, anything to do with the Dallas Cowboys.

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