Making First Contact

Last month I probably had you scratching your heads on why authors are like crawdads. This month, it’s aliens!

Yes, writers are like aliens because we tend to be skittish when it comes to dealing with the human race. But there are a few things we can do to help break the ice when we finally get around to showing our faces in public—making that first contact. As I’ve joked before, I live in the middle of nowhere. When we go into town, I try to make my interaction with other humans count. How?

Well, on occasion, I cheat. I found a cute little T-shit from the Signals catalog. It says: “Ask me about my book.” I especially remember to don this tan frock when going into unexplored territory. Recently while in another county, in a fabric store; one of the salesmen came up and asked me about my book. My response: “Well, which one?” He looked at me funny. I replied: “I’m an author, I have several books published. What genre do you like to read?” He replied that he liked sci-fi, so I whipped out a business card, proudly handed it over, and informed him that I have a free sci-fi novella on Amazon, BN, and Smashwords. He took it, thanked me, and said he’d check it out.

Ice broken. First contact.

Café Press can even make up shirts with your book cover on it. I’d thought about having one done, but realized I write too many genres to make it viable. This would work for someone with only 1-2 books. And having great looking business cards is a must!

One day, while checking out at the local grocery store, I was chatting with my husband about my newest release. The cashier overheard us and asked me if I was a writer. Bingo! First contact! And then I launched into my well-rehearsed spiel and quickly offered a business card.

I’m not sure if these contacts resulted in any sales, but I made the effort. With less than 30 seconds of human contact, I may have gained a potential reader and fan. And if they like my work, they’ll tell their friends. And we all know word-of-mouth is golden in sales.

When I go out to garage sales I make sure that I have cards in my purse. If I’m perusing items and see a lot of fiction books for sale, I ask the seller: “Do you do much reading?” I either get a reply: “Oh, yes, I read a lot.” Or “Oh, I used to have time to read; now I don’t.” If I get a negative reply, I don’t pursue it. But, on the other hand, with a positive reply, my wonderful spiel gets put into play. I even think it resulted in a paperback sale. One lady I was chatting with was going to be flying to the UK soon, and she loved paperback romances. Well, did I have one for her! Checking my CreateSpace sales, indeed one was purchased last month. Was it her? I can hope.

You never know when your first contact will result in a sale. Some folks are easy to approach and pass a business card to (especially if you tell them you offer free stuff), but others will not be so accepting. Don’t push the point, there are hundreds who will jump at the chance to read a local author (my USPS mail lady is one of my biggest fans).

Be cordial, polite, and SMILE!

Even if you make contact and the person says they only read crime thrillers; see if there’s something you’ve written that might entice them. For example, I’d try and steer them toward one of my military thrillers. Who knows what response you’d get?

The bottom line is you have to open your mouth in these situations. Yes, writers are like aliens, but we don’t have the skills to telepathically implant suggestions into the minds of potential readers. We must verbally engage another human—even if it’s only 30 seconds. So find a pitch and practice it on would-be fans. You might crash and burn a few times, but when you’re comfortable with it, you’ll be able to converse with another human and possibly garner some sales. Good luck everyone!

Author: K. Rowe

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active Air Force service. Kathy lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband and a zoo of farm animals. Among her many duties she finds time to offer services as a publishing consultant for new authors. Learn more about Kathy from Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

35 thoughts on “Making First Contact”

  1. I had the same banter over books at a garage sale, and the woman was very interested (I agree with you… no pushing sales) she said she would check one of my books out when I handed her a business card, then she helped me to my car with a heavy item that I purchased. There in my trunk was a box of samples of my books, and I showed them to her saying this is what they look like. Not even trying to make a sale. She said she loved both the covers and would I mind if she bought one of each. I didn’t. It’s good to have a couple of your books in the car. You never know if you will run into a new venue or someone at a meeting. Aliens are among us.

    1. Very true about the books in the car. I made a sale that way too. Unfortunately, both our car and truck tend to be pressed into farm service, so it’s hard to keep a box of books safe when you have tons of horse feed and sometimes 300+ pounds of dogs rampaging around. But I ALWAYS have business cards.

  2. I recently found a discount for VistaPrint & was considering making a t-shirt or tote bag with my website on it. I like the “Ask me about my book” idea though. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. I haven’t- simply because I tend to be cheap. But I’m sure that having them at signings and any other media rich environment can’t hurt. Maybe get the smallest order they sell and see how it goes. Good luck!

      1. I use bookmarks only as my businesz card and make my own using Microsoft publisher. I was lucky at the time I made them, my boss at my day job allowed me to use his printer and paper so the only thing I had to pay for was the laminating. Depending on the grade will also depend on the price. The cost to make came to about 25 cents per bookmarks; if I made more now it will probably cost me about 50 cents, which I think is still a great price to advertise yourself. And don’t forget to take that cost of advertising on your taxes.

  3. Great ideas. Being an introvert makes that first contact a challenge for me. But I do carry business cards that I make myself hand out whenever I get the opportunity to tell people I write. And tomorrow i go to the printer to organize posters, bookmarks and new business cards for the launch that will happen in January. I’m hoping the bookmarks will have a bigger impact than the cards have.
    Maybe I should get me one of those t-shirts. 🙂

    1. You, an introvert? LOL! Can’t tell that by your FB posts! I think anything that we can “display” that shows us to be an author can’t hurt. That darned t-shirt has gotten quite a bit of attention. Yes, it’s hard for us to openly approach a person and make first contact, but if we’re wearing something interesting, maybe that person will contact us.

  4. I *love* the t-shirt, Kathy! I need one of those! 🙂

    I had a bunch of mini-bookmarks printed at Zazzle and have been handing those out. Zazzle calls them business cards, but they’re 1″ x 3″ and you can put anything on them, both front and back. I figure the odd size might help my books stand out.

    For World Fantasy Convention, I had some buttons printed with the cover art from “Seized” and gave them out to friends — instant walking billboards, lol. And a stranger actually asked me for one. 🙂

    1. Cool! The button idea is neat. Unfortunately I don’t get time or have the finances to attend cons, so most of my marketing is local. In fact, I got called to do a book signing next Monday evening at the local library. CreateSpace was Johnny on the Spot and delivered a fresh box of books yesterday.

  5. Spot on, Kathy, and the T-shirts are an excellent idea for an ice breaker. If someone else opens the conversation by asking, ‘What’s the deal with the book?’ or something similar, it gives the person who is not all that outgoing something to say straight away.

    Nice post, Kathy, thanks.

  6. Love it, Kathy! Some of my weekly contact happens at the aqua jogging classes I attend at the Y. I always keep some cards in my gym bag. Or maybe Vista Print can make me a bathing suit with my website on it!

    1. The bathing suit might really get some attention. Heck, competition swimmers, race car drivers, jockeys, and a host of other sports folk all tout corporate sponsorship. Why not us?

  7. I’m an introvert as well, so self promoting is quite a draining task for me. There are lots of good suggestions on here that I’ll have to look into. Great post and ideas!

    1. Glad I could be of service. The t-shirt works really well. I have a sweatshirt with a book cover on it, unfortunately I got it as a gift and it’s WAY too big for me- perhaps I can wear it like those 80’s sweater dresses- LOL!

  8. Neat ideas. I think I’m off finding a T-shirt print-shop now. I knew I needed specific business cards for my writing, your post has been the last straw. I’m going to do both.

    1. Go get ’em! I fully believe that “passive” advertising can work. Does it seem kind of stupid? Yeah. The first time I put on that shirt, I felt strange. But once folks started asking me about my book, I came out of my shell. Getting a good sales pitch is helpful too. Short, sweet, to the point, and don’t be afraid to ask you potential customers what genres they like to read. I made the mistake of asking what someone liked to read (not throwing in the genre part) and they rattled off half a dozen author names I’d never heard of. That was embarrassing. All I could do was stand there with my mouth open. So I’ve learned not to ask about authors, rather genres- which we can easily handle.

  9. I, too, live in a small town, but in a small, foreign country. I envy those who can hop on a Greyhound and drop in on dozens of bookshops, or make appearances in person or on the many radio stations of larger, English-speaking countries. Ah, well, I’d better get on with building a social network following and flooding the magazine/anthology world with submissions 😉

    1. Facebook and Twitter can be your friends. And make sure in all your front/back matter of your books you post those sites. I’ve picked up quite a lot of followers in foreign countries, and also numerous Twitter followers in the movie industry. Having a large network can only help with sales or even the potential of having a book made into a movie. I have people in India buying my books and following me on Facebook! How cool is that?

    1. They are ESSENTIAL!!!! Keep some in a wallet, purse, or other convenient location. And make sure if you hand one out, tell them where your books can be found: Amazon, BN, Smashwords, etc. Some folks have that printed on the cards, but mine has too much other info (publishing consultant stuff) to fit it all. So make sure they know where they can find you. Or ask them what kind of reading platform they use: Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc and then you can direct them exactly to your books.

  10. Excellent post, Kathy–business cards and books in trunk!

    I had “Moo Cards” made up with each of my covers on one side, my website and QR code on the other–as Lynne’s suggestion pointed out, the odd size is always a conversation starter. I had some giveaway book covers made up yesterday at a local print shop for a signing I’m doing and the owner asked me all kinds of questions about my books. I gave him a card and he said he’d check it out. You just never know when you’ll make that first contact.

    1. Kathryn, I have both business cards and the mini-bookmarks. My business cards (which I tend to forget to hand out…) have my Facebook and Twitter names and my blog URL. The bookmarks are specific to my urban fantasy series — I have some artwork from the covers on the front, and on the back I’ve got the series name and my name, the names of the individual books, my Facebook page address, and the URLs for my Amazon Author page and my blog.

      What do you guys call yourselves on your business cards for your job title? I settled on “Fantasy Author,” but I went back and forth.

      1. Mine has:

        K. Rowe
        Multi-genre author
        Publishing consultant

        Facebook page
        phone number

        And the sexiest pic of me I could find!

  11. I had a license plate frame with the name of my book across the top, my web page across the bottom, and my license plate says AZAUTHR. I actually had one guy who was next to me at a red light roll down his window and ask me about my book! Obviously not a lot of time to chat, but I did give him the name of my easiest-to-remember book so he could look it up later. Every contact counts!

  12. Kathryn, I have several of my book covers on my card, but the only text beside my name, e-mail address and website is “Books for discerning readers.” Seems to cover it.

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