An Author Prepares to Make Sales Calls.

So, you’ve written the book, you’ve edited, deleted, cut, paste, cried, given-up, started again and you’re finally there. The book is going to be printed – either by a publisher or by the self-publishing route.

Now we have to sell it.

As I mentioned in my 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Yourself and Your Book, it is imperative to plan not only who you are going to pester – er, contact, but also what you are going to say.

Certainly you should always, where possible, telephone in the first instance when contacting anybody regarding giving you exposure. Emails get over looked, they are forgettable – they are ignorable. A polite phone call is not. Futhermore, you can ascertain the exact person to whom you should direct your query, so as not to waste time sending an email to a generic address that never gets checked.

Now some people find making a call daunting. Certainly, there are a few people out there who can be less than polite, but you would be surprised how much more seriously people will take you if you are confident. Confidence comes with preparation. As my army father never bores of telling me (which is a shame, as we all got bored of it twenty years ago) ‘Perfect Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.’ Indeed, dad.

First off, you need to make yourself a list and stick to it.

It helps if you make this list double spaced, as you are going to be adding a lot of notes to it. This is imperative. You may think that you will remember that the nice man at the Telegraph & Argus was in Mauritius and will be back on the 24th – but you won’t. One of the keys to a successful call is garnering as much information as you can. You should note the name of the person you speak to (always make friends with receptionists – they are the gatekeepers. Didn’t get on with Maudlin Marsha from The Middle Wallop Mail? Say goodbye to getting through to the Editor then. Sucking up to receptionists is par for the course) the date you made the call, what the outcome was and the name of the person whom you should speak to next time. Each time you call keep meticulous records of what you did, what you said you would do and what they said they would do.

In order to keep yourself cool and calm when making calls, you may want to make yourself a crib sheet. I’d stay away from writing scripts – we’ve all had those calls from Bangalore with a chipper young man sticking determinedly to his script whilst you ask questions, creating a Stoppard-worthy non-sequitorial conversation about fibre-optic broadband.

“Mrs Castle?”
“What lovely weather you are having there today!”
“Really?” Looks through window at sheet rain.
“You will be so very glad I am calling today.”
“Ya think?”
“And I know that Coronation Street is on so I will be quick.”
“I don’t watch Coronation Street.”
“Here at Bing Bang Broadband we have far faster speeds than your current provider.”
“Okay. Do you have a website?”
“Er…you are currently only getting 50% of your maximum speed!”
“Right. Great. Can I sign up on your website?”
“Ah…furthermore, we are far cheaper…”

You get the picture.

If you make a crib sheet, you can write down the key words you need to get across and maybe one or two particularly articulate phrases that you feel you might stumble over. So I might put on a card:

Features Desk
Send press pack?
Correct person
Story about a ‘novel’ way to beat the credit crunch.

The last comment refers to the fact that I wrote the novel at a financially difficult time – I’m using it as a hook. They might like to use the story with reference to the Credit Crunch. I’ll talk more about hooks another day.

Once you have the correct person (if your ringing a bookstore that would be the manager or in the case of a publication it might be the Features Editor) then you need to make friends. Be friendly, polite, professional but relaxed. Remember, they are not agents (cue Jaws music) and are usually more open to receiving calls from authors. Don’t forget though that they are very busy people and they are running a business. The key thing they want to hear is what have you got that is going to help them sell papers/make book sales?

In the first instance I’d give a quick breakdown of who you are, that you’ve written a book, your HOOK, and ask whether you can send them a press pack. Get the email address and then write them a very charming cover note. If you get on with the person very well, then there is no harm in asking what angle they feel might be of interest to them. You can then market your press release and cover letter specifically to that angle, giving you a better chance of coverage.

Once you have sent the press-release/press pack, leave it a WEEK. Don’t pester them again before a week. You will irritate them. When you ring back, just say that you are checking whether they received your email and whether they require any further information. This usually gets it jogged back up to the top of their ‘Deal with One Day’ pile. If you are too pushy, trust me, it will be immediately filed under B1N.

I would aim for around four calls a day. If you really hate doing calls it is better to give yourself a target – otherwise the washing up will suddenly appear a very attractive way of spending time and clearing out under your teenage sons bed (gah – socks, mouldy mugs and tissues….) will seem almost appealing.

Remember, you have a product to sell. Brace yourself, put a smile on your face and pick up the phone. After all – the worst that can happen is that they say no… and Hell, if you’ve come this far, chances are you’ve heard that word a lot.