I’ve encountered an interesting turnabout in the past few days. As a writer, there are things I haven’t come to expect as of yet, even though, as a bookseller, I rely on them every day.
The skill I rely on as a bookseller is referred to in the business as hand selling. A lot of people might think of this as a form of cold selling, with a more fine-tuned approach. In book stores, there are two kinds of hand selling. First is the version that companies deal in, either by arranging to give a book a prominent display or some other indirect promotion. This takes a lot of effort to pull off, but, if it works, turns out well for the individual stores, the writer/publisher, and even the readers.
I’m more interested in the second one because that’s where I thrive. This is the kind of hand selling where, if you get a clue about a customer’s preferences, you can talk to them about what they like. From this sort of discussion, I would mention how much I like this author or that series. Should that go well, I might even say, “if you like such-and-such book, you might like this one too,” only I’ll be much more conversational about it.
When my friends Jonathan and Rocky introduced me to The Name of the Wind, I was instantly curious. When I read the book, I was hooked by the depth of Rothfuss’ words and the magnitude of his ideas. With Jonathan, I sold so many copies of that book, it became a hand sell on the store level, not just for the two of us.
Keeping copies of Dreams of Steam II: Brass and Bolts on hand changes that situation for me. I’d love to push it, but I don’t want to look like I’m shoving my work down other people’s throats. I wait for my opportunities, when customers ask about it or I find someone who is dying to find some steampunk stories. However, there are other booksellers on hand that make the task a lot easier.
Probably the most helpful to me is Todd. He’s not the kind of guy who tears through book after book, but he knows what he likes. He’s also glad to know someone who’s actually had some writing published. Regardless of his reasons, Todd emphatically tells people about Dreams of Steam II any time there’s a solid opportunity. Even better, he manages to convince people to buy a copy. It happens with enthusiasm, regardless if I am there or not.
I think that’s the real shock for me, discovering that other people are willing to stand up for my work, especially when I didn’t ask them. Sure, my family has enjoyed the story and discussed it in a positive light without any prompting by me, but this is different. This is professional.
The game has changed, the world has turned upside down. Somehow, instead of me hand selling someone else’s book, someone else is hand selling a book with my work in it. I couldn’t be more pleased.