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Kevin Smokler: Put Yourself in Your Reader’s Shoes

Are you struggling to build a book tour online or in the real world? Before you do anything else, put yourself in your reader’s shoes.

Today’s guest on the Morning Media Menu was author Kevin Smokler, talking about his new book–Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School. During the interview, he also shared tips for writers struggling to organize a book tour. Check it out:

I’ve had lousy events that were 75 people and I’ve had great events with three people. It is all about the person who comes to see you–and that can be in physical space at an event or in digital space in terms of something you are doing in media. You first and foremost have to answer the question: ‘Why is this person listening to me?’ The answer is not ‘Because I wrote the book.’ ‘Because I wrote a book that was interesting to them in a number of ways’ might be the answer. But for everything you do to promote a book, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person listening and make sure you are answering the question: ‘Why are they listening right now?’

Press play below to listen. We’ve also included more interview excerpts below.

Smokler continued:

Every thing you do to promote a book is essentially 10 percent saying ‘This is the book,’ 20 percent saying ‘it’s nice to meet you & I like books too’ to the potential readers out there and 70 percent saying ‘thank you.’ Of course you are selling something, but nobody is interested in the hard sell anymore. It’s pretty transparent and obvious and annoying. What people are mostly looking for is to establish a connection between you and the book and your mutuality as readers in the moment in time in which you meet.

Smokler added:

Unless you are really not a nice person, you probably have a group of people in your life that are interested in helping you. Those people can probably help you in ways that you probably didn’t expect. They don’t all have to be directors of a reading series at a major public library or something or editors at national magazines. My mother-in-law told me ‘I went into this bookstore near my office and I bought three copies of your book and I said ‘You should really read this! And I came back the next day and your book was displayed on the front table.’

My mother-in-law, by doing that, probably sold 20 additional copies of my book. Having friends like that, having people on your side makes a huge difference in not only the success of your book, but the way you feel about its progress.

He concluded:

The other thing I would say it’s very tempting to go after the prize plums for everything you do and to feel totally demoralized if you don’t get a review in the New York Times or you don’t end up on Fresh Air or you don’t get to speak to an adoring crowd of 500 at Powell’s Books in Portland … It is often better to sell 30 books to the faithful than it is to try and sell 500 to a community that you have no particular toe-hold in. Any momentum is good momentum.

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