Thursdays with Amanda: Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome, Symptom One
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
We’re going through the symptoms of Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome, and today’s symptom is Conversation Domination.
Test for this symptom by interacting with a potential reader, and then when finished ask yourself what you know about them. If you come away only knowing their name and where they’re from, chances are, you suffer from this symptom.
Have you ever met an author or writer who will simply not stop talking about their books/deadlines/ideas/plans/what their editor said/what their agent said/what their fans said/and on and on and on? These are writers who ask a question and then leave no room for you to answer. Writers who find ways to steer conversation toward their books and lives. Writers who don’t take the time to get to know their readers.
There’s nothing wrong with being talkative. Many times, talkative people have a knack for making others feel comfortable and welcomed. But excessive chatting can result in conversation domination…a dangerous symptom that will turn potential readers away.
Now, I get it. Talking is a way to stay in control. It’s a way to keep the conversation where you want it, and by preventing the conversation from going in an unknown direction, you may feel as though you’re more likely to make a sale, create a fan, or win someone over. But it just doesn’t work that way.
So how do you treat this symptom? I’m no psychologist, but I wonder if these ideas may help…
1. Have questions ready. One way to win people over is to let them talk about themselves. So, by dominating the conversation, you’re in fact pushing readers and publishing professionals away by not letting them contribute. I’d say an easy way to ensure that you don’t dominate the conversation is to have a list of questions that you can use in conversation. Questions like “What do you like to read?” “How long have you been in the business?” “What are you reading now?” “What got you into publishing?” “What book changed your life?” These are harmless questions that will allow others to share a bit about themselves and feel part of the conversation.
2. Let them answer. I’ve noticed that conversation dominators have a tendency to interrupt and then launch into a personal story that they feel contributes to the conversation, or a personal opinion that they feel is building on what the other person was attempting to say. But this just doesn’t work and makes the other person feel as though their opinions/stories/thoughts aren’t wanted or needed. Let the other person finish their thought…finish their story…finish their answer. And then you can share yours.
3. Commit to coming away knowing three new things about the other person. If you make this your goal, it will force you to listen and ask questions so that you can fill your quota. And the “three new things” don’t have to be super serious or deep. They can be as simple as finding out where the person lives, where they work, how long they’ve been married. But forcing yourself to find three new things will cause you to dig into the other person’s life…it will force you to listen.
Are you a talker? What tricks have you learned to use your gift to bring people in instead of turn them away?
Great advice for writing and life in general. I am a natural introvert. In social situations, I’d rather listen than talk. But the idea of asking questions of the other person is a great tip which I’ll use in the future. It allows me to talk without feeling pressured to talk. (If that makes sense).
At a large trade show, my publisher assigned me to escort an author to her book signings throughout the day. We met about 20 minutes before the first signing. She was dressed in a navy business suit coat and fitted skirt. She exuded professionalism. Well coiffed. Make-up just so. She had a great smile and seemed to be really “on” for what she was about to do. I pointed her in the direction of the first signing and allowed her to take two steps in that direction. That’s when I saw it: the back of her tailored suit coat. There, in living embroidery, was the cover to her latest book. The cover nearly filled the back of the jacket. (The embroidery must have cost more than the suit itself.)
I thought, “Okay… I’ve never seen that before. interesting marketing decision.”
We situated her in a comfortable bar stool behind the elevated table at the signing. Her books were open to her left… ten ready to go, as she’d requested. From her pocketbook, she pulled out four extra fine tip Sharpies and arranged them with the precision of a surgeon’s assistant preparing the instrument table in an OR. Then she pulled out a stack of full-color bookmarks—her face and name prominent on the back; her bookcover and selling points prominent on the front.
Quite a line processed through her station over the next 45 minutes. She warmly greeted each guest, but she seemed to be acting from a script. She never signed a copy for a guest because, “then you couldn’t use it as a giveaway to spur sales.” She used the same four goodbye lines… like:
Remember, you get a greater discount from [publisher] when you buy 48 copies or more.
If you put two or more of my titles in an end-cap display, you’ll have deeper sell through
I have no idea if any of the guests enjoyed their experience with her or not. I don’t know if I witnessed outstanding personal marketing or a vomit-enducing show of self-centeredness.
This is excellent advice, Amanda. I just bought your book, but haven’t had time to really look at it yet. I will some time soon though!
What I’d like to add to this conversation is:
First: if you are sincerely interested in other people, you won’t have trouble interacting and learning about them. It’s not about sales—it’s about relationships through which hopefully a benefit will be potential sales.
Second: though I’m not blogging yet, I plan to. Once I begin and hopefully develop a following (and new internet friends), I’m going to have a reference chart (from the very first post day!) in which I’m going to keep info on anyone who posts to my blog. Over the years I’ve belonged to different groups of people and would find I’d often get confused as to who said what. Also, my recall is so faulty, it’s difficult to bring up details. That’s when I started compiling those lists. It’s invaluable to have a list of someone’s user name, real name and any other pertinent info you’d like to remember. Also, writing things down often helps things become more concrete in my memory.
Oh, this is so true. I learned to ask a lot of questions because most people love to talk about themselves. Occasionally, there’s the person who only answers with one word, but they are few and far between. I teach, so I tend to ask questions, but it takes skill to not only wait for the answer, but to truly listen to the answer.
I find that teaching a writing workshop helps because you can ask questions, get to know your attendees and what they are working on, and also talk about how you wrote your book without coming across as shallow. Ha ha!
Great info, Amanda!
You’re absolutely right. One difficulty I encounter is that if people realize I am an author, they want to ask a lot of questions about the work. It’s hard to steer the conversation back to them. I want to answer their questions to be polite but I can walk away feeling like I never got to really talk to them.
Ooh, Amanda, great post…and it reminded me of something I’ve heard Jim Rubart challenge an audience with…he told us to, in every conversation for the rest of the day, try to ask the other person three questions about themselves before launching into our own stuff.
Smart man 🙂
Last September Peter Strople spoke at the Re:Write Conference about this. He made many similar points. He emphasized that the best way to connect with people is to show a genuine interest in them. When they feel valued, when they know that you value them, they will automatically value you and your work in return. On top of that, they’ll share you with others.
For me, it comes down to remembering that it’s “not about me.” Ideally, I write (and talk) to serve the other, not myself.
It’s funny — when I was younger, people would think I was a snob when I first met them because I didn’t talk much. Really, I was observing them before really getting into the conversation. It was always hard for me to meet people. I wasn’t super shy or anything, but I think I cared a lot about what people thought of me…and I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.
In the last several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to be friendly first. That’s helped a lot at writing conferences, when the first instinct is to stay in my comfort zone and not reach out. But I’ve found that others usually feel the same way — and they’re grateful for someone taking the first step.
All that to say that, yes, I think asking questions and being open to listen really endears you to people.
I just bought your book a few days ago, and it’s perfect timing as my first book will be published within the next year.
I can be a talker if I have to be. I’m an elementary school librarian (and former middle school teacher), so I’ve learned that asking questions is the easiest way to make small talk.
I like the three new things idea.
At the last conference, I took over the whole conversation during one of my appointments with an agent. Why did I do that? Because I was put off guard by another agent who took a seat next to us and listened to every word I was saying. It wouldn’t bother me if I wouldn’t meet the other person before. But I did. I met with another agent who was interested in my writing one day or two days before. So I became self conscious of everything I said during my meeting. I felt guilty about pitching or talking about my work in progress with another agent who might be also interested. Since I really liked the agent that I met previously, I really din’t know how to get out of that situation.
So I tried to stir the conversation away, not talking about any details about my work. I said things I didn’t want to say. I rushed through the whole meeting not letting an agent that I was meeting with ask me any quesitons that I didn’t want to answer.
I gained nothing from that appointment and might have killed an interest of another agent who sat close to us at the same time.
The reason I meet with several agents is to see who would be interested in my writing, and I want to know them as well. I want to see if I’m a good fit for them and vice versa. Agents have different likes and dislikes and work differently. And coferences are great places to meet some of them.
One advice that I will give new writers is that if someone is interested in your work, you will be watched. So watch your moves because they are watching yours.
Why didn’t I think of the bathroom? 🙂
Thank you for this reminder. My husband is good at reminding me to listen more than to talk. One thing that I’ve worked at stopping is thinking of an answer before the person is done speaking. It is important for me to listen completely before formulating a reply.
Yes!!! “Listen completely” is great advice.
Hey, Anna! Just wanted to quickly say that agents know and are okay with the fact that that you’ll be “courting” more than one agent at a time. So my encouragement would be to continue on, full steam ahead, with your pitch should you find yourself in that situation again 🙂