Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Stocktake and samples

I recently came across a discussion in a Linked In Group that I belong to, about marketing one's books, and the importance of blogging and social media for generating a followership and book sales. The accepted wisdom is that authors need to tempt readers with snippets of their work, samples of their style and tidbits of wisdom and perspective. I've been doing that for a year now - sales are steady - but I need to put more out there, clearly.

A bit like those little plastic trays and faux forks set up in the supermarket to lure us into making different and unexpectedly satisfying purchasing decisions. I was in my local Waitrose just yesterday and I witnessed the very savvy and well-engineered process of determining what to offer for sample and tasting that afternoon. Setting - toilet paper aisle as three members of staff chatted about the weather and the display. The discussion went as follows:

Slim Attractive Female in Management Role (Manager): "Oh and we should do a tasting today. What do you think?"
Young Partner (this means shop boy in other stores): "Yes, let's do one. What will we be sampling?"
Older Partner (another young man): "Fruit, maybe. Or crisps?" (Obviously someone was a bit peckish...)
Manager: "Yes, there are some fruits out the back near the bins that taste a bit weird. We could chop them up and put them out."
Young Partner: "Yes. I know the ones you mean. They taste sort of sweet and also a bit bitter."
Older Partner: Grinning, snickers. 
Manager: "Seriously. Sweet and bitter at the same time?"
Young Partner: "Yes, exactly. People should taste it."
Manager: "Maybe something else."
Older Partner: "Ice-cream? The weather is good today."
They walk to fridge area. I follow.
Manager: "I know - the Creme Egg ice-cream. Put some of that out. It's a new line. Looks disgusting."
Young Partner and Older Partner: Grimacing. "Maybe not...".
I grimace too.

Why don't they put out some exquisite chocolate truffles, I thought? Some organic biscotti? Some ripe and juicy berries? Some gourmet cheese (not yet past it's use by date)?

Truth is - the episode burst my bubble. And it is strange that I have a bubble with regards retail. I worked for a retail chain at one time. My skills were diverse - I mastered the cash registers, the photo development suite/lab, the kitchenware and lighting departments and even (due to my close friend being a fixture in DIY) paint mixing and gardening. And you only need read a few of my posts to see how much I love dealing with the general public. I know about waste, shrinkage, theft and bag checks, ugly uniforms and the tension between the full time day staff and the casual student staff. Nevertheless the idea that only the disgusting, hard to sell stuff would be displayed for taste testing and sampling never occurred to me...

Suffice to say I will never try another orange kiwi fruit dipped in soya something or other in Tesco again!

I'm losing my touch.

Nevertheless, I think the book publishing forum had other things in mind. In tempting readers to buy my books I can see that it is self-defeating to only reveal my disgusting or less delectable prose. By the same token, I don't want to reward the cheapskates who don't want to buy a book with my best work either...

Though, I can admit to having written plenty of things that are bitter and sweet...

It's tricky. I can see the conundrum. One can hardly ask shoppers to try the toilet paper before buying it, but French Champagne may be overdoing it. Hence the 10 minute discussion in Waitrose. I pictured similar dialogues across the globe, each day. It was sobering.

So in order to tempt you to buy my books, contact me for some coaching or just mention me in casual conversation at the water cooler, the gym or your next supper club gathering, I give you an except from Spring to Mind's Self Coaching Toolkit. This is one of three stocktake exercises to help you assess where you are in your life. Don't worry, it's not too confronting, won't take long and won't necessitate any change, commitments or expenditure on your part. You may need a scrap of paper though.

I will tell you now that I have taken this exercise myself. I drew a cloud. And my film is "Chocolat".

Stocktake - Exercise 2 (Extracted from Spring to Mind - Self Coaching Toolkit)
If you:
a)    Hate questionnaires and quizzes;
b)    Refuse to write down your feelings and thoughts;
c)    Resent being held accountable;  
d)    Got nothing out of Exercise 1; or
e)    Tend to buck the system, pooh-pooh authority and disdain order and structure;
then this exercise may be useful for you.
Describe in as few words as possible how you feel about your life.

List at least two things you enjoy or like about your life right now. What do you have or what do you do that gives you happiness?

List at least two things you enjoy or like least right now.

List at least two things you would like more of or to do more often.

If the writing is getting you down, why don’t you try to draw the feeling you have about your life right now. If you could, what would the picture show?

Pictures paint a thousand words... come on.

Ok, fine. Can you describe this feeling in terms of a film (or a book) you are familiar with?
Here are some ideas to help you:
Forrest Gump (you never know what you will get)
The Godfather (your family runs your life and you feel death is imminent)
27 Dresses (always the bridesmaid never the bride)
Wall Street (greed is good)
The Man who Knew too Much (busybody gets comeuppance)
Fight Club (weird hobbies keeping you away from real world)
Clueless (at any level)
Gladiator (warrior, hero, fighter, death defying maverick – to a point)
Knocked up (say no more)
Unforgiven (speaks for itself)
The Great Escape (so now what?)
The Mirror Cracked (time for a new look)
Enemy of the State (on the run, alone)
Sex and the City (it’s all about the shopping and the men)
The Good Girl (no fun)
Alice in Wonderland (no idea where you are)
Le Divorce (it sounds better in French)
Liar Liar (you or someone you know)
The Mummy (not yet dead)
An Inconvenient Truth (so what are your options)
A Bug’s Life (oohhhh...)
Hair (really?)
Friends with Money (must you keep up)
So? Name a film or book:

Ok. Hopefully you now have a better handle on how you feel.

List anything good, satisfying or positive in your sense of where you are.

List what you would like to change?


Anything? Sweet? Bitter? Disgusting? Sickening? Tasteless? Pointless?

Well, it was your life so ....

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