Late August is National Garage Sale Day. I guess it’s a final push to celebrate summer by offering the by-products of all that spring and summer cleaning we’ve been doing while making a little cash in the process. And one more project to do with the kids before they prepare to return to school.
In addition to stirring up some memories, it also got me to thinking how Writing–and its twin sister Promoting–are a lot like garage sales.
Actually, it can be garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales, any of the terms one uses to advertise what they are holding. Much like genres, they give us the first clue into what we can expect.
When I was a girl my mother and I spent many Saturday mornings from Memorial Day through Labor Day going “garage saling” She lived for those months, those weekend mornings, to voyage into new and familiar neighborhoods. To scour for treasures; usually ones we never knew we needed. We felt like modern-day pirates And I still have some of those items, many years later.
My mother has since passed on and I will probably never have time for proper garage saling like we used to do. Yet each time I pass a sign proclaiming garage sale, rummage sale, neighborhood sale, or yard sale, I still get a tug at the memories. And recently, the signs have got me to thinking how all those different sales resemble our writing and promotional efforts.
Branding– Whether we use a cardboard sign and black marker or we invest in a solid sign that’s easy to read, with clear directions and dates, we’re giving prospective buyers an initial impression of our set up. Branding for writing is rooted in consistency. Using similar fonts, designs, colors, and patterns on all our social media sites and covers if possible clues the reader into what kind of book you write. Dripping blood for horror or flower petals for romance, with short, catchy tag lines are as “first impression’ as the garage sale sigh on the corner. My mother would pass up a sale if the sign looked like it had been tossed together with scraps from behind the garage. Likewise, inconstant branding can confuse readers with what genre you write.
Image– Is the yard mowed? Are the items for sale clean and well-arranged? If we made it past the initial sign and reached the driveway, here came my mother’s Test # 2. No one likes digging through mislabeled boxes or getting grass stains from kneeling in 4 inch high grass or worse, grease stains on the driveway. Likewise, how does our website treat visitors? Presentation is everything. Busy, crowded media sites are as bad as mismatched boxes on an overgrown lawn or broken, dirty merchandise. It’s not going to impress anyone, most likely no one will buy anything, and it’s doubtful they will come back.
Location– Mom used to study the classified, mapping out her strategy like a general in battle. She knew which neighborhoods to hit, and the best times to do so. Likewise, where are you? With so many media choices, it’s impossible to be everywhere. It’s usually recommended to pick a few that are manageable for your schedule and skill level, and stick with those. I would add this as well: mix it up. Do social med, do a personal blog or website. Join writer’s sites where you can keep a page. (Like Goodreads, The Romance Reviews, or Amazon to name a few) Be accessible across as many sorts of locations as you can comfortably manage. Employ devices like Hootsuite to keep your content posted in a timely and fresh manner.
Timing– No one wants to show up at a garage sale, only to find the ad came out today, but the sale was yesterday. Bummer. What about when our own promotion starts running behind? Do you have a new release? Cover to showcase? Giveaway to share? Stunning review or award to brag about? Mom used to hit the best sales early in the morning wrap things up by lunchtime. Her thought was that by lunch, everything was picked over. The same applies to our schedules when it comes to launches. For writers, it’s good to have a pre-order option up while building interest in a new release. The pre-order sales count toward the release day sales ranking. People love getting a new hit while it’s hot and fresh, like cookies from the oven. Everyone wants to be first to the sale and first to read the next big best seller. Timing is about letting them know what you have, and when.
Groups–If there was a multi-family or neighborhood block rummage, mom would light up like she hit the jackpot. I imagine her mind raced with the endless possibilities of what treasures she might find from all those pooled households. For writers, it means networking with groups. Join writer’s groups or online communities, mingle with people who share your genre or at least your passion in writing. Where many are assembled is great wealth, whether it be excess household goods or combined experiences in writing, promo, marketing, and connections. Think of it like a jackpot.
Variety– If the sale just had baby stuff or just tools or just furniture, mom passed them by. She wanted variety. She might be in the market for those things too, but she wanted more options to make her stop the car. In the writing realm, that might equate with offering loads of news, but also sharing personal photos, the story behind the story or cute pet pics. Share sample or deleted chapters or a short story or poem unrelated to your newest release. Got a new or favorite recipe? Share it! Just attended a cool writer’s retreat? Talk about it! Just remodeled your kitchen/garden/house? Show a couple of photos! Learn a new craft? Pictures! You get the idea. Let people see who you are beyond the cover of your book. Buy the way, what was the inspiration behind that cover anyway?
In what other ways can you see similarities between garage sales and the work a writer does?
Ryan Jo Summers is the author of six Soul Mate Publishing novels and contributor to one Christmas anthology with Soul Mate Publishing. You can connect with her at her website, blog or Amazon author page