Monday, April 19, 2010

Meeting Face to Face

By Don Carey

I love modern communication technology. It allows me to work a thousand miles from my company's main office, connect with friends old and new - many in far-flung locales, and access vast quantities of research material from the comfort of my own home. Yet despite the advantage and convenience of remote communication, I've found there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face.

As an example, for years I've read articles touting the end of the trade-show industry. As more product information became available on the internet, the need for the hassles and expense of industry to gather and display their wares was supposed to go away. But as my recent visit to a large sign printing expo has shown, the trade show business is still alive and well. Bringing hundreds of like-minded people together in the same place generates energy and excitement, and provides a forum that virtual meeting technology will likely never replace.

The internet and advanced telecom have caused changes to these shows, however. Rather than aimlessly walking booth to booth to see what's available in the market, I noticed many show attendees had already researched the products and vendors, and were in looking for specific, detailed information.

A similar shift is underway in the world of book marketing. Facebook, Twitter, and virtual book tours join websites, blogs, and email newsletters as tools in the modern author's marketing arsenal. Less costly than signings and book store tours in both time and money, these virtual connections have put a whole new face on 21st-century book sales.

Yet these tools are best seen as supplementary to, rather than a replacement for, in-person marketing efforts. While electronic and virtual interactions are great at spreading the word about your book, it's the personal connection you make with readers and booksellers that will really make the difference.

A few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to stop at Moon's LDS Bookstore in Dallas. I don't get there much, as it's over 50 miles from my house, but it's my "local" LDS bookstore - the only one within several hundred miles. After introducing myself to one of the salespeople and telling her about my up-coming book, we talked a little about signings and promotional events. She told me about two other authors in the area - one who came and did regular signings at the store, and another who called every few months to complain that the store didn't sell enough of his books.

Which author do you think she steers customers towards?

Make no mistake - I think having a strong online presence is very important. However, the biggest value I see in virtual networking is its ability to raise awareness so those in-person meetings take on far more meaning.

Two years ago I attended my first LDStorymakers, and because of interactions I'd had online, there were a half-dozen new friends waiting to meet me. During the conference I met dozens of other friends, and afterward we kept in touch online. This week I am beyond excited to once again gather with friends old and new, some of whom I will be meeting in person for the very first time.

If you will be in the Provo area this Thursday night, you are invited to attend a Writer's Conference Eve Soiree - an unofficial, informal gathering at Borders in the Provo Riverwoods. Come by any time between 6 and 10, say hi, and rediscover how great that face-to-face interaction can be.


Cheri Chesley said...

That's totally why I'm looking forward to Storymakers this year. Last year I went for the second day, knew no one, and generally had a not-so-great time. But now I know so many from FaceBook, AI and twitter that I'm so looking forward to this weekend!