Yesterday late afternoon, my husband and I had the rare chance to be in the same place at the same time without anything urgent to do.
For a couple as busy as we are, that's a feat in and of itself.
We settled comfortably on the couches in the living room, looking forward to quality time together. Evening found us sitting in those exact same spots.
Were we having dazzling conversation, plotting to take over the world, or pursuing some other relationship-building enterprise?
We were playing Words with Friends on our iPhones. Top it off, we were playing each other.
This went on for hours, till we finally had a late dinner with friends.
So why on earth am I sharing this with you?
It's an illustration of the fact that the majority of individuals these days are spending their personal time online in some capacity, interacting with technology.
Jumping gears real quick, but you'll see why later...stay with me...
As a child, I spent hours upon hours in the school library. When I got a car and a checking account, I would camp out at the local Barnes and Noble until it closed (which was just about the same time as my curfew). College years found me poring over books in the library, huddled in a corner with a few cups of coffee and a hungry stare as I consumed whatever literature I could get my hands on.
Then came graduation, working, paying my own bills (which meant a sharp decrease in book buying), and spending all my time networking for my career.
Now that things have settled a bit for me and I occasionally have time to seek out something, I still only head to the bookstore if I have a "date" with my best friend. We load up with all the decorating books (I'm in love with the French Country style and am trying to implement it in my home), claim a table, and flip through the picture books taking notes on things we like. A few hours later, we get up, grab a magazine or discounted cookbook, and check out.
For a literature hound like myself (I'd probably fall in the "target audience" for about 99% of my authors), in no way do I look for literature at the bookstore.
My oh-so-long list of books to read/buy [seriously, I have one. It's an ever evolving list in my iPhone Notes application] comes from one thing, and one thing only: recommendations. Most of these are recommendations I find online. Perhaps someone tweets about a book, or a blog mentions it. My mother might email me info on a book she read, or one of my fellow volunteers mentions it while we sort and stuff bags for a charity.
In other words, today's reader doesn't look for reading material. Not anymore. Now, it is the book's responsibility to look for the reader, to connect with the reader, to give the reader a reason to spend his/her time on the book.
Moments ago, I got off the phone with one of my authors who had an event last week at an independent Christian bookstore. The publicity for this multi-author event was tremendous: tv spots, radio interviews, articles and features in the newspaper.
The author sold less than a handful of books.
The author got it, after that. Expecting prospective readers to pick a title out of a long list of other enticing products is not the way to find success and build a readership, at least not until the general public is in demand for the title or the author.
Wow, this is a long post, but let me get to the core of my message today: we have to bombard the prospective reader in their own habitat and circle of influence if we want to gain their loyalty, readership, sale, and recommendation.
Let's revisit how my husband and I spent our evening yesterday: playing on our iPhones and having dinner with friends. Other nights this month will showcase us attending fundraising events, hair appointments, volunteering, attending organizational meetings, playing golf (not me, but the hubby sure does!), spending time in restaurants with friends, attending church and Sunday School events, working out (at the gym or yoga studio), shopping at the market or another locally owned store, or staying at home trying to get stuff done (or, more likely, spending time and effort on the internet).
For the majority of books I have read, edited, represented, judged, or interacted with, I would recommend in a heartbeat that the author first investigate where to find his/her target audience. Once you know where they are, you can make sure that your product (doesn't have to be a book, really...this applies to ANY item you market) stands out.
Boiling it down: if you are going to spend your time and effort trying to build a name for yourself, do it the smart way. Connect with local venues and find your online presence through social media. Make yourself and your book invaluable to your prospective reader.
Who knows....one day a married couple might spend their evening sitting on the couch interacting with your book in a new way via today's technology.
QUESTION: How do you spend your personal time? If someone were to get your attention and convince you that you need to read a book, how would he/she do that?