Decades ago – when I was a baby – I tried my hand at real estate sales. Interest rates were low and houses still sold for $125,000 in North San Diego County (I said it was a long time ago). It was a brand new business for me, and there were a of new terms, processes, and paperwork to absorb. The learning curve was rough.
Still, it was like the Wild West. Sales contracts were a single page long, disclosure requirements were nonexistent, salespeople didn’t need training to get a license, and continuing education was nil. Newbies were flocking to the industry and setting up shop right and left. The real estate sales gig was turning into a gold rush, and every day bright-eyed new salespeople were hammering in open house signs and glad-handing everyone they knew. Spreading the word about their new vocation. Begging friends and family to think of them first if they wanted to buy or sell a house.
Agents who’d been around for a while lamented the good old days, before the competition ramped up to ginormous proportions. They had to adapt. They had to actually be excellent at their job to stand above the crowd.
Fast forward a few decades, and here we are. Thanks to Amazon’s book sale platform, self-publishing has become the latest gold rush. Fledgling authors and wannabe writers are uploading millions of manuscripts to multiple ebook sales platforms, shouting “buy my book!” on social media, and queuing up a thousand deep for a chance to get a place on book bloggers’ schedules, and competing for coveted reviews. Why?
Because, like real estate sales back in the day, you don’t need training or deep pockets to self-publish. Words to the wise be damned, lots of newbies are skipping editors, proofreaders, and cover artists and doing it all themselves – often poorly – then throwing their hats in the ring, vying to be the next Fifty Shades or Colleen Hoover, and just knowing it’s going to happen for them.
So, of course, the situation has bred a new group who are busy lamenting the fact that the good ‘ole days are gone. Naysayers. Troublemakers. Authors who focus on what isn’t working. “We can’t get into Bookbub, the proliferation of free ebook promotions are ruining our chances to sell our work. Readers’ Kindles are so packed with freebies they’ll never need to purchase a title, ever again. They have ruined it all, it’s their fault, wah, wah, waaaaaaaaah.”
Do you see a pattern here?
One of the first lessons I grappled with in my real estate career was to avoid people. I know that sounds all wrong, but I’m talking about a certain clique, that small but vocal crowd that hung around the water cooler and griped about the crappy market. How the influx of new agents and resulting competition had ruined the business, how tough it was to make a sale, how few and far between those commission checks were – all because the number of agents had boomed.
Part of that was true: getting business was harder. Still, it didn’t take me long to realize that although the swollen ranks of new agents would force me to work harder and smarter, it wasn’t difficult to be better than the majority of people who were after easy money. As an agent, I was head-and-shoulders above 90% of my compadres because …
- I kept my word. I did what I said I would do, when I said I was going to do it.
- I was hard-working, professional, experienced, and pleasant (imagine that!)
- I was generous with my knowledge, shared it freely, and was willing to help others without expecting payback.
- I knew my stuff, and I added to my skill set/education all the time.
- I put people before money. I focused on relationships, not numbers.
- I ceased behaviors that didn’t serve me, like flipping off other drivers (I said I was young), being snide, and ranting in public.
- I learned to listen closely to clients when they told me what they liked and disliked, what they wanted in a house or property.
Back then, we depended on positive word-of-mouth to get new business. We advertised our latest listings and sat in open houses, ready to talk to all comers. If we were diligent agents, referrals from satisfied customers could account for as much as 50% of our business. Back then, we asked satisfied clients for testimonials and referrals. And if they liked us, we got them.
The more things change …
Fast forward to today. Today’s testimonials are good reviews, and referrals are happy readers talking about their latest read. Today’s clients are readers. Listen to them. Cease behaviors – like public rants and stalking reviewers – that might turn your clients off.
There is no real difference between what I learned about selling real estate and what I see happening in the self-publishing industry now. It’s not hard to be better. You just have to write really good books, put your readers first, give a lot of stuff away, and engage with people in a venue that’s comfortable for you. Be accessible. Be patient. Be in it for the long run. Ignore the naysayers. Detour around the crabby crew that hangs out at the water cooler, lamenting the good old days. Focus on what you can do to sell books and carve out a place for yourself. But most of all …
Write really good books, and keep writing them.
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