This week I made one of my rare trips to the local post office. I needed to send a package or two and pick up some postage stamps. In general I try to keep a variety of postage on hand. Then it’s easy to process any sort of mailing. Also while at the post office, I checked a new postcard that I’m going to be mailing. I wanted to make sure the postcard was the right size then I picked up several rolls of postcard stamps. Why check it?
Several years ago, a publisher graciously produced full color postcards to help market a new book. I worked back and forth with the marketing department on the text of the postcard. In the final analysis, I figured they were the publisher and knew how to produce the right size postcard. Wrong. They printed an oversized postcard that required first-class postage instead of postcard postage. It added considerably to my postage bill to get that postcard out to people. Postcards are a terrific inexpensive way to tell people about your book. Tests have shown that many people read a postcard as it moves through the postal system—particularly if it is attractively designed and has great content. I’ve learned the hard way over the years about the necessity of making sure the card has the right content. For example, does your postcard allow the reader to buy the book? Where? Does it give the price and International Standard Book Number (ISBN)? The ISBN is the number any bookstore can use to locate and order your book. No one can copyright a title but the book number will only point to your book.
When I was checking the card, I asked the clerk if she ever thought about writing a book some day? Why ask such a question? I knew from the surveys that 81 percent of the population has dreamed about writing a book “some day.” My postcard includes the full color book cover for Book Proposals That Sell on one side. The other side has a brief quotation from Jeanette Thomason, Acquisitions Editor at Revell Books, “With practical know-how and tons of proven tips, this book is like that wise friend who's been in the business, knows what works and why. Step-by-step, Terry Whalin guides and inspires both beginners and even experienced writers to doing better, successful, meaningful work.” Also the back of the postcard includes the title, ISBN, price and a couple of websites. After she measured my postcard and I purchased my postage, I offered gave her my postcard. Someone else waiting in the line overheard my conversation and jumped into it. “Hey, I write for magazines. I’d like to do a book some day. Do you have another one?” I didn’t have a second postcard (admittedly unprepared) but I had a small business card with the same information (including the cover of the book). In an instant, I left two pieces of literature as I walked out of the post office. Will anything happen from it? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve at least planted the seeds of potential because I was prepared for the opportunity and I opened the door to the conversation.
As writers and editors and communicators, we are in the seed planting business. It’s part of what we do day in and day out. Yet you have to be prepared to plant seeds. Next week I’m headed to a writers conference. Whenever I travel or even drive around town, I make sure I’ve got a business card (or two) tucked in my pocket. Over the years, I’ve learned to freely give the information. It’s surprising how people will keep that card and call or write or email months later. One opportunity leads to another—but only if you open the door in the first place. Be prepared.