I've spent much time discussing ways for authors to market their books, but what about authors marketing themselves? In a perfect world, only the writing would matter and readers wouldn't care how attractive or charming the author was. But, we're not in a perfect world. Your marketability matters.
Marketability Factor: Conversation Skills
If you can't talk about your book, people aren't going to want to buy it. Talking and relating to people is half the process of selling a book. Most of the books I purchase are written by authors that I've met and spoken with. If I didn't enjoy their conversation, I assume I won't enjoy their book. If you have a tendency to be awkward in social situations, practice with someone you feel comfortable talking to.
Marketability Factor: Platform
We can't all be lawyers or bomb experts or former CIA operatives. Most of us are everyday people who happen to write books. But having a platform doubles your marketability as an author. Go through your book, go through your life, what makes it special? Do you have any hobbies that relate to the book? Is there something in your heritage or culture that would appeal to readers? As a publicist, I do this for authors on a regular basis. There's always something.
Marketability Factor: Contacts
The more people you know, the more people you know who will buy the book. Knowing the right people can lead to media exposure, awards, and topping bestseller lists. If you've been attending writing conferences or stockpiling Facebook friends and twitter followers, you probably have more contacts than you think. Remember, when you go out on tour, most of the audience will be people YOU bring. You can't count on the bookstore to draw a crowd. But if you pull from your contacts and have a great turnout, the bookstore is sure to have you back.
Marketability Factor: Charm
It makes sense that the more charming you are, the more books you'll sell. Authors like Barry Eisler, Marcus Sakey, or Laura Caldwell could probably sell me an essay from 3rd grade for twenty-five bucks. This sort of ties in to conversational skills, but charm is something more. It's about knowing how to relate to people. Not all of us are born with this gift. It may take practice. Attend the panels at writer's conferences and observe the authors that get a lot of attention. They're funny, are able to speak to an audience and relate to other people. Keep this in mind when your talking to a potential reader, agent, or reviewer.
Marketability Factor: Drive
Agents and editors love a writer with drive. They know their client will produce good work in a timely manner and do everything they can to get their career off the ground. Readers will respond to dedicated authors, especially those who work hard to reward their fans with contests and signings. No one likes a lazy bum. Charm and charisma can be difficult to attain. Working hard only requires putting in the effort.