Thursday, August 21, 2014

Attributing Success--Or Not

I’ve been in many heated discussions with author’s groups covering many different subjects. However, when the subject of marketing came up, as it always does, the mood turns sour.  Each time I mention that authors must market to succeed, board groupies get very upset.  Most seem to feel an author’s only job is to write and it’s always the publisher’s job to do all the marketing. However, this isn’t and has never been the case in the long history of publishing.

Of course authors should write, but also it’s also in an author’s best interest to get his or her author name and books in front of as many potential readers as possible. Even though a publisher edits and publishes a book, it’s still the author’s book and every author should want to make sure his or her book is successful.

Even suggesting writers must market always opens a fire-storm of protest from the writer board side of the argument. This is because most new authors will trust their fellow supposedly knowledgeable authors who are notorious for giving out bad advice. The tactic board jockeys always use is to make anyone who opposes their argument look stupid by ganging up, misquoting and bullying any opposition into silence.

That an author is going to market his or he book is the expectation of all publishers. To back up this point, here is a quote from Jenny Bent, owner of the Bent Agency and formerly an agent with the Trident Media Group, one of the largest literary agencies in the world. This is from a paper she wrote in 2002 and is entitled, What to Expect When You’re Published?

Q: How much marketing and publicity can I expect from my publisher? Can we put something in the contract about this? And just was is my agent’s role in publishing my book?

A: I don’t know any authors, and this includes multi-published authors with million dollar deals, that are happy with the amount of publicity and marketing they receive from their publisher. Please be prepared to do as much as you possibly can in terms of your own publicity and marketing. Hiring your own publicist is always a good idea, and if handled correctly, will be welcomed by your publisher. If you look at the New York Times bestseller list, at least half of the writers on it will have worked or are still working with independent publicists. The big names in  particular always use an outside publicist in addition to the publicity their publishers provides…

Nothing has changed. Ms. Bent is not alone in saying this. Here is a list of others who go even further in insisting that authors must market to be successful.

Do Authors Really Need to Promote Their Own Books?

Many more articles can be found that also back up the idea that if an author doesn’t market they will not sell many books. You might also ask board jockeys who advocate it’s the publisher’s job to market your book where they got this information and how successful they are using those tactics. Also, don’t take their word for their successes. Always check out their sales ranking on Amazon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can You Tell Your Story In One Sentence?

I was asked recently why I became a publisher.  I talked and talked and talked as I watched eyes glaze over. In my enthusiasm about a job I love, I never realized I was boring the hell out of everyone.

When someone asks you about your book, do you notice the polite smiles and glazed over eyes, or do you do, as I did, keep on talking; trying to cram years of joy into what should be a one minute conversation. 

Since I’ve bored enough people with my story, let’s talk about writing instead. I can do this because I love both. Also, I’ve listened to about a thousand people try to cram a 90,000 word novel into a 10 minute pitch session at writer’s conferences.

Okay Mr. Big, tell me how I can tell people about my book and not bore people to tears? The answers not easy but let me try without boring you too.

Do you know what you’ve written?  No, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, but that’s the reason most of us can’t tell our story in a moment or two.  We know, of course we know, but can we tell anyone else?  
Actually, you should be able to express your book or profession, in one sentence.  Can’t be done you say.  Not easy I say, but it can and must be done.

To begin, write a chapter by chapter outline. What’s that and how do I write one of those things? It’s done by breaking each chapter into one paragraph. Go through your story and write down only the important stuff. Stick to only what’s moving the story forward.  Remember, only one paragraph and that’s it. No cheating.
Now you have maybe 30 paragraphs—a couple of pages instead of 350. What’s neat about this is you as faults in your writing pop right out as you’re doing this exercise.   

Next break each paragraph down into one sentence—one sentence that expresses only the importance of that paragraph. Said another way, could the story have survived without that one important factor.
There are now less than 30 sentences. Why? Because, as has happened with almost everyone, he or she has found a chapter, or more, that did nothing to promote their story. Those sentences that are left, with a little work, can become your novel’s synopsis.

You now have less than one page that expresses your whole novel.  Now you can easily reduce this small amount of writing into one paragraph. If you don’t include how the story ends, you have what’s known as your jacket blurb.

Now comes the part I always like: You can now see clearly what’s going on in your story. You can now express what your story is about in one paragraph and, with a little concentration, that one sentence you’re looking for should pop right out. You have in front of you just over a minute of conversation that expresses your entire novel, so tell whoever asks, “What’s your novel about?” that one sentence you’ve now found, then follow it up with your blurb.