Don’t Sell Me Your Book—Sell Me YOU!

By Len Lawson

Much has been written in recent years about how the publishing industry and its consumers have changed. The gaps among the success of authors published through traditional publishing, small press, and self-publishing continue to be diminished. The difference in the success remains in the marketing of the product. Regardless of the means of publication, an author in today’s writing industry needs to have a clear marketing strategy for their own work. Publishers may even be more likely to consider an author’s work if authors submit their queries with some options for marketing their books.

The core of these marketing ideas exists in the individual author. Readers not only want to read a good book, but they also want to read from a good author and more books from that author. Then, they will tell their friends about this great new author whose book they read. The more readers can identify with their authors, the more likely they will be return customers. The key here is more transparency, especially for first-time authors. Authors that market themselves can turn readers into fans!

Below I provide some tips for how an author can brainstorm ways to impress agents and publishers how to market—and eventually sell your book.

  • Be unique. To establish a brand, discover a quality that distinguishes you from the millions of other authors in this saturated industry. For example, if you are a teacher, start a blog that is unique to your subject area or to education in general. As a platform, you can speak at teacher conferences or write articles for teacher newsletters to build an audience. Share the story of your career path or your passion for your subject. Once again, the key is transparency. If you have a niche or a passion, then there are readers waiting to learn more about you and subsequently about your writing! 
  • Be proactive. After you decide who your audience is, find the readers where they are, talk to them directly, and establish more settings to meet readers besides just book signings. Finding book clubs to join or market to is a good idea, but why not start your own book club? Rally other readers around you who enjoy your genre. This creates a built-in audience that can expand exponentially! Don’t just sit back and wait for readers to come after you write your book. Go out and get ‘em before the process starts! 
  • Be enterprising. Some of the best partners for book marketing are in other industries. Someone you know with their own business can use your assistance in exchange for publicity. For example, a store owner may provide a space for your books in their shop in exchange for publicity. Partner with others who believe in your work. The key here is to be creative and to think like an entrepreneur. 
  • Be diverse. Since your readers are diverse, different aspects of your book may appeal to different readers. For example, your romance novel may be set at the beach. During the summer, this would be a great read! Therefore, you could market to beach readers or readers going on a long trip. Once again, be creative. 
The possibilities are endless for aspiring authors to market themselves along with their stories. Millions of readers are waiting for their next book to buy and read. They are also waiting for an author that appeals to them. Being transparent as an author can open the door to more opportunities with agents, publishers, and ultimately readers. Don’t allow your book to be the barrier between you and your readers, and don’t wait for publishers and agents to have the last say in the marketing. Your readers are waiting; give them what they want. Give them you!

No Namby-Pamby…Just Write It.

By Kimberly Johnson To borrow a phrase or two from singer/songwriter John Mayer: “It’s better to say too much than to never…Say what you need to say, Say what you need to say…” Those words underlie the crux of Jason Whitlock’s sports column Real Talk—say what you mean or better yet, write what you mean. That’s why I relish reading Whitlock’s articles for FoxSports.com. Whitlock has the chops. He majored in Journalism from Ball State University. He’s the first sports writer to win the National Journalism Award for Commentary from the Scripps Howard Foundation. He even played high school football with Jeff George, a former NFL quarterback. He’s got some notoriety for being fired from ESPN. I want to strengthen my writing style and use Whitlock’s techniques. I don’t if I could take the stones and daggers from his detractors. No worries though, I still like his flair because: #1: He frames out his main argument in simplistic terms. Most writers know that is not as easy as it sounds. #2: He provides provocative examples to illustrate his argument. #3: He has an astute sense of humor. Here’s one example from a September 7, 2012 column:
Some football fans believe I dislike Peyton Manning and refuse to recognize his greatness out of some twisted loyalty to my high school teammate and former Colts QB Jeff George. …“Breaking Bad” is Peyton Manning. We want both of them to be what they once were. We want them to fulfill their promise. It’s not going to happen. That does not mean I hate either of them. It simply means I’m not going to sit quiet as a significant portion of the media mislead (and in some cases lie) you into believing something that isn’t true. Elway and/or Montana are still the greatest. Tom Brady has the best chance of catching them. Manning is one of the 10 or 15 best QBs to ever play the game.
Ouch. For non NFL fans, that’s the equivalent of soap opera diva Susan Lucci slapping a young, blond ingĂ©nue in the face for disrespecting her. Again, Whitlock got to the point (Peyton Manning ain’t that great.). He provided an example. (Read the full story online). He gave us a laugh. (Compared him to a t.v.show). By the time this blog comes out, there’ll be a winner in the NCAA basketball tourney. I’m sure that Jason will have a lot to write…and mean it. Source: http://msn.foxsports.com

Finding Your Writing Influence


By Len Lawson 

It is a crucial benefit for writers to discover the authors who have had the most significant influence on their work. This revelation will help us to understand what type of writers we truly are and in what direction our writing can and should go. Without knowing who has influenced us, it remains difficult, especially for beginners, to understand how we write. However, we do not have to become the same authors as others who have influenced us. We should use this knowledge as a door to greater awareness of our individual craft.
For example, I first became interested in literature in high school. We read the classics like Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and others, but the one author we read who intrigued me most was Zora Neale Hurston. When we read her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, I was overwhelmed with Hurston's diction and dialogue.
Reading Hurston led me to my writing idol at the time Toni Morrison. However, when I made the decision to become a writer, my words came out similar to Morrison’s words with long sentences and many adjectives. When I first allowed others to read my writing, its density confused them. Moreover, I discovered that Morrison read much of William Faulkner’s and Virginia Woolf’s writing before writing her own. Her works are really a combination of both their styles.
I realized that if I were to become a serious writer, then I would have to develop my own style. Nonetheless, my influences instantly came out onto the pages because I had read so much of them. I channeled Hemingway’s use of dialogue in a matter-of-fact tone. I disseminated Hurston’s African American dialogue in some of my writing with Southern settings. Furthermore, yes, I did use what I learned from Morrison’s uniqueness yet sparingly so as not to confuse my readers. I incorporated the best of those authors fused with my own creativity and paradigm.
The result has been a style all my own. Critics might say that I am simply copying other writers and pasting them into my work. I say that without reading a variety of styles, writers cannot discover their own. I leave these tips for us to discover who our writing influences are and to discover who we are as writers:
  1. What writers do you enjoy reading? What is great about these writers and their works?
  2. What can you detect in your own writing that resembles what you see in other writers you have read?
  3. What else can you learn about these writers that can better influence your writing (i.e. their biography or autobiography, how they became writers, what writers influenced them)?
  4. Which of these writers’ works, if any, most resemble your own?
            

DJANGO, HISTORICAL BUFFOONERY

By Bonnie Stanard Anachronisms are the bane of serious historical fiction writers. If we rack up too many, our validity as researchers if not writers is called into question. For those of us who spend a lot of time figuring out things like whether alcoholic drinks were served with a straw in 1858, Leonardo Dicaprio had us choking on our popcorn in the movie Django Unchained. There he was on the screen, surrounded by his slaves and sipping a coconut daiquiri with a straw. Whatever the blood and gore, that straw was indefensible. As improbable as the straw were some of the situations. Any black person, slave or free, who wore a pistol in 1858 wouldn’t have worn it long. Nor would he sit at a dinner table with white people. And since slaves were considered property worth from $500 to $1500, what owner would damage his own property? And there was a lot of damage here. But wait a minute. Director Quentin Tarantino signals that the movie is unorthodox on the posters used for promotion. How can anybody take seriously a 19th Century cowboy wearing sunglasses? Obviously Django is not intended as a traditional Western. In a review of Django, Stephanie Zacharek of NPR claims that if the movie “takes significant liberties with history … , it also faces certain historical truths head-on.” She doesn’t elaborate on these truths and I’m still wondering what they could be. She also says it isn’t a screed because “there’s too much joy in it.” Huh? Did she say “joy?” Amusement … maybe. Those of us expecting a cowboy adventure of the more typical sort were twisting in our seats by the second half, hardly aware of the playfulness. Early on, I scoffed at the poor approximation of what was supposed to be cotton plants growing in a field. However, Tarantino had everything under control. He hadn’t been so stupid as to accidentally make cotton look like soy beans with blooming boles. Anyway, director Quentin Tarantino is not easy to interpret. The historical inaccuracies are a way of messing with the concept of suspending disbelief. Even as we immerse ourselves in the story, we are kept out of Django’s world. The movie is a tongue-in-cheek offering that dares you to like it. It’s deliberately provocative. It’s listed as an “Action” movie but begs for another label, one that will acknowledge the element of absurdity. It’s been well received by critics and has an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. If it weren’t for the violence, I’d watch the movie again with the hope of more insight into Tarantino’s unconventional talent. For all Zacharek says about Tarantino, her comment about his use of the n-word prompted the most responses, some of them acrimonious (http://www.npr.org/2012/12/24/166898958/tarantinos-genius-unchained). There are critics who reduce Django to that one issue and would throw Tarantino under the bus for using the word. Several weeks ago on my WritePersona blog, I addressed this dilemma, one that haunts those of us who place our stories in the South in the 19th Century. (http://writepersona.blogspot.com -- scroll down to “Tough Words”)

Free Down Loads On Kindle

By Mike Long Until recently I’ve steadfastly resisted giving any of my books away. Sure, I sent copies to folks for reviews (with mostly good results) and even donated a case to a US Army aviation unit in Afghanistan – but that’s not the same as listing a book as ‘Free’ on Kindle for several days. Why on earth would a sane person do that? I’m not sure why sane folks do anything, but what pushed me to try a ‘free download’ promo was the fact that I just wasn’t selling many copies as E-books. I had my first novel (No Good Like It Is) and the sequel (Dog Soldier Moon) available on Kindle, Smashwords, Sony, Nook, etc., but was only moving maybe twenty or twenty-five on each per month. I’d already gone through the Kindle pricing drill, starting at $9.99, then $5.99, then 99 cents and finally establishing my ‘sweet spot’ as $2.99 per. At that price or higher, the author gets 70% of each sale; below that, it’s only 35%. And when Kindle offered their Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), I was slow to join up (why loan books for free, rather than sell them?) – until I learned that the KOLL program actually pays a little to the participating authors. You do have to give Kindle an ‘exclusive’ on your books, but I’d never received a penny from Sony, Smashwords, Nook, etc. anyhow. Another no-brainer, once I studied it. And all that led me to the free download promo. A friend explained that the folks who hold out for freebies on Kindle were probably never going to pay for one of my books – unless maybe they got the first one free and just had to have the sequel, especially if it didn’t cost much. I ran my experiment Nov. 26-30 2012, after a good deal of mostly free advertising. I used Facebook (all my groups therein) and LinkedIn, and found more than a dozen sites that would blog or advertise my effort for little or nothing. There were over 6500 free downloads during that five day promotion; most (6200) were in the first three days, so a two or three-day promo is probably enough. But what happened afterward is what has really surprised me. In the nine days since I stopped the promotion, I’ve had over 220 paid downloads (purchases, KOLL Loans) of my first novel; the figures on the sequel aren’t in yet. Remember, I was only doing about 22 of each per month before. I don’t expect this pace to continue, but it’s sweet now. And there are still 6500+ potential buyers for the sequel. Write On!