This Business of Writing

Posts Tagged ‘market your book’

The Monkey is on Your Back

In General Information, Marketing Your Book on December 15, 2009 at 9:05 am

We, as novel writers, have had more than just a monkey jump on our backs. The proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla has landed with both feet. I’m talking, of course, about how writers are now their own publicity agents, in contrast to the “good ol’ days.”

If you are among the flattered few who sign a contract with a publisher, the odds of him putting money into marketing your work are nil. And what is the net result of this? If you want to sell your book, you are the marketing agent.

Many authors write a sterling book but simply don’t have the money, time or personality to market and sell their work. But really, how many of us have the cash lying around to purchase that full-page ad in the Times? We, therefore, must look to other, less expensive, avenues with which to market our books.

You remember the old saw that you must spend money to make money? The good news is that is no longer true. Today, marketing can be almost free if you utilize the blogosphere and other virtually free methodologies. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you need to learn how to leverage the Internet and effectively use Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, WordPress and the like. The Internet is your answer, at least early in your novel writing career.

These days you must, and please note the word, “must”, delve into these new technologies to succeed as an author. Even if you have a publisher, he’ll insist you develop what is called a platform and reach out to touch people with these 21st century tools. So, get used to it, face the music and bite that bullet. Pick your cliché, but just do it, jump in with both feet and learn how to reach your buying public by building your platform. If truth be told, it’s amazing how many people you can touch with these techniques.

Devote a couple of hours a day to this and, regardless the size of your wallet or the time you have available, you’ll be amazed at the huge audience you can develop.

Until then, good writing and I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

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Authors’ Positioning in the Emerging Publishing Paradigm

In Marketing Your Book on November 1, 2009 at 8:26 am

A a number of aspiring authors have spoken to me relative to their fears concerning the current price wars in the marketplace, and their concerns authors will be the ones to absorb the price reductions spreading over the publishing landscape. If you are fortunate enough to already have an established position in the industry, you’re fine for now, but you still should look to the future and how best to put it to your advantage.

My advice to aspiring authors? Fear not.

Yes, the authors’ landscape is changing in an unprecedented manor, fueled by price wars and technology for the most part. It is these price wars that seem to have everyone in the greatest state of furor.

First, let’s consider the changing publishing topography. In the past, publishers have had domain over three major aspects of the writer’s life. They controlled distribution, payouts and production. Their powers are under dramatic assault by authors with business sense, the Internet and POD. Technology is changing everything in its path.

Let’s focus on authors getting paid. How is that going to happen in the future?

In one word, “eBooks.”

Here’s what I see happening.

Wally World and others are now selling first run, major names well below the wholesale price. For now they are absorbing the financial disparity and using books as a loss leader. So far, so good. But mark my word on this, Wally will soon knock on a publisher’s door and demand, not request, deep discounting at the wholesale level. How is the publisher going to make money? He cuts his expenses or increases his sales. He has already relinquished his hold over marketing to individual authors and so does not control sales. Therefore, the publisher’s only avenue is to cuts expenses. What part of the P&L is going to take that bite? Since he’s already cut marketing expenses, he’ll slash payout to authors. He has little choice but to do so.

What do authors do to protect their paycheck? They sell their books elsewhere. It’s all fundamental action vs. reaction. Everybody in this chain protects their paycheck.

At some point, the publisher starts to lose his best authors and faces the peril of going out of business. In response, he’ll move toward selling via the web where his costs more rationally match his pricing structure. What is it the publisher will sell on the web? EBooks.

In the mean time, the author has had his payouts cut to the bone, so he either stops writing or moves somewhere else. Where does he go to make the most money? EBooks and the Internet.

Why do I say this? Let’s look at two comparatives. Let’s say a publishing house pays you three dollars for each of your books it sells. He soon cuts this to $.50 per book to cover his discounts to Wally. You’re already a self-marketer, and as self-publisher, you might make $2.50 per book sold. Would you rather sell a book for $.50 and do your own marketing or $2.50 and do your own marketing and production? To each his own, of course, but many of the best and brightest among writers will go for the bucks.

So, with the changing paradigm and price wars, an author under contract to a publishing house moves toward eBooks where the publisher can reduce his costs and payout more to attract first rate writers. If he’s self-published, he moves toward eBooks, for cost, marketing and distribution reasons.

Fear not, kind readers, embrace the future and you’ll be fine.

May all your books be best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

12 Ways an Agent Considers Your Query

In Marketing Your Book on October 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

I am not an agent, I’ve never had an agent, nor have I ever personally known an agent. Why then, am I the one to write this article? Well, I’m probably not. Still, I’ve been walking this path for a while now and I have learned to use those senses located around my face. This article is what I’ve learned as I’ve traversed my chosen trail.

An agent is in the business of selling books to publishers. They are business people like every other business person out there. They contend with P&L’s, customers, contacts, inventory control, and all the rest. They are looking for authors, even aspiring authors, for without us they are unemployed.

We, the authors clacking away at our keyboards until the dawn lights the morning sky, are their inventory. It is their job and profession to see their inventory put into the hands of their clients, the publishers. The secret, as with any business, is to choose the correct inventory to sell to the correct client. The query letter is one method they use to locate that inventory.

Though not necessarily presented in the order of their thought processes, this is my understanding of  when they receive your query, how they look at it.

Is the story within one they can sell? If their contacts weigh heavily toward romance publishers, sending a query touting a nonfiction book on the weaknesses in the Theory of Relativity is wasted on them. They may have no background in selling this type of book and they’ll most likely pass.

If they’ve just sold a similar book, they’ll probably not try to do it again as they’ve already pitched their contacts on the storyline.

If the story within is not interesting, they’ll pass. If this is your storyline is dull, overused, out of date, etc., the agent knows none of their contacts will buy the book from them.

If the story within is not unique. If your hero is named Luke and he’s an orphan living on a farm in some far, far away galaxy and he will soon discover he has the power to summon the forces of nature to his aid and… Well, it’s been done. You may have a slight chance if your work has a unique aspect to it, but save yourself the trouble and write a new story.

If your query is not professional in nature, it tells them you are not a professional. These guys are pros, and they want to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. Learn what each agents wishes to receive and give them that.

Their time is valuable and limited. Assuming your query even reaches their desk, you have maybe twenty seconds of their time available to you. If your query starts with, “I am so important to you,” or some such nonsense, you don’t even get the twenty. However, if you start with a good hook that catches their interest, you’ll get the extra ten seconds that previous blowhard squandered.

They look to the quality of your writing. They consider your query a sample of your writing skills and seek those who are well versed in the craft. Why would they try to sell inferior inventory? That is what you are if you have yet to learn how to write.

They do consider your provenance, if you will. Why are you the one to write this work? If you’ve not stepped into a classroom since you quit school in the seventh grade, they will not consider you the best source for recommending how to alter the educational landscape. If you write spy novels but have never seen the thin end of a pair of binoculars, you’ve probably chosen an incorrect genre. Write what you know. No, you need not have a writer’s pedigree, but you do need to exhibit knowledge of your subject matter, be it fiction or nonfiction.

They want to know why you chose them. If you’re querying every agent in the known universe, that’s fine from your perspective, but to them it’s a sure sign of your lack of professionalism. Query them for a reason and tell them why you did.

They do respect the recommendations from within their sphere. Wouldn’t you? They have clients and contacts they trust to know their desires and markets, and a confidant is their most efficient method of finding a new author. Try to get a recommendation. As difficult as that may be, it is your truest path to publication.

They want to know you’re in this as a career. They don’t earn as much money off a single book as they do a number of books. If they have your book published and twenty thousand copies are sold, how man dollars get into their pocket? How much do they earn if they sell twenty of your books at twenty thousand copies per? This is a business for them, even if it is not for you.

This is a subjective business and they will often pass on a manuscript for a reason as simple as it does not “call” to them. Sorry, guys, but life is unfair and so is the publishing world. That is why you query multiple agents.

If your query does not exemplify these qualities, I recommend you keep trying to improve your writing and querying skills.

I’d love for an agent to comment on this as to any errors in my thinking or omission in the list.

Until my next posting, kind readers, may all your books be best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Tips from the Masters

In The Craft of Writing on October 24, 2009 at 9:13 am

We’ve all heard to emulate the successful should we seek success. Well, here’s what the successful say of writing.

One of my favorite writing tips comes from Mark Twain. He said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Can you say, “Find Feature?”

Mr. Twain also spoke to me with this one, “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” Amen to that! Or, as my wife says, “Follow your muse, Patrick. Write for the love of it.”

We’ve all heard authors are supposed to prune their writing to say more with less. Elmore Leonard found a way to say this in such a way as to eliminate all possibility of argument. “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” To that end, William Strunk Jr. told us, “Vigorous writing is concise.”

Another maxim with which authors are familiar is to write with emotion. It’s a simple idea put into great words by William Wordsworth. I like this one. “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Sounds like there’s a good title for a blog or romance novel hidden in those words, doesn’t it?

Anton Chekhov, I think he was on Star Trek, spoke of how we should paint pictures with our words when he said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Have you read articles about how to accept and learn from whatever criticism you receive? Ray Bradbury, advises us to, “…accept rejection and reject acceptance.” Tough, but good advice.

Mr. Bradbury also tells us we should write as much as we can for, “If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” Clever guy, Ray is.

As authors we write about what we have experienced within our own lives. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it best. “If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.”

How much of our lives should we put into our craft? John Irving suggests, The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.”

Something I learned from my mother and apply to my writing is to trust my instincts. (Smart woman that Margaret!) AS G. K. Chesterton put it, “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” A related quote I found is again from our friend, Ray Bradbury. “Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.”

Has a writing mentor ever told you to write in a fashion the rest of the world has not? Try Oscar Wilde’s though on for size. “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Whew! That’s a lot to master. If you’re successful what do you reap? (Besides that elusive book deal?)  One will, “Learn as much by writing as by reading.” So says Lord Acton.

Best of luck in making these ideas a part of your writing life.

May all your books be best-sellers.

Patrick

Unemployed and Writing? Uh-oh…

In General Information, Marketing Your Book, Working with Agents on October 14, 2009 at 7:54 am

If you’re trying to have your first book published and are not gainfully employed, you may initially want to keep that tidbit of information to yourself.

Think from the agent’s perspective and it becomes clear as to why I recommend this. The moment they think you’re writing simply to fill time, your desirability diminishes with great speed. *Lead balloon hitting ground.* If they suspect you’re not in this for the long haul, their potential to make money off your talents is reduced. They may see you as the proverbial one-trick-pony and shy away from your limited earning capacity. As a career writer, you’ll be busier after they sell your work and they’ll need you out and about marketing your book. They may assume you won’t hit the bricks when you find employment. After all, they are in the business of writing, even if you’re not. The same thing applies if you’re retired. Avoid all references to the ominous and, and wonderful, “R” word, if possible.

So, how to do this? Have you heard of the “Sin of Omission?” That’s your ticket. (It’s not my favorite sin, but it does have its usefulness nonetheless.)

So, when do you come clean? When they ask or the subject comes up. But in every case, you must inform them before any agreements are signed. They may consider this a critical issue and you owe them your honesty. You and your agent are business partners and you have an obligation to be honorable and truthful in all things related to your mutual business interests. However, if they’re not your agent, then they are your sales prospect and the obligation is to yourself. At that point, as with anything being sold, put yourself in the best light. (No, that’s not a thin line.)

On the other side, does you current situation preclude you from writing? Not at all. If you have talent, maybe this will become your new career. Besides, some of the most noteworthy authors have started well after their fifth decade. You want proof? Consider Nirad Chaudhuri’s “Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” It was published at the start of his second century on this planet.

Your agent is a business person, as are you, and you’re both looking for each other. Honesty and salesmanship is necessary at both positions.

Until my next post, my all your books become best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze