Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Reality of Promotion, part 3

Blechta at it again.

In reading over my previous two blog entries, I notice that they come across as a bit too much like complaining. That's definitely not the tone I wanted to set. None of us here at TypeM have sales that remotely approach what "A-list" authors have, so it's completely unrealistic thinking that we're going to get the promotional treatment that A-list authors get. We can't even expect much help from our publishers. They just don't have the money to promote everyone (They might have more, though, if they used a bit of creativity.) Yes, we could wring our hands and bemoan the unfairness of it all, but that ain't going to get us very far, is it? If we don't get off our butts and promote our own books, it isn't going to get done and the only thing that will result from that is we're going to sell fewer books. The final result will then be that we'll get dropped by our publishers.

So let's talk about how we can at least give ourselves a fighting chance!

But first a caveat: this is the way I see it. That doesn't make it "right". There's no right way or wrong way to promote. Anyone who tells you that they know "the only right way to promote" is either deluded, lying or trying to sell you something (like promotion). I can only say that the things outlined below have worked for me and have proven effective.

#1: You must know what you're going to say about your book. Nothing is worse than to have someone ask you, "What is your book about?" and then have to fumble with words while you try to figure out what to say. Write it out if you have to. There's nothing wrong with this – assuming you can memorize and deliver your lines without sounding like you're reading a part (a big no-no: that comes across as completely phony). What will you say to booksellers when you're trying to line up a signing in their store? How about librarians? Reading groups?

Doing this effectively means knowing how to pitch your book. Here's an exercise: write out a little spiel that lasts no more than one minute, explaining what your book is really about. Don't give an extensive plot summary. A little hit of plot to convey context is all you need. What you want to work on is the theme of the book. Is the heart of your story revenge? The results of random violence? Is your book about hatred and the damage that can wreak? About your protagonist being forced to confront his/her shortcomings? About the power of friendship? It might help if I said, "How might an English teacher explain your book to students?" When was the last time you saw a movie trailer and it made you desperate to see that movie? What did it say or show you? That's what you want to come up with. It might also help to think of it like pitching a movie to a Hollywood producer: "You got 60 seconds, kid. Give me your best shot."

It has to be short and punchy, compelling. You'll have no more than a minute to sell your book to that person standing in front of the table at the bookstore. Go overtime by much and you'll notice the person's eyes begin to glaze over. You've probably lost that sale.

Once you have something you think is effective, try it out on some people – both those who have read the book and those who have yet to enjoy it. Edit it, refine it until it glistens and then refine it some more.

The delivery of your pitch must be enthusiastic without going over the top, confident without appearing cocky or conceited. Tape yourself (video is best so you can get the full effect). Once you're actually delivering your spiel, you have to think of yourself as an actor! Listen to your tone of voice, the speed at which you talk. Do you come across well? Be hard on yourself. This is important!

Writing advertising copy – which is what you're doing here – is a craft in itself, but if you can already write a novel (and a future award-winner, at that!), it isn't so hard and you might even find it enjoyable. Actually, I consider it part of the novel-writing process. If you can't get someone excited about reading your book, who can?

Next blog entry, I'll talk about the other 3 "necessities" of doing a successful signing.

1 comment:

Vicki Delany said...

Perfect timing, Rick. I have a radio interview tomorrow with a Los Angeles station. I have five minutes, which is nothing. I was planning on winging it. After reading your post, I've written down what to me is the essence of the book.