Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What to do when you put on your promotional hat

This is a posting aimed more at you author types out there, but for those readers among Type M’s audience, it may also be illuminating, so please stick with me here.

As discretely as I can (because I really detest those authors whose every word seems aimed at “Buy my novel!”), I’ve made it clear on Type M that I have a novel coming out in the fall. Well, and good. With June about to show its face, though, it’s time to get serious about rolling out the promotion that will be my responsibility.

For a lower midlist author like me, most of the hands-on stuff is what I’m expected to handle (signings, readings, interviews). I can call on my publisher’s very overworked promotional staff (2 publicists and 102 books this year – just do the math) for a bit of help, but obviously, my welcome will be worn out there pretty quickly.

So it’s up to me.

As Barbara pointed out recently, this weekend is Canada’s mystery conference, Bloody Words, so this is my first real chance to do a little spade work for the fall. If you’re going to be at BW and speak to me, you will probably be a guinea pig for what I call my “verbal sales pitch”.

This is a critical sales tool. It was explained to me by the redoubtable Robert Sawyer (the very excellent – and successful – SF writer) as the exact same thing that screen writers have to do when pitching their ideas to producers. Simply stated, what you need to be able to do is make your book seem irresistable to potential purchasers in one minute or less. Anything more than that, and you will probably fail.

I’ve been doing this for several releases now and it’s a technique that does work. It’s very akin to writing ad copy. Here are some things I’ve learned:

  • It’s got to be succinct and have several hooks. I come up with various versions that I hope will stick the hook firmly in.As the promotion goes on, I confine myself to one or two of them. 
  • It takes a while to come up with just the correct approach, so don’t be afraid to change things up. 
  • You want to give too little information rather than too much.
  • You have to be able to deliver your pitch confidently, almost like lines in a play, so practise! It really helps. 
  • Record it so you can hear how you’re speaking (no ums and ahs). Video is even better.
  • Above all, avoid sounding like you’re desperate for them to buy the book! Confidence is the key.

Now if you’re saying, “I can’t do stuff like this. I’m not an outgoing person,” all I can say is that you must overcome this. Think of it as acting. Everyone was in a school play. If you could do that, you can do this. You may even find that you enjoy it!

So, here’s the one-liner I came up with for The Fallen One: “This novel is about an opera singer who sees dead people.”

Yesterday was “Columbus Day” here at Type M for Murder. Aline’s post was number 1492! She should win a prize of some sort, I guess.


Charlotte Hinger said...

It's hard to think pitch and keep it short. It takes a lot more work than going on and on.

Starr Reina said...

This is very informative. I especially found it interesting that you should pitch a book in one minute or less. I'm assuming you could use the same premise when pitching with written words such as a synopsis. If so, I'm sure one would need to limit the number of words. Such as the 'upper fold' of a computer screen when capturing someone's attention on a website or the like.