Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Selling Self, Selling Ideas, Selling Books

This article first appeared in MediaWise, publicist Don Otis's newsletter. It's reposted here with his permission.

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One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Do interviews help sell books?” My answer is always the same, “Sometimes.” This is clearly not the answer most people want to hear. Publicity is not a hard science; it is a soft science. There are many variables that go into making a successful interview. But there is one overriding component that makes a difference. Let me give you one example . . .

I have booked many people on The 700 Club through the years. Because it has such a large national audience most authors believe just being on the show will bring instant success. It doesn’t. I have seen as few as seven responses to as many as 13,000 phone calls. What makes the difference? The couple who saw the greatest response tapped into a felt need. They told their story, how they were about to divorce, and what turned things around. The wife said, “I realized that if anything was going to happen, I needed to be the first to change.” She did. And as a result of her change, her husband softened and changed too.

When listeners or viewers are desperate for answers to their most pressing needs, meeting their felt need is what creates the synergy that generates a positive response. Think about your own life. If you are in a fledgling marriage, have a prodigal child, lost a job, or have a major health issue, what’s foremost on your mind? Your problem. If someone steps into your world and offers a solution, you are open to whatever they have to say that will address the challenges you face. These felt needs beg for real world answers – not just a Bible verse or someone preaching about why you need greater faith.

To the extent that you can identify and tap into a person’s felt need, your chances of selling your book or product increase exponentially. While this may not sound very spiritual, the truth is we write books to help people, and getting your book into their hands is part of the equation. This is not just some magic formula or way to manipulate an audience. There are only human needs and human wants and reaching out to meet these needs is part of what Christ calls us to. While not all books have an obvious felt need, there are other important elements to help sell books through an interview. One of these is the amount of enthusiasm you convey. And no matter how good of an interview you give, you must drive people to your product. Make it easy and quick to find your book – online bookstores or website. And offer a value-added incentive – an autographed copy or a second book for half price.


—Don S. Otis is the president of Veritas Communications, a publicity agency that has scheduled more than 30,000 interviews since 1991. He is the author of five books and has hosted his own radio show and produced radio and television shows in Los Angeles and Denver.


















Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Remove the Barriers in Fiction

This article, written by literary agent Karen Ball, first appeared on the Steve Laube Agency blog. It's used here with her permission.

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Few things empower fiction better than well-developed characters. Which is why you don’t want to create unintentional barriers between your characters and your readers. What barriers, you ask? Well, here’s one that affects POV characters:

John knew he was about to learn something important.

Do you see it? The barrier? No? How about here…

Sally realized she wasn’t getting it.

This barrier is kind of like those rotten little sugar ants that one day are not to be seen, and the next day are crawling all over your counter. You had no idea they were lurking there, unseen, and suddenly they’re everywhere! This sneaky barrier skitters into our writing when we’re not looking and pushes the reader just a step away from our character.

Still not sure what it is? Then consider this. We’re still in John’s and Sally’s POVs:

He was about to learn something important.

She wasn’t getting it.

Yup, it’s the knew and realized. If you guessed it, congrats! If you didn’t, not to worry. Now you know.

When writing a POV character, don’t tell us he or she has realized, or knows, or sees, or hears something. Just show the realizing, knowing, seeing, and so on. Because the fact is, if the POV character didn’t realize, know, see, or whatever, we couldn’t either since we’re perceiving the story through them. So this is not only a barrier to the characters, but it’s redundant.

So not:

Bill saw the man coming toward him.

But

A man came toward him.

It’s not a big change, but it’s one that removes a layer of distance—a barrier, in essence—between the reader and your character. Rather than being told about something, the reader experiences it with the character. After all, that’s much of the power of fiction, that our readers experience the journey and the story with the characters. And part of our job as writers is to ensure they can do that with as few barriers as possible.

—Karen Ball has worked as an editor for several publishers, including Tyndale, Zondervan, and B&H. She is a literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 5 of 5)

Let your genre choose you. That probably sounds strange, but I believe that each serious writer has potential to do well in at least one area. And there are any number of ways you let the genre choose you. I’ve previously mentioned your passion and asking writer friends.

I’m a serious Christian and I pray daily for my writing. I began to write when I was a pastor and wrote and sold about 100 articles before I wrote my first book. For the first six or seven years, I rewrote my sermons. From there I branched out into other areas. In an earlier blog, I mentioned choosing your rut. But that’s after you’ve begun to establish yourself.

I became a ghostwriter because I wrote a novel and, at the recommendation of a successful author, sent it to her editor. He read it, rejected it, and said, “Too slow for today’s market, but . . .” And that’s where the door opened for me. “But you have the ability to get inside other people,” he said.
“I’d like you to become a ghostwriter for our publishing house.”

Even though I’d never tried it, I agreed and did 35 books for that publishing house. That’s why I say, let the genre choose you.

Because I’m a Christian, I could say that God intervened (and I believe that) or as my Buddhist friend said to me, “You were open to the universe.” My agnostic neighbor likes to refer to circumstances. Regardless of how you phrase it, my advice remains.

Be open to possibilities; 
let your genre choose you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 4 of 5)

If you have a narrow focus, be careful. Once you start publishing books in one genre, you’re branded. If you’re a novelist, it’s difficult to move into nonfiction. Your fan base stays with you because you write in the area where they want to read. If you switch, they probably won’t, and it means starting over again.

When I think along that line, I remember our years living in rural Kenya. During the long rains (when it rained day and night), the only way we could travel was to pick a rut and stay with it because our tires sank several inches. Trying to get out of that mired track often meant being stuck and unable to move in any direction.

That’s how I think of specialized writing. It’s easy to follow the same rut, if you enjoy it. Before I specialized in ghostwriting, I wrote articles on marriage—a lot of them—and one publisher asked me to write The Encyclopedia of Christian Marriage, which I did. Afterward, I decided I wanted out of that field.

I chose to generalize as early as 1980, knowing that it would be difficult or nearly impossible to sell in more than one genre. Even now, I make my living as a ghostwriter/collaborator. I write in other nonfiction fields, but none of them sell as well. My brand, my public identity, comes from my specialized field.

If you want to be a successful author, 
choose your rut.

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Are you interested in ghostwriting or collaborating and don't know where to start? Check out Cec's new book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method. It'll answer your questions and get you on the right track.