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Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 7

PART SEVEN: Your Promotional Plan

Trust me, you NEED a promotional plan. A good, strong, well organized and pin point targeted promotional plan. I’ve been in PR, marketing and promotions most of my professional life and this is truly a subject you simply can’t ignore. I’ve seen it happen in every industry, not just the business of being a writer. It goes back to the basics of being a professional.

The basics are the nuts and bolts and these principals have been vital since the cavemen convinced each other to trade shells and feathers for goods and services. If you don’t tell someone you’re an expert at something, how will they know? If you don’t show them your skill, how can they decide they want it? If you don’t promote … you basically don’t exist.

Promotion is vital and it’s vital early. As writers, we’re all told to have a web presence. I have heard several people tell me that yes, they have a website for their book but it’s basically static. Not good. You MUST update your book and your author websites often, just like your blog. Granted, a blog may receive far more self gratification through responses and viewer numbers, but don’t confuse numbers with creating awareness. Your sites are where your creative juices and polished talent get to really shine.

Update your websites at least once a month, more if possible with anything that works – news, snippets of cut scenes, interviews with your characters. Remember, a writer has an unwritten agreement with a reader. If they come to your website, they need to know that you were there too, that you continue to talk with them and that you are aware of them. The other side of the coin is a static website, one that gives a reader/viewer/follower no good reason whatsoever to pop by at all. If you write literary novels, add a page that can feature your research techniques. Fantasy? Explore fantasy through the ages. Update information as to where you are on your next book, or how to buy your current book. List where you will be speaking or signing your book and what events you’ll be attending. Do small pieces on your characters. Be sure to put sample chapters up (more than a small excerpt )to hook your visitors. Make sure you have a ‘contact the author’ button so visitors can communicate with you. Embed your blog.

Your websites should NEVER be stagnant. They need to be living, breathing sales entities AND you need to tell as many people as possible that there’s always something new to see there.

Another promotional tool is social networking to shout out your accomplishments, but always remember that social networking loses its power when all the viewers see is you trying to sell your book. Be a person, make some friends, have some fun and your new found circle will be interested in knowing more.

Find other venues to promote yourself and your work. Step outside the box. Find other websites to become visible and active within. Find interest groups and connect on a common subject with your book’s topic. Make friends with other authors. Share excerpts with them. Look for other authors to promote when you tweet or blog or update your own site. Friends help friends and friends trust friends. It’s a basic key to good promotion. Look into free and minimal cost promotional services. Book videos and wonderful interviews you give mean nothing if you don’t promote them and no one ever sees them.

When do you start all this? Here’s the kicker, you should have started when you got the idea to write a book. Honest. When an agent or publisher is interested in you, the first thing he or she does is Goggle your name. When was the last time you Googled yourself? It might be a good time to check your online presence by taking a look. If you have little or no presence, no matter how great your book is, you may discover that not only is an agent or publisher less willing to look at you seriously … but so are prospective buyers for your book. They just don’t know you exist and it’s your job to tell them.

Promoting yourself and your book should be easy and exciting. After all, you are passionate about your book or you wouldn’t have written it … and second, making friends and telling your story as an author is a fabulous, quickening experience.

Get out your notebook and let’s get started.

  • Review your products (that’s you and your book) and clarify your message. This is vital, you do have a message, whether you write non-fiction how-to books or supernatural fantasy novels. Hone in on your message.
  • Understand your competition. Take some time to look at other authors and books in the same genre. Examine what they’re doing to promote, track their success and understand how the market accepts, understands and embraces them. Nothing serves a promotional plan better than knowing what works and doesn’t work … especially when someone else did all the legwork. (BTW, with a little luck, someone someday will be shadowing your promotional efforts too.)
  • Perfect your multi-level strategy. Determine how many powerful targets you want to approach and take aim. Good promotional strategy speaks to at least three targets in as many as a hundred different ways. Press releases. Social networking. Electronic media. Publications. Live appearances. And much, much more. Where, when and how do you want to shout out your message? Plan carefully and keep records. After all, any good promotional plan will happen again and again, but how do you know if, for example, buying a billboard on Sunset Boulevard actually worked if you don’t track its response? How many people came to a speaking engagement purely by word of mouth, how many from info in your Author Website Media Room, how many from press releases printed in newspapers or magazines, how many from a previous interview at a radio station or online blog? Know these things and every time you regenerate your promotional plan, you’ll be able to tighten it more and more until it holds nothing but the elements that work best for you and your book.
  • Careful with your timing and budget. There are good times and there are not so good times to promote. If your book is about a tsunami and one hits an island somewhere in the south Pacific right before your book is released, is it good timing or bad timing? If your book is about zombies, still unpublished but represented by an agent and there are fifteen new zombie books hitting the shelves in the next eight months, is it a good time to promote or not? Is it worth the time to drive across the state (or across the country) to speak at bookstores, libraries and writing groups? Is $10 too much to pay for an online ad? Is $800 too much to pay for a book video? The answer to all these questions lies in just two more questions … What value do you get for your dollar and/or effort? What’s the payoff? The answer to those questions helps you be more careful and efficient with your time, promotional timing and budget. For example, an $800 book video that also offers promotion for the video that can be tracked, as opposed to a book video made by your geek video-making friend then plopped on YouTube, may make you think twice. Is the expenditure worth it? If you must spend not only the time working with your geek friend to create your free book video, then spend additional hours trying to get everyone to pop in and see it, maybe it just doesn’t compare to paying a legitimate company $800 for a professionally created book video that’s guaranteed to appear on real television. Think value. If driving across the country requires staying in motels then speaking to massive groups of people waiting to see you and buy your book, there’s the payoff. If your zombie novel kicks butt over any other zombie book because it’s so unique, that’s counting coup. If your book sales soar because your romance book video appeared on the Lifetime Channel, you win. If not? Back to the drawing board. Being careful with your timing and budget means doing all the homework first.
  • Good follow-up matters! Even if you think it doesn’t, it does. If someone comments on your blog, respond immediately. If a fan sends you an email, return an email. If you send one press release to a newspaper and they don’t print it, keep that contact on your media list and send the next release and the next and the next. Eventually, they will print your news. If a reporter wants to talk, of course you would respond in a heartbeat. If someone wants to sell you a service, listen to them too, it might have value (if not for you, perhaps for another author you know, thus you’ll create two friends). If a fan writes every time you post a new entry on your book website, thank them for their loyalty. These follow up activities are easy, usually free and worth millions. Never leave anyone unanswered, and never forget to talk to that person, business, media outlet, agent, editor, publisher or movie studio when they ask to talk to you. And don’t ever forget – the lowly fan who simply posts a happy face on your blog is as important and Mr. Movie Studio Man. Good follow-up matters, because it’s how we build our public and fan base. It’s why people like Niel Gaiman and Russell Crowe use twitter, it’s the reason authors have facebook fan pages, it’s the reason the newspapers eventually do respond to your press releases and grow to respect you. Nothing makes a newspaper person happier than good follow-up.

PARADIGM WARRIORS

Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

writerchef@sbcglobal.net

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets

Lesson 6. Your Exposure Plan

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Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 6

PART SIX: Your Exposure Plan

Too much exposure? Not enough exposure? Exposure of what? Who really cares? And when is it time for brownies and milk? Truffles and fine aged bourbon? A good cigar? Whipped cream cake?

Yup, that’s pretty much how I feel too by this point in the game. You’ve struggled through determining how to be the perfectly balanced writer and businessperson, you’ve determined how long your book (and commitment to it) will be, you’ve discovered and uncovered unique hooks and new markets for your book, and you’ve separated your author platform from your book platform. You’ve identified target markets and all along the way, polished and honed your work. Definitely … it’s time for a little indulgence, and exposure is part of that indulgence, believe it or not.

Remember all those stories about the pretty girls who would send themselves flowers and candy just to make sure the object of their affection knew that they were indeed desirable and worth having? What fun (and I’m not admitting I ever did anything of the sort!), right? Now, creating exposure isn’t quite like that, but it serves the same purpose by clearly stating that your book is something desirable and worth reading. Without having to send yourself fake acceptance letters from bogus publishers, there are several ways to get exposure without cheating, lying or breaking the bank.

But …

Before we move on, I want to explore that image of pretty girl sending herself flowers a little further. Oh to be her. To have that kind of confidence! To know, without a doubt that she is a real catch and point it out so blatantly. I talk to writers and even published authors every day and am always shocked and amazed by two things.

  • The lack of confidence
  • The inability to see the focus

Lack of Confidence

As writers we start out feeling pretty good. I call this the Germination Period, the point where we realize we really do have a unique and powerful story to tell and the ability to write it. Then we go through the actual work, the writing, the critique groups, the mentorship, the rewriting and the polishing. This is the Lookie what I can do! Phase. We’ve defended and learned, grown and sharpened our craft, then we go into the Dark Realm Period and that’s where everything gets haywire. The Dark Realm? Querying, getting rejection after rejection and somewhere in the shuffle of kind and not-so-kind rejections, we lose the girl sending herself flowers. We forget who we are and begin to feel like failures. There’s only one way to combat the dark realm period. Get the hell out of the dark realm by moving faster ahead. Face facts, there are a lot of stones on the road to Oz and you are going to trip on every one of them. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember … it only takes one “yes”. Keep that original confidence, in fact, make it stronger as you go.

The Inability to see the Focus

Okay, now this one really baffles me. Aside from fear of rejection, almost all writers and authors have one other career destroying flaw – the inability to see the true focus of their journey. It never fails, every time I talk to a writer or author it’s the same story. They think that it’s not time to expose their work yet, that the book isn’t done or represented or contracted or published yet, so it’s too early to actually expose it or even plan for its success. This is a fundamental problem that must be addressed and obliterated. First of all, and I know this may sound crazy insane to some of you but … your book is NOT the product!

YOU ARE!

Honestly, it’s YOU you will be exposing, promoting and getting people excited about. It’s YOU who will be sharing the journey and excitement about writing your book. It’s YOU! How do I know this? Simple. Ask yourself a simple question. Is this the only book you will ever write? If so, we have nothing more to discuss. Sayonara. Have a nice life. But I can tell you one thing; I have yet to come across a writer who seriously aspires to be a one book wonder. YOU are the first product, YOU are the last product. YOU are THE product. Once a writer focused on that simple truth, everything gets easier. And of course, it gets more active.

Activity buffers the rejections. It plays into the universe’s plan for advancement against all odds. We didn’t write our books on a cave wall, right? Advancement started when man started and now we can move into the magic activity of getting exposure!

Here are the seven sexy ways to get exposure and recognition early and for a long time.

  1. Be consistent. I’d like to start with just a brief few words about consistency. A writer has an unspoken agreement with their readers, whether those readers are twitter followers, FaceBook friends, blog followers or critique group associates. That agreement is to be consistent. Period. It’s a promise that you’ll be there, keep writing, keep being the nice person you are and continue to earn their loyalty. You can’t keep followers or friends if you’re only around sporadically. Be honest, be interesting but most importantly, be there.
  2. Intensify your social networking. Make it more targeted. A friend of mine is a pilot so we’ll use him here. Suppose you’re a pilot. If you’ve written a book about or surrounding aviation, make sure your followers on Twitter and friends on FaceBook are, if not pilots and aviation workers, at least interested in the field. Talk about your story … without talking about your story. I know, it sounds complex but imagine yourself at a cocktail party when someone your talking with mentions a flight to Bali they recently took. You smoothly mention a flight you piloted there, what happened on your layover and that the experience was so interesting, you even put it in your book. Easy conversation is what Twitter and FaceBook require for optimum results. Your followers and friends need to know and like YOU first, then learn you’re writing a book, then want to know more about the book. Good job at the cocktail party. You’ve just gotten several future sales. Go to the head of the class.
  3. Use your expertise. A pilot knows a mess of things outside flying a plane but still connected with the experience of flying. Are there areas of special interest about a plane that not only hook into your book, but also spark the imagination? For example, are there little known facts that prospective buyers of your book might like to know? How many times birds bump into a plane, for example. If that’s something interesting and in a small way connected to your book, why not create a blog, written by a bird who often bumps into planes. On the ground, in the air, during landing or take off. The Bruised Bird Blogger (probably a professor-ish pelican with an elegant lisp) could expand the entries beyond the thud and resulting dizziness into what’s going on with the plane itself. He can be the expert passing on knowledge about take off and landing, about what he sees through the windows of the cockpit and the expressions on the passengers’ faces during landing. It could be fun to write, it could be entertaining to read, it could be informative but most of all, it could promote your expertise. It exposes YOU as the author, the Bruised Bird Blogger and the future best seller you’re writing. This is part of what makes agents and publishers think twice before saying “no thanks”. This kind of exposure says that you’re in this as deep as an author can get.
  4. A friend tells a friend who tells two friends who … Never underestimate the power of “word of mouth”. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the more people who know you are writing a book, the better your chances of exposing it. Everyone you work with should know you’re writing a book. Your dentist, your vet, your drycleaner, your gardener. Spread the love further. Expose it in your email tags, even if it’s something as simple as a line stating, “Writing a book, pray for me”.
  5. Be a joiner. There are writing and author groups everywhere in the world. If you can’t find one in your town or city, look online. Join Linkedin, I found a few wonderful writing groups there. The cool thing about joining writing and author groups, aside from the wonderful sharing of information and experience, is the fact that it makes us accountable. You tell someone you’re going to write 10,000 words by Thursday or you intend to finish a plot or chapter by Friday and guess what? Someone knows so you have to do it, you just have to. There are no excuses for failing a serious commitment. A promise broken is one of those stones we trip on along the way. Making ourselves accountable to someone helps keep us all honest and moving ahead. Another BIG benefit to joining groups is simple … it’s another universe, another place to expose your book and yourself as an author. Never forget, authors buy books as well as write them.
  6. Unofficial reviews work. If you have friends who’ve read your book or sneak peek chapter of it (no matter where it is in its process; finished, looking for critique or in the high polish lane) and they love it, get them to say so. Ask them to comment on your blog, or talk about it on Twitter. Ask them to write a guest blog review or tell their friends what they think. Nothing gets more ears perked than when a discussion about a book spontaneously happens on Twitter between a few people. They might mention one of your characters, you will respond, someone else chimes in with a comment then before you know it, someone asks what this is all about and the ball rolls further. Ask for written reviews every time someone reads you work and use those comments to expose the fact that you’re writing a book people really like! This is a perfect thing to put on your book website too, as well as on your author website. Of course, as real reviews come in after you really do make the best sellers list, you will always look fondly on the reviews that came before it was even finished.
  7. FREE!!! January Magazine. BookBuzzer. Whispers of the Muse. And there are many, many more. What are they? Free or extremely inexpensive ways to get exposure for your book, about your book and in some cases, your book doesn’t even have to be published yet. Take a day and explore the internet for free tools to create an exposure for you as a writer and your book in the works. Write eZines and blogs or even guest blogs about the writing process. Create venues to share the frustrations and thrills of your journey. Nothing wrong with a writers’ night out or online pub (as in publication) crawl. Actively look for people to read sneak peeks chapters of your book and ask for feedback.

Getting exposure is easy. Keeping it going and growing is fun. All you need to do is be creative, keep your confidence and keep your focus! And maybe send yourself some flowers too.

PARADIGM WARRIORS

Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

writerchef@sbcglobal.net

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets


Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 5

PART FIVE: Target Markets

Anyone out there an archer? Or maybe you target shoot a gun or rifle? Anyone ever play “Pin the Tail on The Donkey”? Real different things, serious target shooting and pinning asses while blindfolded, right?

That’s kind of what author target marketing is all about. It’s a pretty simple concept, finding the target and shooting for it, even in the realms of marketing for authors, it seems so obvious it could be a no brainer, and guess what? I’m not here to tell you otherwise. It is a no brainer.

If you’ve written a murder mystery, you know your target. If you’ve written a paranormal romance, contemporary romance, erotic romance or gay romance, you don’t need to go far to find your target markets. If you’ve written a memoir, non-fic, how-to or cookbook, easy peasy, the target is clear as a bell. Everyone who markets anything on the planet can be fairly successful shooting for the obvious targets.

Today, we’re going to talk about finding, defining and aiming for deeper targets, the ones that have the potential to take your book and catapult it further than its competition. Ready? Seriously, are you ready? Because this process is not as easy as you might think. This requires peeling away a few layers of plot and character and skin and bone to find the untapped markets for your book that no one else thought about. But … there are a few rules.

Rule Number One – This is not something you can hire anyone to do for you. It’s not something your agent or publisher should already have in the can. It’s not something anyone can do LIKE you either. This may be the most personal thing you ever do as an author. And, it requires serious introspection.

Rule Number Two – You still must go for the obvious targets, keep your book platform and author platform active and alive while strategically pinpointing that deeper target and rifling for it.

Rule Number Three – If something doesn’t work, try again. If it still doesn’t work, look deeper. Hope you brought your diving gear. Here we go.

The best way to explain this kind of approach is to give an example. Let’s take a hypothetical book and plot. In the fiction, Anomalies Numbered, the protagonist has the unique job of counting and cataloging incongruities in nature; the odd earthquake where no earthquake has happened in recorded history; the single tree with golden leaves in the middle of summer and green leaves in autumn; the influx in requests for exorcisms over the past decade. The plot reveals a supernatural conspiracy against man orchestrated by either heaven or hell. The protagonist, we’ll call him Butler Blue, is a pragmatic man, a handsome man who doesn’t know he’s handsome, not a brave man, but a man about to uncover something that could prove him to be either a hero or a coward.

Where are your standard targets for Anomalies Numbered? Obviously anywhere supernatural fiction lovers are. Any vehicle those readers follow and frequent. Easy. You create your twitter list to target those readers, create hash marks and a strong following. You develop a book website that oozes supernatural adventure. You develop a book video to support the book and you create interaction with prospective fans either on FaceBook or interactive web programs. You develop and grow a hefty email list and you make sure everyone who is somehow touched by your efforts hears about your soon to be released book often. Simple. Everyone (smart) does it this way.

Now, let’s look for the not-so-obvious targets. Aside from readers who love supernatural adventures, who else would find Anomalies Numbered a fascinating, read? Going back to the basic plot, we have a few elements that could help locate these illusive deeper targets. The book seems to have three deeper targets.

  • People who love trivia and/or collecting strange occurrences. I used to have a friend, Joe Vaccarro, like that. He was a walking Trivia Game. Everything out of his mouth was interesting and entertaining. He lived to see the surprise on your face when he spat out bits of unimportant (to me) information, like the fact that a pig sweats through its feet. I thought Joe was unique among men. Not so. I’ve come across so many people like him. They fall under the category of people who love to play and win games … he who dies with the most trivia packed in their brain wins! Where do you find those people? Gaming groups? Information gatherer groups? They’re out there. They’re on line. There are thousands of them and they might be a powerful deeper target market for Anomalies Numbered. (Love ya, Joe!)
  • Skeptics and researchers. Protagonist Butler Blue is a skeptic and a research expert. Maybe in his adventures he belongs to a group of skeptics or is part of a collaboration of research experts who find new and unfailing ways of discovering truth. If the book is written from a pragmatic man’s point of view, maybe the author should research real life research groups and make friends. Since your plot exposes real and fictional natural anomalies, you’ll already connect with those people though common interest. Voila, another deeper target to enhance your obvious target. NOTE: those groups can also be a great resource for developing the discovery elements for your plot. ANOTHER REASON to begin building your book platform early, right?
  • How about good vs. evil? There’s a clear intent within the plot to extrapolate not only if the threat to man comes from a good or an evil source, but to also examine exactly what is good and evil. That sounds like a deeper target market to me. Imagine developing a website totally committed to that issue in connection with the events, real and fictional, in the book. A website called “Numbering Anomalies”, with an interactive area, embedded blog on anomalies discovered all over the world every day, and expansion on events taking place in the book. This creates another follower target altogether … another deeper target market.

These are just a few possibilities. No one knows your book like you do. You wrote it, you labored over it, you can feel it, page by page inside your soul and only you know the little nuggets of possibilities inside that manuscript.

I think a major focus for any one starting a novel is to identify the obvious marketing reader targets and as many secondary targets as possible AS SOON AS THE PLOT IS PLANNED! After that, you can keep your eyes peeled for other possible connections as you do the writing, and still others when you do your edits. The key here is to KNOW ALL YOUR TARGETS by the time you pitch the book to an agent. If you’ve written a great book AND know your targets, trust me, that agent is going to want to know you.

PARADIGM WARRIORS

Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

writerchef@sbcglobal.net

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform


Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 4

PART FOUR: Author Platform and Book Platform

I recently talked with several authors and writers about their Author Platforms and their Book Platforms. I was pretty shocked to realize that most either didn’t realize they needed both platforms … and the remainder were under the mistaken idea that these two vital elements of a well designed Book Business Plan were somehow interchangeable.

Um … not. Let’s get a little clarity.

WHAT IS AN AUTHOR PLATFORM?

Look in the mirror. It’s YOU. It’s all the elements that make you an author worth reading … no matter what you write. It’s the promotion of the author you are and the author you want to be. It promotes YOU as the BRAND.

I had an interesting question the other day. The writer asked about writing several genres and if this is not only possible, but functional and profitable.

The answer is a big YES.

You see, if you have made YOU the brand, your book is just one of many kinds of books you will write. Hershey’s Chocolates makes chocolate bars, Hershey’s Kisses, Mars Bars, etc., ect., ect. YOU as a brand can support whatever you churn out with smooth professionalism because you’ve made it clear to the world that YOU are an author … not just an author of romance or adventure or fantasy or YA or non-fiction. YOU are an author first.

How do you create an Author Platform? It’s not easy but it’s not so hard either. First, you’ll need an Author Website that focuses purely on the career you’re building. That’s the place you keep an overall, easily downloadable media kit. That’s the place you talk about ALL your work, what you’re writing and what you’re thinking about writing.

Making yourself a brand requires a clear focus on YOU as the author, spreading yourself to all the genres you write and all the venues you can get. An Author Website has an imbedded blog with all things about the author, promoting them, showing their humanity through endorsing the charities they support, and exposing them as an accessible “celebrity”.

WHAT IS A BOOK PLATFORM?

Now this is something a little different. There are no short cuts here … your book must have its own identity, an identity that tightly hooks into the genre and genre readers. It needs its own website and possibly its own blog. A Book Platform is everything that promotes the BOOK.

Now, I understand this may sound a little confusing, but even though an Author Platform and Book Platform are two different things, they do strategically hinge upon one another. So, whatever your book does … launch, be featured in a book club, make the best seller list … will be repeated in your Author Platform. BUT … whatever you do in your author platform may or may not be mentioned in your Book Website. The Book Website will have a media page too, with a press kit that only covers that specific book and no others.

One more note. If you write in two genres, you will need TWO BOOK PLATFORMS, TWO BOOK WEBSITES and TWO SEPARATE focuses, totally geared toward that genre and those specific fans. If you write several different kinds of books within one genre – for example, subgenres of romance – you can probably get away with one Book Platform, but only as long as you keep each subgenre neatly partitioned for it’s own following. Knowing and respecting your reader/fans is very important. Remember, one fan might adore vampire romance stories, where another might be hemo-phobic and turned off. Keep things neatly categorized and clean, thus serving each genre fan base with that specific Book Platform.

It’s a strange line between Author Platform and Book Platform that should not get blurred. For example, if you have created a charity-building resource through your non-fiction book about the dangers to wild geese in northern California, you would not discuss it on your Book Website or blog for a book in a different genre. No “save the geese” banners should appear in your werewolf paranormal romance Book Website – unless of course your werewolf saves geese and you can do some genius cross-marketing there.

A brief note on cross-marketing – It’s not impossible to cross-market. I have written a paranormal romance series currently represented by my agent. I’m also a retired chef, so I’m writing a cookbook series entitled Who Says Vampires Don’t Eat? Recipes for the Loving Vampires in Your Life. I plan to do some serious cross-marketing. It’s not for every variety of genres, but it’s something to always keep your eyes peeled for. Cross-marketing is the only time you should see heavy connections between an Author Platform and a Book Platform (or two). Ah but cross-marketing is a subject for another Author Success series altogether.

Generally, an author who does not keep Author and Book Platforms mutually exclusive is losing the powerful tool of branding themselves, and thus limiting the number of audiences that author will be known by.

A Book Platform should be targeted and clear of any superfluous information that does not serve to promote THE BOOK and only THE BOOK.

So … where are you with your Author and Book Platform exposure?

PARADIGM WARRIORS

Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

writerchef@sbcglobal.net

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long


Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 3

PART THREE: How Long?

Imagine for a moment that you’re a building contractor and talking with a homeowner about redesigning their kitchen. You’d be required to listen to their desires then explain how you plan to make those dreams come true. You’d be expected to come up with a few bells and whistles and cost cutting suggestions they hadn’t thought about and you’d be responsible for assuring that the project got done. Then what? The home owners will ask a series of “How” questions. “How much will it cost?” “How disrupted will my life be?” “How soon can I expect this to be finished?” If you answer all those questions to the customer’s satisfaction, they just may hire you for the job.

Now, put down the hammer and pick up your keyboard. You’re writing a book. For the purpose of this brief exercise, let’s imagine it’s a non-fiction book about kitchen herb gardening. You’re a closet foodie and an expert at it: your backyard rosemary bush is as big and wide and fragrant as a pine. Neighbors for blocks comment on the scent of your sweet basil. Every day you cook with freshly picked chives and thyme, cilantro and peppery parsley. It’s a hobby you love and you just know you can write a book that will make everyone else fall in love with it too.

To do a non-fiction book, the author is required to put together a proposal. It’s easier than you think. Imagine planting your garden or planning your kitchen renovation. All you need is to compile all then details in a clear fashion and cover all the bases. In the case of the gardening book, you are the contractor. Before you even start the project (write the words), you need to propose the plan and hope the homeowner (agent/publisher) chooses you. Now, for your book you’ll be gathering all the information that makes you an expert at kitchen herb gardening, from the first time you cooked with your grandma, to how you discovered that simple household vinegar sprayed along the fence kept certain pests away. You’ll decide on specific sections for the book and what you want in it. Then you’ll answer a series of “How” questions.

This is the exact same process used to build your Book Business Plan. And one of the most important “How” questions you must answer is, “How long?”

Yes, you’re writing fiction. No, you almost never need to write a proposal for fiction, although I have heard tell of how a few agents may require a proposal for a book series from first time authors. Putting together a proposal is a wise practice for any kind of writing. If nothing else, it compiles everything you need to know about your book, your plot, your marketing plan, your platform and your vision for the book.

Today though, all we need to talk about is … How long?

If your book was to be non-fiction, how long, or how many pages is vital for the publisher to determine the cost of producing the book. How many illustration? Color? Black and white? How many pages of reference information? Is there a bibliography?

But hey, for fiction, it doesn’t work that way. But oh … how long your book is or will be is very, very important. Word count places your book into specific categories, formulates genre specifications and helps publishers determine which imprint is most suited for the book. Here are a few notes.

According to Wikipedia

7,500 words and under – Short Story

7,500 to 17,500 words – Novelette

17,500 – 40,000 words – Novella

40,000 and up – Novel

Now, let’s explore further. These particular word counts seem to fit fine with traditional publishing,  self publishing, independent publishing and vanity presses. E-publishing may look at these word counts differently, possibly because of the screen reading nature of their product. For example, just yesterday I learned that Wild Child Publishing has temporarily capped the word count at 70,000 until July 1, 2010.

Traditional publishing looks at the word counts to further define where a book fits in its genre. Romance (most categories) can flow from 60,000 to 100,000, but Literary is traditionally on the higher end, from 100,000 +.

About now you’re thinking, “Why the hell do I need to know this? Isn’t that an editor’s responsibility? I’m a writer, I just want to let my story bloom, how many words it takes to get there is not my problem.”

Really?

Here’s my theory on this (and a few other topics we’ll be exploring in the Author Success Series). It’s a really good theory, so stick around just a few more minutes, okay. Here goes.

My theory, part 1 – If you want to be a competitive anything (swimmer, baker, ice dancer) you do specific things. You learn the skill, perfect it, research everything about it, know where, and when the competitions are, what’s required to compete, and who your competition is.

My theory, part 2 – If you’re a writer, author, or hopeful author and you don’t know your’re in competition, it might be a good time to open your eyes. Seriously. Just sayin’.

Any number of people can conceptualizing a great story. Far fewer can drum up the discipline to get it down on paper. Even fewer have the balls to show it to anyone, much less endure the difficulties of receiving and using criticism, determining which advice is good and choosing to take it, or plowing in for the next steps. If you get that far, you now need to hear the rejections (from rude and blunt to kind and helpful), hold your armor together, continue to dig into your manuscript to discover how to make it better then try again … and again … and again.

AND, the whole time you’re doing this, thousands of other author hopefuls are doing the exact same thing. THOUSANDS! What makes you stand apart? What makes you the one someone will take a second look at? Maybe your manuscript is better and that’s cool … but what say we polish your armor, boost your strength with the right weapons for battle (knowledge of the industry) and put you in the best light possible. If you understand one tiny bit more about a particular genre than the next hopeful author, you could get that boost up.

Agents and publishers are professionals. They want to work with professionals. Knowing how long your novel is tells them you are clearly aware of the requirements for your particular genre, their needs under that category, and (here’s the biggie) that you respect that knowledge. It tells them you’re competing for a coveted spot, that even if your manuscript might need a little tweaking and editing, as a professional, you don’t. It says you know the playing field and are ready to let the games begin.

My theory may seem silly, but what can it hurt? Have you ever hired an employee? What do you look for? What do you think your targeted agent or publisher is looking for. Figure it out and be that author.

How long is your book? I suppose I could really ask … How committed are you to reaching the top of your game? Being an author is a business, whether your goals are to break even, have more fans than God, or make a living. The publishing world is made up of professionals, and you are one of them. You can do this! I’m in the cheering section!

Any questions, just let me know.

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Note: I’ll be teaching a five day seminar on Creating an Effective Book Business Plan for Savvy Authors from May 31 to June 4 (scroll down to register) … and I’m currently putting together a non-fiction book proposal covering the subject. But for here and now, I’d like to address your requests for a little more.


Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 2

PART TWO: Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

I know, I know. I know what you’re thinking. “Sheesh, I haven’t even finished writing my book and this crazy woman is asking me to think about subject hooks and selling handles? Gimme a break!”

Nope, no breaks for you, simply because if you don’t think about these things now, you will be way behind the game when you need them. As I’ve said before (and will probably say a hundred more times), your success is completely pinged on growing the plan as you grow your book. Sounds strange, I’m sure, as many authors are not really positive what their book will be until it’s finished. Genres have split into as many species as arachnids (shiver). Even non-fiction subjects require extremely targeted making, for example, “sales” focuses are based on specific, very pinpointed situations, markets, products or services.

To begin, I’d like to refer you to Author Platform Building lesson 3, “What Makes you so Special?” There’s a creative thinking process (The Six Thinking Hats) there you should try. In that lesson, we touched on how to find unique subject hooks and selling handles. Today we’ll talk about how to implement what you discover.

In Author Platform Building, lesson 3, we explored three different kinds of books, a murder mystery, a nonfiction and a paranormal romance. For today, we’ll take the murder mystery, Tropical Murder, a little further with our exploration.

Tropical Murder represented a novel in need of a platform. Now, after reviewing what we discovered in Author Platform Building lesson 3, we know that it’s a book about a murder in the tropics and that the location and many scenes feature tropical fish, so the author has decided to pitch their hopeful (perhaps even unfinished as yet) book to pet stores that sell beautiful tropical fish. This is a very aggressive idea designed to break a whole new venue for the book. The author has established that people who love tropical fish would enjoy h/her novel, and that the pet stores already sell books, so why not novels. In the lesson, the author moved into creative solutions for making this happen. Here, we’ll break down the project into practical steps.

Getting your book into a pet store may or may not be breaking an untapped market, but it may at least serve as a double bump for your book. After the book is published, maybe the prospective readers has heard about Tropical Murder on twitter, from a friend or on Amazon – but seeing it where they buy their tank supplies (a place they never expected to see it) just may tip the scales. Our goal with creating unique hooks and selling handles is to always seek ways to tip those scales in our favor.

The first step is to put on your walking shoes and go look around. Explore every pet and tropical fish store you can find, independent and chains. Chat with the sales people and even the managers about what books they are carrying, why, and who they get them from. No need to seriously pitch your idea now, in fact, this would be a great time to say something like, “You know, when I sit in front of my tropical fish tank, it’s so relaxing I love to read.” Just let it lie there for now.

Next, you research further. If the pet store is an independent, who owns it? Who makes purchasing decisions? If it’s a chain, how do you contact the decision makers? Would this be a purchasing decision made by each manager or only through headquarters? Emails are as effective as phone calls for learning this information. No need to be cryptic, people are always requesting this kind of information and answers are always given.

If the store in question already carries fiction on their limited bookshelves, ask the decision maker how he/she chooses a book to offer their customers. Some questions you may not even have to ask, once you’ve opened the conversation, the contact my just pour out what you need to know.

If the store or chain does not and has never carried fiction with their books, don’t get afraid or defensive, simply ask why and let them explain. The answer may be as simple as they’ve never tried it before and that’s the perfect in for talking about your book.

Next, now that you’ve made friends with owners, managers and large chain pet store personnel, begin to brainstorm an event. It could be a book launch event complete with press releases naming the particular store. There could be joint advertising themes, like a discount on angelfish for everyone who buys a book or attends the reading/signing book event. Let your imagination run wild. Start thinking about creating connections between your book and the store. Perhaps you can have fish tank skimmers placed inside the book as a free bookmarker. Maybe you can go as far as have some tropical fish food imprinted with the title of the book. Have large posters for the store windows and a banner (which you will need anyway for future events) featuring the book title.

Everything else would fall under the category of creating an effective book event, and we will cover that in another blog lesson. The focus today is to help you understand that no matter how odd or off the wall an idea is, it can be done. Imagine a major book event at the local pet store? The author sells and signs books, does a reading and gets exposure because this will catch the local media’s attention and of course, the author has sent out press releases with details of the event. Imagine the happy pet store owner? He’s gotten more customers into his store on one Saturday afternoon than ever before and his sales staff has a chance to sell more pets and fish. And imagine his competition? Now they’d like the author to come do the same thing for them. Now the pet store business owners and managers are notifying their customers that the author will be there. Now the author has an image connecting Tropical Murder and its subsequent books with an all new venue.

One more thing to imagine … your book is now being ordered by pet and tropical fish stores all over the country. Neat, huh?

New, yes, that’s fantastic, but never forget, everything other author’s do is just as important as the crazy pet store promotions. You still must connect with libraries and bookstores, must seek out reviews, have an active blog and website for your book, be present at writing, authors and book shows with books in trunk to continue to promote, promote, promote … and maybe this particular author should bring the star of the show everywhere he/she goes and have a fish bowl on the signing table with a beautiful tropical fish to greet everyone.

Being successful in this shifting publication and sales landscape isn’t about doing what everyone else does, better than they do. It’s about doing what everyone else does, better than they do … and doing something really interesting above and beyond.

The unique subject hook for Tropical Murder – tropical fish taken to the Nth degree.

The selling handle for Tropical Murder – the only murder/mystery novel tropical fish lovers (a proven large target market you’ve already researched) can buy in their favorite pet store.

Tropical Murder might be just as successful as any other book coming out this year without the added difficulty of finding a new market but hey … we don’t want to be just as successful, we want to stand tall and be more successful.

Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Note: I’ll be teaching a five day seminar on Creating an Effective Book Business Plan for Savvy Authors from May 31 to June 4 (scroll down to register). A lot will be covered there I can’t fit into a blog. Hope to see you!


Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 1

PART ONE: But … but … I’m a writer, not a businessperson!

Boy, if I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it a hundred times.

I’ve just completed a blog series on Author Platform Building, and having received several comments regarding the Book Business Plan, I’ve decided to take some time to elaborate a bit.

Yes you’re a writer, an author, a creative problem solver for your plot and characters and boy you are good at it. So why is it when you’re faced with the challenge of plotting your own success as an author you crumble and quake? There’s no need, you know. Whether you gauge your success in the amount of money you make, the fact that your book is on a bookstore shelf, or that your long lost friends and foes from high school are forced to notice your success because your name is in the newspaper, it’s important to you.

Guess what? It will not happen without planning (plotting), identifying your competition (the antagonist) and creating the perfect strategy (adventure).

Creative minds find the elemental properties of self promotion either beneath them or terrifying but that’s just silly. Done correctly, you can take your real power – that problem solving genius for your characters – and simply apply it to yourself. That book is your baby. You suffered for it, coped with morning sickness and back pains, walked the floors with insomnia over it and cleaned it up a hundred times to make it presentable. In return, that child has rewarded you with hours of entertainment and beautiful misery. You have a bond with it, a connection that can’t be broken. My questions are: Why would you send it off into the world without your support? Why would you trust others to promote and encourage it to success?

I wouldn’t. And neither should you. You have invested your passion and time, your energy and sleep for this book and whether you’re new at this or a seasoned veteran, it is always vital to not only participate, but hold the reigns for your own success. Okay, off my soapbox and down to business.

Writing a Book Business Plan is as important as writing your book. Why? Simple.

  • Writing is a business
  • Writing is YOUR business
  • Nothing reminds a business person about the importance of their business more than a business plan

With a strong plan – a living, breathing plan that organically grows with your manuscript – you will not believe how far ahead of the game you really can get.

In this 12 part Author Success series, we will cover:

  1. But … I’m a writer, not a businessperson!
  2. Your Unique Subject Hooks and Selling Handles
  3. Length of Book
  4. Target Markets
  5. Author Platform and Book Platform
  6. Your Exposure Plan
  7. Your Promotional Plan
  8. Your Competition
  9. Resources Required
  10. Bio and Photo
  11. Book Outline Requirements
  12. Show & Tell

Later we will explore a few subjects that expand on the above elements. For example:

  • Subsidiary Rights
  • International Publishing
  • The Inner Working of Power Promotions
  • Finding Marketing Leverage

Next Thursday, we’ll get down and dirty into what makes you and your book stand apart and the best way to hook in those illusive readers.

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Note: I’ll be teaching a five day seminar on Creating an Effective Book Business Plan for Savvy Authors from May 31 to June 4 (scroll down to register) … and I’m currently putting together a non-fiction book proposal covering the subject.