Thursday, August 9, 2012
Three Mistakes You Don't Want to Make
Marketing. It’s the job authors dread most right after completing a manuscript. Why so much dread? Beyond the fact that it can be incredibly time-consuming, there’s also the issue of results. What worked? How well did it work? How can I get more people to know about me and my book?
About two years ago, I took on a freelance writing assignment with Examiner.com to write about fiction in San Diego. That assignment later expanded into my National Crime Fiction column. I cover everything in crime fiction from events to author interviews to book reviews. Now that I’ve just released my first mystery novel, I look back on my two years of doing author interviews and book reviews and recognize some common differences between those that make it and those that struggle for any recognition at all. Let’s take a look at those differences.
The first difference is also the biggest cliche around, and the reason many readers consider self-published books “second rate.” Most new authors rush their book to publication. They take the mantra of “write a great book” far too lightly and think that because their best friend or their mom loved it, it’s going to be a bestseller. Overstated, perhaps, but close to true. How does a new writer make sure he’s got a good book? Solving this problem couldn’t be simpler—or harder.
Have. People. Read. It.
If you’re really serious about writing a great book, you’ll spend money on a good editor. If you can’t afford an editor, find more readers. Beta readers, i.e., people who will read and give good feedback, are critical to seeing what works and what doesn’t in a novel. The readers who count are those who are distanced from you or who are practiced in giving writing feedback. Find readers who have a good eye for detail and who are, above all, honest. Do this by widening your circle of readers until you’ve found ten people who have no reason to tell you nice things. In all likelihood, those ten people will give you diverse opinions, but at least you’ll see patterns.
Second, before publishing, think about the very basics of marketing. These basics can be summed up in three little words (sorry, another cliche), “less is more.” A good tag line (or log line) is critical. For me, mine became “Hawaii, mystery, and trouble almost too hot to handle.” That tag line goes on every email I send out. I recently heard from a publisher who said that many of their authors don’t include tag lines in their outgoing emails. Is it any surprise that the publisher was complaining their authors weren’t selling?
An author interview can be a great tool to attract readers. It can also be incredibly boring. Here’s a secret from the other side of the book review fence. Do what you can to make the interviewer’s job easier. I know, this sounds self-serving, but if I interview an author or review their book and the author has taken steps to make my life easier, I’m very willing to cover them again. You can make that interviewer’s life easier simply by providing great answers to questions.
Photo Finish?” 1) I’ve always enjoyed writing and thought it would be fun to write a mystery about a skip tracer and a con artist. 2) Early in my career I was a skip tracer. I never had to steal a car myself, but came pretty close. I also learned that skip tracers and con artists are very similar—both can be great liars—and can create great stories.
If I’m reading those responses, I’m going to gloss over #1, but give answer #2 serious consideration for a full or partial quote.
When I do author interviews, I always ask for a short summary of the book. This short summary should be 25−50 words. What happens when I get one that’s 100-200 words? I start cutting. Just hope I don’t leave out the important stuff.
Preventing someone else from butchering your summary is to have three versions at the ready. Those summaries, in 25, 50, and 100-word versions, should be strong and to the point. Use powerful verbs, not lots of adjectives and adverbs. There are times when I feel as though I should be writing marketing materials for authors that I interview and, believe me, that does not make me want to deal with them again.
Then there’s the author bio. This should also be written in a couple of different lengths. I’ve had writers send me page long bios telling me more than I ever wanted to know about their history. In one case, I think I pulled one or two sentences, shortened those, and still felt like I had nothing of real importance to tell readers.
The third most basic mistake that I see made is that authors don’t have a website with their own domain name for reviewers or potential readers to go for information about them. Your domain name and website are your online business card. So, buy your domain name, they’re cheap, and make sure it’s easy to say and to remember.
I know, there’s really nothing new in this post. There are no magic solutions to help you skyrocket to the top of the sales charts. Believe me, if I knew those solutions, I’d use them first, share later. But, the problems I’ve mentioned here are not uncommon. Mix and match any way you like and the bottom line is always the same. These things happen far too often.
Every time an author does an interview, or someone offers to write a review of an author’s book, it’s an opportunity to increase that author’s name recognition. So the question becomes, how do you want people to remember you?
What do you think? Have you had a bad interview or review experience either as an author or a reader? Do you think that new authors do a good job of marketing, or not?
Find out more about Terry and his books here.