My long time friend asked me what my novel was about. I stammered and blurted out some incoherent description. (Don’t laugh! At least I remembered to mention the protagonist.)
This brain freeze, unlike Governer Rick Perry, was not a matter of forgetting, but a matter of not having a succinct pitch scripted.
What if that had been a literary agent or an editor I was pitching my book to? How long would you would stick around until I got my act together?
In the business world, that one compelling sentence is called an elevator pitch. You have exactly 30 seconds to introduce yourself and entice them to get to know you. This is what you need to do with your novel…write an elevator pitch that will sell your novel to whomever will listen.
An elevator pitch is one or two power pact sentences that not only identifies who you are, but also tells the person to whom you are talking to what you do, implying how you can help them make life easier or solve a problem. The elevator pitch for a novel introduces your protagonist and his conflict. It tells the person how he will benefit by not only spending money to buy your book, but also what will he derive from spending his coveted leisure time reading your story. Your one sentence summary needs to convince him that he will get the satisfaction of learning something or being entertained. Maybe you will transport him to another place far from the pressures of his life, even it is only for a few hours. Or maybe he can live vicariously through your protagonist?
Randy Ingermanson, also known as the Snowflake Guy, recommends that fiction writers start with a one sentence plot summary. He points out that who is going to know and love your story more than you do.
A solid one sentence summary will anchor your story to a plotline and be the guide to decide what scenes advance your story. It will be the single best marketing tool to sell your story. It will help you sell your idea to a literary agent, to a publishing house, to your editor, to the book sellers, and most importantly, to your readers.
Ingermanson suggests that the sentence should be 20 words or less. That means every word has to work to remain. No extraneous adjectives, no subplot inclusions. Simply your novel’s compelling storyline.
Here’s some basic rules to create yours:
1. Ingermanson’s 20 word limit.
2. Sentence includes protagonist, conflict, and a sense of context (either cultural, venue, political etc)
3. Power verb such as coerces, endangers, or challenges. (You get the idea.)
Ask yourself: If your book title and one sentence summary appeared on a booklist, would you be tempted to spend $15 to buy the book if you weren’t the author? Does it have a strong enough hook? Who will the book appeal to?
Let’s take a simple basic boy meets girl plotline and see how we can craft a good summary sentence. Remember, the real writing is in the rewriting, so this exercise may take you more than 10 seconds. It may take you hours, even days to decide if the sentence is the best one when you announce the birth of your baby (novel).
Draft summary sentence: An athlete puts his girlfriend in a difficult position when he uses her to advance his career. (17 words)
Second draft: A struggling soccer player betrays a middle-aged female when he uses her contacts to advance his career. (17 words)
Third draft: A struggling soccer player betrays a lonely female advertising executive when his romantic involvement with her threatens her company. (19 words)
Now, what if I include an ethnic reference? She is Asian and he is Ukrainian. How will that color the summary?
Last and most important. You finished the best one sentence summary ever. Now you have to memorize it. You have to be able to rattle it off as if it were an involuntary reflex. Live the sentence. Breathe it. And then, you will claim it with confidence.
Like that 30 second elevator pitch, you want to grab the person’s attention. You want them to be so intrigued that they ask you for more information…like “Where can I get your book?”
The writer…the teacher…the marketing guru in you emerges in a spanking new blog.
I was told that if you write, the followers will come. True to some degree; however, your success will be measurably better if you write coherently and have something interesting to share (your opinion or some newsworthy mention). Well written blogs may not always be successful blogs. It certainly helps, but writing skill needs more to get follower retention.
To increase your followers, here are easy ways to get the word out:
1. Your blog address is now as important as your name and phone number in your marketing materials. Blog address should appear on everything from business cards, signature email address, and stationary — everything printed.
2. Write as if you were talking to your best friend. Your voice should be conversational, but to appeal to the widest spectrum of people, refrain from using street language.
3. Write about something that interests you. Blogging is not a sprint, but more like a cross country run. Pace yourself. Don’t start off with writing a blog daily, because you will burn out. (If this is a journal or a record of your daily musings or your day job, this might not be such a chore.) Writing about something your passionate about comes through in the writing.
4. Be consistent about your blog entries. Once a week? Twice a week? Just think about your followers. Would you want to read a daily blog everyday, when so many other things compete with your time? It is best to be consistent, say maybe on a Tuesday and or Thursday. ( Mondays are horrible, because everyone starts Monday morning with a slew of emails from the weekend.) Too much is annoying… too little and your followers may totally forget you.
Bottom line: Post regularly. Two a week is minimal to help establish an affinity to you.
Blogging Tip: If you love writing blogs, store your extra blog entries, because you may not have time or go on vacation or you will have a brain freeze one day.
5. Boring blogs don’t attract readers. Interesting ones grow by word of mouth.
6. Your blog entries should be more than a litany of other people’s links. They want to know about you and what you know that can help them make their life easier…or humorous enough that for a split moment they forget their lives totally.
7. Comment on other similar blogs, maybe referring to a blog you wrote on the topic. From you blog, include links to them and ask them to link back to you.
8. Register with blog directories, so that people searching for your topic will find you. (ie. technorati.com) Link to your facebook page, your twitter account.
9. Bookmark your posts on digg.com, yahoo.com, del.icio.us.com, reddit.com and stumbleupon.com.
Okay, after reading this blog, I realize that it has taken me 15 minutes to collect my thoughts and notes, another 30 minutes to write it, and maybe another 30 minutes to promote the blog using my suggestions. Just saying, if you want to get the most out of blogging, you will be investing about 2 hours give or take each time.
What do you want your image to be?
One way to craft your image as a writer is creating a press kit. Simply, a press kit is a collection of one-page documents that highlights your newest publication, a little bit about yourself, and other related accomplishments.
The book market is fierce. You are your own brand. You are the corporation, so you must think like a CEO. The way you introduce yourself to the market is critical to your success.
While the publishing is changing rapidly, you can still control the information about you to some degree. One of the best ways to do this is with a press kit.
Creating a press kit on your website blog will save you lots of time and money. However, I suggest you might consider having a few hard copies just in case. Sometimes you are invited to a meeting or conference and the opportunity to promote yourself might be more convenient if you can hand them a folder. Even though you write down your website or refer them to the website address listed on your business card, your opportunity may just never get around to looking it up.
Whether online or hard copy, here’s what might go into a press kit.
1. A one page bio covering who you are, your education, your experience (such as teaching and public speaking engagements) and a list of your work. If your publication list is lengthy, create the list on a separate page. Be sure to include a headshot on page one of the bio.
2. Depending your press kit goal, you could include one page of reviews. If they are long, edit it and use quotes with attribution and occupation.
3. Include a postcard or graphic with the promotion of your latest work or clips.
4. A well written resume. It should not be just a laundry list of the positions you have held. In the summary, help steer the reader visualize you as the kind of writer you are by connecting your experiences and your writing skills in the Profile Summary.
5. Don’t forget the well designed business card. Be sure to include all contact information. A tag line, if you think of one. And your URL address.
Presentation is key, so carefully edit and proof every sheet. The folder should be of decent stock, so it looks professional and not like a book report for high school.
If someone is reviewing your book and does not know anything about you, having a press kit available will make it easier for the reviewer to get the information right. It will save them time and it will save you time.
Your press kit available online will help the media find information about you more easily. I recommend the information sheets be in a PDF format, so that the viewer sees the documents exactly as you created them. Different browsers can skew formats and type fonts.
A downloadable photo of you allows the reporter to include it at the last minute.
The easier you make your information and photo available, the easier it is for others to help you spread the word that you are out there with your new book.
When you have completed your press kit, wait a few days and then look at it in its entirety. What dominant image of you as a writer comes to mind? A fresh look at it will let you know where you should tweak it.
Give the press, the reviewer and anyone else that is willing to promote you a reason to support you. Let them get to know your real unique strengths and talents. Let them know your personal story. The personal touch is always more interesting.
Help them help you.
For those who don’t know what metatags are, here’s my simple definition. Metatags are words that help search engines find your site, text, or video. When you post your site, text or video, there is often a box where you can add metatag words separated by a comma. So, how do you know what words to list?
For years most of us just put whatever buzz words were contained in the copy or words that described the bigger picture. It was a hit or miss proposition, but since there is no limit on the metatags you can add, you just use your imagination and list every word that you think relates. I just discovered a better way to get targeted results and erase the guessing.
On Google Adwords, there is a keyword tool. You type in the word you think best describes your site, passage, etc., copy the validation code in the box (this is to get around bots using the site), and click Get Key Words. Up will pop a list of key words and the number of hits. If you select the more popular key words, there is a high likelihood that your site will generate more traffic.
Here it is:
If you thought about it, you could have guessed that the next breakthrough in sharing online is blogging through video. You don’t have to wait any longer. You can reach people more personally by video recording what you want to say and uploading it on www.blogtalkradio.com.
You will find that there is someone that wants to talk about almost every topic. Unlike the written word, seeing the person and watching the mannerisms connects on a deeper level that the written word cannot.
I searched the site for people who spoke on writing. And voila, there were many people out there sharing their writing insights.
For busy people, I think reading is faster, but for those who want a deeper connection to personal stories and sage knowledge given, this might be what you have been waiting for.
You can listen to what’s posted or you can start your own talk show. (How many of us have dreamed of this opportunity, but never thought we would be lucky enough to reach millions of people.) Best of all, all this is free. So, get out your entrepreneur hat. How can we use this social media outlet to further our writing exposure? Can we use this on more than one level?