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Open Book: How to Create An Elevator Pitch for Your Novel

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

   announcements,communications,megaphones,men,people,web animations,web elements

    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?”

 

 

 

 

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Open Book: Blog Content Basics

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

No two brands of ketchup taste the same.  The basic ingredients may be similar — tomatoes (or tomato concentrate), sugar, vinegar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, etc.  — but the taste differences lie in the ingredient quality and proportion.

And so it is with your blog.  Your blog site is uniquely yours even though there may be a couple of hundred or more people blogging about the same topic.  To keep your followers, consider these basics when you post your next entry:

     Does your post solve a problem?
     Does your post inform?
     Or have timeless content?
     Maybe your post is in demand (trending)?
     Or does your musings provide a bit of humor…something that is insightful,     but leaves your reader chuckling inside at your wit or twisted viewpoint…a bit of comic relief?

If you can say yes to one or more of these questions, your post content will provide value to your reader and will have them coming back for more.

Like the quality of the tomatoes in the ketchup, so is the quality of your writing. Write well (with the help of the SEO gods) and your posts will fly off the shelf.  Write incoherently and well, your writing (while surely highlighting your unique brand) might limit your viewing audience.

Open Book: How to Put a Writer's Press Kit Together

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Open Book: Grammar Rules You Can Break

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Did you ever write a sentence and wonder if it was acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition?  Or begin a sentence with a conjunction?  Or write the way we talk?  Me too.  Even though I have seen magazines, printed articles, and newspapers write in an informal style, bucking up against Strunk and White’s Elements of Style somehow seemed incorrect.  (I have to admit that my elementary education had brainwashed me as far as grammar rules and the mighty diagramming sentences tool.)

A couple of days ago, Erik Decker posted the blog The writing rules you’re allowed to break  http://www.prdaily.com/writingandediting/Articles/9060.aspx.  You don’t have to wonder any more whether you are the writing rebel.  Decker lists 5 common rules of grammar that have gained flexibility over the years.

1. You CAN end sentences with a preposition.           
2. You CAN start a sentence with or, and or but.
3. You do not have to start a sentence with a dependent clause.  You can end with one, if it makes more sense and doesn’t form a misplaced modifier (a dependent clause should be adjacent to the noun it describes).
4. You CAN use incomplete sentences sparingly.
5. A sentence DOES NOT always have a subject, verb and an object.  A paragraph is not always contain three to five sentences.        

These bendable rules are nothing new to the slick, contemporary magazine writers.  

However, one writing rule you CANNOT break is that every successful writer knows his audience.  (Decker should have added a sixth rule…You CAN use the pronoun he in a sentence to refer to an individual.  For a decade or so, it was a political taboo to choose a gender. The only way around this is to either reword the sentence to avoid using pronouns reflecting gender or adding the words “he and/or she” everywhere in an article.  Both options halted the flow of thought and sounded awkward.  So kudos to society for allowing the use of either one gender or the other.)  If your audience are professionals, writing along the accepted grammar rules is expected.  Anything less might decrease your credibility. 

For the details of the permissible writing rule changes, click on Decker’s blog:     http://www.prdaily.com/writingandediting/Articles/9060.aspx.   

Open Book: Airplane Mode for the Nook Made Easy

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment
My mom had a hard time with the concept of Airplane Mode on her new NOOK.  She is not the only one.  Below is an easy explanation of airplane mode.
 
If the airplane in the upper right hand corner of the screen shows, it means that the NOOK is in airplane mode.  It is ON. (Logic dictates, the pilot doesn’t want to have his passengers’ electronic frequencies interfering with his radio reception, therefore, airplane mode ON means that your NOOK cannot, is not receiving or transmitting and therefore, not interfering with the airplane’s frequencies.)
 
AIRPLANE MODE: ON
No 3 G reception.
No Wifi.
No buying books or surfing the web.
No reading email.
 
AIRPLANE MODE: OFF
3 G reception.
You have the option of turning on Wifi.
Barnes and Noble welcomes you and your credit card to buy books for your NOOK.
 
How do you turn airplane mode on and off?
 
When your NOOK first comes up, the bottom screen offers you choices to select what you want to do.  Scroll the images to the left by gently moving your finger lightly across the bottom frame from right to left.  Tap on the image that says Wifi.
 
You will then be able to tap on the airplane mode choice when you want to toggle between off and on.
 
Tips for Easier NOOK Usage
1.  When you are not using the Internet, you should put your NOOK airplane mode on ON.  This will preserve the battery.  I’m not sure if Wifi on vs. 3G on uses more power. B&N tells me that Wifi does. 
2.  Saving battery charge = airplane mode ON
3.  You will be able to read the NOOK whether the airplane mode is on or off.
 
 

How to Plot by Example

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you a writer who can sit down and have dialogues and scenes stream onto the computer screen with little regard to structure?  If you are, and are happy with your results, you are one of the lucky writers with a gift.  Most writers need to craft the plot through scene summaries and outlines.

I am not so gifted.  I need to plot to make my stories come together in the end.  For many years I let my writing drift.  It was easier and fun, but always when I read it back, the only salvagable sections were description. 

One day a couple of years ago, I found a talented blogger, who writes about the technique of novel writing.  If you feel like a hamster running the wheel when you write, check this website out.  www.storyfix.com.  Currently, Larry Brooks is deconstructing the novel The Help.  He shows us how to plot by examining Kathryn Stockett’s plotting strategy and how this is a major factor that catapulted her novel into recognition.  (I read that she had many, many rejections in earlier drafts, but she did not give up.)

He has a book out called Story Engineering: 6 Core Competencies.  You can see a preview on his website.  You can get a better idea by rooting around in his blog archive, because Brooks does an excellent job describing the core competencies individually.

Okay, I took a hiatus from blogging.  You would think when I unexpectedly became unemployed I would have time to blog more.  Instead I used the time to figure out what to do.  I spent most of the day doing job search activities in a very dry market.  Blogging sounded interesting as a public journal on personal impressions when I first began the journey.  I had envisioned it more like the journal I wrote as a pre teen.  Months later, my thoughts have evolved.  My goal for this blog is to make it more content rich.  In the next few weeks, I will be examining the topic blogging for money.

 

10 Ways to Build Your Writer's Platform

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

1. Create your website.  This is your calling card, your business card.  It is evidence to the world that you are committed to writing.  Obviously, you do not have to wait until your published to start a website.  You should begin NOW.  It will take time, especially if you haven’t created one before. A website will establish a following, so that when you get your first book published, you can announce its birth!

2. Blog or write for an established website.  There are websites out there that pay you (minimally, of course. Common now, you have to earn the title of a starving artist.).  Check out Suite 101 or About.com.  This provides an income stream and exposure.

3. Capitalize on your niche.  Pick a theme or specialty and wrap your writing, your website, your promotions around that theme.  For example, if I am a dog lover and all my writing should be about dogs — my website, blogs, newsletters. etc.

4. Give talks about your specialty.  Many of us like to talk about writing, because that is what we do.  Be kind to your target audience.  Only writers like to hear about writing. For all the rest of the world, it is a snore.  That is why you build up your exposure talking about Not What You Do necessarily, but WHAT YOU KNOW.  People flock to topics on how to solve or resolve their dilemmas.  If you are writing fictional mystery stories, then maybe your talks will revolve around weapons.  Or say you are a romance writer, then your talk might be about the pros and cons or comparisons between online dating services such as eharmony.com, match.com, or chemistry.com.

5. Print up business cards.  These are handy and more professional than writing your telephone number or email address on a scrap of paper.

6. Offer a product.  Let’s say your book is about dogs.  What about selling t-shirts promoting you, your book, or dogs online?

7. Participate in online communities and forums.  Focus on building your writing platform by offering thoughtful comments and helpful information.  If possible, leave your website address under your name after your contribution.

8. Sell or donate articles or parts of your book to magazines and newspapers.  Writing for free can be a great way to getting noticed.  Remember to leave your email address or website address, if you can. At the very least get that byline.

9. Offer to teach classes or hold your own workshop.  You get some money for your efforts, while building your exposure.

10.  Depending on your niche and topic, get an organization to commit to buying 100 copies of your book.  Include that letter of commitment with your book proposal.  For example, if you wrote an inspirational story about a sales person.  Might not any large company like IBM think this would be a great book for their sales training…or to inspire new employees?

One word of caution.  All these suggestions will take time to implement.  And once implemented, you will have very little time for what you really want to do…and that is write.  So, guard your time wisely.  Think out your game plan…get your family to help…then, put it into ACTION.