Friday, May 31, 2013

How to Improve Your Writing and Marketing Skills

   If you believe you are terrific writer and are astounded that you haven’t been signed by a major book publisher yet…
   Welcome to the club!

   But… there is one thing you should know. Odds are you aren’t very good. This is not to say you couldn’t BECOME very good but unless you’ve been writing faithfully every day for about a decade, your work could probably stand some improvement.

   Here’s the thing. If you are indeed a talented writer you are probably a little nuts. Well maybe not nuts, I think delusional is perhaps the better word. The noticeable flaw almost all talented people have is that they believe they have the talent to write great stuff, ergo, anything they write must be great. Makes sense right?

   Unfortunately, that isn’t true.

   Here’s what IS true. Like a talented kid on a baseball field there are various phases a writer must go through before he/she attains any real level of ability. The minor leagues is a great place for an emerging baseball talent because it gives him the opportunity to evaluate his talent against his peers.

   This is often where kids who always believed they were destined for the big time discover that they simply aren’t good enough. It’s heartbreaking but often a good thing because they can stop chasing a dream and start creating a reality.

   As a published novelist I’m often asked what college I attended and what courses did I study that taught me how to write professionally.  The truth is I didn’t go to college. Right after high school I started playing in a rock and roll band and spent the next decade doing just that. But I grew older and rock changed and I came to the point where I didn’t like doing it anymore.

   But I always loved writing. And as a creative person I needed an outlet and the idea of writing novels suddenly caught fire with me.

   So I began writing books and short stories. Wrote like a maniac, figured it would take about a year before I got a book deal and two years tops before my first best seller.

   It took twelve.

   Oh there were some ‘almost deals’ in between, interest from agents, publishers requesting a second look but it took 12 years before I actually signed a book deal.

   And looking back it’s obvious why. Yeah I had talent but my skill level screamed amateur, which is why I believe the ‘almost deals’ fell through.

   I needed to spend some more time in the minor leagues.

   And the minor leagues for writers are called writers groups. So if you aren’t already a member of one, then join one. If you are any good, it will be noticed and if you aren’t, well that will become obvious too.  This is where you get ready for the big leagues.

   Here is delusion #2. Once you’re picked up by an agent and publisher, and once your book is published and hits the shelves it will rocket to the top of the best seller list.

   No. It won’t.

   In today’s society we are spoon fed fairy stories to avoid facing the grim realities. 
   When books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray take off like rockets it’s plastered all over the media, so much so we’re led to believe that’s what happens all the time to authors in every genre. Same deal with the lottery. Joe Schmoe from Idaho wins 50 million dollars with his last buck and millions go running to the store to buy their lottery ticket because if it happened to Joe Schmoe, who is just like them, ergo, it should happen to them too, right?

   Nope. Here’s what really happens. You spend a decade honing your craft, building a small following, finally you are offered a deal by a national publisher on a YA book you’ve written. You sign, begin the re-writes, are assigned a publicist, a marketing campaign is created and all is going well when, famous actor comedian Jim Carrey announces he has written a YA novel and is shopping it around. Your publisher signs him after a protracted bidding war at auction.

   Suddenly, you advertising budget is slashed, your publicist is in meetings with Mr. Carrey’s people. You're informed that some ‘adjustments’ have been made to your book launch.

   In other words, you and your novel are being given cab fare and so begins your walk of shame. Oh they will live up to every word on the contract. Your book will be published, it will be shipped to the stores, it will be featured in various newspapers and magazines for the first week of publication.

   And then you’re on your own.

   Now what? Carrey’s book is due out in two weeks with a full blast publicity campaign and unless you do something his YA book will BURY yours.

   “But I was assured…” “But I was promised…” “I was led to believe…”

   As predicted, you fail to act and Carrey’s book roars to the top. Yours dies a quick death. Your agent drops you. Your publisher’s legal department sends you a letter informing you that, because your title did not perform as expected, the publisher WILL NOT be publishing that 2nd novel.

   And because your first book tanked, no other publisher wants any part of you.

   “But that’s not fair...!” “Carrey’s book got a lot more publicity…” “I received no support for my agent or publisher…”

   Yeah, that’s unfortunate and often that's what happens. However, if you had taken the time to learn book marketing, you would know enough about it to go toe-to-toe with Carrey’s book and win the industry’s respect by showing you can hold your own.

   It IS that important. So when you wonderful folks out there ask why I’m suddenly writing so much about marketing and starting your own business instead of my usual light banter, it’s because it’s stuff you need to know.

   The world is changing. The publishing world in particular. So if you want to avoid running into a buzzsaw like the Carrey story with your novel, give a look at the Kindle Bestseller Roadmap on the top right. It contains a lot of very useful information on how to get you book before the public without spending a lot of money on advertising.

   Speaking of advertising my very popular short story collection, Storytime will be a FREE download on Amazon starting Monday June 3, 2013. Make sure to get your copy, you won’t regret it. 

P.S. Stop by here tomorrow and get a sneak preview of the story 'Sea Cruise"