Marketing for Success 101: And the Gold Goes to…

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You, of course!

How did you get to the top?  You worked hard (unpacking boxes-ha!).

Seriously, though, you did work hard; dissecting and utilizing all the tools of marketing is intimidating.

So, your final manuscript should glow like gold in the hands of an agent, editor, or publisher.  You get the gold because you took the following actions.

iu-5.jpegEditing.  I don’t know how many posts and lectures I have given on this topic.  It seems to be the area where a new author wants to take high risk.  Agents, editors, publishers are very busy.  We usually have a year’s worth of work stacked high and more comes every day.  Thousands and thousands of manuscripts.  No one can read all that.  So, the norm is to read about 3 pages.  If there are too many typos or grammar problems, that’s a giant red flag.  Your ms is not going anywhere except back to you or the trash.  I know that’s harsh.  How else can I get this point across?  People like books that flow and sustain some kind of pace.  Typos and grammar problems ruin everything.  You don’t want your reader stumbling from word to word.

Note:  not all editors are the same.  If you are writing fantasy, find one who likes fantasy. He or she is already familiar with the genre, loves to read it, and knows what reader expectations are.  A proofreader is not an editor.  See my previous blogs on editing.

Note:  get quotes.  If you have $25 in your pocket and the bill is $250 for editing, you may want to get more resourceful.  Self-publishers should particularly pay attention to this.  Knowing where to find a good editor can be problematic.  Ask for recommendations.  If you are reading a book that you think is exceptionally organized, see if the editor’s name or company is on the title page or acknowledgment page.  Ask me.  I know some great, very thorough editors with decades of experience.

Price:  Free to $$

iu-6.jpegArt Work.  If you are not already an artist, don’t think you are going to sit down with Photoshop tonight and design an award-winning cover.  I wish it did work like that.  Finding good art that works in a book has been the most challenging part of my job.  I wrote quite a few kids’ stories a long time ago, but that’s where it ended because I had no clue where to find an illustrator.  Then I published novels.  Again, the art was a problem until I lucked into a great cover designer at a conference.  You never know whom you will connect with.

Invest in a good illustrator or cover designer.  Use somebody who does this as a job, not a hobby.  Communicate.  Communicate. Communicate.  If you want a white dog and you get a brown one, say something.  You may be paying for illustrations you are not going to use.

There is no such thing as a good cover.  You need a good front cover AND a good back cover.  The front cover serves to grab someone’s attention.  Colors should be genre appropriate, no more than 3 fonts from the same family, and give standard information:  title, author, series, and maybe a comment.  It must be readable.  The back cover compels the looker to buy.  A back cover could include a blurb, reviews, author bio info. You can find writers who specialize in writing back covers.

If your book isn’t selling, ask someone to look at the first 3 pages.  If there are many errors, fix them.  If there aren’t any errors, then redo the covers. You could go as far as also changing the title.  Of course, that’s going to cost you an ISBN each time, but you do what you have to sell the book.

Price:  Free to $$

iu-7.jpegIdentify your genre.  If you don’t know what the genre is, nobody else does either.  Different genres have different rules.  Prologues are good for epic fantasy and sci-fi, but not for any other genre.  You can create all kinds of worlds which may or may not be logical.  Your reader will buy into one unbelievable fact, but not two. Even color has something to say.  Three years ago turquoise on a cover indicated you were reading a metaphysical book.  That color is everywhere now.

Plus, there are new genres and niche categories popping up every day.  Boomer Lit started about 6 months ago.  Bizarro Lit, Ergodic Lit, Oulip.  Sorry.  I have no experience here.  They are too new to the market.

Price: Free

iu-8.jpegNow you have a finished product, so start entering contests and get your book out there.

If you are writing a children’s book, Google children’s book contests.  How many contests you enter often depends upon the time of year.  There are many to enter right now (October).

If you follow me on FB, I repost contests the minute one shows up in my feed.

Note:  watch the fees.  They vary from Free to $$.  If you are paying a fee, what are you getting?  Yes, you can say you won such and such and maybe you have a medallion to put on your books, but what else?  Any publicity with that or is it over?  Any contest that charges exorbitant rates should provide something other than a medallion or the jpg of a medallion.  AND it should be a prestigious award.  Some money would be nice. (Smile)

Note:  always read the fine print.  Every contest is different.  PDF or hard copy?  How many hard copies?  What category?  One or cross categories?  Fees.  If you enter a contest and the prize is the publication of your work, don’t enter several of those.  You could be looking at legal issues.  If you win, did you sign a contract that promises you’ll be there?

Tomorrow, I’ll address questions and offer what little financial advice I can provide.  I’m also putting together a list of marketing agencies who have some experience with fiction. If you want to turn the entire marketing project over to a third party, there are some good people to work with.  (I also know the scammers.)

Hope to see you or interact with you in a FB Group–never a dull moment there!

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To Prologue or Not to Prologue?​

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We’ve all seen it.  Start pulling some books off a shelf, and chances are you will see a prologue.  However, a prologue can be a red flag.  If you haven’t heard back from your editor/agent/publisher, rethink your prologue.  It can be the worst offender of all. #RMFW2017 @RMFWriters @crystalpubs2014

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What does an editor do?

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You are your own worst enemy when it comes to editing.  There’s a psychological term for this that escapes me right now, but it boils down to mind games.  Your brain will look at errors and automatically correct them or fill in the blanks.

Can You Read This?  by Chris McCarthy (Study@ecenglish.com)

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

Whether you are self-publishing or signing with a publisher, you want the best editor you can get.  Constructive criticism is hard to take these days. It’s not intended to beat you down.  An editor is the invisible person behind you who honestly has your best interest at heart.  An editor can shape your manuscript from the ordinary to the best product possible.  Yes, it can be frustrating and take a while, month and years.

But, there are options there, too.  If you don’t like your editor for some reason, ask for another.  You can always go out on your own, but remember good editing is expensive.  Yes, your first-grade teacher or next door neighbor, friend, or spouse can always look at it, but is that in your own best interest?

Tips for First-time Authors

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How to I start?

Typically, you pitch an idea or send a query letter before you write an entire manuscript that may or may not be accepted.  Don’t pitch to a company that doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.  Don’t pitch a romance to a company that specializes in mystery or a children’s book to a company that specializes in adult literature.  Do your homework.  Check websites or get access to the Writer’s Market.

Do I send everything?

Never write or submit more than an idea or several chapters  It’s unrealistic to expect one or more people to drop a current project and read your 50,000 words overnight.

What about a contract?

Never work without a contract.  Contracts vary from company to company.  Again, unless you are Stephen King, Lady Gaga, or a Real Housewife, don’t expect millions in signing bonuses.  Traditional publishing houses are not going to extend any offer until you have proven yourself profitable.  Small publishing houses don’t make those kinds of offers.

How long before I publish my book?

Just because you have finished writing, or assume you have a final product, that is not true.  You are now in the hands of several editors and the editing process.  And unless you are Ernest Hemingway, you need those editors.  (See my blog about the publishing process and what does an editor do.)

You want the best for your “baby.”  There are short cuts, but that doesn’t guarantee your baby will be healthy and thrive.