Thursday, March 03, 2011

When I say I hate book signings and such, I really mean it - Denyse O'Leary

(Apologies for the previous coding mess. I will try to delete it, but here is a correct version of my post - what  I really intended you to see -  Denyse)

Wendy Elaine Nelles is a Word Guild founder with the most amazing gift for finding worthwhile topics for writers. You can read some of her finds at Future Tense, but for the rest, I suspect you must join

Anyway, Wendy set me thinking, when she wrote "An author I admire posted a link to this blog post (10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing), and provided some rallying cries against the awful state of the industry.

From the perspective of an already wornout writer, struggling to keep up, I replied, tongue partly in cheek, to his seven rallies:

Just some thoughts from an author who is now working on an exhausting book, responding to Daniel:

1. Pass-Along Sales: If you aren't sure what "Pass-Along Sales" are. "Pass-along sales" mean that people are not buying books for themselves as much; instead they are buying books for others and passing along the books to them. Parents are buying books for their children; group leaders are buying books for group members; CEOs buying for their staff, etc. Huge market and potential here.

[Yes, but at what cost to the usefulness of one's endeavours? I write books about current events in science that impact faith. If it is really true that people buy them only to give them to their overworked pastor who needs a vacation, NOT another mission-related book or to their underinterested nephew who will never read any book, I may as well quit now. At this point, the only thing that sustains me is the many people who have written to say thatT
he Spiritual Brain
immensely helped them, by demonstrating clearly that the "science"-based assault on the reality of the life of the spirit is without a factual basis.]

2. Events/immersion experiences replace traditional publicity in moving the needle: It's getting harder and harder to be heard by traditional PR methods. Instead, focusing on doing events, speaking engagements, etc where participants hear your message and buy your book as a result is a key strategy to take.

[I am a good, some say, excellent, writer, but find public speaking and author events exhausting and unproductive. For one thing, such events attract professional literary event goers. My target audience is usually people who have been told a lot of garbage in the name of science, and need someone to help them straighten it out, with reference to such issues as: How do we know this? Who said? Are there other plausible views? They rarely go to such events.]

3. Leverage the authors' and publishers' communities: No brainer here. Every author hears about "Platform" which is just another way to talk about your own following. Build a community and you have qualified buyers. It's simple to know, harder to achieve but with hard work you can. Put your community first. Serve them. Build into them. Add value and they will respond.

["With hard work you can." Just what I had feared. I find quality writing exhausting, and simply don't have the energy to ragged-run a PR campaign for my books.]

4. In a crowded market, brands stand out: Be unique. Be identifiable. Have a value promise that you can deliver on and that people come to trust. Brands are not built overnight. Stay the course, be strong and be true to who you need to be.

[I am strong and true to who I am (I have no idea what the "need to be" part is about). But I am not a brand. I am not trying to be a celeb, just a quality-trusted writer who hopes to make a living. And I think that celebrity is usually the froth on top of silly ideas, not part of the bedrock of sound ones.]

5. Master new sales and marketing channels: This doesn't just mean being active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It means looking for new markets and new ways to distribute your book/content. Identify niche opportunities such as selling your book in bulk to a specialized industry or group. Look for creative packaging ideas where your book is included as part of XYZ purchase, etc. Get creative. Think BIG and go after it.

[I've never had much time for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I mean that literally. I don't dispraise them. It's just that I have literally 15 books to read, related to my project, and about two hundred articles, just to tackle Chapter 3. Either I do a good job or I am active on Twitter. I urge no one to follow my choice, but for the sake of the integrity of my work, I know what that choice will be. ]

6. Build books around a big new idea: Don't regurgitate what everyone else is saying. Say it in a new way. You can speak truth or a core foundational principle but you have to find a unique way to do it, a "Big Idea" that others can grasp a hold of. You've heard it said that people buy the sizzle before they buy the steak, same goes here. It's your HOOK, your big idea that reels them in.

[Hmmm. I see a book landing on my desk for review that should have been one well-written paragraph. Many books should just have been published as the prospectus and a few sizzlers.]

7. Front-load the main ideas in books and keep books short: So many authors miss this. They try to build their content and back load the juicy stuff so what happens is most books start out dry and not that interesting. What happens? Readers don't make it past the first chapter but had they made it to chapter 2 and beyond they would have been blown away. Give them the good stuff up front. Don't make them wait because guess what. they won't. Attention spans have changed and how people engage with content has as well.

[What if my primary commitment is to a logical argument that proceeds by steps? Not every step in the argument is, or can be, the Apocalypse. But let's make a deal. I respect your intellect. You respect mine. So let me take you through my best shot at the simplest exposition of an issue in science that impacts faith. It won't be boring but it won't be fireworks all the way to town either. More like a journey through a countryside you hadn't seen before or never noticed.

In my view, much of the problem is a decline in respect for the intellect. When people read only for entertainment, they soon discover other, easier sources of entertainment. Then the quality of writing becomes irrelevant.

And I think I shall be happy to retire shortly.]


Peter Black said...

Denyse, I left a comment yesterday but it hasn't shown up, so perhaps I didn't post it correctly.
In any case I expressed that I initially thought Daniel Decker's 10 points made a lot of sense. Your reponses, however, have provided counterpoint to them, which are very helpful in balancing perspectives.
Thank you.

N. J. Lindquist said...

I so relate! I am a writer who really just wants to write, not become a one-person publishing, marketing, promotion machine. It's all very draining.

Daniel Decker said...

Hi Denyse. Glad you took the time to respond to each of my points. There is no one-sized fits all approach. What works for you might not work for others and so on. My notes are from a perspective of obtaining the most commercial success for a nonfiction book. "Commercial Success" being defined by sales volume. To me it's pointless to write a book and go through the labor it requires only to sell a few hundred copies, even if the quality of the content is top caliber. Ideally there is a balance where great content meets great commercial success but like we all know, sadly more people buy the sizzle.

I'd love to respond to each of your notes but alas, no time. The one I will add a quick note to though is about your brand. Having a brand is not about being celebrity. It's about being who you say you are so that consumers know what to expect. When I read your comment you said "I am not trying to be a celeb, just a quality-trusted writer who hopes to make a living." Well, that's your "brand" then. You want people to see you as a quality-trusted writer. THAT is your brand, IF you deliver on that promise and people come to think of you in that way.

Thanks again for the good dialogue. :)

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