Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pitch and Promote like a Pro

I just finished putting on a month long course on this subject for the American Christian Fiction Writers and it was delightful. There were over 400 people participating or lurking in the background watching. That's probably the largest group it's been given to and I know it is the longest time period it has been presented over.

This is a course I have given many times at a couple of dozen conferences, as well as workshops and writer's groups. It started as a presentation aimed at helping shy people learn to come out of their shell to develop a "public persona" in order to do the things they were too shy to do.

It expanded to deal with the fact that, shy or not, it helped all writers to give some thought to the public image they wished to present as a writer, particularly when pitching and promoting. It evolved slowly, naturally, and then the focus moved on to the pitching and promoting itself. It turned to an in depth analysis of a proposal, why it was important, what should be in it and how it should be prepared.

We talked about preparing for and doing a good job of pitches to agents and editors and most were surprised when I said the primary object of the session was not to sell the book, but to sell themselves to the person they are meeting with. Ten or fifteen minutes is too short a time to sell a book. The goal instead is to impress the editor or agent that the autor is professional and capable, to convince them that they are a person that editor or agent would like to work with. Then they try to get a proposal invited, and try to insure that they bond in such a way that they will be remembered when that proposal arrives. It's the job of the proposal to sell the book.

I took the information from this course and the previous courses and assembled it into an eBook that uses many of the questions posed during the course to make it easy to read and understand. It has gotten rave reviews if I do have to say so myself. It is available in the bookstore at my website

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trying it out

I'm doing a workshop for the American Christian Fiction Writers this month, and I'm having a ball. The title is "Too shy to pitch and promote," and I'm using this class to streamline the presentation for the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference in Estes Park. I'm also using this class and my notes from giving the class in the past to write a little book on the same topic. It'll only be offered as an eBook on CD or as a download and I'm going to send the download version free to all of those in the class that are helping me write it. I'm also going to send it free to those who register for that early bird class in Colorado.

It's cool working on it this way. Since I'm working on it as a Q & A it is literally producing hundreds of emails, but it is producing great questions and great comments. We started talking about actually cultivating a 'writing persona' that will allow us to overcome shyness or if we aren't that shy, that will allow us to project the professional image that we need to exhibit.

Then we turned our attention to platforms, what they are and why we need them. We looked at making pitches and preparing proposals going through each in detail. There were misconceptions and by the time questions were answered and discussion focused on each detail people have been saying things were becoming clear in a way that hasn't happened before. Good discussion will do that.

People started posting their one-liners or 'elevator pitches' and their query letter and interview opener blurbs and they started critiquing them. As they worked on their blurbs and other people's blurbs as well they started getting much better at seeing what they should be writing and better at writing them. Once again the discussion getting better and more focused.

We're talking about marketing and having a marketing plan now. What should a writer expect to do and sharing ideas about marketing strategies we might could use. Talking about the various groups that comprise our platform and how we can grow that platform - talking about strategies for reaching those specific groups. We'll go on to talk about how to get published, how to identify comparables and why. We'll talk about what gets submissions rejected and how to avoid that. Depending on how our time goes and what the questions are there are a number of other subjects we may be able to address.

I'm very much enjoying the course and I believe it is producing a little book that others who haven't been in the class may find useful.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Bookstore changes

Things are changing in the publishing world in regards to delivery of the product, distribution. In order to sample this I've made some changes to the bookstore at my website.

Instead of sending people off to Amazon or to a site where an autographed book can be ordered I have arranged for the transition to occur right at my website, sending them the products myself. I have also included a couple of products that will be e-book on CD, or available as a download. I may add some more of this type of product strictly as a eBook on CD or a download such as the book that I'm finishing on "Too Shy to Pitch and Promote." This one is for people who are looking for follow up material to the course that I teach on this subject (and is in progress at ACFW online right now) and which includes tips on how to overcome shyness as well as tips on pitching, query letters, proposals, promotion, etc.

This started when I started noticing that a sample cowboy poem at my website keeps drawing hits, and drawing them daily. Not a big number, a half dozen a day or so, but day after day, month after month. I don't what is driving this, but my little cowoby poetry book is out of print and there is no place for them so see more if they want to. I needed to offer them the poetry book as a download, and that started the restructuring of the bookstore.

They tend to be international in nature. Hits on this page have come from Austria, Australia, Azerbaidjan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghanda, Gibraltar, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Phillipines, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela and Vietnam. I don’t even know where some of these places are.

It has a book trailer of my latest title, Beyond the Smoke, and the site does have an Amazon link for a couple of books that I don't have any copies in stock to autograph. I don't anticipate this will result in major sales, but is more an effort to make existing product acquisition a little more convenient and to easily offer some additional products to a small market. I'm mailing books all the time anyway so I don't think it will drastically increase my workload.

I'll blog again in the future on how it is received and what sort of response it generates. If you'd like to take a look the direct link for it is HERE

Friday, April 10, 2009

Humpty Dumpty

It's more appropriate than you could possibly imagine.

The Doctor finally said something that made sense to me as to why it was talking so long for my heel to heal. I mean, I have friends who have had major surgery who have recovered and are pretty much back to normal for goodness sakes.

I went in expecting him to tell me the results of the 3D cat scan said I would be able to start putting a little weight on it and get a little mobility at least. Didn't happen. Then he said the thing that made all of the sense. He said, "there are still a lot of little pieces in there that have not healed well enough to bear weight. It's like trying to heal an eggshell."

Hello. Nobody told me I broke it like an egg. I didn't even really have a concept that a heel was hollow like an egg or a Christmas Tree Ornament. Humpty Dumpty for sure, I even had the big fall. And where are all the King's men, I'm supposed to get King's men!

Then he said I have to go back into a cast, but at least this time it will be a walking cast so maybe I'm going to get a little mobility after all. Funny, it seems like all I've been able to talk about these days but I guess I'm a little preoccupied. I'[ve kinda gotten down about it a few times trapped here in this chair for three months, but everybody has been incredibly supportive and every time I grouse or complain online or on facebook or twitter I get prayers for me instead of what I really deserve. That would be somebody saying "Shut up Burns, we get it, talk about something else."

I wonder how Humpty Dumpty handled it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Too Shy?

I'm doing an online course with ACFW this month on "Too Shy to Pitch and Promote." I'll be doing the same workshop as an early bird course at Write His Answer in Estes Park Colorado. If this is something you wrestle with as I do we'd love to have you at either or both venues.

This is a common problem with writers as they are often drawn to writing because they are more comfortable communicating that way rather than having to do it face-to-face. But we have to do it. If life were fair we could just stay home and write our stories and when we finished we'd go burn a special piece of paper in the fireplace and it'd send up a signal like they do when they elect a Pope. When they saw the signal publishers would line up four abreast fighting for the chance to offer us an OBSCENE amount of money for our book and just take care of everything from that point while we wrote the next one.

You holding out for that? Well, I hate to break it to you but we can't get out to meet with agents and editors to get our book contracted, and if we can't meet the public in booksignings and generate publicity and visibility, then we're probably wasting our time writing. We simply don't have any choice, if we want to write, we've got it to do.

Fortunately there's something we can do about it. I ran across this program for the first time when I was in a hospitality room talking to a bunch of writers before I presented to them the next day. I started hearing this complaint over and over and realized I needed to give an entirely different program the next day.

Over the past years it has been given close to a hundred times. I've seen people go through it, buy into it, and right at that same conference say it made a big difference in the way they handled the conference. I've seen others say it was a nice program but it just wasn't them. It's strictly up to the individual, but there is a reason that 85% of all manuscripts will not be substantually published. We can't afford to have anything working against us.

Come join us and let's have some fun with this.