Friday, November 26, 2010

David Schlosser, Part 2

Continuing my interview with David Schlosser. We were just starting to discuss marketing.

My books are going to be released as e-books. How does e-book marketing differ from print, or p-book, marketing? There are many choices on the Internet (reviewers, blogs, groups). How does one choose which ones to be involved with to make the most out of marketing? Where does one start?

I don’t think there’s a colossal difference in the ways you reach readers of e-books versus p-books. You need to be aware that e-book readers will tend to be more tech-savvy – which means generally younger and wealthier – than the reading population as a whole, but I think that readers are readers. Virtually all readers have access to a computer or cell phone, or both, and that’s really all you need to read an e-book. Kindle and Nook are nice platforms, but the software for reading e-books is free and available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux PCs as well as most major cell phone and tablet operating systems.

My exception to that rule is that e-books are more price-sensitive than p-books. I also have a technical clarification to that rule – what I really mean is, you can sell an e-book for very little money and not really lose any money, whereas there is a certain price below which you can’t sell a p-book without losing money. If you’re interested in volume, pricing an e-book at 49 or 99 cents will – generally speaking – allow you to move a lot of product. You won’t earn as much per book, but the math is pretty simple: a $10 book that sells 100 copies is the same as a $1 book that sells 1,000 copies.

For e- and p-books, the best place to start marketing is early: write a great book. (A corollary for self-publishers: make sure the editing, layout, and design is as good as what you’d get through a traditional publishing deal – you’ll have to pay for it, but your failure to do so will doom your sales prospects.) A great book is the surest, quickest way to get people buying, reading, and talking about your book. All the advertising in the world won’t sell a bad book – or, at least, won’t sell many copies of it.

Lots of writers will scoff at that idea, and point at a well-advertised best-selling book they consider lousy. Some of that is simply the beholder’s concept of beauty, but most of it has to do with two things:

- First, story. A great story will outweigh weak prose virtually every time.

- Second, brand equity in an author’s (or, sometimes, a character’s) name. It’s hard to believe that one of the best-selling mystery authors of all time is Jessica Fletcher (a television character), but less difficult to believe that James Bond and Sherlock Holmes continue to sell books, even if the prose is weak.

After that, apply the 80/20 rule and elbow grease in equal amounts. The 80/20 rule says you’ll get 80% of your sales from 20% of your coverage (scoring an interview with the biggest blogger, securing a review with the most popular opinion-maker), so you better put 80% of your effort into getting that interview or that review. Save 20% of your hard work to spread across the 80% of the outlets that are going to drive only 20% of your sales.

If you have trouble deciding which outlets are the right ones to focus on, ask readers in your genre about the sources on which they rely for advice about what to read next. Or, search Bing, Google, or Yahoo! – those search results will come back with the most heavily trafficked sites first.

What are some of the DONT'S of marketing?

Glengarry Glen Ross popularized the concept of ABC – Always Be Closing. That’s the biggest DON’T of marketing, especially in the Internet age.

If you’re constantly asking people to buy your book – particularly via weak-tie media like Facebook and Twitter – people will very quickly tune you out and eventually turn you off.

Instead, strive to add value to people’s lives in the form of good advice, inspirational thoughts, humor, and pithy wisdom. If you’re adding value to your relationship with them, they’ll reciprocate by telling people about you – and, by extension, your book.

Marketing can be a tedious effort. Any tips for making it easier or less stressful?


It’s hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Your best bet for reducing the stress of selling your book (which, let’s be honest and admit, is really selling yourself) is to be an extravert brimming with self-confidence.

Since that describes about 2.64% of writers, your next-best bet is to focus on bringing your audience what your audience wants (that is, adding value to their lives).

They want great stories populated by interesting, dynamic characters. If you’ve written a book that meets their craving for terrific books, you should feel wonderful about telling readers why they’ll love your book.

Note that I did not say you should feel wonderful about telling readers to buy your book.

Maintain your focus on what your readers want, and what you want will follow naturally. If your focus is on what you want, your readers have plenty of other opportunities to find what they want with an author who cares about giving it to them.

Check in next week for the final part of the the interview.

Friday, November 19, 2010

David Schlosser

This week I present the first part of an interview with David Schlosser. He is an award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer an award-winning editor. As a political and public relations consultant and candidate for public office, he has delighted and offended people around the world through such diverse outlets as The Wall Street Journal and New York Times as well as “Hard Copy” and “Inside Edition.” A native of Kansas, David went to college and grad school in Texas. After living or working in nearly a dozen states, he recently landed in Davidson, North Carolina with his lovely wife and their enthusiastic Goldendoodle puppy. He makes his living as a writer, editor, publisher, and strategic communications advisor who emphasizes the power of story to increase the impact of all forms of communication.

I met David at the 2009 Killer Nashville and in the last couple of years, I have only barely tapped into his knowledge, intelligence, and advice. His guidance has helped me to properly approach Echelon Press for submissions, and steered me in the right direction (and away from possible potholes) in marketing.

You're an author. What have you had published?

I’m fortunate to have published a range of fiction, non-fiction, and journalism in a variety of outlets (journals, magazines, newspapers) under my own name – from my college literary journal, the Trinity Review, to a profile of award-winning, best-selling novelist John Hart in the Charlotte Observer. If you read in politics/political economy, computer technology, or business, there’s a decent chance you’ve read something I’ve written (even if it wasn’t obvious I wrote it). I’m looking forward to getting my mystery novel out in 2011, as well as an expanded version of my self-editing/self-revision monograph, The CT Method (more about that later).

Where and when should a new author start marketing him/herself and the book?

As political people say about voting, “early and often.”

The specifics of any one author’s strategic plan are going to depend mightily on the kind of book and the kind of audience. Generally, though, as soon as you know your book is going to be published, you want to start telling your great news to people who will be interested.

You want this kind of message to be less about you (“Hey – I got a publishing deal!”) and more about your readers (“If you love a great supernatural romantic thriller with a satiric edge to the great theological debates of our time, I’m excited to tell you about my book.”).

The only thing that’s guaranteed to sell books is positive word of mouth (in the biz, we call that WOM, and you’ll often hear people talk about something (especially a video or a meme) “going viral”), so you want to make it easy for other people to get excited about your book, and then tell even more people about it.

Advertising is a “you get what you pay for” thing. There’s no secret deal or hidden treasure in advertising – if the rates are cheap, it’s because the exposure isn’t worth much. Before you do any paid advertising, calculate how many books you think you’re going to sell (painful truth: the number is never as high as you think), then figure out your ad cost per book and how much you’re going to make on each book. That should make it pretty obvious that advertising is a lousy investment for most books. Worse, advertising is not something people tend to share, so it actually works against your WOM.

Business cards, bookmarks, and other sturdy paper cards make it easy for you to leave a few teasers wherever readers might be (remember that bookstores are terrible places to try to sell your book – way too much competition!). They also make it easy for your friends and family to pass along information about you and your book to others.

Increasingly, readers rely on Internet-based modes of communication, so you want to start talking about your book (in an audience-focused way) online and in fora that make it easy for people to share. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, YouTube, blog, and podcast are all terms you should know and love. If you need some advice to get started on those services, use your favorite Internet search engine to look up this term:

how writers should use SERVICE

How does a published author continue keeping his/her name out in front of people?

Authors need to keep adding value to their relationship with their readers. I think that concept of “adding value” is what really differentiates an author who continues to sell books from an author who gets the surge of day-of-release sales and then trickles off.

There are countless strategies and tactics for adding value, and I encourage authors to pick a couple or a few that are most comfortable for them, then really focus on doing them well (see the conversation about the 80/20 rule later in this interview).

If you’re an extravert, think about reading/literacy programs, book clubs, public readings (especially at places relevant to your story rather than bookstores), lectures based on what your book is about or your experience in publishing it, local/regional arts festivals, and reader/writer conventions where you can mix/mingle or set up a table.

If you’re an introvert, think about blogging on the topics you researched for your book, writing articles for magazines or online news outlets about those topics or about your experiences as a published writer, and doing a tour of blogs to conduct an interview like this one with readers who have questions about you, your book, and the topics in your book.

Tune in next week for Part 2

Friday, November 12, 2010

EBooks Don't Count

As part of my marketing strategy to promote the release of Night Shadows (January 15, 2011), I have contacted several colleges and universities respectfully inquiring about interest in a guest reader, or, as a professor at my alma mater suggested, putting on a workshop with some of the creative writing students, offering critique, and editing and marketing advice. The professor I spoke with thought the workshop would be a better way to relate to the students. After my book is released, this professor will receive copy for reading, then we will talk about scheduling a visit.

On my website,, I wrote about a recent visit to William Penn University. The professor I met at this institution was ecstatic about having me attend a couple of classes. As I mentioned, the first visit, I offered my writing experience and how I became contracted to Echelon Press. Afterwards, the professor offered me a short story written by one of the students and the next time I attended, I offered some critique.

We both felt honored by the experience and the last communication I had with her left the door open for a future visit to a beginners' writing course next year.

Currently, I'm in contact with other institutions hoping to schedule future workshops. However, I recently received two rejections I feel I have to discuss. I won't name the colleges or the professors I contacted, but I was bothered by their reactions.

When I received rejection notices from publishers and agents, I chalked them up to inexperience, felt bad, but continued to persevere. I do not know how many more workshops or visits I may have at various colleges/universities, but I will keep trying.

The first rejection came via a phone call. The professor sounded bothered I had contacted him in the first place, annoyed he felt he had to call back and, in my opinion, didn't really want to listen to my proposal. He said there was no interest, “at least in this school.” before a quick termination of the call. Fine. One can only try so long before one realizes, ahem, it ain't gonna happen. Oh, that I would have realized this many moons ago when asking women for dates...but that's another story for another time.

The second rejection I received through email. This particular institution selects guest authors a year in advance and chooses only ones with “significant publications and who have won major awards.” Absolutely understandable. I researched some of their past guests. Names include: Edward P. Jones, Adrienne Rich, Ana Castillo, and John Edgar Wideman. I'm not going to put down any of these people even though I've never heard of them. I'm sure other writers and readers are familiar with their work. These authors have written some interesting material and, yes, have won some pretty prestigious sounding awards. So, I can understand this particular college wanting to have them and not me. I do not have numerous books published...yet, and I lack the far.

What really burnt my toast, however, was the first line of the email.
“E-books are not counted at the university level.” Excuse me? I'd like to know the reasoning behind that statement. Was this person saying e-books aren't REAL books? Yes, there are sites where any schmoe can put up his story, worthwhile or no. Buyer beware. But if you're with a publishing company that has a number of years under its belt with authors and editing and with some know how, then the unreality of e-books idea is not credible.

Or maybe he was thinking e-anything wasn't legitimate. I counter with: then nothing on the college's WEBSITE is credible either. Or the fact the message was sent by EMAIL might be a bit ironic. I didn't do any investigating, but I wonder how many of this college's guest authors have their own websites. I guess Stephen King and several other successful authors had better be told the news their works aren't acceptable, at least at the university level.

I've lowered my blood pressure since reading the email and took a few days before writing this post. And as I mentioned, I shall persevere. In the following weeks, I shall present some fascinating people, their thoughts, their books (e-books and tangible alike), and their successes. I think they will be entertaining and informative. Some have won awards for their work, whether written or otherwise, and all enjoy what they do and what they write. I think all of them offer advice, intelligence, and exhibit intestinal fortitude worthy of any guest appearance anywhere.

So, starting next week, let's have some fun and on the count of three, everybody give a raspberry to the notion e-books don't count. One, two...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Help Me!

This may seem a common sense concept, but let me discuss it anyway.

Writers do one important thing–they write. Okay, that's not the concept I'm talking about, but be patient.

I don't care whether you write in your local coffee shop, out in the park, or hole yourself up in your sanctum sanctorum for a specified period of time each day. You write. You create the plot, the characters, and the story.

However, you don't do it alone. You never see a writer pop out of his room after putting THE END on the manuscript and say to the world, "Look at me and the masterpiece I have created. All will now bow down and praise the work I have done."

I did that once and people laughed at me.

Okay, just kidding (or am I). My point is you have to rely on other people to finish your novel or short story. I know that's an obvious point, but sometimes authors tend to be a little selfish and defensive about their work. It's understandable and I've been there and, yes, walked away with a temporarily bruised ego.

I've written before about research. I love research. I enjoying visiting places and talking with people who are more knowledgeable than I about certain subjects. Most people, I've found, are more than willing to help. Yes, I have run into a few who aren't, who can't help me (even though I thought they should know some things), or outright won't. In those instances, I have to rely on the internet and reference books to help me with what I want to know. Or, I make it up (following rules, of course).

After I've written a story and edited it about a gazillion times (or so it seems), I can't subsequently start submitting it to publishers or agents. This is the nub of my gist. You need further help. You need to let someone else hear or read your work so that person can turn around and tell you it's crap. Yes, I said it, crap. Do you think Hemmingway and Margaret Mitchell and Stephen King wrote masterpieces first time out? No, they wrote crap. Then long after other people helped them, their stuff became legendary.

Writers' critique groups are one of the best ways to know you've written crap. Find a group who will listen to or read your work, give helpful suggestions, and even come up with brainstorming ideas to tweak your storyline. Unless you get some schmoe who can't stand the sight of your face, most critiques are about the writing. They'll let you know if something is exciting, boring, needs strengthening, needs more detail or less detail, if the characters stay true to themselves, or, as in the case with this sentence, you ramble on beyond your main point. And the best response you can make with these critiques? Shut up! Don't get defensive, don't whine and complain. Shut up, take the critiques in stride, and give some serious thought to them. Later, you can decide either to do something with the suggestion or decide the person who gave you the comment is dumber than a can of Spam.

Editing! Oh, my! I loathe editing. Now before my publisher and senior editor decide to boot me off their editing team, let me clarify. Editing MY work is tedious, exasperating, frustrating, and time consuming. This is especially true after I've gone through my manuscript umpteen times and still find stuff to improve. This is where you ask for help from others. Pay, trade, or barter with someone who will read through your novel and…tell you it's crap. No, seriously, who will correct the errors you've missed. There are professional editors who will do the job for a reasonable price. I also suggest picking up Todd Stone's book, Novelist Boot Camp, and review the section on what to look for each time you do a read through. It will help you and save time.

To get back to comforting my superiors, editing others' material is a wonderful thing. I'm not saying this to suck up. It's a learning experience. I see mistakes in what others write and learn what NOT to do with my own stories. This helps me be that much more diligent and creative with my writing.

One thing I need to express: writers need to know rules of grammar and punctuation. Do not submit anything until you are as near to 100% correct. Do not make your editor spend his/her valuable time correcting all but the fewest errors. I apologized to my Night Shadows editor because there was a problem with the version of the story she received. I take total responsibility for it and I will not allow it happen with Beta.

To sum up: Don't be afraid of critique and editing. Realize that what you have written is crap when it is crap and take steps to improve it.

Ask for help. You can't go it alone.