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