Archive for January, 2010

Short is good

Much has been said about avoiding flowery, purple prose when writing. While those of us who love words don’t mind multi-syllable words, many readers would rather get on with reading flow than stop and look a word up.

Thus, consider using short words in your writing. In our politically correct society, we tend to diffuse meaning.  We say someone was sexually assaulted rather than raped. Yet, the shorter word creates a more powerful reader reaction.

Another way we try to impress our readers is by using phrases when one word would do. For example, we might write “the report is due once a year.” However, we get the same result saying the annual report or the yearly report.

Sometimes we opt for words that show our research capabilities better than our capability to connect with our reader. For example, we might use the word coccyx even though our reader would recognize the word tailbone more readily.

We publish business, self-help, and inspiration books at Expert Publishing, and we often see jargon in the manuscripts submitted to us. We challenge the author to write clearly for the reader. Sometimes we need to add a glossary to the book, but most of the time, with a little thoughtful rewriting, the author can make the writing reader-friendly.

As you work on your manuscript, allow yourself to write more clearly by using shorter, more easily understood words. You’ll impress your readers a lot more if you do.

Happy writing!

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Your Words are Relative

One challenge I’ve seen writers struggle with is keeping related words together. You may be thinking, Huh? But when I explain, you’ll understand.

Think back to English grammar and you’ll recall that adjectives modify nouns. Here’s an example of what not to do by keeping adjectives away from what they modify. “The woman rode on the float in the parade as joyful as could be.” Now, floats and parades can be joyful, but it’s better so make sure the reader understands it was the woman who was joyful. A better choice would be “The joyful woman rode on the float in the parade.”

You might recall that adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. An adverb should be close to the word it’s modifying. Here’s an example of what not do do. “Susan noticed an embedded woodtick that was clearly in the dog’s ear.” A better choice would be “Susan  noticed a woodtick clearly embedded in the dog’s ear.”

Then we have the relationship of the pronoun to the noun (antecedent). Readers expect pronouns to relate the nearest antecedent. So if you’re writing about a young girl exploring grandma’s attic, you’ll want to make sure your pronoun refers to the correct female. For example, let’s say the young girl is Mary and, of course, grandma is Grandma.  You wouldn’t write “Mary knew Grandma kept special things in the attic and she couldn’t wait to once again explore the dark space.” Well, what antecedent (noun) does she (pronoun) refer to? Convention says Grandma because that’s the closest noun to the prounoun. But I suspect the writer intends the answer to be Mary. The sentence is more clear if written,  “Mary knew she couldn’t wait to once again explore the attic, the dark space where Grandma kept special things.”

It just takes a little tweaking make sure your reader understands your intent. Your words are relative–all you have to do is make sure they get along and they’ll be better understood.

Happy writing!

You Need Multiple Books to Attract Reading Fans

If you stop and think about books you’ve read that you like, you know you make note of the author. Once you’ve decided you like an author’s work, you start looking for other things that author’s written.

Now turn the mirror around and look at you. The same holds true with your readers. Once they’ve decided they like your work, they start looking for other things you’ve written.

Part of book marketing is being ubiquitous–having your name and the name of your book everywhere. Granted, this requires some planning and time, but investment in marketing can equate to sales, and that’s the goal.

As you’re creating your marketing plan, be sure you decide what measurement you’ll use to determine success. If you’re doing a book event, how many books do you need to sell to consider your event a success?If you’re doing a seminar, speaking to a group, teaching a class, or getting in front of an audience in some way, how many books do you need to sell to consider that venue a success? If you’re doing media interviews, how many books do you expect each interview to sell? NOTE: be aware most people don’t have pens and papers handy when the media plug your book, so you may not get a high number of sales from media interviews.

Many marketing professionals suggest it cost six times the money to gain a new customer as it does to keep a current customer. Keep that in mind as you create your reader/fan base. Stay in contact with your readers via blogging, newsletters, email notices, special offers, etc. You don’t always want to be selling them something, but you do want them to think of you so they can tell others about you and your book.

If you’ve written and marketed one book, you may be thinking you just can’t do this again. But you can. How many authors write series books–both fiction and non-fiction authors? A bunch. If you haven’t thought series before, give it some thought now. You need multiple books to attract reading fans. The more books you offer, the more they’ll buy and tell others about.

Happy writing!

Is There a Magic Pill in Book Marketing?

In our society of quick access to information and instant gratification, we often want to cut to the bottom line and find the magic pill to success. Look at the Madison Avenue messages we get in January–Lose Weight Now, Get Firm Abs Now, Get Rich Quick, etc. You see the claims visually on television as the spoken words fill the air. But, if  you squint and look real fast, you’ll see the fine print that says, “Results not typical.”

Results not typical applies to book marketing as well. No one’s going to know about your book unless you share the news. There is no magic pill. There are, however, other things that work, beginning with patience.

By now, you know you need a marketing plan and you need to work your plan.  You need to follow up as well. A general marekting rule says that someone needs to see your message seven times before it resonates. Vary the ways you get your message about your book out there–email, website, blog, publish party, book group event, book signing event, newsletter, media appearances.

If you’re relying on just one or two of these venues to market your book, you’re going into the marketplace with only an eighth of the marketing weapons you need to win the sale.

Here’s something else authors need to think about. The book sale is only the beginning of the author’s relationship with the reader. Authors can continue the relationship with offerings (articles, blog, newsletter, etc.) so the reader connects even more with the author.

And, the author needs to write and publish the second book and the third book because the reader wants more–and will buy the next books if the author has kept the relationship going.

I’m a product of the early rock ‘n roll days and sometimes tune into the local oldies station. One of the themes they have is the “One Hit Wonder” theme–songs that were successful but were the only success the recording artist had. One hit, then nothing.

And so it is with so many authors–they publish a book, it doesn’t sell as well as they anticipated, so they give up rather than take a step back and look at what they’ve done and what else they could do to create buzz about their book.  Instead of taking responsibility for sharing their book, they blame the publisher for not doing the marketing for them, for not getting them into bookstores, for not sending them on a book tour, for not getting them on television, and on and on the blame game goes.

Unless you have a platform (you’re widely and instantly recognized), you’ll have to work to market your books (at least the first few titles). But you will gain a following and you will gain customers if you see publishing as business rather than dream fulfillment.

Happy writing!

Think Marketing Before You Write

When I teach my Writing for Fun and Profit Series for at the colleges here in the Twin Cities, one of biggest surprises students get is authors, not publishers, are responsible for marketing their books. It doesn’t matter if the book is royalty published, subsidy published, or equity published–readers buy authors, not publishers, so it’s up to the authors to create the buzz about their books.

Before you begin writing, you should think about marketing your book–marketing to readers, that is, not publishers. Who is your reader? Who will buy your book? What content would make your reader part with his/her money to buy your book over another? You can do your own market research by asking people what they want to know about [insert your book topic].

Once you’ve got a handle on the content people want to read, you should come up with a marketing plan. As literary agent Michael Larsen said to me once, “the marketing plan in a book proposal is often what makes the difference.” Again, whether you’re looking for a publisher or publishing yourself, you need to sell books and selling begins with marketing.

Create your marketing budget, then consider what you spend as investment in your writing career, not as expense. The top-of-mind authors are not one-hit wonders. They author several books and market all of them. If your first book is a marketing failure, chances are you won’t publish a second book. No one wants to repeat a failing performance. And, even worse, no author wants to take responsibility for his/her “baby” failing, so typically someone else (publisher,  publicist, etc.) gets blamed instead.

Once you know what you’re going to write in your book (based on your market research), and you have your marketing plan (including budget), you get to determine what your marketing looks like. Make sure whatever you do to market your book is consistently first class. If your marketing image isn’t first class, you’ll never convince readers your content is worth owning, let alone reading and telling others about.

Finally, when you’ve planned your marketing well, you’ve invested in your book’s success, and you’re consistent in your marketing, you’ll gain reader confidence. And that is golden. When people feel confident they won’t be disappointed in your book, they’ll become loyal customers (yes, customers).

Think marketing before you write if you’re serious about your writing career.

Happy writing!