Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spilling the Beans

by Heather Moore

This past weekend I attended the League of Utah Writers Conference in Midway, Utah (think Heber or Park City—it’s beautiful up there).

It was one of those full circle moments. In 2002, I attended my first writers conference ever—the LUW conference. There I heard from writers that I had admired for years. I entered the contest with a manuscript and earned a 3rd place award. I used the validation to keep me motivated as I waded through plenty of rejections in the months to come.

This year—2009—I attended the conference as a presenter. Even though I felt that I had a lot of insights to share—especially my own bumpy road to publication—I was there to learn. On the side, I was also there as a fan.

I was excited to meet Sandra Dallas. I also took a workshop from Richard Paul Evans, a local author who has been a NY Times Bestseller most of his career. In Evans’ “former” life he was an advertising executive—a very successful one. Transitioning from an ad ex to a successful author is something to note, and believe me, I was writing down every word he said.

So I decided to spill the beans. Some of it you’ve probably heard before, but when Richard Paul Evans says “When I get up in the morning, I go to work against John Grisham,” you suddenly sit up and take more notice.

Evans said to ask yourselves these questions when writing your book:
-Is there an audience?
-Is that audience big enough to earn success?
-Who will purchase the book (i.e. parents purchase books for their children; women purchase books for their husbands, etc.)
-Can you create perpetual motion with your sales? In other words, will you get more energy (sales) out of the product than what you put into it (marketing)?

He also advised:
Find your unique selling proposition and market to it! He gave the example of a book that was published called Compact Classics. It was a glorified and condensed version of Cliff Notes in which you could read a summary of a classic in just a couple of minutes. Sales lagged. Then it was discovered that people were reading this book in the bathroom . . . and the book was renamed: The Great American Bathroom Book. Sales skyrocketed.

Listen to your reviewers. What are they saying about your book? What is the main theme they restate? This is your unique selling proposition.

And finally:
Take Prisoners! You need to capture your audience by creating a mailing list. Evans shared story after story of authors who had their first books sell like crazy. But they didn’t capture their audience (collect addresses or emails), and they weren’t able to market their next books to the audience that loved the first one. When Rick goes to a signing or event, he hands out sign-up cards where the reader can sign up for his email letter, or be on his postal list. Readers can also go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. He also recommended that as a writer, we should sign up for other authors’ newsletters so that we can learn how they are marketing their books.


Carolyn V. said...

Yay!!! Thanks for posting this! I missed the LUWs conf. this year (I was out of town). It's so good to hear what happened. thanks =) (Plus I love the advice.)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

fantastic advice! I'm taking notes!

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Oh, when oh when will I get serious about this writing thing? I guess I could start with going through my blog and noting the posts where readers say that I should write a book. Then what?

I'll tell you what. I return to one of my favorite authors and read, read, read. It's my drug of choice. Irony: Just finished a Richard Paul Evans book and loved it.

Tried Time Traveler's Wife and closed the book puzzled.

Who is my audience and will they read?

Maria Zannini said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing them!

And I love that you came full circle. How rewarding that must feel. Congrats!

Terresa said...

Great tips. As usual, I'm taking notes.