by Gayle Bartos-Pool
………… As we continue the Points from a previous posting.
- What makes you so special? Okay, you have taken inventory of yourself. You know the types of books you like to read and you know what types of books you want to write, (if you haven’t already penned your first or even second book.) You have some special skills that give you credibility or you have done a great deal of research into certain areas that you will be covering in your book. You feel fairly confident your research will interest an audience down the line. So what makes you different from every other author out there who writes a similarly themed book?
Say you like mysteries with a food theme: chef/sleuth, caterer/sleuth, food critic/sleuth. There are other books out there with those characters. Jerrilyn Farmer (Killer Wedding) writes a mystery series about a caterer who gets caught up in crime. Mysteries are notorious for having food-related themes. Amateur sleuths are constantly eating in their books. (They should all be fifty pounds overweight.) What makes your Ginsu knife-wielding sleuth more interesting than any of the others?
Knowing the answer to “What makes your character special?” can be the biggest selling point for your work. While you are building your platform, you will be building a platform for your main character.
When an agent says, “Yeah, you write well, but there are a hundred chef/sleuths out there.” What are you going to tell him or her that makes your guy or gal sleuth unique? If you are Oprah’s personal chef, boy do you have an in. If you cooked twenty years in the army, you just might have an edge. If your sleuth is a Martian with the best quiche recipe in the Solar System…You get the idea.
So, what makes your sleuth different? Have that answer at your fingertips before you submit your first manuscript.
Consider using the same simple technique screenwriters use to sell a script: the high concept idea. Have a short, pithy term to describe your main character. Maybe you have a blind chef, or a wisecracking Yenta chef, or a bi-polar chef. Make it memorable and you just might have a winner.
The main character in one of my mystery series is Johnny Casino. I bill him thusly:
Johnny Casino is a retired P.I. with a past. He just hopes it doesn’t catch up with him.
You can get 14×12 inch magnetic signs from places like VistaPrint for the side of your car with your book’s cover and your website on it along with your catchy phrase. You will be a driving bulletin board. People can see the sign when you’re driving down the freeway or across town. It’s (almost) free advertising. The sign costs around $10, plus shipping. And it’s fun.
- Get yourself plastered… all over the Internet. Create a Web presence with a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin – so people can find you. Even before you send out your first manuscript, create a website, preferably with your name in the title. You can even Photoshop a fun picture like this one.
www.agathapenwrite.com will draw more people to you than www.im-a-greatwriter.com. Whether you use a pen name or your real name, remember: You are selling “you” out there. You are the product. And you want people to buy “you.” You want people to pick up a book with your name on it, recognize your name, and pay real money for that book. You want people to say, “Oh, Agatha Penwrite wrote this. This must be good.” And the next time they check out Amazon or the local bookstore, they will be looking for Agatha Penwrite, not some obscure domain name that could fit anybody. And frankly, those silly website names say that you aren’t quite a professional yet.
Sign on to Twitter, find people you know, other writers, old classmates, old boyfriends, ask them to follow you. Then document your writing journey. Using those 140 characters, let people know that you finished the first draft of your new book, you joined a writer’s group, you sent query letters to agents and publishers, and that you got some bites. Put a few notes on Facebook about who you are. Remember you already discovered the “real you” in the first bullet point in this series. Now it’s time to get your name out there.
While you are signing up for all these Internet presences, get someone to take a good picture of you to post on these sites. People want to know what you look like. If you settle for the generic silhouette people use when they have “no picture available” it says you don’t know who you are yet. If you are nervous about having a picture taken, rent a nice looking dog and hold him up next to you.
You are putting your name and face out there so people will know who you are. And they’ll love the dog. (The picture on some of my books is me with my dog Sherlock. I didn’t have to rent a pup.)
Get that new picture of you on your website and all those other sites. No time for being shy. And your publisher will love the fact that you are advertising the product (you) out there in cyberspace.
- Is anybody out there? Now you are thinking, “OMG, this writing stuff is harder than I thought it was going to be. Do other people really do all this?” Find out by joining several writers’ organizations in your chosen writing genre. (Mystery writers have groups like Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Romance Writers of America covers the more passionate side of writing. Check the Internet for your genre and see what’s out there.) After you join one of these groups, talk to other members and ask if they are as nervous as you are. (The answer is yes, but still ask.)
Go to events sponsored by these groups. Meet other people who are going through the same things you are, and be sure to talk to those who have progressed a little further and learn more of the ropes from them, and share your experiences with others. There will actually come a time when you will be considered an old hand at this stuff and someone new to the business will be asking you questions. Learn as you go so you can pass along that knowledge to others. Say hello to the featured speakers at events. Make contacts. Remember, when you are out there selling your book at an event, you will want people sitting in the audience listening to you. Be there for others and maybe they will return the favor and be there for you.
We will have more in the upcoming weeks…