Tuesday, November 04, 2014

250 Words on Self-Promotion

I am a subscriber to Simon & Schuster's 250 Words daily posts. For those who don't know they are posts in which authors discuss what they've learned from a favorite business book (typically not their own) in 250 Words or less. As a business owner I love business tips and advice and I love it even more when I can get a great deal of new information in just 250 words.

A few weeks ago there was a post that directly referenced authors. The post, How Can We Show Off What We Know Without Being Labeled a Show-Off discusses how people respond to an author (or any person) when the author is talking about her credentials and successes. A study was done in which an author presented her own impressive list of successes and then an agent presented that same author's successes (read the post). Not surprisingly, people responded more positively to hearing about the author's successes from the agent. If you read the article I suspect you'll have that same reaction.

Well that's great for the agented author, but what about the unagented author in search of an agent. How is she supposed to talk up her great platform without looking like a braggart or like someone who is likely to become difficult?

The one thing for authors to remember is you need to talk about your platform. Especially if you're writing nonfiction. But how do you do that without making yourself sound like the kind of author no one is going to want to work with? The key is in presentation. For me the way that works the best is putting the book first. In your query you might want to mention one or two things that make you a stand out, but then you need to focus on the book. Like this:

Dear Rockstar Agent:
I have been a literary agent for 15 years during which time I ran a successful blog in which I gave readers loads of delicious advice on everything from writing query letters to making cocktails. The blog received, on average, 30 billion hits a day.
**see how I gave them some significant information, but wait, now you'll see how I've linked it all to the book so that information becomes about the book and not so much about me. 
Based on my blog I've written a book entitled Secret Agent. Secret Agent gives readers, all writers, the advice and guidance they'll need to make their book a surefire success in the market. Using the analytics from my blog I'll be able to write a book that contains only the most valuable and attractive information to readers. 
My blog has been running successfully for over 10 years. As I mentioned earlier, I receive 30 billion hits a day and will use the blog to cross-promote the book. In addition, I'm the youngest inductee into the Literary Agent Hall of Fame, I've appeared on Oprah to give my vast insights into why memoirist shouldn't lie and I've represented pretty much all of the top names in the literary world. 
I look forward to hearing whether you're interested in reading more of my book.
Jessica Faust 

The key is to give enough information that you grab the reader's attention, but not so much you turn them off. How did I do?

Fiction writers probably don't have a platform necessary to sell a book. In other words, unless you're a doctor writing a book about doctors or something comparable there is not a lot fiction writers need to write about themselves. That's perfectly acceptable.

Oh, one last thing, whatever you do say about yourself must be true. You all know there's no Literary Agent Hall of Fame right?



Claude Nougat said...

Very funny, I really enjoyed this post!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

No hall of fame? What about Oprah? I need clarification before I brag about commenting on a blog owned by someone who knows Oprah.

Telling people you're great without coming off as an ass takes finesse. And just because I'm great doesn't mean I have the necessary finess-ish-ness. Having an agent to sing your praises (or in my case, my mother) is way classier.

Excellent post. Glad you're back!

kris said...

So, no Hall of Fame - but what about the 30 billion hits/day?

Melodye said...

This reminds me of a Southern expression I learned as a young girl: "It's a sad puppy that can't wag its own tail."

Thanks for showing us how to do that tail-wagging in a way that keeps the book front and center.