I caught a Kiwi-born Aussie author who’s debut novel became a recent bookworld sensation (The Rosie Project) divulge tips for writerpreneurs. I realised the experience of Graeme Simsion held certain selling parallels. Here’s a ten-point checklist;
1 Experiment Not To Distraction
If you are going to experiment, try something a little different or change-up the standard norms in your pitch, make sure it doesn’t leave the audience wondering more about what on earth is going on rather than marvelling at your memorable innovation. The authoring example worked through included removing quotation marks around speech and the traditional marker ‘, said x’. ‘You don’t want to be drawing attention to something you don’t want the reader to focus on’.
2 Rehearse Vocally
He finds it essential to read aloud to someone else (he and his wife read entire manuscripts to each other). This is so underdone in sales and is unforgivable.
3 Don’t Get Hung Up On The Start
Apparently many writers go big on how they put that first paragraph together. Seeking a killer brilliant first para or line that’ll be seen like a classic opening. His advice is don’t worry about it. Write a brilliant story and come back and polish the very start later. If upfront you find yourself mulling too long on how does the pitch open, then heed his words, “I just say forget it!” He later added, “don’t get it right, get it done”.
4 Keep Testing And Improving
Whilst not all novelist share his view here (he cited Zadie Smith as one who apparently thinks differently), you do admire his mantra, “good writing is re-writing”. A successful pitch is one of constant refinement. Just like a winning process.
5 Selling Is A State Of Mind
Yes, I’m aware of the need to ‘switch off’. Yet as he agreed when another author noted, writing is a state of mind. And so is worldclass selling.
6 Beware Friendly Advice
Getting feedback before sending on a finished work is a writer’s staple. Yet he warns that your friends are not professionals and may well have no idea on how to make what you’ve toiled over better or how to fix it. He quotes Neil Gaiman; ‘editors are almost always right when they tell you there’s a problem and almost always exactly wrong when they tell you what the problem is and always wrong when they tell you how to fix it.’ How this translates to sales is to be wary from whom you seek counsel outside your office. If they can’t ever put their hand in their pocket for you, how valid is their opinion?
7 Constructive Criticism Only
An allied point, he agreed with another author again berating the critical sting of “no mate, that’s no good”. That’s not good enough. At the very least it must be backed up with reasons and suggestions or else dismiss.
8 When Rejected
Every book that finds success is going to have rejections. Not everyone is ever going to like what you do. I did like his idea to look up your favourite book of all time, then read the one-star reviews. For every stellar seller, they all have them. Critiques well-thought out and otherwise will tear a classic to shreds (upon release and later). So even if you’ve got a product seemingly unloved in which you believe, you may well find a foil you can build upon.
9 Think Through Flow
Whilst there are authors that seemingly claim they begin a book not knowing how the characters will traverse the universe created, this slant got short shrift. Get the plot sorted up front and build. Just like how you sculpt a great pitch or presentation.
10 Social Media Schmedia
The question he gets asked far too often is, “what about my social media?” His chastening reply, “think of all that time you spend on twitter and spend that time on writing a better book”. Yes, this needs to be said to all those reps I’ve seen spending useless hours on LinkedIn.