Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Sun is Finally Shining, and Other Musings from an Oklahoman ready for Summer

Part of publishing is networking. I recall one "UGLY BETTY" episode where Betty is part of an elite group of young professionals being mentored by professionals in the magazine publishing business.

One whole episode (really, the only episode I've ever seen) was devoted to the group's study on networking, and how VITAL it is to one's success in any branch of the publishing industry.

It's sooooo true....it's not what you know, but who you know.

In line with that theme, I wanted to show my authors some things about the industry they might not be aware of, simply because they are new to the industry and probably aren't well-connected.

We know what we are doing!
I'm constantly amazed by first time authors who think they know more about marketing a book than I do, simply because they read an article online, or attended a two-hour class on how to make their book a bestseller (usually with a nice price tag too...yes, that's sarcasm).

The strategies we adopt for marketing are cutting edge. What seems like it would work (like sending a book to Oprah with a great pitch letter) really doesn't work. Those are amateur efforts that everyone makes. It's not so simple as sending a really great query or being placed on a prominent bookshelf.


What does work is garnering the attention of local media, building a demand, and sharpening your skills on air.

Let an Expert Weigh In
Here's an eye-opening statement from Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Incorporated:  "When you are assigned a marketing rep or hire a publicist, recognize that part of what you are paying for is their expertise.  Most companies (or authors) would never quibble with their accounting firm, and they'd never argue legal opinions with their attorneys, so why do they find it so easy to dispute the expertise of their PR firm (marketing rep)? It's just counterproductive and it ends up wasting valuable time and money."

Marsha's firm is a PR consultant for Top Six publishers (such as HarperCollins and Simon Schuster), Tate Publishing, and various bestselling authors (a partial client list is available at her site). I share that to indicate that a) she knows what she's doing, and b) Tate knows what it's doing.

Everyone is out to make a buck! 
Believe me---I hate this one! I'm cynical enough to expect it, but I still dislike that we live in this culture.

We hear from authors daily who have been taken advantage of by marketing firms, publishers, etc. Some of these authors come to us as a last resort and are astonished at what we offer.

Some of our authors---usually those with unrealistic expectations from the get go---might pursue other options and ALWAYS come back to Tate thankful for what we did/have done/are doing for them.

These authors learned the hard way that Tate really offers one of the most solid marketing plans available to authors in this industry.

It's not just authors who tell us this. Other PR firms, bookstores, distributors, best-selling authors, book festivals, etc. like to commend what we do. We really offer the whole enchilada.

I share this all of this for one reason: to prove that people will promise the world to get your money. They will hype up their services and distort reality. Industry professionals are blown away by how Tate's plan goes above and beyond industry standards for authors. (don't just take my word for it....check out what a bestselling author has to say: NYT Bestseller Weighs In)

So beware of anyone who claims they can make you a bestseller. They are appealing to your ego, playing with your emotions in order to get your business.

Popular
I love Oklahoma native Kristen Chenowith and adore her version of "Popular" (from "WICKED"). Believe it or not, there is truth in this word.
Did you ever run for class office in high school? 

I did. 

I was a drama nerd, the type who liked to stay after school conjugating sentences on the chalkboard as my English teacher graded papers. I was on newspaper staff and wrote a weekly column that I'm convinced no one read. 

I ran every year for an office, and not once was I elected. In retrospect, I'm glad I wasn't weighed down with those responsibilities.

But the fact never changed: it was all a popularity contest.

On "MODERN FAMILY" (one of my new favorite shoes), one character summed it up by saying: "In high school, everyone spends their time trying to fit in. But once they are in the real world, they all try to stand out." 

What is popular one day might not be popular the next day. The market is constantly shifting, and the only ones who can influence the future of the market are the ones in control of the market.

But even they fail sometimes.

The truth is, no one can control what book becomes a bestseller. That is entirely up to the market: to readers. Both "THE SHACK" and "TWILIGHT" weren't predicted to be bestsellers...they were turned down numerously for publication.

Now see where they are. "THE SHACK" has been a bestseller for both religious and secular audiences, and "TWILIGHT" has lit the world on fire with a vampire frenzy. 

"You're Gonna be Popular"
Today, I'm your Galinda and you are my Elphaba (Wicked, the Musical). I'm going to help you set your sights on the road to popularity. 

Read this excerpt from the lyrics:
Celebrated heads of state,
Or specially great communicators!
Did they have brains or knowledge?
Don't make me laugh!

They were POPULAR!
Please!
It's all about popular.
It's not about aptitude,
It's the way you're viewed,
So it's very shrewd to be,
Very very popular

As Galinda so aptly points out, popularity comes through one thing: connections.

My authors often hear me say that one of two things sell a book: either a connection with the book or a connection with the author.

Most initial sales begin with author connections. As those spread, people start to connect with the book. This is what puts a high royalty check in an author's bank account.

The Connection Price Tag
You can't buy connections. You can only find them through blood, sweat and tears. Okay, that's over-exaggerating, but you really do have to work toward building relationships with readers, other authors, media contacts, and leaders within your niche.

Ask anyone who is popular and they will tell you: it's hard work being popular! 

So be sure that you recognize when someone is being straight with you. Anyone who promises you an easy way to success is trying to take advantage of you. We believe this in the financial realm---we all know that the email from a Nigerian prince is bogus, and those paid programming advertisements for business opportunities promising thousands and thousands of dollars in income is just a scam. 

So why don't writers believe this in the publishing realm?

The Truth will Never Deceive You
That's one thing about Tate Publishing that I love. From the moment you see our website to the first royalty you receive, our "pitch"stays the same.

We don't promise the moon. We don't promise the unpromisable, such as bookstore shelf space, huge royalties, national book tours, etc.

Even our website outlines what we promise, just as our contracts, production guides, and marketing guides do.

We do promise: 
a) to provide for an unknown author's book the opportunity to enter the dialogue of literature and, hopefully, develop a readership.
b) to provide top-of-the-line editing (as a book award judge, let me assure you....our editing team is one of the best out there!), design, and layout--each step carefully executed in pursuit of attracting and maintaining a reader's focus.
c) to implement a cutting edge marketing strategy for our books, a strategy that is further personalized to each book's unique market, a strategy applauded by the professionals in the industry.
d) to provide assistance in developing a niche readership.
e) to never EVER stop promoting our books, unless an author indicates the desire to pull back on marketing.
f) to provide to every author a personal connection, someone to work with hand-in-hand for the life of the book.
g) that each and every staff member will give each and every author he/she works with 110%. 

Spend any time with Taters (that's what we call ourselves) and you'll see that making authors' dreams come true is a passion for us. I honestly get up every morning excited to serve and market my authors. 

[Maybe this is a reason why Tate Publishing has repeatedly been nominated to the best places to work in Oklahoma]

Well, enough of my schpeal for today. I was out sick yesterday and have a lot to catch up on. But I wanted to be sure and share my heart with you all today before I got lost in "responding to media queries" land!

Question: If you have a product to sell (book, craft, WHATEVER), how do you plan to share your product with the world? Are your expectations realistic? What connections are you pursuing?

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