Sunday, October 12, 2014

How to Sell Your Books: Four Takeways from BOWS

The third annual Business of Writing-Success conference was a smashing success for the 42 attendees at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on October 11, 2014. 

One of the best features of BOWS is that it reaches out to presenters whom people wouldn’t normally associate with writing. After all, what does a voice coach or a sales trainer have to do with writing a book?

Quite a lot, as it turned out.

Each presenter provided something unique and valuable for writers who want to sell the books they have worked so hard to write. For example:

Takeaway #1: The Importance of the 30-Second Speech

Dan Compo, an actor and voice coach, lectured on the importance of creating a 30-second speech to present to anybody who wants to know what we do as writers. The 30-second speech answers four questions, Compo said: 
  • What is your name? 
  • What is your profession? 
  • What have you recently done? 
  • Where are you going?
But delivering a 30-second speech is not easy. “We seek authenticity in your performance,” Compo said of anyone who might be listening to the speech. “Being authentic is really difficult.”

Compo quoted famed acting coach Charles Conrad, who said, “Get the attention away from yourself. Focus on your listener, not on you.”

Takeaway #2: Setting Goals

Robin Wayne Bailey, best-selling author (he refuses to limit himself to the label of science fiction writer) of Frost and the Dragonkin trilogy, discussed the importance of having goals in writing. 

His goal, he said, is one every writer can identify with: to make money. “I’m not here to create art. I’ll let the public be the judge of that,” Bailey said. “I have to make you keep turning the page.”

Bailey said he has three goals for writers: 
  • Write every day. 
  • Finish everything you write. 
  • Submit for publication everything you finish. 
He allowed that he may put aside a project for a while, but he always comes back to it. "I generally have five or six projects going at once," he said.

Although he acknowledged the importance of social media, Bailey cautioned writers not to get too caught up in promoting themselves. His rule is that if he spends one hour on the Web promoting his work, he must spend an hour doing what he calls “real writing.” 

“You must have product to sell,” he said.

Takeway # 3: Build a Following BEFORE You Write a Book

Deb Clem-Buckert, a parenting blogger who was a regular blogging contributor for The Kansas City Star, discussed the importance of building a brand and a following before searching for a book deal. 

“I was  very calculated in how I built my brand,” she said of her blog, which includes personal stories as well as recipes. Her blog reaches out to women who have similar experiences in parenting, yet Clem-Buckert established her own niche, since her child is a teenager. Other similar blogs, she said, are written by the parents of toddlers.

Clem-Buckert emphasized the importance of social media for writers. “You have to have the followers before you write the book,” she said.

Takeaway # 4: Learn to Sell Like a Used Car Salesman

Michael DeLong, an award-winning sales trainer, presented on one of the most unusual topics: how to sell your books like a used car salesman. “You’ve got to know how you appear to other people,” said DeLong, who recommended that authors videotape themselves before giving a pitch. 

He also said authors should get to know something about the person or publisher to whom they are pitching their books. “You know what the publisher can do for you,” he said, “but what can you do for them?”

However, DeLong also cautioned writers about being overconfident or cocky. “Don’t have on your mind the answer to the question before they ask it,” he advised.
That was just in the morning session. Four more presenters gave takeaways in the afternoon. If there is interest, I will present more in a future post. Meanwhile, start planning now to attend the next BOWS in 2015 so you can take away your own gold nuggets.

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