The year I won the San Francisco Writer’s Conference pitch conference, I had just gained some really valuable information in a morning session. (I mentioned this in an earlier Write Nonfiction in November post.) The session was taught by writing-career-coach Teresa LeYung Ryan and public relations/marketing consultant Elisa Southard. I’ve never forgotten the lesson Elisa taught me and shares again in today’s WNFiN post: “Use power verbs to describe how people profit from your books.” I was able to apply this even to my novel (yes…a novel), and to see the contest judges’ eyes light up when I made my pitch. Later, other agents’ eyes also lit up when I pitched the manuscript to them. I volunteer at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference each year, and although I still think Elisa and Teresa have more expertise, I help a lot of writers hone their pitches using the skills I learned in their session. I also use this ability when writing pitches for query letters and book proposals.
Elisa has a wealth of great marketing information to offer, so I thought it fitting to end WNFiN’s series of posts on this topic with one from her. She has compiled really terrific tips on avoiding some common marketing traps.
7 Nonfiction Book Marketing Traps to Avoid
By Elisa Southard
You smile as you sign on the dotted line with your publisher. Bravo! Let’s clink glasses! Your work is done. Or is it? Your publisher provides limited marketing, which puts this urgent hat square atop your head. Keep your eyes on the footpath as you advance to avoid the jaws of the following marketing traps. Your fan base awaits…
1. Concentrating on what you can’t control
You give your business card to someone at a writing conference or agent panel. What assurance do you have he or she will contact you? None. Instead, gain control over the follow-up by getting the other person’s contact information. You walk away with a smile and control of the next step.
2. Taking too long
How long does it take to introduce your passionate offer? If you don’t get your message across quickly, you won’t get it across at all. Use power verbs to describe how people profit from your books. Here’s an example: “Through my book, Break Through the Noise, I help professionals power up, build and recharge their marketing and public relations messages.” Strong verbs generate strong interest—straightaway.
3. Focusing on facts
An avalanche of facts detracts from your message. Instead, launch the ultimate writer weapon—a story. With a story, you nudge readers to consider his or her personal life. Think in bullet points; limit your facts to three. Even an avalanche starts with snowflakes.
4. Hiding behind status
Do you feel you’ve earned your stripes? Do you think it’s time for agents or editors to come to you? Unless you provide an unrivaled book for a particular need, think again. Copious options tease your readers; feeling entitled traps you, the author. Instead, put status aside by sharing yourself. Show a friend how to research, step up to volunteer, speak up to support. With these actions, you’re memorable. You’re marketing.
5. Reacting not reaching
Blew it on the last agent or editor pitch? You didn’t give yourself the okay to practice without pressure. It’s time to take a tip from world-class athletes, who always warm up. Don’t you smile seeing those pre-game stretches or pre-season bouts? Model those rituals to conquer your skills under pressure. How to do it? Select one aspect of your pitch, set a mini-goal to practice with a friend until you master it without reservation. Then move on to the next until you ace it as a whole.
6. Assuming rather than swapping
When you assume people know the importance of your topic, you risk going on autopilot. Instead, keep your message fresh by swapping sides. Judge from your reader’s viewpoint. Browse through a blog or trade magazine in your area to access their viewpoints. Examine the top topics in your motif for current language. Take a quiz online. When you swap sides, you shift to your readers’ viewpoint. You hone your instinct to design messages that resonate in their own language.
7. Knowing without showing
An industry authority once said, “Marketing is talking to a passing parade.” How observant. Parades of potential fans come in the form of invitations to volunteer at a conference or event. You join the committee, bond briefly, move on. However, without sustaining relationships, you never convert colleagues into fans. Here’s how to stay in touch without straining your current commitments. Show what you know. Right now, write down one concept you advocate in your book. For Break Through the Noise, it’s, “Marketing is easy. You can do it, too.” Now write down the rewards of using this tip or technique. How many items do you have? I bet at least a dozen—enough to stretch this concept into a year of ideas. Write short “What If…” tips from your list. Show what you know by spreading these tips through your favorite venues, online and off.
With these seven antidotes to marketing traps you no longer need to fear turning your attention from manuscript to self-promotion. The next time you meet an agent or future fan, your marketing hat will be more than an accessory. You’ll wear it with conviction to build the fan base you always knew you deserved.
About the Author
Through her book, Amazon business best seller Break Through the Noise: 9 Tools to Propel Your Marketing Message, Elisa Southard loves to help professionals be their own best advocate. Elisa also serves as a faculty member of the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributor to Helmet Hair.com Motorcycle magazine. She is researching her second book, Bring Your Inner Newbie Out for professional women launching into a new sport or pursuit.
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