Monday, December 9, 2013

The Often-Ignored Vital 1st Law of Do-It-Yourself Book Marketing

by John Klawitter

Copyright © 2009 John Klawitter
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2009

There are some strict Laws of Marketing that apply to selling your work, and they are all as true as
John Klawitter
Hammurabis Code or the Ten Commandments from the Bible, and if you don’t follow them you will be a lost child in the wilderness.  But there’s one law that’s more important than all the rest, and yet book marketeers rarely talk about that one--not because they’re keeping it a secret, but because it’s in your hands, not theirs.
Marketing follows writing as surely as you have to have a box of frosted flakes before somebody invents a tiger to tell you they’re great.  We accept this is the same for books, but the most successful writers know it isn’t! Most young authors don’t even think about the annoying and difficult task of marketing their work until after it’s written.  Yet, shouldn’t it be obvious that’s not the right way to do it?
Here’s this writer named, let us say, Lavonia, who has slaved night after night, for over six months, and now she has 86,793 words.  She takes a well-deserved sip of Dry Sack sherry, leans back in her chair and panics as she considers, for the first time, the hoard of uncivilized, untamed, unkempt barbarians--those other writers whom she will be competing against.  “My lovely muse, help me!” she cries out.  But her faithful muse, ever at her side before, is now struck dumb as a brick.  Marketing is not in her job description, you see.
And yet the marketing of the book should have been part of the process all along.  Poor Lavonia
would have been well advised to take a few reflective minutes before each scribble-session.  She should have asked herself dozens of hard questions like: “Am I still talking to my readers?”  “Who are my readers, anyway?”  “Is it still the story I started out to tell?”
As writers, we know that stories are either classic in structure or they are organic.  It’s a basic they teach in Writing 101.  But nobody ever tells you how important it is to weigh the marketing difficulty of your project even before you first type in the title, and to constantly worry about whether you’re still on target as you scribble along..
A more useful fork in today’s book marketplace might be genre or non-genre.  This ultimately is the key decision an ambitious writer must make before getting in bed with the muse.  Sure, you’re going to have an affair, but it is wise to have it on your own terms.  And the best and only way to do that is to be honest with yourself before you start, and to stay true all along the way:
Kristin Hannah author of Angel Falls
Are you going to write the next Angel Falls or the next The Bridges of Madison County?  The one, as you well know, will be a beautifully written genre romance, and the other, a classic love story, deceptive in its seeming simplicity.
A couple of weeks in, reaching the first turning point, say when Robert Kincaid drives up Francesca Johnson’s gravel road that first time seeking directions, are you still talking with the same clarity to the same readers you engaged on page one?
Or, if you’re writing the next novel to take on Nora Roberts, is your Reese Gilmore believable in her terror, and yet steady on with the grit that makes your readers want to turn the pages?
Robert James Waller author The Bridges of Madison County
What I’m saying is simple in the telling, but I promise you it is a most difficult discipline to master.  You can groom your style and you can learn structures that will leave your readers gasping, laughing or weeping.  But the artistry that defines the difference between a craftsperson and a writing wonder is the mastery over your own inner inclinations, your discipline to be the boss rather than allowing your story to sweep you along.
Yes, give your muse her due, but in a balanced relationship that’s 50% fancy and 50% genius.  Use that genius half--what we’ll call the thinking writer’s fifty percent--from the very first key stroke to work as a writer-marketeer, to shape your novel so it firmly captivates your audience and holds them in orbit like planets around your sun.


John Klawitter is a Hollywood writer, producer and director who writes fiction and non-fiction books.  He often adapts his novels to screenplays that he then peddles around town.   (So far, a few fat options, but no brass ring.) His novels are based on his years surviving as a creative person in the ad biz and in show biz.  It is an interesting life.
He has worked as the Creative Director of Disney Studios in Burbank, and as an independent creative resource for Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount and the Disney Channel, as well as for many indy production companies including Hanna Barbera, Franke Films, Pink Planet Productions, Eyeline Films and Zoiyu Productions.  His films and television specials have appeared on NBC, the BBC, and the Disney Channel, and he has written many memorable song lyrics, advertising jingles and television show openings, including “Disney’s Wonderful World”, “Now & Then”, and “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show”.

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