Writing and Book Marketing - Your Pitch (Part 1)

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

This is a four-part series that starts during Writers on the Move's Special Writing and Marketing Week and goes throughout the month.

YOUR PITCHES are tools you’ll probably have to rethink. You’ve seen characters in films about the movie business. A screenwriter sits across the desk from a big producer and pitches his screenplay. He is scared and miserable. His job is to convince this gatekeeper that his script is the best thing since baked Alaska. We shudder. We think that pitches are pushy at best, desperate and seedy at worst. In our real world, authors need to know how to make pitches that don’t feel like that.

Sales are the cogs that make our capitalist society work. Pitches are what make sales. Simply put, if you have a distaste for selling, you need to get over it fast. The best way to do that is to be so passionate about your book you know you aren’t selling something to someone who doesn’t want it, and certainly not to someone who won’t benefit from it.

Pitches come in two flavors. Let’s call them the “benefits” and the “beejeebees.” First we’ll talk about those two categories which are as different from one another as licorice ice cream is from French vanilla bean. Then we’ll talk about how to write them and then how to use each of them when addressing different audiences—the publishing industry, the media, and your prospective readers.

Two kinds of pitches must be stowed in your bag of now-and-forever PR skills. Most of us are aware that our sales pitches make audiences aware of the benefits of the product we offer—in this case our books, our expertise, or our personal entertainment value. We know how to list what readers will get from our books. Entertainment. A thrill. A little romance in their lives. Important information. The trouble is, many times those things don’t seem much different from what they would get by reading any other book of the same genre. So we may need to examine the advantages of pitching consequences (what will happen if a reader doesn’t read your book).

Using consequences instead of benefits is espoused by Dan Seidman in The Death of 20th Century Selling. As unfortunate as it may sound to you, consequences can be more powerful arguments than benefits. Our politicians know this. They use consequences against the public all the time—quite effectively.
When I owned retail stores I told my new sales associates that people shop because they want to buy something. I was surprised that I had to give them this lecture, but past experience told me it was necessary. “Shopping makes them happy,” I’d say. “When we shop, our friends may ask, ‘How did you do?’ They know you ‘did well’ if you found something to buy. If the shopper didn’t find something she loves, she is disappointed. Her shopping companion is disappointed. And the sales associate who was trying to help her is disappointed, too.”

We almost always sold the benefits of a product but sometimes consequences were implicit. As an example, when people bought gifts for their bosses, they were often reluctant to buy less prestigious brands.

It is no different when customers are thumbing through the books at a bookstore; your book’s cover is a silent sales associate. Of course, if you happen to be a presenter or are signing at an event, you shouldn’t be at all silent. Your pitch must jump from print to the spoken word. You will become a walking, talking pitch from what you say, to how you say it.

Seidman’s book gives readers detailed instruction on how to turn benefits around to scare the beejeebees out of prospective readers and tell them the horrors that will befall them if they don’t buy your book. You already hold The Frugal Book Promoter in your hands but, if I were trying to sell you using consequences, I would tell you:

  • One-third of all books published traditionally each year get returned to publishers. Those publishers ship them off to be used on remainder (discounted) tables. When they’re returned a second time, they’re often shredded.
  • If you don’t promote yourself and your book early, the same thing (or something like it) could happen to your book.
  • And that the best place to learn to promote yourself is with this book because it gives you marketing basics and ideas straight from someone who has used them herself.

The first two are “beejeebees bullets.” The third bullet gives a benefit. You can see how they may be used in conjunction with one another for greater effectiveness and to soften the beejeebees part.

Paul Hartunian, the author of How To Find the Love of Your Life in 90 Days or Less, used a twist on the consequence approach in one of his media releases. He used a short list of “Don’ts” and included: “The worst place to go on a first date—go here and you’ll probably never get a second date.” He tormented the editors by not giving them the answer to the question he posed in his query letters. The recipient of such a release is not only curious but also aware that his audience will be, too. It’s a sure bet that Hartunian’s release was effective.

Though it is easier for writers of nonfiction to use consequences, fiction writers should try to use them, too. In 2002, I might have told prospective readers that their enjoyment of the Olympics would be severely impaired if they didn’t read This Is the Place so they would understand the history and culture of the city in which the games were set or why they would have difficulty getting a Rum Bacardi with their dinner in that state.

Hint: Select benefit, consequence, or both when they fit the occasion, not when they feel forced.

Please stop back on December 7th for Part 2 of Carolyn Howard-Johnson's The Pitch series.

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Excerpted from the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter, http://budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program
Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books including the second edition honored by USA BOOK NEWS

The Frugal Book Promoter: http://budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo
Web site: http://www.HowToDoItFrugally.com


6 comments:

  1. Thank you for such a great job. Karen. Love the images you find. (-:

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    1. Carolyn, thanks for providing such helpful book marketing information. This is excellent insight into the sales process for a customer. It's so true that people shop to buy. It's their intent. All you need to do is direct them to their need, want, or desire.

      I make my own images for the blog posts. Better safe than sorry! :)

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  2. What an excellent pitch formula, and like how you even provide a fiction context. Can't wait for part two.

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  3. Thank-you Carolyn and Karen. I value this information!

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  4. Great post Carolyn. Using consequences as a marketing tool is an interesting twist.

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  5. Very clever writing as always, Carolyn. An expert example of what to do and how to do it.

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