Writing Commitment - It Can Be a Positive Thing

Guest Post by Irene S. Roth

    Most writers hate the word commitment because it usually has negative overtones. To be committed is to dutifully complete a project or to create an obligation to write a certain amount every day. So, commitment always requires something from writers. Is there any way of viewing commitment in a much more positive light so that writers don’t panic at the very thought of commitment?

    Commitment in itself doesn’t have negative overtones. Writers have to reframe what it means to be committed to their writing projects. Without commitments, it can be difficult for writers to actually complete writing projects on time. And many times if writers work with publishers and editors, they will have to make many time commitments to complete projects. That is all a part of the writing life and being a professional writer.

    There are ways of viewing commitment in a positive light.  Here are a few such ways.

1.    Commitments can give writers structure

Many times, writers tend to find it hard to schedule writing projects. However, if a writer commits to the project, she will create a writing schedule to complete the project in a timely fashion. And this will boast the writer’s self-confidence, productivity and success quotient.

2.    Commitments can help writers complete projects

So many writers have a difficult time completing writing projects. They start off being on fire and motivated but as time goes on their motivation dwindles and the drive to complete projects is curtailed if not ruined altogether. Many times, this is because other things and life intervenes.  But most times it is because our motivations tend to fluctuate.  Commitments can solidify a writer’s motivations and make them firmer.

3.    Commitments can help the writer determine the most important writing goals

So many things come across a writer’s desk in a given week. If a writer doesn’t make commitments to certain writing projects, she will probably take on projects and assignments that will take her any closer to completing her own main writing projects. Commitments can change that by ensuring that the writer does first things first at all times.

Given all the benefits of creating commitments, writers can’t afford not to commit to writing projects. After they have committed to them, they will be able to take steps to complete their most important projects and be successful. This will create self-confidence and ensure that the writer can start the next project and complete it too after this particular project is complete.

So, writers should reframe how they view commitments. Instead of being something negative, commitment can be positive and ensure that the writer will be most successful. And once a writer completes one project that she committed to, she will be able to commit to others as well. 

Try it!

Irene S. Roth
Freelance Writer, Author, and Editor

Irene writes for teens, tweens, and kids about self-empowerment. She currently has two empowerment books published, one for tweens and one for kids. She also leads workshops on the craft of writing through Savvy Authors.


Writing and Pacing – To Beat or Not to Beat
Writing for Children – Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?
The Dossier – Who is the Character?

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Writing Themed Gift Books

It’s that time of year again when people struggle to find just the right gift. This is especially so in tough economic times when people can't afford big lavish presents. Beautiful holiday themed gift books are always welcome gifts, especially when you match the gift to the recipient. So as authors, this is a ready market and one that you can fill with your own personal talents.

You could, for example, write a children’s book, a novel, or a nonfiction book of essays built around a holiday theme. Or, as Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I have done, you could create an attractive poetry book. What Carolyn and I have done is to keep our books to greeting card size and greeting card price, so that people are encouraged to purchase the book to tuck into a stocking or give with a box of Godiva chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. This way the books fit all budgets and provide a beautiful gift that can be customised for any recipient. We even offer Blooming Red (our Christmas themed book) in quantities of 25 or more, just like cards, at a 40% discount. The cover by Vicki Thomas is certainly pretty enough for a card--or a basket.  

You can find more information on the many holiday themed booklets that we've created on Amazon or on at Carolyn’s Web site at http://howtodoitfrugally.com/poetry_books.htm. Many of the books have won or been shortlisted for awards and have not only been fun to create, but have proved to be very popular promotional tools for us, some even hitting #1 on Amazon.  Although writing a book is never easy, building a book around a holiday theme is a great way to create work that is easy to promote and will meet a market niche. Why not drop by Carolyn's site, which is full of samples, videos, ideas and freebies. Have a look at the many themed gift books we created, and of course, steal the idea and customise it to suit your own particular area of expertise.  You have my permission.  Of course if you’ve got hard-to-buy people on your list, you might even like to grab a copy or even a set to giveaway as cards.  Happy holidays! 

Trust your Readers--Part 1

One of the hardest writing skills to master is the art of knowing what to take out.  Many rough drafts are guilty of repetition and over-explanation.  Consider the dangers of spoon-feeding your readers.  At best, you'll come off as lacking subtlety.  You'll rob your readers of the chance to exercise their brains.  At worst, you'll annoy them or insult their intelligence.  If you want to lose readers, there's no better way than by talking down to them.  If you want to keep readers, set things up and then trust them to draw the conclusion for themselves.

Problem #1:  Showing and then Telling.

A lot is said about how writers must "show, not tell."  Generally it's good advice, though telling sometimes works better and you shouldn't be afraid of using both strategies, depending on the situation.  What you really want to avoid is showing and then telling.  Here are some examples.

He slammed his fist against the table, stood up, and threw the telephone at the wall so hard the paint chipped.  He was angry.

Your reader figured out he was angry from his actions.  Cut out the last three words and let the action stand.

"What?  I had no idea!"  Ben was surprised.

The dialogue indicates Ben's surprise.  No need to tell us.

People were sharing seats, squatting in the aisles, and pressing themselves against the back wall.

"It's crowded in here," she said. 

Yes, Mistress of the Obvious, it is indeed crowded.

Dressed in his fluorescent vest, he stepped into the street, enjoying the power he and his sign held over the impatient drivers in the stopped cars.  The kids skipped past, chatting and laughing, texting and teasing.  Once his flock made it safely across, he hopped back onto the curb.  He liked his job as a crossing guard.

If you're afraid your readers won't understand what he's doing, or how he's feeling about it, revise your showing section.  Don't just tack a bit of telling on the end.  If you've done your job well enough, the reader will get it.

These are pretty blatant misuses of telling, though they pepper the manuscripts I've been reading lately.  What most of us need to look for in our own work are the less glaring examples.

Adam lifted his hand to knock on the front door, but the moment his knuckles hit, the door gave way and swung open by itself.  The hall lay empty, quiet.


The nightlight was still on.  Dad always turned it off when he got up at dawn. 


Something scritch-scratched in the living room.  Adam grabbed an umbrella from the stand by the door and held it up, facing the archway.  Bowser, ears sagging, padded through and whined at Adam's feet.  Something was wrong. 

"Something was wrong" can amp up the tension, but make sure it actually does so.  Otherwise, you're just negating all your showing.  Take out the last line and see what you think. 

Solution to Showing and then Telling:

When you revise, read your work slowly and look especially for direct subjective descriptions ("She was beautiful, The city was exciting") and statements about how people feel or what they want (John was happy.  Levi hoped she would stay).  Then check to see if you showed the same thing immediately before.  If so, cut out the telling.  Read it again a couple of days later and if it still makes sense, you didn't need it.  Your writing will be stronger for it.

Next time: 

Melinda Brasher is the author of Far-Knowing, a YA fantasy novel, and Leaving Home, a collection of short stories, travel essays, and flash fiction.  Her fiction appears in THEMA Literary Journal, Enchanted Conversation, Ellipsis Literature and Art, and others.  Visit her blog for all the latest:  http://www.melindabrasher.com

Writing and Book Marketing – Crafting a Pitch (Part2)

Wow, the members of Writers on the Move who participated in our first December Innovative and Proven Writing and Marketing Strategies Week should get a round of applause – I certainly applaud and thank them. They really did out-do themselves with useful fresh information to help us on our book writing and marketing journey.

Today, we end this special week with Part 2 of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Pitch series

Crafting a Pitch (Part 2)

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Crafting a pitch may be easier if you reread your book to find possibilities for pitches within it. As you read:

1. Identify the aspects of your book that will most interest a reader in a given market or at a given time.

2. Write them down.

3. Turn these features into statements that show how readers or audiences will benefit.

4. Here’s an example of one I might use for this book: “The Frugal Book Promoter is a super coach for your book’s marketing campaign.” On the back cover of my book Your Blog, Your Business: A retailer’s guide to garnering customer loyalty and sales online and in-store (budurl.com/Blogging4Retailers), I tease future readers with practical ways to:

o   Build a blog in five easy steps.
o   Minimize the time it takes to run a blog.
o   Find material to blog about.
o   Integrate your blog with other social networks.
o   Manage a blog frugally or free.

5. A frequently-used fiction example is: “This book keeps readers turning pages late into the night.” I’m sure you can do better than this because you have the details of your plot stowed in your head. Working with and learning from the screenwriters’ loglines we discuss later in this chapter will help you with this project.

You can find possibilities in your book of fiction. My first novel, This Is the Place, is one of the most difficult genres to promote. I thought of it as a literary novel but found that it also fit into little bitty categories: a little bit historical, a little bit saga, a little bit romance, a little bit feminist, a little bit women’s, a little bit western. I also found that, by virtue of my age, there were lots of aspects of my past life and former careers that interested editors and could be worked into pitches for feature articles.

To avoid missing the obvious pitch for your book, set up a brainstorming session with three or more who have read it. Assure them no idea is too silly. No idea will be booed. Nothing is to be repressed. You may be surprised at how many angles come from such a group effort.

Because we are so immersed in our own writing we don’t see it clearly, writing a pitch for someone else’s book is easier than writing one for our own. Practice writing pitches for books you’ve read and movies you’ve seen.

Once you have an idea for a pitch, add a little cayenne.

  • Boil down your plot or nonfiction premise into three sentences or less.
  • Maintain the passion you feel for your story.
  • Use present tense. “Is” instead of “was.”
  • Use punchy, specific verbs. “Lobs” instead of “throws.”
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs. (If your verbs are strong enough, you probably won’t need them!) Find more on getting rid of unhelpful adverbs and adjectives (and turning them into metaphorical gold!) when you read my The Frugal Editor (budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor).

To learn more about writing pitches in all its forms, take a lesson from screenwriters:

  • Join a screenwriters’ forum. Throw out the topic of loglines (very short, catchy plot synopses) and watch members of the group go to town. Offer up one of your own and let them tear it apart and rebuild a thing of beauty. Search for these groups at YahooGroups.com and GoogleGroups.com. With any such group it is only right for you to contribute as well as learn from others.
  • Study Jonathan Treisman’s article at writersstore.com/article.php?articles_id=231. He is President of Flatiron Films and produced Warner Brothers’ film Pay It Forward.

Hint: The screenwriter’s craft is a fertile ground for learning both marketing and writing skills that may be adapted to any kind of writing, from poetry to science fiction.

Now you have a picture-perfect pitch or two, find a place for one or more of them:

  • In your media releases.
  • In your fliers.
  • On your business cards and other stationery.
  • On your posters—the ones you use for events like fairs and book signings.
  • In taglines and credits.
  • In your e-mail signature.
  • On the back cover of your book.
  • In your advertisements.

Stockpile your pitches in a special file in your computer so you can pick, choose, and perfect them as needed.

Now you can write pitches, let’s put them to work. Pitch an agent or publisher. Pitch the media. Pitch that all-important group we call readers.

Note: Your pitches to the media are indirect pitches to your readers. Their audiences will be the folks who read your book.

Stop by on December 17th, for Part 3 of this Pitch series.

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
Web site: http://www.HowToDoItFrugally.com

Innovative Marketing with Images

"A picture is worth a thousand words." We have all heard this well-known adage, attributed to a number of people including Napoleon Bonaparte, but what does it say for us writers? We're wordsmiths, not artists.

Obviously, unless we are writing comic books or children's picture books, we are going to use words. So this proverb doesn't apply. Or does it?

We've had some excellent suggestions in this special week of innovative and proven writing and marketing strategies, and you'll notice they all have one thing in common. They all make use of images.

Karen Cioffi kicked us off with a professional and attractive mini-poster that promised us "Tips, Strategies, Guidance—Your Way to Success." I don't know about you, but I immediately stopped what I was doing and read the article. Not because I wanted to learn more at that point. (I was in the middle of another project.) But because I was drawn to the article by the poster. And of course it was an excellent article.

The next blog post was by Annie Duguid, and this time I was attracted by her colorful screenshot. The bold red arrow drew my eyes to the icon for CamStudio, and I wanted to know more. Was this something I needed? Did I already have a similar package that I wasn't using? I read on . . .  Annie offers some fascinating suggestions on ways to create attractive screencasts as well as other software we can use to create promotional tools.

Next up, Magdalena Ball shared three clever (cheap) ideas with us, two of which involve creating images, either online or on a blackboard (which you could subsequently photograph and transfer to your computer for use on your websites etc.)

There's nothing new about the concept of showing pictures to attract attention to the message. Show, don't tell, remember writers? Okay, I know that means we should write to show, but this can also refer to showing images.

Imagine going to Amazon.com, or any other online bookstore, and reading through the pages of books— but they have no images. I'm sure you'll agree you wouldn't spend as much time browsing through their pages and almost certainly wouldn't spend as much money. (Hmmm!)

There is no question that images are one of the most powerful ways we can connect and engage with our readers. But no, images don't substitute for your words. They endorse them, or they encourage people to read them in the first place.  

Here are four ways we can use images in our marketing posts, blogs, websites, and social media sites.

1) Use Existing Images: 

The issue of copyright in connection with images is huge, and we have to tread very carefully through this mine-field. However there are sites out there which are genuinely free.

   a)  Morgue file contains a vast selection of high-resolution stock photography images which you are free to alter and use in different ways.

The image on the right is of a first birthday cake which I downloaded from Morgue. I then edited the image to create a banner for an event on Facebook, celebrating the first anniversary of my book, Strength Renewed.

   b)  FreeDigitalPhotos allows you to download and use small images of professional photographs in a resolution suitable for websites, for free. The only proviso is that you must include a short phrase of credit (and why wouldn't you?)

2)  Make your own images: 

   a)  Use your own photographs, or collect photos from friends, making sure they understand what you want to do with them. Don't forget to ask if they want you to give credits. Use them on your Facebook cover, or your profile picture, as well as on your website, articles, and bios when you guest blog.

This is a snap my son took of me shortly after the launch of Strength Renewed. I cropped the photograph and reduced it in size and I now use it extensively on bios as well as my profile picture on my Facebook author page. It is casual and relaxed while still clear enough to show the title of my book, and has proved to be a most useful photograph.

 b)  Use scenic photographs, and add quotes from your book, links to web addresses, or any other short phrase relevant to your message.

These can stand alone on sites like Facebook or on your website, or even be offered in a good resolution as freebies.

3) Get yourself a series of images or characters.

  a)  Adapt these to various subjects and situations. For example a few years ago, I purchased a set of 3D characters from Warrior Forum. These are not free, but I have used them extensively in all sorts of situations. They have been well worth the money I paid for them. (See the little character t the top with her whiteboard.)

  b)  There are other similar characters available on the web, but be warned that they can become extremely time-consuming.

  c)  Make a very basic comic strip with a message, using Comix H/O, a fun site which Annie Duguid told us about on 24 November. This is not difficult at all, and I can see how I can use this to incorporate my own characters, or in front of one of my scenic photographs.

4) Try out some free graphics programs and find one you are comfortable with. Start with simple tasks, such as adding text to an existing photograph. As you gain confidence, you will find yourself able to make different posters, advertising messages, and other images.
  • Photoscape is a fun and easy photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance photos.
  • GNU is an image manipulation tool that many compare with the huge Photoshop, but it is free.
  • Paint Shop Pro is a well-known program similar to, but much cheaper than, Photoshop. Nevertheless it is still expensive. However, you can pick up an older version of this, or of many other programs, for free at OldApps.com.
Finally, a warning and an encouragement. 

The warning: It is easy to get caught up in the creation of images and posters. As a writer, be careful the adage at the beginning doesn't turn into: "A picture just cost me a thousand words."

The encouragement: When you download, buy, create or edit images or posters, strive to make something you will be able to use many times. For example, yesterday's post by Caroline Howard-Johnson uses one of those 3d characters I spoke of above. The little woman is placed on a bright green background with the title, "It's all about Pitches." That same image could be changed to call out a hundred and more different titles. I could put it on a pink background and say, "Read Strength Renewed!" as a means to attract people to an article about my book based on breast cancer. I could even add a little pink ribbon to her chest and a link to the book at the bottom.

There is a lot of work involved in making images or logos, so go for ideas that you can use over and over again. Think of how you can use them to market your work in an innovative and time-effective manner.

For example:

As you find new ways to use images to market your work, you may well find your picture is worth a thousand words, because people who would normally skim right past your article will stop and read it--because your picture has attracted them to your words.

SHIRLEY CORDER  lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. 
Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and if you tell her who you are she'll be happy to be your friend and follow you back.

Does Your Manuscript Pass the Quality Control Test?

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

“Does Your Manuscript Pass the Quality Control Test?" by Joan Y. Edwards

Is your manuscript a quality manuscript? Is it the/best you can do at this time? Does your manuscript pass the quality control test below?

If your answer to all of these questions is “YES,” you have a quality manuscript. It is the best you can do at this time. Your manuscript is a quality product ready for submission. 

1. Does your writing show your distinctive voice?

Two articles that explain voice are: 

2. Did you choose the best person to narrate your story - First, Second, or Third Person.

Here are two articles to help you decide.
Deanna Mascle. "Should You Write in First or Third Person?"
Ginny Wiehardt. "How to Start Writing in Third Person."

3. Does it have an Unforgettable Character with a flaw and a goal he is willing to jump off a cliff to achieve?

1.       Tell what he wants to do, what he wants to happen. Which characters keep the main character from achieving his goal? Which characters help him? Write so that the reader feels the emotions that your characters feel. Let the readers know the contradictions that go through the character’s mind. Tell the experiences that cause your character great stress, worry, anxiety, anguish, and/or sadness? What gives your main character great happiness? Make your character have to change in order to reach his goal. 
Think about the theme(s) of your story. This will help you determine the flaws of your protagonist. If you know what the character learns from his experiences, your fatal flaw is its opposite. In Liar Liar, the protagonist learns how to tell the truth. Lying was his fatal flaw. When the protagonist learns to be dependable, his fatal flaw was irresponsibility. If a protagonist finally gets up enough nerve to stand up for himself, he gains courage. Fear or cowardice was his fatal flaw.

4. Does it have a complete, compelling plot?  

1.       Does your manuscript have a beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending with each page filled with tension of inner and outer struggles of the protagonist so that reader anticipates the good and bad consequences of this character's choices. 
Ordinary Day
Inciting incident with new goal to solve a really big problem
First failure
Second failure
Third failure
What's it like on the new ordinary day

5. Does it take place in an appropriate setting? 

Choose a setting that heightens the suspense of the plot and the problems of the main character. Where does this character have these problems? Why here? Why not somewhere else? Put your character with people, circumstances, and settings that make his flaw more noticeable in the beginning and his strengths more evident at the end. Enhance your manuscript by making the setting an integral and indispensable part of the story. 

6. If your manuscript is not in quality condition yet, revise it. 

Look at it with a skillful eye. Change what you know needs revision. Then send it out for another look by your critique group, writing partner, and/or 3 beta readers. Give them three main things on which to focus.

    Does it have proper formatting and few pet words? Does it have correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure? 

    Would your high school teacher give your manuscript an A or B? Any grade lower than a B is not acceptable. It has to be above average in this area to submit it. Did you repeat pet words or phrases numerous times within the manuscript with no purpose for emphasis, such as: just, real, very,what's up, what do you know, and it's a shame. Use the search and find tools in your word processing software to find words you usually repeat.  Replace with a better word or delete it. 

    Here are examples of words or phrases that might be repeated:
    The box is very flat. The hills are very steep. Her veil is very long.
    I just don't know what I'm going to do...repeated on page 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, and 32.
    What do you know?...repeated on page 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, and 17.
    Here are hints to help you get your manuscript in quality condition:
    Go through 6-7 versions (revise all the way through the whole manuscript).
    Use critique groups, writing partners, and/or beta readers to critique your manuscript.These trained eyes and ears will find and suggest ways to improve grammar and spelling, as well as improve the story, plot, characters, setting, continuity, and believability.

    7. When you have a quality manuscript, you can honestly make the following statement: 
       "This is a quality manuscript. This is the best I can do with this manuscript with the knowledge and skills I have at the present time."  
    After your revisions get your manuscript to the quality condition and it's the best you can do stage, then it is time to submit your manuscript. You are ready to start Week 1 of my Pub Subbers plan for submission. Do all the Steps for Weeks 1, 2, and 3. They take you through submitting your manuscript.

    Week 1 Get final proofing critique. Choose an editor, agent, or contest for your submission.
    Week 2 Follow the guidelines to write necessary documents: pitch, query letter, cover letter, proposal, resume, or bio..
    Week 3 Pub Sub Friday-submission time. Not ready. It’s okay. Submit it when you’re ready.
    Week 4 Write, revise, critique, live, educate, motivate, celebrate.

    8. Did you follow the guidelines of the editor, agent, or contest?

    Don't sabotage your own success. Follow the guidelines.

    Following the directions for the guidelines is the final requirement for a quality manuscript. When you don’t follow the directions, it lowers your grade to a C or lower. If it says, email submissions only and you send it by U.S. postal service, the agent or editor may not even read your submission. It may seem heartless, however, your submission may end up in the trash can. The editor or agent may think if you can’t follow these simple directions, you won’t be able to follow suggestions to make your manuscript a top notch best-selling book.

    1. Alfonso Coley. “Common Writing Problems New Writers Can Face:” http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2421290/common_writing_problems_new_writers_pg2.html?cat=9/
    2. Amanda Patterson. “The Five Most Common Problems First Time Writers Share:” http://thewriteco.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/the-5-most-common-problems-first-time-writers-share/
    3. Dara Marks.  The Writer’s Store. ”The Fatal Flaw, The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life:” http://www.writersstore.com/the-fatal-flaw-the-most-essential-element-for-bringing-characters-to-life/
    4. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Illinois State University.edu. “Common Mistakes of English Grammar, Mechanics, and Punctuation:” http://my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/writing.html
    5. E.H. Williams, Hamilton College.edu, Biology Department, “Common Writing Mistakes:” https://my.hamilton.edu/writing/writing-resources/common-writing-mistakes
    6. Gordon Silverstein, editor. University of Minnesota.edu. “Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes: Advice from generations of Teaching Fellows at Harvard University:” http://writing.umn.edu/tww/grammar/self_humorous.html
    7. Judy Rose.  Writing English.wordpress.com. “Ten Common Writing Mistakes Your Spell Checker Won’t Find:” http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/ten-common-writing-mistakes-your-spell-checker-won%E2%80%99t-find/
    8. Laura Spencer.  Free Lance Folder.com. “20 Writing Mistakes That Make Any Freelancer Look Bad:” http://freelancefolder.com/20-writing-mistakes-that-make-any-freelancer-look-bad/
    9. Pat Holt. “Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do):” http://www.holtuncensored.com/hu/the-ten-mistakes/
    10. Tom Walker. Get Paid to Write Online.com. “Ten Most Common Writing Mistakes:” http://www.getpaidtowriteonline.com/common-writing-mistakes/

    I hope these ideas help you keep going, even when you feel like giving up.
    Good luck with the publication of your best quality manuscripts!

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    My Books:
    Flip Flap Floodle, even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck
    Paperback, Kindle and Nook
    Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release date June 2014 by 4RV Publishing

    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.

    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

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