[SWP: Behind the Book] Learning to Love the Marketing
Contributor
Written by
Sheila Grinell
April 2016
Contributor
Written by
Sheila Grinell
April 2016

I wrote an excellent query letter to literary agents and got a healthy response: ten percent of the queried agents asked to read my manuscript. But none of them, it turned out, wanted to represent me. A year later, I figured out why. Because the letter, although well-written, misrepresented the book. I had accidently created a “bait and switch” situation because I didn’t understand how to talk about my work.

 

            The first revelation came when an editor asked me to articulate my “one true line.” She wanted twenty-five words on what I expected people to take away from reading the novel. It took me days to sift through my intentions for what the reader would discover, to boil down my aspirations into one sentence. The process changed me. Instead of harboring a vague image of the reader in the background, I found myself staring her in the face. A reasonable woman, she looked at me expectantly, and I told her how she would feel a week after finishing the book. I felt honored by her attention.

 

            The second revelation came after I asked two authors in my acquaintance to write blurbs for the back cover. They did, independently characterizing the core conflict in the story in similar words, words I had never directly used. In my naïve attempts to describe my book I had focused on summarizing plot (and then worried about spoiling the ending), while my author friends seemed to think plot takes care of itself. They focused on a conflict at the heart of the story. So I learned what value the book might have for my reader, to say why he should be interested in the first place.

 

            Then I saw that a truth from my pre-fiction career applied equally to this new work. In the science museum world, you need to translate expert subject matter into ideas and experiences accessible to lay people. (To use a technical metaphor, you must tune the broadcast to the receiver.) The audience’s interests are just as important in shaping communications as the museum’s. So it is with talking about one’s own writing, I realized. I needed to keep the reader at the center of the marketing.

 

            So, assuming I created a well-tuned message, how would I deliver it? I visualized going to a book club that was like my own book club and talking to people like those I knew. But how could I find enough clubs and enough time to visit all of them? I decided to take advantage of other people’s expertise—people who had marketed books before—and sought help from publicist Crystal Patriarche. She sized me up, read my book, and laid out a plan for attracting the attention of potential readers. The plan has me doing things I would not have imagined doing (sharing blog posts) as well as things that come naturally (asking old friends to come to a book store event with an entourage). Crystal’s team is helping me reach readers where they congregate (and it must be working, since you’re reading this). On my own, I wouldn’t know how to.

  

            My debut novel, Appetite, launches on May 17, and I expect to spend quite a bit of time promoting the book in the next little while. Not sure how things will work out, but I’m cool with it. Marketing now seems to be more like a conversation than a chore. I can’t wait to hear what readers have to say.

 

P.S. If you want to know more, go to sheilagrinell.com and subscribe to my newsletter. Left, a future reader: my one-year-old grandson, Niko.

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Comments
  • Good insights; good luck on your publishing journey.

  • Stacey Aaronson

    Thank you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom ... boiling down an entire book into a strategic book description is tough enough, but one sentence is particularly challenging indeed! A great exercise for all of us writers ... I'm going to embark on mine and hope that it won't take a month! ;-)

    Niko is precious!!

    All the best to you on your book launch ... I see much success in your future as a published author. :)

  • Aha! Excellent. And as a boomer mom I can relate....

  • Sheila Grinell

    The "one true line" for APPETITE:

    Seeing 25-year-old Jenn Adler enraptured by a man from the East rather than the West, choosing a life of service rather than riches, [Boomer moms] will wonder about the values that influence their children's marriages, especially in contrast to their own.

    Thanks for your kind words.

  • Very wise stuff here. Thank you for writing. But - what is your one true line??? I'm so curious.

  • Paula Wagner

    The picture of your "future reader" grandson is to die for! Thanks also for inspiring a different take on marketing. Very helpful. Good luck with the book launch!

  • Love the "one true line" take-away (sounds tough!) and marketing as a conversation. Good luck with your book launch!