What’s Your Story?

by Trish

I’ve talked to a lot of authors in my time as an editor (in both the content design and production phases) and what I LOVE about talented and successful authors is that they can tell me, very succinctly, what their book is about and how it’s different from most books out there.

Positioning is natural to us. We see someone writing a book and we think about how we can write a book that is similar, but from our perspective. Every single author/writer has a perspective that is quite valid. Yes, I really believe that.

As publishing changes, the avenues to communicate that perspective have changed. No longer is it just about a print book or a self-published book. Now there are Kindle books and Smashwords and Kobo and selling ebooks from your own blog via e-junkie (pdf format is practically universal these days).

How you do it doesn’t matter as much as what your story is. The social media tools remain the same for print books, self-published book, Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords books, and even e-junkie books from your own blog. That doesn’t change. What changes is what you are trying to say (who you are makes that extremely important) and who you are trying to say it to.

1. If you have a book that is just like a book already on the market, tell me how your book is going to be different. Can you differentiate it enough so that your book seems completely new and fresh? To gauge the interest of your audience, you could write a “white paper” that solves the original problem that your book also seeks to solve, but in a way that makes you the expert and creates a desire for your audience to read more of what you write. White papers are short (for a few great guides on white papers, check out books by Robert Bly and Michael Stelzner); generally used as marketing reports to create a position in the industry, they don’t tend to run 350 pages like a typical novel or 240 pages like a typical nonfiction book, but they create powerful solutions for your audience’s CORE need. They make YOU the expert.

2. If you want to write a book to teach or to instruct, consider teaching a course instead. You could do this via your blog as an ecourse, or thru a third-party organization that hires you to teach, or you could find one of the many very cool instructional design software programs out there (Moodle) and build your own instructional site. The key is to start small at first. Perhaps a book is not the first step in your platform; perhaps it is the second or third step.

3. If you have a novel (and you just finished a solid draft that you feel confident about, or if you’re still writing that draft), start a blog and start writing. With fiction, the story matters THE MOST, but a great way to learn to talk to a reading audience is to talk about your favorite books or your writing process. My friend, Jen Haupt, does this, on her Psychology Today blog. As a professional journalist and talented novelists, Jen is using her Psychology Today blog to position herself as a savvy reader. This holds some cache, I think. Your story has to hang together in order to sell to an agent and editor, but the more you can appear interested in your aspired profession (a la America’s Next Top Model, when the girls who learn the industry and industry players very quickly tend to do better), I think it serves your platform better in the long run.

So, what’s your story? Do you think it should start out with self-pub, Kindle, pdf ebook, or a print deal? And once you choose one avenue, can you tell me why you chose it? These two questions are the industry’s present-day entry passcodes. This is what every agent and editor are asking from all of their clients. And when you pitch them your idea, they’ll ask you too.

Farewell to February. Tomorrow is March and our topic for the month is positioning your blog and book to sell.


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