Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Not My Job to Sell Your Book by Terry Burns

What? I thought that WAS the agent’s job.

It can be, but I tell my group that I believe it is OUR job to sell their book, not just mine. I tell them it is a team effort. The clients that I have that are more successful are participating in the process.

It begins before they are ever clients. They place a proposal in my hands that I can see using to sell the project. I can never write a proposal to represent a project as good as the author can write it because I can’t possibly know it as well as they do. 

Once I do accept a client I put them in an online support group that is only open to my clients and those who work with me. It is a friendly, nurturing body. There are two levels of participation, very active, praying for one another and sharing information and support, or simply being in the part of the group that gets the regular updates, announcements of contracts and releases of books by clients, allowing them to know what everyone in the client group is doing and what the marketplace is doing. So they continue to be part of the team effort through support and encouragement of one another.

Clients play a role in the information process. They go to conferences that I may or may not attend, and they are proactive pitching their book. The goal for them is to make a personal contact and get a submission invited that I can follow up on. Sure, I’m doing the same thing, but the more contacts that are made the better the odds. They serve as information gatherers. They gather and report back on any information they run across whether it seems to affect them or not. If it doesn’t affect them it may affect someone else in the group and that client may find out something to reciprocate with.

They read. There’s no way I can read a lot of books in all of the different categories that my clients write in so I encourage them to read in the genre they are writing in. They will find out things that way such as how the books are doing, who is publishing them and maybe even who the editor was. 

I mentioned my clients support one another. This is particularly the case after one publishes. They all talk about it on the social networks helping create a buzz. They interview each other on blogs and share marketing tips. Not that the number of sales represented just within the group is significant but they do tend to buy and read each other’s books.

They continue to write. They don’t just put a project in my hands and sit around obsessing over it, worrying over the length of time it takes to hear back on submissions. They continue to be aware of possible avenues we could pursue with it, but they get on with their next project. I encourage them to keep an idea file so they always have something new to work on.

Books tend to be seasonal. It is not uncommon after spending all the time to get one written that the demand is just not there. Maybe it has been overdone and people who were looking for just that type of book now not so much. Often people’s first books are not the first ones to make it into print. Career writers see books get set back until they come back in season again. Successful writers always have more in the pipeline.

Clients can also help by building their platform. In non-fiction platform is probably as important if not MORE important than the content itself. It is more and more important in fiction as well. Publishers know what they are going to do to market the book, but they want to know how proactive the author is going to be in the process and what connections they have to groups of people who might be potential buyers.

An author who waits until they have a book to promote to start building a website, start a speaking schedule, doing social networking, and other avenues of building visibility and buzz is way behind the curve. A book can run its season in a matter of months without such visibility and buzz to propel it forward. In other words, it could be through before the author is making any progress getting their platform established. That’s why the existence of that visibility NOW is so important to an editor in making an acquisition decision and it should be well demonstrated on the project proposal.

Moral support is no small item, and it seems to mean more when it is client to client instead of just me reassuring a writer. We do have to keep in mind what’s happening in the marketplace as we wait anxiously. It isn't about the quality of the writing, it is about the fit to the market. I like to use the illustration of the skit they used to do at the end of the old comedy show Laugh In where writers kept popping out of windows delivering lines, then another window would open and it'd be something else. That's the publishing industry. The trick is to get the manuscript in the right window at the exact time it is open. At any point in time maybe it only fits one place. It's a miracle we ever make that connection, much less as often as we do. 
How about the non-proactive client? I’m still doing everything I can to sell their project, but without the team effort they don’t have as much going for them. Plus, if I am sitting around running through my publishing databases trying to find submission opportunities and a lead comes in where someone else has had a meeting or a contact with an editor and managed to get a submission invited, guess which one I do first? That’s a no-brainer. That personal contact has to be followed up on while it is still fresh in the editor’s mind.

All of the things that I have mentioned above that proactive authors do to advance their cause are missing with the client that just sits and waits for me to do it all for them. It’ll get done, but not as quickly as it gets done for those who are heavily involved.


Linda Glaz said...

Amen, and oh so true! Great post, Terry.

Jim Hart said...

Just this week I responded to a writer who had this in the marketing plan of their proposal:

"Marketing any book, particularly an author’s first writing is where I believe an agent should play the most important part in publishing and earning their fee. Therefore, I expect that this area will be heavily focused on by the agent."

Linda Glaz said...

That person will be sorely disappointed even with a hard-working agent behind him.