Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How I sold my book, part 1

For aspiring authors the question of how an author sold his/her first book is always of great interest. They're looking to do the same thing, so of course they'd like to get the ins and outs from someone who has been there. At all the writing conferences I've attended, this question is tops when the panels convene to answer queries from the audience.

Writers working diligently to get their creative genius down on paper aren't always the best at selling, so any tips can help. There are lots of blogs out there giving advice, most of it useful to a certain extent. But one can only be told to spell correctly and use proper grammar so many times. Another popular tip is telling people to "develop a unique voice." But again, that's not much in the way of advice, everyone knows that already. And no one I've yet heard has ever been able to define a "unique voice," let alone explain how you develop one. So in the end that particular piece of advice isn't much more helpful than telling a theoretical physicist to "become more of a genius."

What I've found is that many of these writers are actually looking to find a shortcut, a magic spell that they can whip out when they meet an editor or agent that so enraptures them they cannot help but make an offer.

Luckily there is such a magic spell, and they used to sell them in comic book ads. It's called a hypno-wheel. Spin it in the eyes of your intended target, and they become puppets in your hands. Mu-hahahaha!

Actually, the spell is call writing. If you do it well you will capture an editor's or agent's attention. I know it's not much, but it's the truth. But when you tell writers that, they want more. "But how did you sell your book? They want your story.

I've found that telling your personal story about how you were trapped in an elevator with an editor or how you rescued an agent from a burning building is a lot of fun, but in the end doesn't go much further than "develop your own voice." And burning buildings and stuck elevators are hard to recreate, and probably should send you to jail for trying.

It's fun to hear these stories, but in the end your writing is what will tell. That, and hard work.

Tomorrow, how I got a book contract. (Yes, I will tell you my story.)

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