How to Pitch Your Book (and Yourself)

Winning a place on the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program as part of the 2020 cohort, gave me a sneak peak over the weekend into some of the more hidden aspects of being a published author.

Granted entry to the Fremantle Press Breakfast, we were flies on the wall as recently published authors gave their pitch to an assembled room of event planners, booksellers, school reps and librarians.

Given that the ASA recommends a rate of $325 for a 60 minute school visit and $350+ for a public appearance, this fee might be the equivalent of selling 100 or more books. It’s clear why authors are keenly interested in pitching their books – and themselves.

These are some of the lessons I took away:

 

Be funny.

There is no better way to get people on your side than to make them laugh. Not only does it tell people you’re comfortable in front of a crowd, it also tells potential bookings that you won’t bore them silly.

If you can’t be funny, be memorable

Sometimes the subject matter of your book means it’s not appropriate to tell gags, but you can still grab people in other ways. Tell highly emotive or personal stories about yourself and how your book came into being. Make them remember you, even if they can’t remember your specific book.

Pitch yourself as well as your book

The most successful pitches were those where I learned more about the author than the book. It’s possible you will have another book next year, but you as the author are still the same. It doesn’t matter how amazing your book is, if you haven’t sold yourself as an interesting speaker.

Talk in themes

If you only have two minutes to grab someone’s attention, you don’t have time to explain the plot in detail. A number of authors took the approach of talking about the book’s themes rather than its plot – ‘it’s a story of love, it’s a story of societal expectation, it’s a story of challenging authority…’.

Go beyond the book

Some of the more established authors took the approach of mentioning the bigger topics they liked to discuss, not tied specifically to their latest book, but perhaps topics they had been researching and involved with over their writing career. The pitch then became a verbal CV of talents and skills, and was particularly aimed at festivals directors who might engage authors to moderate or be involved in panel discussions.

Make your book relevant

Some of the best pitches did not just focus on the book as a finite product, but placed it into the larger context of current affairs such gender diversity, environmental concerns and humanitarian matters. Broadening your book’s appeal by placing it into a larger context would automatically increase the range of events you might be asked to speak at.

Weddings, Parties, Anything

As obvious as it sounds, some of the authors made very clear the range of events they were available to speak at. It certainly highlighted to me that there is more than just school and library talks. Some mentioned business and motivational events, book clubs, running writing or illustrator workshops and more.

Tell a story about your story

Personally, my favourite pitches were those that started with the story behind the story, where the author launched into a personal account of how the idea came about, how the book came to be. I was immediately captured. It’s one thing to say what your book is about, an entirely different thing to explain why it is the way it is.

Locate your book’s audience

One small thing I notice lacking from some pitches, was explaining exactly who the book’s audience was. I could see from the cover it was a children/YA book, but could not tell exactly what age group the book was for. For someone interested in booking a school talk, I imagine this piece of information would be very relevant.

Appeal to writers

Some of the authors specifically pitched to writerly audiences, barely mentioning their books but instead talking about some of the topics they would be happy to discuss at workshops and writing events. Some of these might be researching specific topics, writing for particular audiences or writing in a distinctive style.

Practice practice practice

Two minutes is not a long time, but you can squeeze a lot of information in. Even if you don’t want to be seen reading from notes, it’s wise to compose your spiel and then practice until it sounds unrehearsed.

 

Many thanks to Fremantle Press and the Copyright Agency for including us in this event.

How to Market Yourself as a Writer

hello postcard

As a writer it is a comforting delusion that if you write well, people will simply flock to you, and fame and fortune will eventually find you.

Reality is a little more brutal, especially since we are competing with over 150 million blogs plus the many hundreds of thousands of journalists around the world.

The simple truth, is that as writers we must market ourselves if we want to get our names – and our words – known by those who will read us, and those who will pay us.

This year, I have pushed myself to the limits in the ways I am brazenly marketing myself and my work as a writer.

These are some of the ways I have been marketing myself this year:

  • Emailing businesses directly: in seeking advertisers for my new fundraising site (Fundraising Mums) I have been emailing companies directly and introducing myself. The primary purpose is to get my name out there, while also directly mentioning that I am offering advertising on the site.
  • I printed postcards with all my blog details, making them relevant to both readers and advertisers, and am in the process of posting them out – the old fashioned way. So much correspondence comes through the inbox these days, my postcards are sure to be noticed simply because they are competing with a smaller amount of mail. There is a considerable cost associated with snail-mail these days, especially if you want to send hundreds of post-cards, but if you design your cards well and send them to the right people, it might be an effective use of your advertising budget.
  • I also carry postcards with me and place them on community boards at local shopping centres. I always attach at least four or five (space allowing) as they are very visually effective when placed en masse, and it also means that people can take one home with them.
  • Contact local and state newspapers – many newspapers have direct emails where you can send story ideas. If you think you could be a useful source on a particular topic, or might be seen as an ‘expert’ in the field, contact them and give them your details. They may not reply straight away, but if a story in the area comes up, there is a chance they will remember your name.
  • Join Source Bottle – I receive daily emails from Source Bottle from other writers looking for sources and stories, and where I think I have something to contribute, I make contact. Even if it means I am a participant in someone else’s story (for example, I will be quoted in the January 2016 edition of the Coles Mother and Baby magazine about something completely unrelated to blogging or fundraising) it is still a way to get your name out there.
  • Creating links with other people on Facebook: using my Fundraising Mums page I have ‘liked’ other businesses and people who are either in the same field as me, or are possible customers and readers. I have also made sure I am following media outlets and big-name bloggers so if they post something about fundraising or ask a question I can answer, I will be ready to respond quickly. Don’t limit yourself to what you naturally see as your own community. Look for business groups, local groups, women’s groups (if applicable) and other communities who might benefit from your work, as well as groups who see as potential customers/readers/sources. Think outside the box.
  • For Fundraising Mums I have been writing articles about businesses and products I think are interesting and unusual. Sometimes I contact the business in advance, sometimes not. Either way, I have realised that I shouldn’t be backward in sending them an email with the article link and asking them to share it on their social media. I have also been doing this for reviews I have written on WeekendNotes – considering the time I take to write articles, it isn’t much more to send off a quick email alerting them to the fact it exists. Some businesses have put my articles and reviews directly on their website others mention them on their Facebook pages.
  • I have been experimenting with paid advertising on Facebook – always with a pre-set budget of around $15-20. I have found that I have gotten the best response for articles/adverts which advertise the site generally, rather than promote a particular article or post.
  • In my email signature (for my personal and business-related email addresses) I have links to all of my blogs. I even mention that I have a book available for sale on Amazon.
  • My next plan is to update my CV and send letters of introduction to all the local and national publications I would like to write for.

 

What are some of the ways you market your work as a writer?

Why You Should Never Google Yourself

Faced with a list of tiresome chores and no writing mojo to be found anywhere, I decided to indulge in a little private time this morning. I did something we all do, but rarely admit to.

I Googled myself.

The first page was pretty much what I expected. My blogs shannonmeyerkort.com and Relentless came up, as did my profile on WeekendNotes. There was my LinkedIn profile, gathering cobwebs and dust, various reviews and old academic papers, plus lots of mentions of my Brutal Truth About the Third Child.

I was chuffed to see my Master thesis get a mention on Google Books. Zero reviews and zero stars… probably because the only copy is sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust.

I had really begun to enjoy myself. No nude photos. No websites dedicated to destroying me. No embarrassing Facebook shots that someone else had posted.

But then a site came up that I didn’t recognise, and I got a little squeezy sensation in my stomach. Had someone stolen my words or had they written someone awful about me?

This is precisely why they say don’t Google yourself. Sometimes it’s better not to know what others are writing about you.

But I had to find out. Besides, it was in Italian.

There was a picture of me and my family (a picture they don’t have permission to use, but we’ll ignore that) and my name. I could guess at a few of the words: ironia, testimonianza, blogger Americana.

Uh, hang on.

I went back and hit the Google translate button for the page. Then, in a fabulous mash of Italian and English, appeared an article that was designed to look like I had been interviewed, but really was just a bit of a cut and paste of my Brutal Truth article.

The translations are even better than my original article: “You can doze and sleep all day and as a priestess stroll touching your belly waiting for a football.”

Some of it is pretty funny because it still makes sense:

“Are you happy of nausea and vomiting because it means you can have five minutes to get you in the bathroom?”

And other parts are completely mystifying:

“Rilavi reluctantly the vestititi used with a normal detergent, throw some broken play, refreshments sheets cradle. Your son has already managed to dismantle all sure that you put in the house and survived, so it is not necessary to reposition the newcomer.”

I liked how the Italians automatically assumed I had sons.

The French version of my ‘Letter of Apology to my Middle Child’ described it as “a mother issu[ing] an apology letter to his middle child”. And I thought I had difficulty with French pronouns.

“Shannon notes that this has forged the character of its small second. She teases threats, disputes, compromises. All you seem to want, and that is so hard to give is my complete attention. It’s hard because I have three children, a house to manage and my writing.”

I particularly liked being referred to as an ‘its’. Thanks French people.

The Portuguese translation of The Brutal Truth was possibly my favourite, especially how they introduced me:

“Shannon Meyerkort is a writer, blogger and mother of three girls under seven years. His love for writing is not simple, because it implies that you are sitting to do so.”

I love how they aren’t beholden to gender assumptions about mothers being women. How refreshing.

The translation seems to make things worse than they really are:

“It seems that is six months pregnant by the time we hit the second quarter. Sit persecuted and cries a lot.”

And then go a little hard-core with the language:

“People who have just given birth, begin to upset her with all the talk bullshit about babies.”

Then they go hard-core with the parenting:

“Push your child out of the crib, take them cuddly and dispose of them in a weekend.”

That’s a bit rough, even for me.

I haven’t yet ploughed deeper into the world of Google to see if the Chinese have their own translations of The Brutal Truth, but if it’s ever found, please let me know.