Thursday, March 08, 2012

Marketing: Beginning With The End in Mind

In Stephen Covey's classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he recommends that you "begin with the end in mind."


He's talking about living your life in a way that you'll be proud of it when you die. The "end" he has in mind here is death.

But beginning with the end in mind makes sense, no matter what path you're taking, and the path we writers care about is the road to publication.

The "end" of that path is the happy day when an editor calls you to say, "We voted today and we've decided to offer you a contract on your book."
That's a good end to a long, long path. Getting published by a traditional, royalty-paying publisher is validation for your work. (You may also consider it validation for you, but it's really just validation for the novel you wrote.)
It's important to know the "end" you're trying to reach, because then it's not hard to work backward from that "end."

Let's do that now. Let's work backward several steps.

What comes before you get the contract?

That's easy. The last thing that happens before your editor calls to offer you a contract is that the publishing committee meets and your editor pitches your book to them and they vote on it.
What happens before the committee meets?
That's also easy. The editor reads your manuscript (and probably also your proposal) and decides that this is a manuscript she wants to champion.
What happens before your editor reads your manuscript and proposal?
There are two normal ways to get a manuscript in front of an editor. Either you or your agent send the editor the manuscript.
It doesn't matter who sends the manuscript. The only thing that matters is that the editor recognizes the name of the sender.

If your agent sends the manuscript, the editor accepts it because she knows your agent.
If you send the manuscript, the editor accepts it because she knows you.

If the editor doesn't know either of you, then she doesn't even look at your manuscript. She's too busy dealing with professionals to be bothered with amateurs.
And how in the world would the editor know you? What has to happen in order for the editor to know you?

That's extremely simple. The editor will only know you if you have met her. The usual way that happens is that you meet her at a writing conference and pitch her your story and she says, "Wow! Sounds interesting. Send me your manuscript and/or your proposal."
If meeting an editor at a writing conference sounds scary, you might think that it's better to just get an agent and let him do it. OK, fine. Let's say your agent send the editor the manuscript.

What happens before the agent sends the editor your manuscript?
Again, very easy. Your agent first has to offer to represent you and you have to accept that offer of representation.

Why does an agent offer to represent you? What has to happen first?

That's also easy. You send that agent a copy of your manuscript and/or proposal, and he recognizes your name on the cover, reads it, and decides that you are a talent worth spending time on.

Uh-oh. How would the agent recognize your name?

The agent will only recognize your name if he's met you. The usual way that happens is at a wriitng conference. You make an appointment and pitch your story to the agent, and he says, "Wow! Sounds interesting. Send me your manuscript and/or your proposal."
You may be wondering why you have to meet people in person. Can't you just mail in your manuscript? Or e-mail it? Are agents and editors too snooty to read their mail or their e-mail?

No, they're not snooty. They're busy. They're overwhelmed with the zillions of other writers sending in stuff by mail and e-mail. Your mail or e-mail is lost in the flood. Unless they know you.
A writing conference is your best chance to capture the undivided attention of an editor or agent -- for fifteen minutes. You make an appointment. You've got a quarter of an hour to show what you've got. No interruptions. Nobody else.

Sure that's scary. Sure that's hard. So was getting your driver's license. So was getting your first kiss.
Lots of things are scary and hard, and you do them because the rewards are worth the risk. Life is about doing the scary and hard things you need to do to get what you want.

If you want to meet an editor or agent and have a more-than-fair shot at making an impression, then a writing conference is an excellent place to do it. In my 20+ years as a writer, I haven't seen a better way to make that connection.

About once a year, I write a column in this e-zine about the enormous benefits of going to writing conferences. I believe in conferences.

I sold my first book (and my second, and my third) on my own, without an agent, as a direct result of the contacts I made at writing conferences. I met my first agent (and my second and my third) at conferences.

Most of my published novelist friends did the same.
No need to belabor this point. Either you're ready to go to a conference and make some connections, or you aren't.

If you are, then what are you waiting for? The year is early. Make it happen.
If you aren't, then now might be a good time for me to mention that writing conferences are a great way to learn more about the craft of writing fiction.

I joined my first critique group as a result of going to my first conference. I met my first writing buddy at another conference. I first heard the phrase "you're going to get published soon" from a novelist at a conference.
I don't usually make a sales pitch for my products in this column, but I will now, because it would be wrong not to mention it.

I've got an e-book available, the Writer's Conference Survival Guide, that tells you all about how to pick the right conference for you and how to get the most out of it.

You can find out all about the Writer's Conference Survival Guide HERE.

If the "end" you have in mind is to get published with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher, then a writing conference is very likely to be one of the last steps you take before you reach that "end."

Nothing happens unless you take action. Go to it.


This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 30,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
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