Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Not About Me

Name recognition is one of those things that so many of us strive for and it’s no surprise. People like Stephen King can sell books even if people don’t know the name of the book or what it is about. But let’s get real; I’m not Stephen King and neither are you. There aren’t many people who will buy our books because our name is on the front. The marketing tecniques that work for Stephen King or any other well known author, even lesser well-known authors like Colleen Coble and Brandilyn Collins won’t work for us. Who knows, maybe someday we too can sell books by just putting out an announcement that our next book is available, but that only comes after a bunch of people have read and liked our books. Most of us will never reach that point, so let’s just say that we’ll cross that bridge if and when it comes.

In the meantime, the most important thing for unknown authors is the story itself. Forget about name recognition. Our goal shouldn’t be to make people aware of who we are. Readers don’t care who you are. There are many books that I have enjoyed reading that I couldn’t tell you the name of the author because I never looked at the author’s name. The Owlstone Crown was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I’ve probably read that thing ten times, but I couldn’t tell you the name of the author without looking it up.

Think about that and let it sink in. The author isn’t important. Suppose you are interviewed on television or the radio. If you were Stephen King, the viewers might be interested in what you had for breakfast, but since you aren’t, what they are interested in is the story in your book. Is this a story they want to read or not? The process you went through when writing the book, your similarity to one of the characters in the book or any of that personal stuff has little to do with that. While we can’t control which questions we’ll be asked, we can control how we answer questions. The best thing we can do when asked a personal question is to give a truthful but short answer. In one online interview I saw recently the author was asked whether he preferred baseball, basketball or football. Who cares? Unless this guy is a friend, I don’t. What I want to know is what he can do for me and that means telling me more about his book.

We need to have a clear understanding of what our book is about and the story needs to be one that people will want to read. It’s best to know what the book is about before you write it. Don’t make it complicated. The Owlstone Crown is about two orphans who fall through a portal and battle to free their grandparents from an evil dictator in another Earth. That simple statement becomes the backbone of the story. When we still people about the story, we can start with that can then fill in more details. Maybe they weren’t looking for a story like that, but after hearing the details they are more interested.

It might help if we imagined that our name has been left off the cover of the book and people don’t believe us when we say that we wrote it. What would we do to convince people to buy the book? If we can do that, we know what we should be doing to try to sell our books.