I’m an expert. I have six books under my writerly belt, and can throw my marketing girth out there for all to see and admire. Why can I say this? Because I received my first royalty check—which I promptly spent on socks at Wal Mart. Which is why I am starting a new marketing endeavor aimed at those illustrious folks who proudly call themselves Midlist Authors. It’s called MAD: Midlist Author Dictators.
Here’s how MAD works. We midlisters have tired of every conceivable marketing method known to computer-huggers everywhere:
- We’ve shouted on Shoutlife.
- We’ve given and received ridiculous gifts on FaceBook (hugs, gardens, little cyber-bits of foof).
- We’ve blogged ‘til the cows came home, and then we took movies of the cows and hoped to start a viral revolution on You Tube.
- We dusted off our amateur movie skills and made B-level book trailers.
- We’ve spoken to book clubs, fielding questions about that pesky scene (that we don’t remember writing) on page 154.
- We’ve paid handsomely for a website whose visitors consist of our grandmothers, four stalkers, and ourselves (which counts for most of our hits).
- We’ve paid printing companies mucho bucks for business cards, bookmarks, t-shirts, auto decals, and mugs. (And we’ve cleared out a closet and a garage to hold these items.)
- We’ve spoken to groups large (12) and small (1), and solicited email addresses for our gem of a monthly newsletter—only to have our subscribers rebel by unsubscribing and vowing to never read any of our books.
- We’ve twittered away entire days, telling our seven followers the intricacies of our days, how much we’re writing, what we had for breakfast, and what exactly the dog ate to make him throw up those colors.
- We’ve given away free books to people in Nigeria in exchange for 540,000 dollars. (Well, a book and also all our account information).
- We paid handsomely for a professional picture only to discover the picture actually looks like us. (We opt for a picture taken in high school when sags and wrinkles didn’t exist). So we’ve worked hard, we midlisters. And what has all this toil brought us? Nothing. So we’re starting a revolution. We are now MAD! (Midlist Author Dictators, in case you forgot the acronym.) Here’s how MAD program works:
- We read books about dictators (benevolent and not so benevolent) and figure out what made them tick. We take notes. We puff ourselves up. We practice on our dog, trying to make him do new tricks. Once we’ve perfected that, we go to the next step.
- We take what we’ve learned and create an empire where we are our own dictators, forcing the general populace to buy every one of our books. This includes backlists and the books we bought for 25 cents from our publisher because they were destined for the fiery furnaces of destruction.
- We rule benevolently (hopefully . . . There is that thing about absolute power corrupting absolutely.) And then we retire in the Cayman Islands off all those meaty royalty checks. (But we have to hire someone to decipher them because, for the life of us dictators, we can’t figure those puppies out!)
So there you have it. A new marketing method for a new generation! Midlist authors unite! Get MAD! Dust off your dormant dictator and have at it! Your very future depends on it. If you can’t sell books the old fashioned way, you may as well dictate. And if you fail? I hear Wal Mart is hiring greeters—their own micro-version of crowd-control-cart-distribution monarchy.
Bio: Mary DeMuth gets a little crazy sometimes with publishing-itis. So she writes pieces like the above to keep her sane and away from the men in white jackets. In between, she writes parenting books and novels. Her recent novel released last month: A Slow Burn. Everyone MUST buy it because she says so. She will end her bio by saying she enjoys writing about herself in the third person. You can find her Royal Craziness here: http://www.marydemuth.com. Or if you dare, you can choose to be mentored through the publishing journey at The Writing Spa: http://www.thewritingspa.com.
Recently I received an email from a long lost acquaintance who decided it was time to write a book. He asked me if I could give him contacts in the publishing industry, including my agent. In his letter, he proved he didn’t know anything about this crazy publishing industry, so I sent him my standard “Dear New Writer” letter and haven’t heard back.
The truth is, this writing gig is not easy. It’s not as simple as asking a friend in the industry to put in a good word for you. It’s tedious and time consuming.
My friend’s words got me thinking. How would someone know if they were ready for the bigtime? Is there a magical way of discovering when one is ready to find an agent? Curious? Read the checklist below to see if you’re ready.
Here’s a checklist for those of you who are wondering if you’re ready for an agent:
- I have attended a conference (local is fine) and received feedback from someone in the industry. (And if that feedback is negative, I’ve learned to thicken my skin and change what needs to be changed.)
- I have found a critique group (online or in my city). I’ve submitted several things to be critiqued and have learned to take criticism in a constructive, productive way.
- I have learned (trained myself) to make deadlines. (If you haven’t done this, give yourself a deadline today. Say, “I will write three query letters” or something like that “by January 25th.” Then meet that deadline. Make another. Meet it.)
- I have mastered the art of query letter writing.
- I have published several magazine articles on the local level, and perhaps a few on the national level.
- If I write fiction, I will have completely finished my novel and had it critiqued (or even paid for a critique).
- If I write nonfiction, I will have finished my proposal and three chapters until they shine like a new copper penny.
- I have learned the industry well. I am well-versed in Sally Stuart’s Market Guide. Purchase it on the right hand side of this blog.
- I have a body of work that’s been recognized (either by being published, or garnering awards).
- If I write nonfiction, I have a good, solid platform. (If you don’t know what this means, you’re not ready for an agent.)
- I’ve established a readership online through a blog or website. I have a significant online presence.
- I have read over five books on the craft of writing.
- I am not naïve about the fiscal workings of the business. (I have a cursory understanding about advances, royalties, rights, copyrights, and how authors get paid.)
- I am not delusional, thinking my first book will hit it big and land me on Oprah.
- I am teachable.
- I am not a one-book wonder. I have a good listing of book ideas.
- I understand the concept of branding.
- I have started to develop friendships within the writing community.
- Someone in the industry has said that my writing is ready for publication (and he/she’s not related to me).
- I write every day.
- I have not despised writing in obscurity.
- I value BOC time (bottom on chair).
- I set word count or page goals and meet them.
- I sense God pushing me in this direction.
- I have integrity.
- I am low maintenance.
- I value professionalism. I am willing to make strategic investments in my career. (Professional photo and business card, website that doesn’t look slapped together, etc.)
If you can say yes to most of the things on this list, chances are you’re ready to start thinking about an agent. The best way to meet an agent is in person at a conference. But if that won’t work, do your research and start submitting. A word of caution: DO NOT SUBMIT unless you are completely sure what you’ve written is fresh, stellar and breathtaking. Agents are longing for excellent writers who have surprising, world-altering ideas. Work-work-work until your book is that. Study the market to make sure your idea is different.
Like the nerd I am, today I read through my latest issue of The Costco Connection. On page eleven, I found this quote from Brian Tracy, the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a training and personal development company:”All successful people do four things. They set clear goals, take risks beyond their comfort zones and accept feedback and self-correct. Above all, successful people never give up.”
How about if I unpack this a bit for all your writerly types?
- Set clear goals. What are your goals this year? What would you like to see happen in your writing career in the next five years? Ten? Over a lifetime? If you haven’t yet written them down, stop reading this post and do it. Of course, that means going to Jesus and asking Him to enlighten you to the best goals. Of course it means that He will supply the strength to accomplish those goals. I’ll share one of mine for the next five years: Learn to write a screenplay. Someday I want to see Watching the Tree Limbs on the silver screen.
- Take risks beyond your comfort zones. I think all writers intrinsically know this. We reach beyond our comfort zones every time we query or send a proposal or write in a genre we’re not familiar with. I certainly felt out of my element writing a memoir in the present tense, but I’m so glad I did it. I’m a better writer because of the risk, I believe. But let’s take it further to marketing. For some of you it means you’ll need to get past timidity to do a radio interview or book signing. It may mean you have to practice speaking in case you land on TV someday.
- Accept feedback and self-correct. Oh how true this is! All along the writing, marketing and publicity journey, we receive tons of feedback. It’s not easy on our egos to take it all, but it’s necessary. Self-correcting means we heed the well-seasoned advice of professionals and make alterations to our writing, speaking, and marketing campaigns. Every day we have the potential to get helpful feedback. And every day we have a choice to become bitter about it or better. Which will you choose?
- Never give up. I truly believe that the difference between those who get published and those who don’t is the never-giving-up factor. Keep at it. Slam into those brick walls if you must; then bandage your head, wait until your vision stops blurring, and keep writing. Write the next word, then the next. Write, write, write. Trust, trust, trust.
And through it all, write for God’s fame, not yours.
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