Thursday, September 24, 2009

Major Epiphany: My Marketing Problem and How I Got a Clue

If you read my recent posts about my misadventures of trying to sell my book idea to editors and agents at writer’s conferences, you may have gotten a feel for how the publishing world can be so very discouraging. If you’re a writer, no doubt you've experienced that discouragement. If you haven’t yet, you will.

So, what can we do? Well, we can quit. Or, maybe some of us can’t.

I know what I wanted to do. I wanted to figure out why the book idea that I thought was such a great idea was getting such a chilly reception among publishing professionals. But how could I do that?

I have to admit sometimes I feel like I’m back in Junior High and I’m getting that paranoid feeling like when it seems everyone is whispering…until you walk in the room. Then suddenly everything’s quiet. You wonder what’s going on but no one will tell you. You try to figure it out, but the only conclusion you can come to is that they were whispering something about you. But no one will say what it’s about. Whatever’s going on, you’re the last person to know. All you can do is hope your best friend will let you in on it.

That’s how I felt about this book. I thought it was a great idea. But no one else seemed to. What did they know that I didn't? What did they see in it that I couldn't see? Was it going to be a major failure? Or could it possibly be one of those great stories writers dream about where every publisher in the world turns it down and so the author publishes it herself and it becomes a best-seller and sells ten million copies?

I knew publishing professionals were giving my book idea the cold shoulder, but I didn't know why. Obviously the pros saw something wrong, but I couldn't see what it was. Who could I ask, because no one was telling me?!

One day, on a writer’s e-mail loop, there was a question that allowed us to send in our book ideas for feedback, and so I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and sent my book idea out there. I told them about my great idea: a book filled with true stories from pro-life pregnancy centers!

I wish I could tell you who it was who wrote to me privately. I’d love to give her credit, God bless her. I wish I would have kept her note, and if I ever remember who it was I’ll let you know, but she was the friend who came to me privately and told me what was going on.

She said something like, “Dianne, you have a marketing problem. Nobody walks into Barnes and Noble thinking, ‘Gee, I’d like to read a book about pro-life pregnancy centers today.’”

Oh my. Major epiphany. This author, God bless her, finally let me in on the problem and put it in terms I could understand.

I have to tell you I chewed on that little piece of information for months. I knew instantly she was right, and I could finally see the problem with my great book idea. But it took me a while to see the situation clearly enough to begin to figure out how to, hopefully, fix it.

So with your book, or your great book idea, can you test it by removing my topic (pro-life pregnancy centers) and fill your topic into that blank and see if your great book idea is going to fly? Will people walking into Barnes and Noble be looking for your book?

This insight was a major turning point for me. I've learned a ton since then, and in my next posts I’ll give you three big questions to ask which should help you sort out whether you have a winner of a nonfiction book idea or, if not, how to tweak it so you do.


Sue Tornai said...

Dianne, I like your conversational style in posting to your blog. It is loaded with information and encouragement I can use even in submitting articles. Thank you for your faithfulness.

Dianne E. Butts said...

Thank you, Sue. I so want this blog to be helpful to readers, so that you for the confirmation that it is that!