Category Archives: Keys to Success

How to fix Jack Reacher

jack_reacher_never_go_back_posterI recently saw the Tom Cruise action film Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The movie was very serviceable as an action film—lots of fights, car chases, and take downs of bad guys—but I was disappointed overall. I personally believe Cruise is one of our best actors, and he, like Matt Damon, is capable of filling action hero roles quite capably even as he progresses through his mid-50s. (In fact, the sci fi action movie Edge of Tomorrow remains one of my favorite movies.) Even though Cruise has an entire wikepedia page devoted to his awards, he may be the best actor currently working yet to receive an acting academy award. Jack Reacher doesn’t come close to other movies in quality despite the talents of Edward Zwick, the academy award winning director of Shakespeare in Love and critically acclaimed films such as GloryLegends of the Fall, and The Last Samurai. Why?

I explored this question using a rubric that includes seven criteria to help me think through a film’s overall quality and pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve done similar things for character development in novels (see here and here).

Never Go Back is part of the Jack Reacher thriller series penned by British novelist Lee Child. The story puts former military policy investigator Jack Reacher into the center of a conspiracy to swindle the U.S. government out of millions of dollars through illegal arms sales. The inciting incident is the arrest of Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who is in charge of Reacher’s old unit. She’s jailed for espionage, but is really a target for assassination because her investigative work uncovered the arms trafficking scheme. Reacher also learns of a paternity suit in the course of the investigation that claims he is the father of a 15 year-old girl, Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh). When Turner’s attorney is murdered, Reacher is framed for the crime. The assassins quickly link Dayton to Reacher, expecting to use her as a pawn to trap and kill Reacher. So, the film is off and running as action adventure crime thriller.

I thought Never Go Back was a enjoyable action movie, but fell short of being an excellent one. It relied too much on formulas, and not enough on creative storytelling. So, how did this movie fall short? What made the difference between mediocre and great? These are my thoughts based on my film criticism rubric.

  1. Production values & artistic scope. Overall, the film didn’t have anything that pushed the envelop. The cinematography was state of the industry, but not state of he art. In leading action films such as Mission Impossible or Jason Bourne, technology is used to augment action sequences. Creative editing slows or hastens the pace. The camera shots engage the viewer with different angles and perspectives to illuminate motivation, create suspense, and immerse the viewer. I didn’t see much of this creative use of standard film tools and techniques in Never Go Back. It was yoeman’s work, for sure, but not much beyond it.
  2. Plot, internal consistency & composition The plot wasn’t particularly creative;
    “good guy, but flawed, cop uncovers duplicitous arms dealer” is a pretty worn concept. Buddy rescue stories are also pretty common. The fact that the new boss of Reacher’s old unit is a woman (Turner) might have been innovative in the 1980s and 1990s, but in the 2010s it’s almost cliche. Similarly, the emotional threat of a family member being used to derail the good guy cop is also pretty common (remember Lethal Weapon?). Reacher is a drifter and loner, much like old western heroes, and being tied down by an unwanted child is also a familiar plot device (recall True GritShane, etc.). While the story had an internal consistency—few loose ends left around at the end—its plot and composition were pretty stale. Also, the subplot of the uncertainty about paternity seemed contrived to add some humanity to the hardened soldier turned outlaw. In part this was necessary because Major Turner could pretty much take care of herself. So, some character had to be vulnerable, and that ended up being the teenager that might be Reacher’s daughter. She was never fully integrated as an essential element of the plot.
  3. Story plausibility and dialogue. Okay, this is a bit of a stretch for action films—they are almost always implausible—but my assessments are put in the context of the genre. The dialogue was straightforward without nuance in Jack Reacher. The banter was standard and straightforward, with little wit; Audiences weren’t asked to interpret much beyond what was said by the actors. In fact, I found very little in the way of compelling visual storytelling, in contrast to other similar films such as Deepwater Horizon and Jason Bourne. What makes cinema different from literary forms is the ability to show character and emotion through facial expressions, physical action, and reactions to events and other people without resorting to dialogue to tell the story. Visuals substitute for literary description. The actors were asked to do little more than straightforward acting in the film.
  4. Context in terms of genre. The film’s plot is relevant to the action film genre. After all, the U.S. is winding down the war in Afghanistan, and those weapons can easily be diverted. But the story doesn’t unfold in a creative way. The theft of arms is a standard plot for military television series such as NCIS or JAG. The theme simply is transported onto the big screen in a formulaic way. Even adding a corrupt inside guy n the military isn’t presented in an innovative or creative way.
  5. Entertainment & audience engagement. Never Go Back was entertaining, but it didn’t keep me engaged evenly throughout the film. If I had received a phone call or text message, I would have been willing to leave the theater to take it believing I wouldn’t miss much by the time I returned. In part, this is because the film was predictable and lacked imagination. This movie could have easily gone straight to DVD and saved for late night parties for your teenager.
  6. Character depth & arc. None of the characters really grow. At the end of the film, Major Turner is redeemed and goes back to her job running Reacher’s old unit. She is restored to her position rather than given new responsibilities, and her relationship with Reacher is not significantly deepened. Reacher goes back on the road, taking up his vigilante lifestyle, and the girl goes back to school (albeit this time living with her real mother who has cleaned up her act). Ironically, its the teenager—Samantha—that grows the most. She realizes the truth about Reacher, develops true feelings for him, but takes on a more mature and adult role as daughter to her mother. Unfortunately, Reacher and Turner on the leads in the movie, not the girl.
  7. Social message & relevance. The film has virtually no social relevance or meaningful message, except that Jack Reacher might not forsake the child he may have fathered. The film ends with Samantha giving Reacher a phone for him to contact her, but he doesn’t embrace the new relationship. Similarly, showing bad guys as bad guys doesn’t really advance our understanding of human nature, or reveal new ways of looking at human relationships. It’s all standard formula action movie fodder.

I am not sure how these aspects of the film could be “fixed,” but actors, producers, and directors of Tom Cruise and Edward Zick’s stature and experience can certainly find ways to do it. I didn’t feel like I was ripped off sitting in the movie theater, but I certainly expected more and I believe the principals could have given more. With a production budget of $60 million, they could have. On the other hand, the film has generated nearly the same amount in domestic revenue and $136 million worldwide. So, in at least a commercial sense, the film is a success despite its artistic flaws.

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Why Florida is a great place to be as a writer

TortugaBaywEHA

Tortuga Bay has been nominated in categories such as mainstream/literary, women’s fiction, YA historical fiction, YA fiction, and YA/New Adult/Coming of Age

Tortuga Bay has been doing very well in the literary competition race this year in Florida, which prompted a thought: How important is Florida as a center for writing?

This question can be sliced a lot of different ways, but as a social scientist and economist, I thought one way would be to look at employment. Presumably writers tend to locate in places where opportunities to flourish would be greatest. We would naturally expect places such as Los Angeles and New York to be havens because of the concentration of the entertainment industry. But what about states like Texas, or Florida, which are large states but where our industries are perhaps less developed?

So, I went to the U.S. Department of Labor and dug up labor force data by occupation (May 2015, the most recent available right now). For those that are data hounds, the classification is Writers & Authors OES code 27-3043 under the larger classification of Independent Artists, Writers & Performers.

As expected Florida does well.

Overall, the nation employed 43,380 people who listed writers & authors as their primary occupation. The top two states–California and New York–employed one third of the nation’s writers and and authors. Florida ranked fourth, just below Texas. The top six states employ half of the nation’s authors & writers.

State Employment % of Nation
1 California 7,890 18.30%
2 New York 6,710 15.56%
3 Texas 2,340 5.43%
4 Florida 1,770 4.10%
5 Pennsylvania 1,550 3.59%
6 Illinois 1,460 3.39%
7 Ohio 1,250 2.90%
8 Virginia 1,190 2.76%
9 Massachussetts 1,180 2.74%
10 District of Columbia 1,170 2.71%

When broken down by metropolitan area, the dominance of New York and Los Angeles are clear. The New York City metropolitan area alone employs 15% of the nation’s writers and authors. The Los Angeles metro area employs another 12%. Chicago has the next highest concentration with 5.5%. Thus, the top three metro areas employ one third of the nation’s writers and authors. Miami, with 510 writers and authors, ranks well outside the top 10 among metropolitan areas.

This raises an important question: Even though Florida does not have a dominant metro area, what explains the state’s ranking? Quite simply, Florida writers are distributed across several metropolitan areas as the table below shows.

Metropolitan Area Authors & Writers % of State
Cape Coral-Ft Myers 40 2.26%
Deltona-Daytona Beach 50 2.82%
Jacksonville 120 6.78%
Miami-Ft Lauderdale 510 28.81%
Orlando-Kissimmee 350 19.77%
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titsuville 30 1.69%
Port St. Lucie 50 2.82%
Tampa-St. Petersburg 350 19.77%

More than half of our states writers and authors are employed in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando-Kissimmee, or Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area. We are spread out over the state. Unfortunately, data for Gainesville and Tallahassee were unavailable because of their small size, but the pattern is pretty clear: Florida’s authors are spread out geographically, suggesting no metropolitan area has a defined competitive advantage within the state.

In short, Florida is a good place to be a writer. We have one of the  nation’s highest concentrations of writers yet geography does not see to play as important a role in where we live and work.

 

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Where do good female characters come from?

TrisAllegiantposterWhile recently researching blog posts about the Divergent film series, I ran across a 2011 blog post from Veronica Roth, the author of the novels, that also discussed the origin of Tris Prior, her kick-butt female protogonist.  Many readers might think that Tris was always the center of the story, but not so! Here’s what Ms. Roth writes:

“…Divergent really happened when a bunch of these pieces of inspiration suddenly coalesced in my mind as I was writing, and I got about thirty pages of a story from Four’s perspective down, and then set it aside because it wasn’t so good. It was only when I discovered Beatrice that I was able to write the full book, four years later.”

The observation that caught my attention was that she had started writing Four’s (Tobias Eaton’s) story, not Tris’s. But it was boring so she stopped, and didn’t get back to it until four years later!

Pirate-of-Panther-Bay-RGB96Her experience is strikingly similar to mine when I was crafting The Pirate of Panther Bay back in 2000. At the time, I was writing a young-adult romance about pirates because I thought it would be exciting and different. The protogonist started out as a male. But after about 50 pages (I got further than Ms. Roth), I put the manuscript down because it was boring! My story was just another pirate trolling through the Caribbean for loot. Ugh.

I am not sure how Ms. Roth “found” Beatrice, but Isabella’s “birth” was actually quite analytical. Since I was writing fiction, and story turns on conflict, I asked myself what would happen if I made the pirate captain female? The story became much more interesting, because virtually any plot putting a woman at the center in a leadership position in the 1780s was going to create conflict and tension. This was particularly true on pirate ships where crews were superstitious and almost always banned women on their vessels. For Isabella to get on the boat in the first place, she would have to overcome significant hurdles. She would also have to be strong–she couldn’t be a stowaway or consort, or start out in a typical role. The path to the captaincy of a pirate ship simply couldn’t take that route.

More importantly, the conflicts created a fascinating story line that allowed me to really flesh out Isabella’s character as well as the major male protagonists. Each of the major characters had a dramatic arc and singular journey that would feed of each other. The results have been great, particularly in the most recent installment, Tortuga Bay.

I hope Veronica Roth talks more about the literary beginnings of Beatrice Prior. I found her character to be very similar to Isabella in terms of personality and temperament.

Now, if I can just get The Pirate of Panther Bay made into a major motion picture….

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Fixing writer’s block

By Claire W. Staley

As a writer, I am familiar with this common ailment: Writer’s Block. When it attacks it can make your manuscript seem like the worst in the world. It’s frustrating, miserable, and kinda makes you want to throw your entire manuscript out.writersblock

Don’t do that. Instead, breathe, and then think about the following.

First of all, keep writing. The most important thing is not to stop and take a break. Set a timer for yourself and keep writing. I don’t care if you write four paragraphs of “la, la, la, la, la…” or “weeeeeeee,” you need to keep putting letters on the page, because if you stop writing you may never return.

Second, my moments of inspiration often happen when I’m neck-deep in other, necessary, work. For example, my most creative inspirations often come while I’m in my calculus II class. I’m so disinterested in what I’m supposed to be doing that my mind finds an alternative, which usually comes in the form of storylines. I am also inspired when I have three tests and two papers that I should be working on.

Funny how that works.

And, for me, I let it flow. Mostly because I’m passing calculus with no problem, so taking some time in my mind to fix my entire plot problem is not an unworthy cause. Listen to your body, your mind, and the little beast inside you trying to sort through millions of plot lines and make it into a seamless story.

Someone once said that what you do when you procrastinate might be what you should do for the rest of your life. Now me: When I’m listening to music I’m thinking about what scene in my book it would go with. When I’m rushing to class I picture myself as my main character running to/from whatever she’s running to/from. I do my homework and I think about if my character’s love interest would need to know it. I read other books and I look for inspiration for plot lines and characters. When I walk around at night I put myself into the scene where my character is sneaking around to spy on someone.

It’s my procrastination. It’s my second world. My split personality. Is it yours?

If not, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be. But it certainly helps. I don’t know why you are writing a book, story, poem, song, or anything else, but trust that your reasons for starting are good enough to finish.

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A Nature of “Selling” and Why Authors Should Care

Authors generally have a difficult time selling their books and other writings. While some have reconciled themselves to the reality they have to market their work in order to become successful, a surprising number are uncomfortable with this activity and really would prefer some else do this “dirty” work. I’ve lost count of the number of times an author has said “Shouldn’t my publisher market my book?”

Of course, the answer is yes, but it’s a rare book ends up selling well without the active, committed and ongoing investment by an author to market their work. Moreover, any publisher would be consigning itself to unprofitably and economic doom if they signed on an author who does not not want, or is not willing, to market their work.

I think this reluctance to market our work is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what marketing and selling is. A “sale” is one of many outcomes that results from marketing. Marketing is the strategies, tools, and tactics used to raise awareness about your work and present it to people who might have an interest in reading it (or perhaps selling it to others). Not everyone will want to read our, but we don’t know who those readers are. So we use marketing tools and techniques to discover the interests of readers and identify specific (often niche) markets (or categories of readers) that will be interesting in our work.

Marketing isn’t about the hard sell. In fact, while I’ve heard people talk about successful sales men and women (and I’ve known many) as if “they can sell anything to anyone,” this isn’t true. A good sales person has to be an effective marketer, and a successful marketer identifies customers that are interested and willing to invest in their product because it serves the interests of the customer. A good sales person will invest in a potential customer (with the hope of getting a sale), but he or she will accomplish this only if they know the customer’s wants, needs, preferences, and values. So, these sales people that can “sell anything” are really people that invest in getting to know potential customers so they can match the right product with the right preferences. More often than not, good sales people are perfectly happy to send a customer to someone else if they don’t have a product in their portfolio that meets the customer’s needs. If you discover a reader likes fantasy, but you write action/adventure, a good marketer will send the potential buyer to a good fantasy book, not try a hard sell to convince the reader he or she really likes action/adventure. This also helps build a long-term relationship, which can pay off more literally in a future sale.

So, authors should think about marketing as getting to know readers, current and potential. We use our marketing hooks and pitches as a way of discovering what interests that motivate potential buyers to read our books. The more we know our customers (readers), the easier it is to match the goods (books) and services (perspective, insight, advice) to our readership base (who are also often aspiring authors). A long-term investment in marketing and readers–current and potential–also builds our readership base, and this is what will turn us into commercially successful authors as well as craftspeople and artists.

Marketing can be fun…if you approach it as discovery.

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Lessons in Writing Styles: Cussler vs. Clancy vs. Staley

One of the great benefits of Beta Readers–those brave souls willing to read drafts of your work before presenting it to the world or a publisher–is their insight into your writing style. Sometimes we resist these comparisons–as happened in this case–but they often yield a useful perspective that helps us define our own style and gives us a marketing angle as well.

This came home to me recently while my Tallahassee-based critique group was reading an early draft of St. Nic, Inc., my fourth novel released in August 2014.  After reading the opening chapters, critique group member and aspiring novelist Emily Timm said “Your book reads like a Clive Cussler novel.” After a few chuckles from the other members, she added, “and I mean that in a good way.”

Now, at this point, I was a bit embarrassed. I had never read a Clive Cussler novel, although I knew he had sold a lot of books. In fact, he’s sold millions, and his books have been on the New York Times best seller list twenty times. But this information was really useless to me as a writer, and I didn’t know how to process it. I wasn’t sure if this really was a good comparison.

Then, another reader (but not a critique group member), Mark McNees, said St. Nic, Inc. “artfully combines the action of a Tom Clancy novel with the insightful social commentary and multiple levels of experience as George Orwell’s Animal Farm.” Two more great cites. The contrast in writing styles between these now deceased writers was potentially significant: Orwell wrote in a class literary tradition while Clancy wrote action-adventure-technology thrillers. 

While I am very familiar with Orwell’s work, I wasn’t well versed in Tom Clancy’s, except for watching a few movies based on his novels. Tom Clancy was a genre buster and one of the few writers to have their inaugural novel (The Hunt for Red October) shoot to best seller status.  Still, I understood the genre pretty well, and I was curious how my writing style compares to Clancy’s.

The only way to find out was to read their books. What I found was quite revealing.

Of course, my writing style is different–neither Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, or George Orwell. In part, this is the result of my focus on writing for young adults and middle school readers for the first three novels. St. Nic, Inc. is written for the general fiction market although it is accessible to young adults. These readers want fast plots, plenty of action, and a gripping story. The rule is the less description, the better. In this way, Clive Cussler’s style, although he is geared toward adult markets, is well suited to my approach.

But I also included layered characters with arcs that peak at different times based on the trajectory of the main plot and subplots. Thus, my stories aren’t as straightforward as Cussler’s, and my characters experience significant life changing events that influence how they view the world. Like Clancy, I strive to make my fiction authentic. The Pirate of Panther Bay attempts to stay true to the real world of pirates and the historical context in which the characters live. The Path of the Warrior series attempts to ensure the martial arts self-defense skills are authentic and realistic, set within the context of middle-school bullying and violence. These values permeate the stories and books.

So, where does St. Nic, Inc. fall? Of course, it’s a little bit of each. I admire the lean writing style of Clive Cussler even if it won’t earn him accolades from the literary elite. (Of course, readers love it.) While I would like a little more flourish when reading Cussler’s novels, the action and pace keep me engaged, and I’m not sidetracked by subplots or thinly disguised attempts to be classic fiction. The characters and stories are straightforward, and that suits his fans (and publisher). These are very easy reads, the epitome of escape literature. I like Clancy’s commitment to keep the adventure-thriller grounded in reality and the characters more layered and complex. This also has turned out to be a highly successful strategy, and it probably reflects his own personality as a writer. While still escapist in its approach, Clancy’s novels require a bit more patience and enjoyment of the journey.

Based on the comments I’ve received from readers, St. Nic, Inc. seems to reflect a happy evolution of my writing style, one that embraces a lean writing style with layered stories. I am pleased to embrace comparisons to all three highly successful (for different reasons) literary giants. I’m not sure I would have made these connections, and become more confident in my own writing style, if hadn’t been for the prodding and candid observations of my beta readers, friends and critique group.

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New York Times, Suzanne Collins, Danica Patrick make Top Five list for 2013

Here’s the annual round up for the most popular blog posts for 2013:

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“Renegade” book trailer called “captivating”

The book trailer for Renegade was published on youtube on Thursday, June 13th, and it’s getting rave reviews so far. Viewers have called “captivating,” “very powerful,” “as fast paced as the book,” “action packed,” and “inspiring.”

I’ll have more to say on this later, but I think one of the reasons viewers have responded so positively is because the trailer fits the medium–video (and film) is visual. This trailer is stylistically much closer to a movie trailer in that it attempts to communicate visually and sensually to draw in the viewer. 
Whether the trailer generates book sales is another story. Stay posted. 

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Does the New York Times boost book sales?

In an earlier post, I discussed a
recent article I had written that 
appeared in on-line forum Room
for Debate published by the New York Times
. My article
focused on the role bystanders have in intervening when they witness violent
crimes, and how that intervention is important in maintaining a free and civil
society. These are central themes in 
my
bullying novels
 for
middle graders, 
A Warrior’s Soul and Renegade.

Like most
authors, I am experimenting with different strategies for raising my visibility
among key audiences. I am appearing at the Downtown Marketplace in Tallahassee and I’m
active in the 200+ member Tallahassee Writers Association. Renegade
also won 2nd place in the Children’s Chapter Book Division of 2012 Seven Hills
Literary Competition, a national contest sponsored by TWA with blind judging. I
am also building my web presence and digital footprint to emphasize my
expertise in bullying and self-defense, and, most recently, I launched a blog
on “practical self defense” at www.defensivewarrior.com. All this
was set up before the New York
Times
 article was published.

On some metrics,
this was a very successful marketing event. Visits to my website (
www.srstaley.com) tripled, helped in large
part to the inclusion of a direct link in my tagline. Traffic stayed well above
typical levels for several days. Higher traffic to my web site also likely
drove a new tripling of traffic to my self defense blog since I linked used my
home page to link to articles for background.

So, did I
experience a bump in book sales when the Times article appeared? Or, more
directly, was I able to monetize this raised international awareness and
exposure? 

The short answer
is no. 

It’s a little
tricky tracking my impact but amazon.com provides a useful barometer. From the
basic metrics tracked by amazon, print sales have done virtually nothing since
the article appeared on April 22nd. Digital sales seemed to have increased
slightly as my author ranking began to spike somewhat more frequently around
the third and fourth weeks of April. But my rankings have spiked more
frequently since the beginning of the year, and these spikes seem to center
more around personal appearances than general publicity. Thus, the more
frequent spikes are just as likely a product of ongoing marketing efforts that
build on and link individual events rather than one specific event.

I also have not
added many twitter followers since the article appeared even though my twitter
handle (@SamRStaley) was included in my tag line. Visits to my self-defense
blog tripled on the day the article appeared, but quickly fell to their normal
levels. More interestingly, visits to my blog increased by nearly 10 times in
the day or two following a posting on Facebook by a follower with a high
profile in the martial arts community weeks in advance of the New York Times
article. In fact, his cross post generated nearly three times the traffic to my
blog than the Times article (and most of this traffic was the result of my own
marketing of the link though facebook). 

Of course, the
article I wrote was not directly tied to my books. They were listed in the tag
line (with links), not embedded in the narrative. And the article was not in
the book review section of the Times. All those factors would mitigate against
its effectiveness in monetizing this exposure.  

Lesson learned: A one time event is unlikely to boost
your sales unless it is directly tied to selling books. The value of the New York Times article was in raising general
awareness of my work and in validating my expertise, not selling books in the
short term. 

The key to
monetizing this marketing benefit is the consistent, steady application of a
marketing plan that focuses on building my marketing platform over the long
haul. 

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Marketing the author, not the book

When I began writing fiction, I was reluctant to focus my marketing efforts on me (the author). I didn’t think I had the marketing cache’ to sell my book, The Pirate of Panther Bay. Pirates were cool, but I didn’t see myself as a personality that could make my book successful. Believe me, this wasn’t because I couldn’t talk about the subject; I teach for a leaving, so I am quite comfortable filling space with my voice, even on subjects I don’t know much about! 

Instead, I focused my marketing efforts on the content. I had, and still have, really cool, interesting content: a girl pirate captain who was an ex-slave, fast paced high-seas action, high-stakes plot points; romance, and realism. The problem was at the time that I didn’t have a marketing platform. I didn’t have access to the pirate blogs or communities. I didn’t have a marketing footprint in the genre or in schools where I saw a natural market. The Pirate of Panther Bay was my first novel. So, I focused on the cool characters.
I’m beginning to change my tune, in part because of the insights provided by Sam Henrie, CEO of my publisher. In Wheatmark’s Marketing Letter (March 2013), Sam talks about the “Secrets of Sharks,” a riff on the TV show Shark Tank where venture capitalists seek out and fund new projects. As Sam explains:
“The sharks bet on people over ideas. They consistently pass on product and service ideas they love and believe in because they don’t believe in the business owner’s passion or ability to market and sell–or sometimes simply because they don’t like them. Readers are the same: you’ll have to sell them on the author before you can sell them on the book.”
I think Sam is right on the money. Readers need to connect to the author before they buy the book. The same is true for book buyers at bricks and mortar book stores, and librarians, and teachers. 
I’ve seen this in operation over the past year where I have been coordinated a book sales booth each Saturday for the Tallahassee Writer’s Association at Downtown Marketplace. The authors that sell the most titles, in every case, are the ones that are volunteering in the booth. They are there to connect with potential readers. Many of the titles that are sold without the author in the booth are purchased by readers who know or are familiar with the authors. This is true even though the volunteers are actively selling all the books in the booth, and many of those books have great content. In fact, for the fall 2012 period, one author accounted for 20% of the sales, and that author was the one who consistently manned the booth throughout the fall. The correlation is remarkable. 
Notably, the class adoptions for my books have all come from personal relationships I have built with teachers, not anonymous marketing materials such as flyers or advertisements. 
Thus, my marketing platform ultimately has to be about me, the author. The very personal relationships I build with readers will ultimately determine my success. I’ll have more to say on this soon in the context of my books on bullying and self-defense, A Warrior’s Soul and the award-winning Renegade.
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