I know, I know, you’re looking at me in horror. “Undervalue my BOOK? Are you barking mad?”
Of course, we all believe our books are fabulous things that are worthy of high praise, oodles of money, and undying love from fans all over the world. Not talking about that, though. I’m talking about something deeper, which involves underestimating your book’s potential. This comes from not looking at your book through a marketing prism.
Case in point; I met an author at a writer’s conference who’d written a personal journey about her addiction and how it had impacted her family. The thing that made it noteworthy is that the book included her daughter’s perspective as well. Interesting concept, sez I, it’s a big book.
Blink blink. Big book?
Absolutely. Any editor who signs you is looking down the road as to the book’s impact on the marketplace. This book is unique because, while there are a jillion addiction books, the commonality drops off when you include addiction from the viewpoint of those who had to suffer through it with you. As such, this book would be great for Alateens and Alanon members. You and your daughter could be doing talks about your experience and offer advice, taken from your book, to help others who are still living the nightmare.
The author blinked again. She admitted that she’d never looked at her book in that way. She was simply writing about her and her family’s experiences.
She undervalued her book. And lots of writers do.
Story vs. Potential
Memoirs get their roots from something happening in someone’s life that’s extraordinary, and he/she decides to write about it. Authors suffer from tunnel vision, in that their entire focus is on the story; not the potential.
I’ll let you in on a poorly-kept secret: Potential is why publishers want a book.
Editors don’t just look at the story itself, they look at how far the book can go, how widely they can market it, and how many audiences will find the book interesting. The bigger the target, the more exciting the potential.
Authors who appreciate this have already taken preliminary steps toward approaching that potential target before the book even sells to an editor. For instance, the author with the addiction book already has an established relationship with AA, so she can easily contact the various groups to discuss her book. She and her daughter can develop a few talks that discuss their hard experiences and the factors that got Mom clean and brought their family back together.
She could also be talking to schools in order to reach out to kids whose parents have an addiction problem, or those kids themselves have more than a passing fancy to the drink. They could talk about the damage that path created from a firsthand perspective. And all of these talks lead right back to her book. If she starts giving talks now, then she has an established platform in which to wow an editor, who will do the happy dance.
The other option is to do nothing, which won’t make a potential editor dance quite as wildly because the author has zero platform, and there isn’t much time in which to establish one.
And you novelists aren’t immune to undervaluing your books. It’s true that you don’t need a platform for a novel because, well, your world is fake. However, you’d be hardly kicked out to the curb for having a platform.
I’ve referred to my experiences with the Two Surfer Dudes from time to time because he is such a great example of taking nothing and turning it into something. Long story short, this surfer writer penned a fantasy/SF book whose main characters were surfer dudes – sort of a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but with some really oddball characters in a funky SF/fantasy setting. In short, a really tough sell.
Predictably, no editor would touch his book. By the time he sat down in my promotion seminar, he was pretty down in the mouth because he’d gone vanity press and realized he’d get zero promotion help or distribution. He ended up making lemonade by capitalizing on his own experiences as a well-known local surfer to launch his book to his potential readership – other surfers.
Because he knew nothing about how books are sold, he’d undervalued his book’s potential by not considering how his personal life could elevate his book’s footprint.
So for your novelists; take a peek at your own lives. Is there something you can pull out from your life that creates a bridge between your story and your target audience? Are you the the cop who writes detective novels? Are you the Reiki Master who writes about a surgeon who incorporates alternative medicine in her practice? Are you a nurse who writes medical romance novels?
If you look inward, it’s possible that you have qualities that will elevate your book from “eh” to “wow!” After all, if a surfer dude can sell a fantasy/SF about two surfer dudes, anything is possible when you take steps to do some serious analysis.
Analysis takes vision. It means that you’re looking beyond just your story, and envisioning key elements that will attract an audience. Your story is more than just your imagination. It’s a culmination of your experiences, your perspective on how you view the world, and what’s burning in your soul. It’s that literary itch that needs scratching. It’s passion.
If you’re not emotionally attached to your story, then how do plan to advocate its reason-to-be? Even a fun little romantic comedy has deep roots that drive your passion, right? It shouldn’t be a stretch to expand your vision in order to appreciate the value of your book and decide how far you can take it.
I’ve met more than a few authors whose faces were painted with panic when I suggested huge plans for their book. They simply hadn’t taken the time to look at their story’s potential and didn’t understand the vision it takes to go where no book has gone before. Ah, thank you, Capt. Picard.
So take another look at your book and analyze whether you’re undervaluing your little friend. If you are, then maybe you could think about changing course, and go get ’em!