many of you loved The Shack? How many of you can’t
stand the book and feel almost insulted by its massive success?
How many of you tore through the
Twilight books in a
week? How many of you wonder how Stephanie ever got published?
James Cameron’s latest, Avatar,
is smashing box office records, but not everyone is feeling the love.
Not everyone liked it. To Kill a Mocking Bird?
Here’s what one English teacher said about Harper Lee’s masterpiece:
OVERRATED AD NAUSEAM,
October 11, 2003. “This is not great literature, and I avoid teaching
it at all costs. To Kill a Mockingbird is about as
deep as a rain puddle.”
No matter the success of a book,
movie, song, painting, restaurant, clothing . . . some people will be
on the other side decrying the product. Is this good thing?
It’s a great thing.
Editors and agents say one of
their biggest frustrations is seeing the same middle of the road story
come across their desks. The writer’s craft might be solid, the story
is fine, the characters are fine, it’s a fine, fine, fine story.
But fine doesn’t sell. Fine
doesn’t stir up passion. And if you stir up passion about anything,
there will be people on the other side.
When editors talk about a
searching for a winning novel, they often say, “I’ll know it when I see
it.” What does that mean? It means something that is fresh, something
that surprises them, something that stirs emotions inside. And you
can’t do that without the high probability that you’ll cause the
opposite reaction in another editor.
“It just didn’t resonate with
me. You liked that?”
Last month I finished securing
endorsements for my novel ROOMS (releases in April
from B&H Fiction.) Some authors didn’t get it. Others raved
about it. I didn’t have anyone in the middle saying it was just okay.
This is good!
Donald Maass says 80 percent of
a book’s sales come from word of mouth. Eighty. People don’t talk about
books they liked. They talk about books they loved or hated.
Think American Idol
for a moment. Every now and then a pretty girl or handsome guy with a
strong voice will audition, and I think, “She’s an automatic. They’re
going to take him.” But Simon often says, “Sorry, you’re the same as
every other pretty girl and good-looking guy with a nice voice. You
don’t stand out.”
What am I saying? Our primary
marketing focus should be on the content of our books. We must make
them stand out in a sea of sameness.
I talked with Waterbrook editor
Mick Silva about this issue a few days ago. Mick says, “I don’t want to
do books that will be forgotten a month after they’re read.”
Advertising by Committee
It always scares me when a
client of mine wants to “run the ad by a few people.” It means they’re
going to show it to five or six other people to get a consensus.
it helps. Someone will
bring up an intriguing idea or angle on the ad.
But most times it becomes a
problem. A big problem. Ads done by consensus never insult anyone.
Everyone thinks they’re “fine.” Which means no one notices them and
they blend into all the other ads and make no impact. The message isn’t
ago I handled the advertising for Tony Romas in the northwest, a chain
of family restaurants famous for their ribs. As I was developing the
creative strategy for an upcoming radio campaign, I was brainstorming
with a colleague. We started joking around, pondering a campaign where
one voice shouts, “Got great ribs?!”
And another voice answers, “Hell, yeah!”
After reading that, some of you
are offended, and some of you are laughing. Yes, I insulted some of
you, but if you had heard that, you would probably be clear on what
Tony Romas is about and
what they offer. If you heard it on the radio, odds are you’d remember
it and even tell other people about it. Much stronger than “For great
ribs, come to Tony Romas to eat.”
I hesitated to write this column
because I don’t want this to be permission for you to say, “All those
editors and agents are wrong; my story is great and I’m sticking with
Often when an editor or agent
says no, it’s due to craft not being up to snuff. That has to be fixed
first, but once you’re getting good feedback on your craft and the
criticism is more along the lines of “It just didn’t grab me” and other
agents and editors are saying, “I think you’ve got something here,”
then it’s time to give yourself the latitude to let your uniqueness
As the Irish saying goes “Love
me if you will; hate me if you must; but for God's sake, don't ignore
Great marketing starts with your
content. And to make it stand out, you might have to insult a few