Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Jr2 Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net
Broca is the 900 pound bouncer of the brain...
In the early ’90s, when I sold radio for a Seattle station, I picked up the phone one morning and said, “Domino’s Pizza!” This was before caller ID, so I had no idea if this would be a friend or a client. It was the latter; one who seemed devoid of the humor gene. But my slightly insane greeting broke through and she didn’t miss a beat. “Large pepperoni pizza, please, extra cheese; we need it by twelve thirty p.m.” We laughed and then talked business. After I hung up, I called Domino’s, put in her “order,” and had it delivered to her office.
Did the huge amount of advertising dollars I got from her later that week have anything to do with my stunt? Of course. Why? I went for broke. I surprised Broca’s area of her brain.
In 1861, French surgeon Paul Broca discovered the area of the brain responsible for speech, specifically assigning syntax while listening, and comprehending structural complexity. Broca’s area sits just behind the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain where we choose to take action. It’s where we process the pros and cons of a decision and ultimately choose path A or B. But before any sensory input—what we see, hear, read—can get to the prefrontal cortex, it has to pass through Broca’s area. Broca is the 900 pound bouncer of the brain.
What Broca hates: boredom. What Broca loves: surprises.
We hear this regarding our writing: “Open with a strong hook!” “Surprise the reader!” “Develop an elevator pitch that will grab ’em!” Successful authors have learned these skills, but when it comes to marketing, we tend to say the same things in the same way everyone else says them, so we bore editors, agents, and even readers. We end up sounding like Charlie Brown’s parents: “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.” It. Does. Not. Get. Through.
When you’ve heard a joke fifteen times and a friend starts telling it again, it’s Broca’s area of your brain that screams, “Enough!” Its Broca’s area of the brain that says, “I’ve seen that story pitch, Web site, one sheet, etc., a thousand times before, and I’m bored out of my mind.”
It’s Broca’s area that is thrilled when a movie or book twists our brain into a pretzel at the end. Remember The Sixth Sense? Or The Usual Suspects? Broca loved those movies! Surprise Broca and you’ll make an impression that can last for months, sometimes years. With our Web sites, phone calls, business cards, thank-you notes, one sheets, conversations—in everything we do—we must surprise Broca.
These days we live in an age of information overloaded on steroids. A zillion blogs, Web sites, articles, and books are clamoring for our limited time. How do we get our work to stand out? How do we get noticed as authors? How can we get our fiction to the prefrontal cortex? Surprise Broca.
In May of ’08 I taught a workshop at a writing conference. I started my talk by doing a magic trick that illustrated my opening point. Think I surprised Broca? Think I was remembered?
After one of my first writing conferences, I wrote a note to an editor I’d met that contained this line: “If there was time in this life, I think we might have become friends. Maybe in eternity.” Not your typical—and boring—“It was such a pleasure to meet you.” Two weeks later I got an e-mail from him, which started our strong, ongoing friendship.
At ACFW ’07, Wanda Dyson had yellow crime scene tape surrounding her book table. Did she surprise Broca? I know she sold out of the books she’d brought.
When Sharon Hinck ran around ICRS in 2007 with a sword in her hand and a cape on her back, did it surprise Broca? Yep. Has she sold a ton of the Restorer series? Yep. Are the two connected? I think so.
One final thought: Surprising Broca is risky. Will you crash and burn with some people? Yes, absolutely. (Sorry, Sharon, I’ll guess some people thought the cape was silly.) But as I tell my marketing clients, love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.
And isn’t surprising Broca the life God has told us to live? Aren’t we supposed to risk, step out of the boat, and try someone that gets our hearts pounding a bit? So let’s step out and risk with our marketing.
Let’s go for Broca.