Jim Rubart

Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel ROOMS will be published by B&H Fiction in April. 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

Interview With Randy Ingermanson

Last month Randy Ingermanson interviewed me for his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. After rereading the interview I thought it might be good information for the three of you who don’t already take Randy up on his monthly wisdom.

After a few questions about my current novel, Randy posed some intriguing marketing questions. I get a little verbose in some of my answers, so we’re going to break up the interview into two CFOM columns.

For those of you who subscribe to Randy’s brilliant e-zine and have already memorized my interview, please stop reading now.

Randy sez: I met Jim Rubart at a writing conference about four years ago. He sat at my table for lunch one day and I asked him what he was writing. When he described his novel ROOMS to me, I thought that it sounded either hopelessly weird or incredibly cool.

So I asked him to bring a chapter to the critique table later that day for me to read. He did, but I didn’t do much critiquing because it was clear that his writing was excellent. So we talked mainly about how to get it published. Since then, Jim and I have become good friends and have spent many hours talking on the phone and hanging out at conferences.

Jim sold ROOMS a couple of years ago (to B&H Publishing), and I’ve been eagerly waiting to see how it would do in the marketplace. It recently hit the stores and has had a terrific launch. The paper version of the book has been selling briskly on Amazon, and the Kindle version is, at the time of this interview, #1 in the Kindle store on Amazon.

That’s a remarkable achievement, particularly since ROOMS is in a niche category—it’s a Christian novel and the topic is fairly theological. I have no doubt that some people may even call it heretical. What I like about the book is that it makes me think. If you imagine “The Shack meets The Matrix,” you’ll have some idea of what ROOMS is like.

RI: First, tell us a little about yourself and how someone might get hold of you.

JR: I grew up in the Seattle area, went to the University of Washington, and graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. I went into advertising and marketing in ’94 and currently own Barefoot Marketing. I’m a husband, dad, author, and follower of Jesus. My wife and I live with our two teenage boys in the Pacific Northwest.

RI: Every novelist needs a one-sentence storyline about their book that hooks people’s interest—or turns them away. What’s your storyline for ROOMS, and how did you come up with it?

JR: A young Seattle software tycoon inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.

The initial inspiration for ROOMS came from a little pamphlet I read in my teens. A man chooses to follow Jesus, so Jesus comes into the person’s life and examines the rooms of his heart. I thought you could inject that idea with steroids and make it into a killer novel. I mixed in a little Twilight Zone, a little C.S. Lewis, a little of The Matrix, a little It’s a Wonderful Life, a little romance—basically all the stories, movies and themes I love—and out came ROOMS.

RI: It’s a fairly weird idea for a novel, but in practice, it works Xtremely well. Kudos on the writing! In real life, you’re a marketing guy. Marketing fiction isn’t like marketing underwear. What’s your philosophy of marketing fiction?

JR: This will sound flippant, but honestly it’s not. Here are the three key components of selling fiction successfully:

1. Write a book that makes people rave.
2. Get those people to tell other people about it.
3. Get some people to hate your book.

Point 1: The majority of authors’ marketing efforts should go into writing books that make jaws go slack and make readers say, “Ooooooo, that was fascinating.” There are a lot of novels out there that people like, there are far fewer books that readers love. If someone had $500 and asked me if they should spend it on advertising/marketing or on your products or other how-to-write resources, I’d point them toward the craft products every time. What’s a restaurant’s best marketing tool? Amazing food. Same thing with novels.

Point 2: If you accomplish the first key, the second will come automatically. Donald Mass says 80 percent of a novel’s sales come from word of mouth. I agree. On the positive side it’s easier than ever to spearhead word of mouth via the Internet. On the negative side, the firehouse of information has grown so vast our teacups are being knocked out of our hands. But if you have enough people who love your novel, they’ll cut through the noise and start some serious buzz.

I’ve been an effective marketing professional for over twenty years, because I understand all I can do is cause the inevitable to happen more quickly. Good advertising and marketing will cause a poor company to go out of business quicker. I can teach authors how to get large numbers of people to check out their books more quickly than they could on their own, but if the novels are lousy, there’s nothing I can do to help increase sales. Word of mouth is too powerful.

Point 3: Do you think Paul Young (The Shack) is upset with preachers standing behind their pulpits, screaming about how evil his book is? I don’t. “Don’t buy this book! This book, right here, the one in my hand! The Shack! Stay out of The Shack! It’s evil! And isn’t it horrible that it’s in every bookstore. It’s without a doubt in the bookstore you’ll drive by on the way home from church! Don’t buy The Shack!” You know where people are stopping on the way home.

Controversy causes investigation. It raises awareness.

People aren’t stupid. They can make their own decisions. As of this writing I have fifty-seven five-star reviews on Amazon and forty one-star reviews for ROOMS. Do I Iike the one stars? No, but I understand that it draws more attention to my novel. As I tell my marketing clients, “Love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.”

Next month: Part II of Randy’s interview

And if you have a marketing question burning a hole in your cranium, fire it my way and we’ll see if we can get it answered: jlrudini@comcast.net or jim@barefootmarketing.com.