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 released in April and hit the bestseller list in September. His next novel, BOOK OF DAYS hits shelves in January. 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, or visit his website at http://www.jimrubart.com/.

Go for Broca

WARNING: Rerun! This column first ran in the July 2008 issue of CFOM. But it’s still a marketing principle issue I believe most novelists need to learn. So we’re going to run it again for those who might have missed it the first time, or for those who need a review.

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 always 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!” It’s Broca’s area of the brain that says, “I’ve seen that story pitch, Website, 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 Websites, 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, Websites, 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.

Often when I speak before audiences, I start my talks by doing a magic trick that illustrates my opening point. Do you think I surprise Broca? Do you think I’m 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. He’s now one of my closest friends inside or outside of publishing.

Wanda Dyson circles her book table at signings with yellow crime scene tape. Does she surprise Broca? Absolutely.

One final thought: Surprising Broca is risky. Will you crash and burn with some people? Yes, absolutely. (Some people think my magic tricks are lame. No, I don’t like them.) 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 something that gets our hearts pounding a bit? So let’s step out and risk with our marketing.

Let’s go for Broca.