Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How To Close Your Book Sale

The art of closing a deal is something one takes many years to perfect.  No two deals are ever the same, largely because the parties always change.  So how do you find a way to go the last 50 feet of a marathon and finish the race?

Initiating a deal is the easy part.  You search for qualified buyers and make an offer.  Things like price, convenience, timing, and competition will be factors.  So will the content of your book and the consumer’s needs or desires.  But what closes the deal?

I watched my eight-year-old son set the example of how to get the cash register to ring.  He’s an industrious little one, always angling to bring in money.  In this case, he was looking to raise donations for his camp-sponsored program that helps kids with cancer.  If he raises a certain level of funds, he chooses from a number of prizes.  He’s tenacious and knows no limits.  He’ll get on the phone with any relative and turn them into a donor.  He’ll knock on neighbors' doors – even strangers – and solicit away.  So far, no one’s said no.  They just ask, “How much?”

Ok, so he’s raising money for sick kids with his kid charm mojo working their emotions – that’s a lot different than peddling a book.  But the principles are the same.

1. Find your hook.  Give people the “why to buy.”  In his case, it’s to help children.  In your case, show how the book helps the consumer.  ID the benefits.

2. Tell a story and keep it short.  He had a 45-second pitch that explains what he is doing, what’s needed, and the action step required.  You do the same.

3. He used the assumptive close – act as if they will say yes to donating.  It’s just a matter of how much.  Even with that, he suggested amounts that can be given, reading off what others donated.  Make them feel like they can’t be outdone by their neighbors or family.

4. Use little-boy tactics.  He smiles a confident grin, speaks with conviction, and postures his body with a sense of determination.  There is no way you can shut the door on that.  Speak in a clear and firm manner that resembles your belief in your book, crack a smile, make a joke, and ask for the sale.

5. Be polite and respectful.  He was never rude or pushy, nor should you come off in a manner other than pleasant.  People do business with those they like and whom they feel understand them.

Closing the deal may seem challenging – and it is – but it can go a lot smoother when you take the steps listed above.  And if that doesn’t work, maybe my son can do some telemarketing for you!

Interview With Author Robert Carter 

What type of books do you write? I write stories set in exciting periods of history, in places and times where emotions run at their highest. These are periods of great change, uprisings and wars, in which the characters find themselves embroiled. I want my readers to feel as if they are going on a trip to a strange and different place. Today, you can book a trip to just about anywhere in the world and be there inside 24 hours, but my books take you to places you can't go, places that have vanished forever - the worlds of the past.  The only way I can really take you there is to create a world that is satisfyingly authentic. I feel I've succeeded if the world I've described is all-consuming, and that you are sorry to leave when come to the end of the book. I felt like this when I read James Clavell's "Shogun." What impressed me most was how mindful he was of his readers' pleasure. He really was a writer who wrote for his readers, and I was determined to do the same. My hope is always to write about dramatic circumstances that have arisen in history, and to make them as factually correct as possible. This means that my books can take many months to put together because you can’t write about the opulence of Peking's Forbidden City in the 19th Century, or describe Queen Elizabeth I's court unless you know a great deal about it.  Many of my readers are experts in these fields and sometimes they write to me to congratulate me, which is gratifying, or to point out an error, which is also gratifying, but in a different way!

What is your newest book about? My latest book, Death Valley Scotty is set in California in the early 20th Century.  Walter E. Scott -- Scotty to his friends -- was passing through Death Valley, California, when he happened upon a dead man. Beside the corpse was a dog dying of thirst, and in the man's pocket was a piece of rock glittering with pure gold ... I approached Death Valley Scotty in a very different way to my previous books.  It is a much shorter novel and written in a style which is more fitting to the subject.  The story follows the life of a loveable rogue through more ups and downs than you'll find in the Sierra Nevada. The reader sees how his luck changes as his plans start to unravel. We follow him as he works himself out of yet another tight corner and stays one step ahead of the law. Who knows what will happen next? I wanted readers to think that "Death Valley Scotty" is reminiscent of "True Grit” and it had the uplift of "It’s a Wonderful Life."

What inspired you to write it? I travelled through Death Valley and came upon Scotty’s Castle.  Imagine that – a castle in the middle of a desert! When I started to read about Walter E Scott and Albert Johnson,  I just knew this was a story that I had to write.  I’ve spent a lot of time in various deserts while working  in the Middle East and I have a soft spot for the hot, desolate parts of the world.  Death Valley is a wonderful place to visit, and what better preparation for a visit than to read about its most interesting inhabitant. 

What is the writing process like for you? When I decide to write about a particular piece of history, I start to read widely around the topic, then I'll write an outline of the story I want to tell. After that, I'll research again, this time more closely to the tale. I like to write about people who  were extraordinary in some way, mavericks usually, and sometimes difficult personalities, but people who made a difference to how things turned out. Frederick T. Ward in my novel Barbarians was just one of those people.  He was a Salem Yankee who happened to be living in Shanghai at the time of the Taiping Rebellion. Now, not many readers have heard of that war, even though more people died because of it than died in the First World War. This was because it happened at the same time as the American Civil War and the Crimean War, so it garnered comparatively few column-inches in the U.S. or Europe. Ward was an extraordinary man whose actions changed history, and I wanted his personality to come across strongly. Then there was Yehonala. 

At the age of 16, she was chosen as a concubine for the emperor, Hsien-feng.  At the start of Barbarians, she has progressed to the title of Empress of the Western Palace amid the scheming and intrigue of the Celestial Realm, and she is giving birth to her first child ... I feel I owe it to my readers to have had some sort of first-hand experience.  When I wrote Barbarians which is set in 19th century China,  I had to go and take a look myself. Travelling in Manchuria in the depths of winter was no picnic.  I find it’s essential  to visit the places I write about to pick up on the local culture and how people behave, to make things authentic.   Even if those places have changed a lot, there’s usually enough to evoke the spirits.  But I like to travel. I’ll typically go to a place and discover a quirk of history that initially fires my imagination. The well-read person will usually have an advantage in this regard because a well-stocked mind helps to fully utilise the intelligence you are able to bring to bear on a creative work.  I research my settings meticulously. Also, anything you can draw from the way people behave will always be grist to the characterization mill.

Research has got a lot easier with the arrival of the internet, but you don't get much detail on Wikipedia. Fortunately I have an extensive library of research material, collected over the years. I search out histories and biographies in second-hand bookshops, and I visit the places where my books are set and take notes, photos and even video footage. But its the people who fire my imagination. Some individuals accomplish amazing feats, feats that seem incredible and that simply humble the rest of us. As the excellent Mr. Tom Lehrer once put it. "It's a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he'd been dead two years."  Never forget that the truth is stranger than fiction. This can pose difficulties for a writer of fiction, historical or otherwise, because the contract between reader and writer is one of belief: the reader agrees to suspend his or her disbelief, and the writer agrees not to strain it too hard. But how to handle situations that are literally incredible? If you report things as they actually happened, the reader will often put the book down saying, "That's way too far-fetched." So the writer has to find a way to convince, and that's a skill long in the learning.

What did you do before you became an author? After college, my first proper job was working for a Texan oilfield services company, and apart from spending time in West Texas (which I enjoyed tremendously), and in other parts of the U.S., I've worked in the Middle East and Africa and experienced tough, exciting and sometimes horrible situations. I've also travelled widely across Asia, the Far East and Europe - fifty-nine countries at the last count.  Hard work, but someone has to do it!  Then I returned to London, England and worked for the BBC.

How does it feel to be a published author?  I was published by the traditional publishing industry in the past, but now I want to be part of the revolution. I made good money out of regular publishing and my books appeared in half a dozen languages, but I like selling direct to readers and cutting out all the middle men.  I like to decide what I write, and not have it dictated by the requirements of a publishing industry whose objectives are not necessarily the same as mine.

Any advice for struggling writers? Definitely.  Would-be writers  MUST apply discipline to the exercise of compiling 100,000 well-chosen words.  Without discipline, it’s almost impossible.  So the best help you can get is to develop a habit.  Set aside a regular time when you do nothing else but write, and never miss a session.  For people who can manage that every day, the total soon builds up. If you can write 1,000 words a day for 100 days, you will have created the first draft of a novel in 4 months.  Then it’s just a question of editing, and editing is much easier than creating on a blank page.  A really good tip is to print your novel on paper and put it in a drawer for at least 30 days.  When you come back to it, you will find that household gremlins have re-arranged all the words and made it read like garbage.  You will find the second draft is so much better. And the third draft ? You can probably be proud of that one. Some of my scenes have had fifteen drafts before I was happy with them. Re-writing is essential. It is the absolute key to quality.

Where do you see book publishing heading? People used to say that reading required books.  They liked the feel and smell of them.  But the technology has now reached the point that extended periods getting into a story doesn’t ruin your eyesight.  The e-reader is here to stay.  That means that traditional publishers will have to adjust to the new reality – one in which  the chain of agents, publishers, book distributors and book shops – all of whom take a slice of the author’s income, and mostly for very little work – will have to re-think their position in the Universe.  No longer is the monopoly position they relied on a reality.  The Kindle is a “trust-breaker” in the good old way.  I like that.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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