Marketing

Write for Narcissists

Every reader is a narcissist.

Hold on, there. Don’t get all mad and sassy yet. Let me explain

I often tell developing writers, “No one reads about other people; we read only about ourselves.” Go ahead and quote me, just be sure to give me credit and send me the royalties it produces.

Seriously, I think it’s true. For example, I read several memoirs every year. And many of them are about writers or  people who, say, quit their high-paying jobs in Manhattan and built a cabin deep in the Maine woods where they lived off the land and learned to speak to wolves and bears. Why do I read those kinds of memoirs over and over again? Because that’s what I am or want to do. Those books are primarily about me, not about the author.

Every reader who scans a bookstore shelf or a book-selling website is asking (if subconsciously), “What’s in it for me?” It’s not about the author’s agenda, but the reader’s needs. And any writer who doesn’t connect with the reader’s self-interest, implicitly or explicitly, is unlikely to publish and sell.

I met with a developing writer recently who said she wanted, in her book, to convince readers of their need for her message.

“Nope,” I said.

“Nope?”

“Nope. Won’t work.”

“What won’t work?”

“Your reader hasn’t yet bought your book, let alone read it.”

“Yes, I know,” she said.

“So you can’t write a book to convince your reader that she needs your book.”

You’d have thought a daffodil had just sprouted out of the top of my head. She blinked. She shook her head. She asked me to repeat what I’d just said.

“You can’t write a book to convince your reader that she needs your book.”

I saw understanding slowly register in her expression. Then disappointment. “So,” she said, “I can’t help my reader see the need for my book.”

“No. You have to figure out what need the reader already feels. You can’t accomplish your agenda; you have to discover the reader’s agenda, and maybe look for an intersection of her need and your message.”

She leaned back in her chair. “But that—that’s going to change everything.”

I smiled. “Exactly.”

 

Leave a Comment

Understanding the Market

My cousin has a new job selling irrigation systems. He understands this product and even bought one from the company himself. I know what an irrigation system is but that’s about it. Could I sell an irrigation system based on this knowledge? Well, I could try; but I’d have to …

Read More

Lessons Learned As a Literary Agent

Dan is leaving the agency at the end of this month to focus his attention on the work of Gilead Publishing, the company he started in 2016. Here are some parting thoughts. _____ I’ve been a literary agent for about 2,000 of the 13,000 total days spent working with and …

Read More

The Biggest Question About Your Book

Authors are like small businesses. They have a finance department, a marketing department and an editorial wing. Then there’s the travel, human resources, IT and facilities management departments, all managed by one person, the author. While writing quality and author platforms are discussed at every writer’s conference, those aren’t the …

Read More

Of Making Many Books There Is No End

This past week Bowker, the company that issues ISBN numbers for published books, released their annual statistics. They broke out the numbers for self-published books and revealed a stunning statistic. (If you want the history and explanation of the ISBN, read my scintillating post on the topic here. Each country …

Read More

Caution: Loose Platform Planks

I love learning about authors on the internet. And as a literary agent, I enjoy the internet and find connections there that would be otherwise difficult to find and maintain. But as professionals, we must be cautious about what we share on any level. One reason is that we all …

Read More

Eternal Words

Every time I read or hear a report of a prominent person’s life complicated by something they tweeted, posted or recorded a decade earlier, I hope the stories are a cautionary tale for anyone desiring to be a media communicator or public figure. We used to be able to put …

Read More

Expert Training

With so many types of media available to citizens of the 21st century, anyone can appear to be an expert in anything. Access to the internet makes everyone smart. Or at least appear to be smart. Fifteen years ago I searched online for the acronym LOL because I wasn’t cool …

Read More

Competing for Attention

Everything in our world is competing for our attention. Where you finally give your attention is a combination of what you want to pay attention to and what caught your eye at the moment. No matter how you publish your book, either through a traditional publishing method or through some …

Read More

How to Know if Self-Publishing is for You

Technology and Amazon.com have opened up the world of book publishing, making it far more “democratic” than ever before and allowing anyone with word processing software and connection to the internet, to become a published author. The traditional publishing industry is a $25 billion or more industry in the United …

Read More