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It’s Not Who You Know

From the third season of the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, this classic interchange:

Car Rental Agent: I’m sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment. 

Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?

Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.

Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.

Agent: I know why we have reservations.

Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.

A classic example of the importance of both parties in any relationship needing to be on the same page!

In this social media-driven world, it has never been more true that, “it doesn’t matter who you know, but who knows you.”  You can follow the lives and exploits of any number of well-known people. You know everything about them, but if you were standing next to a bale of hay, they wouldn’t know you.

The issue of who knows you, is the secret ingredient of an effective author marketing platform, the all-important issue that keeps coming up with every agent, every publisher and at every writer’s conference.

A spiritual example of this is in that horrifying passage from Matthew 7:23 where Jesus said, ”I never knew you.” I often wonder why we ask others if they know Jesus when we should probably be asking them if Jesus knows them!

Back to social media. Getting a website, Facebook page or Twitter handle is no more “social” than driving down Main Street in your town waving at people. They might wave back because you waved, but they aren’t going to agree to help you move furniture. Friends do that. It is said, ”Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies”. (Sorry, I just had to find a way to force that quote into a blog post)

Using any of the techniques to pump up your social media numbers other than a slow, methodical climb up the mountain will yield disappointing results when it comes time to ask those “friends” to promote your book.

Years ago, non-profit organizations used “premiums” to get people to send donations to the organization. Some still do.

The use of premiums declined markedly over the years when it became clear that purchasers of premiums were not necessarily concerned with the mission and goals of the organization, but in getting a product for a tax deductible donation. (Tax law changes also affected the decline, as donors could only count as a donation that part of the gift over and above the actual cost of the premium)

To show how easy, or complicated (as the case may be) it is to make devoted followers in social media, let’s explore how you make a real human friend.

  • You care about them.
  • You listen more than you talk.
  • You know stuff about them.
  • You pray for them.
  • You serve them.
  • You share your heart

All of this takes time and there are no shortcuts.

In your blog, website and in-person connections, filter every “author platform marketing strategy” through the above list. You should be translating those principles into tangible social media interaction.

I can almost guarantee that the quicker you move to convert your social media  “friends” into people who buy or recommend your books, the less success you will have doing just that. It’s like asking a person you just met to help you move a piano. They might do it once to be nice, but good luck getting them to pick up the phone when you call again next week. Caller-ID lets you know who your real friends are.

This is why I have stated before that you should take as much time building your author platform as you write.

Social media friend-building is only complicated if you think it is a scientific pursuit of “market segments” or “demographic groupings”.

If you look at it from the perspective of how a person might grow real friendships, anyone can be a social media guru.

Thoughts?

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Bestselling Books in 1974

Starting today, and every six months, we are going to take a ride in the “way-back” machine (with special acknowledgment to Mr. Peabody and Sherman), traveling back in time to grab a snapshot of what books were selling on a particular date and year. To get an idea where publishing …

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Actually, The World is Pretty Big

At one time or another, every one of us have remarked how small the world is, usually caused by meeting someone by chance and finding out that you both know a certain person, or went to school with the person, are both reading the same books, are fans of the …

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Book Proposals I’d Love to See

By God’s will and pleasure, during my career as a literary agent I have been successful in representing authors writing Christian romance, Christian and general market trade book fiction, and Christian nonfiction. My interests have changed very little since my first blog post for The Steve Laube Agency, “Happy to Be …

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How Do You Measure Success?

by Steve Laube

A few years ago while talking to some editors they described an author who was never satisfied (not revealing the name of course). It this author’s latest book had sold 50,000 copies the author wondered why the publisher didn’t sell 60,000. And if it sold 60,000 why didn’t it sell 75,000? The author was constantly pushing for “more” and was incapable of celebrating any measure of success.

Recently there has been much ink spilled on whether Indie authors are better of than authors published by traditional publishers. Pundits have laid claim to their own definition of a successful book using number, charts, and revealed earnings. Following this dialogue can be rather exhausting.

I understand the desire to measure whether or not my efforts are successful. It is a natural instinct. If it is any indication, one of our most popular blog posts has been “What are Average Book Sales?” with thousands of readers.

In one way this is a wise question so that expectations can be realistic.

In another way it is unwise in that the cliff called “Comparison” is a precipitous one. I’ve talked to depressed authors who are wounded by numbers. I’ve talked to angry authors who are incensed by a perceived lack of effort by their publisher. I’ve talked to highly frustrated authors who wonder if it is all worth it.

Ultimately I can’t help but think this is all an exercise in determining a definition of success for the individual author. If you can measure it you can define it. That is as long as we know what “it” is.

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Rooting for the Bad Guy?

Last week I blogged about amoral protagonists. But what about protagonists who are unquestionably immoral?

Some general market books make their readers root for the bad guy. Think about accounts of bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde, written from their points of view. Or a book written primarily from the point of view of a courtesan, such as Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement. These books set the reader in a life where there is no Christ, yet the reader can’t help but feel sympathy for the protagonists by coming to an understanding of how circumstances combined by the moral failings of others set characters in one unhappy situation after another. 

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Why I Read Romance Novels

Valentine’s Day is on its way, and that got me to thinking about that four-letter word we all use with impunity:

LOVE.

What a powerful word, one so full of meaning I could write a dozen blogs about it and still not exhaust the depth and breadth of all it entails. I’m grateful for love. For God’s love. For my hubby’s love. For my family’s love. For my doggies’ love. Love has blessed me more than I could ever deserve. But then, isn’t that the very nature of love—that it comes to us regardless of our so-called “worth.” And one area where I most enjoy the blessing of love is in writing. Whether poetry or novels, nonfiction or essays, I’m not afraid to admit that I love reading about love. And I especially enjoy–get ready for it–romance novels!

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Wanted: More Choir Members

Dan Balow

At some point in their writing career, many Christian authors express a desire to write a book that would reach the un-churched. That desire is a completely honorable and wonderful goal, just as any believer should desire to represent Christ in their lives in such a way that unbelievers would ask them questions about the hope that is in them. 

However, the inference by such statements as “preaching to the choir” is that writing to churchgoers is somehow less desirable.  I know the intent of those authors is to have their books used for pre-evangelism, but unfortunately, when most Christian authors use the term “cross-over” to describe their book, it is code for “leave out anything Christian”.  I am not sure this is a wise use of your time unless you are very gifted and unique writer.

Indulge me for just another minute before you start writing a reply, hitting me with examples of Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers, MacDonald, Bunyan, Tolstoy, Chesterton, etc.

First, God Almighty can and does use whatever he wants to get people’s attention.  I hear God even used a talking donkey once. Second, it is a matter of fact that the books that God has used most frequently for evangelism have testified strongly to Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel to change a life.  Consider these:

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Bring the Books

“Bring the books, especially the parchments,” is a sentence in 2 Timothy 4:13 that has teased readers for 2,000 years. What books did the Apostle Paul want to read while waiting for trial? Theology? History? How-to? (Maybe a little escape reading? Pun intended.)

Another writer chimed in a while ago by saying “Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) And if we read the statistics he wasn’t kidding. 300,000+ published in the United States alone last year.

And yet there is an allure to the stories of great novelists and a fascination in the brilliance of deep thinkers. It is what drew me to the book industry in the first place having been a lifelong reader and a burgeoning collector of my own library.

I can safely say that the allure and fascination remains unabated. I’ve had and continue to have the honor and privilege of working with some of the finest minds and talented writers in our industry. The photo above is from my office showing every book represented by our agency. Hundreds of amazing books by amazing authors.

Meanwhile I am still searching for the next great story, the next great concept, the next great writer. So, to answer the question, “What are you looking for?” I will attempt to clarify a few things.

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The Moral Protagonist: A Key Difference

This is entirely an opinion, but in my reading of general market fiction versus Christian fiction, I have noticed one key difference:

The protagonists don’t have to be moral.

In Christian fiction, the protagonists must be moral or have a great desire to be moral at their core, even though they may make mistakes.

Christian fiction offers a Christian world view.  The characters’ circumstances test their moral fiber. Readers want to see how the characters deal with their situations and trials, and the resulting consequences. Whether or not the characters experience a happy ending will depend a lot on the genre and story itself, but the characters should grow in and/or find sustenance in their faith.

In general market romance fiction, the characters can be of any faith or no faith. More likely than not, the issue of the characters’ faith won’t be visited at all or might be explained or dismissed in a phrase. Often, the characters are swept up in circumstances they must overcome, but they won’t draw upon religious faith to solve their problems. Their solutions may or may not reflect a moral choice. More likely they will reflect the necessary choice to their survival.

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