Friday, April 15, 2011

Let Them Toot Your Horn

Nobody lusts to be Wilson Betemit or Kosuke Fukudome. Everybody wants to be Albert Pujols, A-Rod or Josh Hamilton. Hell yeah. They’re all pro ball players, but there’s only so much room on top.

In terms of emulating, it pays to learn from top dogs. No argument there. All the same, a lead into how the middling athlete makes it to “The Show” can lend a clue to the would-be Best Seller in the right direction.

Here’s where you need to take notes. Discipline and consistency are the make or break factors. Pujols, A-Rod, and Hamilton don’t necessarily take more cuts in BP (Batting Practice), but they might if they are in a slump. What separates them from the platoon and the pedestrian players is that sanguineous desire to make each cut count. They know their strengths and when they see a ball in their zone— WHAM— they rip it.

I’m getting the point. Writers need to think like All Star Sluggers and figure out their pitch zone. You’re not always going to hit a homer, but if you know your strengths you will hit the ball with authority. Translation: Your focus on production will drive results.

If you’ll permit me to leap from Top Dog to Top Down thinking you need to consider the zealous, undisciplined approach to book promotion. So you want to be the next Barry Eisler, John Grisham or John Irving. Wanting is not enough. Wannabes are a dime a dozen. Results-driven writers— whoa, that’s something.

Okay, you’ve completed a great manuscript. The galleys cut the mustard and the publisher gives you the green light. Your graphic designer has whipped up something bad-ass. You can see your book in Borders and B & N windows, you’re pumped for a book tour, psyched to sign autographs and sip Evian from recycled plastic while you wait the applause to die down as you stand by your podium, microphone clipped to your linen collar. You’ve been waiting for this moment— forever. And, best of all your book has universal appeal. It’s a Techno-thriller with zombies, pitchforks, spiritual gurus, and you’ve even managed to sneak a few yum yum recipes on the inside flap of the book jacket. The story takes place in the 1980s so it’s got Historical Fiction appeal.

Grand slam!

Ahem. Who does this book really, really appeal to? If you had to pencil-sketch your reader who would he or she be? What book clubs does she belong to? What hobbies does he have? If your reader was a snack food what type would she be? You see where this is going. The whole wide world ain’t your audience. Not yet. They don’t even know who you are or that you prefer Twizzlers to Skittles.

The homework assignment is to go to a café or some public place where readers chill. Chit-chat with somebody, ask them why they are reading what they are reading and tell them how much you’re enjoying David Bezmozgis’s new book. Will this launch you to stardom? Not a chance, but it will get the wheels turning in the old brain. You meet enough bookworms and find out what excites them and what kind of people will DiGG your stuff and you might find yourself rising up Amazon faster than you can say Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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