Here’s what I’ve been working on today: I’ve been writing a proposal for my next novel. I want to thank one of our regulars on this blog, Mary DeMuth (alias, RelevantGirl). Mary recently released an e-book on how to write a non-fiction proposal, and I’m finding it very helpful.
I’m an old hand at writing proposals and thought I knew everything there was to know. I’ve discovered that Mary knows a lot more than I do. Of course, there are vast differences between a fiction proposal and a nonfiction proposal, but even so, I’ve gotten some good ideas on how best to write this next proposal. Thank you, Mary!
Mary’s got the e-book for sale on her site for only ten bucks (scroll down a bit on the page and look for the title Nonfiction Book Proposals that Grab an Editor or Agent by the Throat). It has annotated examples of proposals she wrote for a couple of her books. Mary, I hope you’ll do a version of this e-book for novelists soon.
Yesterday, we started a conversation with my friend Jeff Gerke, who will be launching a new publishing house, Marcher Lord Press, next October. Jeff has the “impossible” task of trying to sell Christian fantasy and science fiction novels. This is a task that all the Big Boys in Christian publishing have tried without much success.
Today’s question for Jeff is the following:
Q: You and I brainstormed up some innovative ideas for launching your first few books at MLP. Tell us about those ideas and how you’re coming along with them.
A: The two main marketing strategies we talked about were a massive giveaway prize drawing for launch day (which is October 1, 2008, God willing) and freebie goodies to be given to anyone who actually purchases one or more books on launch day.
The plans for both strategies are proceding apace. But I’ll tell ya, when I thought about forming a publishing company I never thought I’d be reading about how to score cheap international airfare. Ah, it’s an adventure.
I know what I want to give for the grand prize but I haven’t figured out the financing for it yet. The name of the company is Marcher Lord Press. Marcher lords were knights who held the borderland between England and Wales and England and Scotland. Marcher lords were used in other cultures, too. And in literature: our dear Theoden King, is Lord of the Mark (March). So what would be better for a grand prize than sending the winner and a guest to England to stay in the most famour marcher lord castle of all: Caerphilly Castle in Wales?
So if you have any free international airfare tickets sitting around, could I please have them? Oh please, oh please, oh please?
I’ve also gathered and am still gathering tons of other great prizes. I want to have as many as 100 things to give away. I’ve got signed copies of Christian novels, I’ve got an etching from William Shakespeare’s tombstone, I’ve got a leather-bound 50th anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings, I’ve got cups and canvas bags and book markers. I’ve even got a numbered, signed, canvas print by famed space artist Frank Hettick. More goodies continue to roll in, too.
For the added value items to be given away with a purchase on launch day, I’m going electronic. If someone in Australia buys a book, I don’t want to have to mail him my goodie individually (since the book itself will ship directly from the printer). So the goodies will be downloadable, I think.
The first is an original nonfiction book (20,000 words) on marcher lords and their castles by professional castle historian and author Lise Hull. The second will be an art book full of artwork by the many excellent Christian fantasy and SF illustrators I’ve come to know through WhereTheMapEnds.com.
Randy sez: Those of you who’ve heard me teach on marketing know that there are three main things you must create, and you create them in this order:
1) A web site
2) An e-mail list of potential customers
3) A product.
Most writers start with Door Number 3–they write their book, have it come out, and then say, “Oh yeah, guess I better start marketing it.” That is way too late. I will be starting in January to market the novel that I haven’t written or sold yet (the one I’m writing the proposal for now). The book won’t be out for at least two years, but I’ll be starting to market it now–by revamping my web site and using that as a platform to build a list of people who are interested in what my book is about.
Jeff is doing things in the right order. In October of this year, Jeff created a new web site. Then he created an e-mail list where people can sign up to be notified about new books that Marcher Lord Press will release. And he’s got a form on the web site on this page.
As Jeff noted above, he’ll be holding a drawing to give away prizes to anyone who’s on his list on the day his books release. Not everyone on the list will win a prize, but the more people you refer to his list, the more chances you have of being drawn. (This encourages people to tell a friend, and is a primary piece of what is called “viral marketing.”)
When his books launch, Jeff will notify people on his list and make his pitch. Part of that will include some freebies for anyone who orders on Launch Day. Those freebies are electronic, so Jeff can deliver them at no cost to himself. But they are valuable freebies. That’s an ideal situation.
Not everyone will buy Jeff’s books when he rolls them out. But here’s the thing–people will KNOW about his books on Launch Day. They’ll have an incentive to buy on Launch Day. The rest depends on how good the books actually are. I’ve been impressed with the books Jeff has acquired in the past. He mentioned Sharon Hinck and Tosca Lee yesterday. I know Sharon and Tosca and have read their novels. Jeff did extremely well in landing those books.
Andie wrote a comment that caught my eye:
Can’t get to know the manager of local Berkeley B&N. It recently went out of business along with Cody’s on Telegraph. Black Oak Books is teetering too. Sad.
Randy sez: Dang! When I lived in Berkeley, I bought most of my books at Cody’s, which was just a couple of blocks away from my apartment. Is nothing sacred???
For our next blog, we’re going to pose this question to Jeff:
Q: Tell us more about the economics of your publishing model at Marcher Lord Press. How will you edit, produce, and distribute books? What advances and royalties will you pay your authors?
This blog appears Monday through Friday, so Jeff will answer this question next Monday. See ya then!