Thursday, July 01, 2010

Lisa Brackmann

 On her website, Lisa Brackmann says she began writing at age five. By junior high, she’d decided to be Secretary of State. She didn’t reach that goal, but she did work “as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band." Now things seem to have come full circle. Her book, Rock Paper Tiger, is a huge hit, with blurbs by other well-known authors and a starred review by Publishers Weekly.

She’s here today to tell us three things we can do to get our books out to readers. Whether you’re looking for an agent or already have a publisher, you can begin working on her ideas.

Welcome Lisa!

Tilt the Odds in Your Favor

As an author, there are a lot of aspects of the publishing business that you aren’t likely to be able to control – the resources that your publisher has or is willing to commit to your book, the amount of review coverage that you’re likely to get, the mysterious alchemy whereby one book becomes a hit and another disappears without much trace. But you can make informed decisions, and you can certainly help tilt the odds in your favor.

Here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve gone through the publication process and recent release of my debut novel, Rock Paper Tiger -- things that you can control…

Write the best book you can write

Well, duh, right? But I feel with all the push to market and promote, the whole notion of quality sometimes gets short shrift. It seems like we’re all in such a hurry to succeed that we forget what success is really about. I’m not one of these believers in “the Muse,” in waiting for inspiration before I’ll sit down and write – I’d never finish a book if I did. But I also think it’s a real mistake to rush something as complicated as a novel just to get it out there.

Take the time you need to get it right.

Set up a professional, easily findable author website.

The publicity person at my (totally awesome) publisher, Soho Press, told me this was the single most useful thing an author can do. It seems obvious, but there are still authors who resist this. Or they resist the necessity of making it look good. Here’s the thing: if you don’t have web design skills, you should bite the bullet and get some help. There are great designers who will work for not a lot of money, or skilled hobbyists who will work for free. Find one.

This is not a place to skimp or cut corners. You’re a pro—present yourself like one.

Build your network.

Building a network isn’t about following a kajillion people on Twitter and spamming them with constant ME, ME, ME!-grams. It’s about finding/creating a community of common interests, providing value to that community and also, interaction.  The salient characteristic of social networking is its interactivity – communication goes both ways, and audiences are no longer passive spectators.

I started with two basic “communities” – other writers, and China bloggers. My involvement with these groups preceded my novel’s release, and in some cases, my novel’s composition. To the extent that you can genuinely participate and not just be a carpet-bagger showing up to promote, this is only going to help your efforts when it comes time to market. Why? Because you’re going to be among real friends and fellow travelers who are more likely to support you and want you to do well.

Get out there, and have fun!

Odds are you won’t enjoy or be equally talented at every angle of the self-promotion business. But I’m surprised at how much fun I’ve had with parts of it. Though my blogging has dropped off (when I’m deep into a MS, I just don’t have the energy), I really enjoy keeping the website up to date and a fresh stream of relevant Twitter content flowing from my Facebook author page. My online writing circles have been invaluable, for feedback, support and general moral boosting – and I hope I’ve been as good a resource for them as they’ve been for me.

And I love going to bookstores for events! It surprises me how much I’ve enjoyed this, because I’m not always comfortable in public situations. But being with book people feels like being home.

Thank you Lisa!

 Sometimes we think having big sales numbers or tons of readers is based on luck or magic. It’s not. Lisa’s telling us that we can make it happen. It’s not magic, but rather hard, steady work.

You can find out more about Lisa Brackmann and Rock Paper Tiger on her website.

In the Comments section, say “hi” to Lisa, ask a question, or give us your own idea or experience in “tilting the odds in your favor.”
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    Thanks for this information Lisa. I agree with you about the website. I am in the process of having someone do mine. If you are serious about writing I think it is a must.

  2. Hi Lisa, well said. Marketing has to be sincere. The writer is the product, the book's a bonus. When you love what you do it's easy to be yourself. Passion flows into your marketing. Readers want to engage with real people. I'm finding the 'nice' on twitter and in marketing shallow.

    I'm not a muse person either. I like this quote, by Seth Gordon ~ Waitng for inspiration is another way of saying your stalling. You don't wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.

    Awesome Post! Your books on my to buy list. Thanks, Helen, for another great guest.

  3. Very helpful tips. Best of luck with your book.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. Lisa's done a lot with her life!

  5. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts...there is so much to this business of writing...

  6. She has, hasn't she, Alex. I love hearing about writers' backgrounds. Often, what they think of as ordinary can sound extraordinary to others. In this case, Lisa clearly has experiences that enriched her writing.

  7. Lisa, I remember when I was in Dani's book blog class and you got the news your book was going to be published. It's great to see that come to fruition. So very happy for your success and the great reviews. Congratulations.

  8. Interesting that the most important thing to do is build that web site. I can't tell you how many times I've Googled an author, or agent, only to find they have no web presence at all. It seems really important to be connected with the times and trends of the industry.

    Thanks for sharing your journey Lisa!

  9. An excellent article, Lisa. Much success with your new release!

  10. Lisa, I love reading books like Rock Paper Tiger. I'm going to look for yours. Great advice you shared, too. Thanks.

  11. With all the blogging, and facebooking, and tweeting, we sometimes underestimate how important a website is for an author.

  12. Great tips! I'm looking forward to Lisa's book, which is on my TBR list. :) I'm tweeting this one!

  13. Hi Helen - new follower here! And hello Lisa! :)

    Great advice. I think the online community is so supportive, and I feel like everyone who follows my blog is a friend, even if we never meet, I still care about their writing journey like my own, and feel happy when I hear good things going on for them. Folk that think a network is all about spamming don't get so far, I think.

  14. Interesting post, thanks for sharing your background with us Lisa.

    Good luck for the future.

    I blog, tweet and facebook Helen, but holding off the website until more established. I keep designing it though. :)

  15. Fantastic post. Thanks, Helen and Lisa.

  16. What an interesting life! And thanks for the great advice :)

  17. Hi there, Lisa (and Helen)

    Not sure if I'm too late, but here are a couple of stupid questions from a Russian-classic reading headbanger and hobby-crap writer:

    1. How many revisions did you have to do on your manuscript before it was published?

    2. If you had published the first version of your manuscript, do you think the book would still have become a best-seller, given that you had the same cool cover to front it in the bookstores?

    I'm gonna buy the book as soon as I find it in the store. Just the cover is worth the money. And the story appears to be cool too >:)

    Best wishes,
    Cold As Heaven

  18. Good morning everyone, and thanks for your kind words!

    I am still having internet issues and just lost a long response to Cold's comment above, so let me quickly post this one and start over...

  19. What great tips. Thanks, Helen and Lisa. I like the point that your social network should be relevant to what you're trying to promote.

  20. In answer to Cold as Heaven -- Take 2!

    I can't even calculate how many revisions I did on the book but after the initial draft, I can divide them into two basic stages.

    It took me about almost two years including revisions to get the book to the point where I thought it was ready to submit to agents. Revision Stage Two came after I started working with my agent, Nathan Bransford, who really gave me specific direction as to where the revisions needed to go. That took close to seven months.

    There's no way the book would have done as well or probably even sold without those revisions. The original MS fell between too many genres -- as it stands, the book straddles a few genres, but before it must have been around six! -- and a lot of the individual scenes lacked tension.

    The cover is awesome though, isn't it? I feel like I won the cover lottery for sure!

    Right now the book is doing well but isn't an official best-seller, but from your keyboard to the NYT's ears! The best place to find it is in your local independent bookstores -- and the book would also not be doing as well without the support of some awesome indie stores, something I plan to blog about in the near future.

  21. Thanks a lot for your kind reply, Lisa!

    When I'm down south on a warm sunny beach on vacation a couple of weeks from now, I have two books on the top of my reading list; first, The Gambler by Dostoyevsky, my favorite book that I re-read every summer; second, Rock Paper Tiger >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  22. Thanks, it's much appreciated!

  23. Very helpful tips - thank you for sharing :)

  24. Thanks for the practical tips. I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  25. Hi Jayne! Glad you're here.

    Glad you asked that question, Cold As Heaven. Lisa, I think that shows that writers shouldn't rush querying.

  26. Love the title of your book, Lisa. And good advise here on every point.

    "But I feel with all the push to market and promote, the whole notion of quality sometimes gets short shrift."

    I think it is so true that in today's connected environment we sometime lose focus on which is the real job for writers. That seems to be exacerbated by the shrinking ability (or willingness) of publishers to handle much of the marketing and promotion they used to do. True, writers always had to do M&P. But now we hear so much on how we must do it, we tend to lose focus and let it take over.

    Excellent post. I will have to check out Rock Paper Tiger.

  27. Popping it to say how much I LOVED reading Rock Paper Tiger. And ok, ok, I'll get back to writing. And figure out what to do about a web site!

  28. Great info Lisa. Thanks for keeping it simple and doable. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the things I hear that an author must do to market his or her work. I would need 72 hours a day just to keep up with half of it! I know I can't do it all, but you've given me some great ideas to focus on.

  29. Great info Lisa. Thanks for keeping it simple and doable. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the things I hear that an author must do to market his or her work. I would need 72 hours a day just to keep up with half of it! I know I can't do it all, but you've given me some great ideas to focus on.

  30. Great tips.. I like "Write the best book you can write" tip best of all.

  31. Excellent words, Lisa. I certainly appreciate you addressing quality - something I, too, feel gets over looked a lot these days. Thank you for taking the time to provide these valuable insights!

    Helen - Thanks for hosting her!

  32. Excellent post, Ms. Brackmann!

    Why DIDN'T you become secretary of state?


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