Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King

Does it help to sell a book if comes with a ‘Celebrity’ recommendation?

I suppose it depends upon in which form the recommendation comes and how visible it is to the target audience. For instance, you might be attracted to a book which claims to be by ‘the new Stephen King,’ but if you look at the back cover of a book and find that Stephen King himself is praising it, you would (if you are a fan of that sort of thing) be more likely to part with your money than if the recommendation were not there.

The point is  that in order for a potential bookbuyer to see the famous name attached to your cover it has to be on the shelves. If you have self-published or published a POD book the only way that you can really make the connection work for you is to mention it in your marketing.

 I have a friend who self-published an excellent little self help/ positive thinking book. In his office is a poster containing the photographs of one hundred celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, sport, erc. who recommend it.

I hadn’t featured anything on my blog about this aspect of promotion, but when I invited him to contribute to my ‘Tips From Published Authors’ series he declined- because in his view as a marketing exercise it just  hadn’t worked. He felt that too much of his time had been taken up by getting hold of the endorsements.

He didn’t tell me if he had sent each of those people a copy of the book.

Another writer friend of mine, Lynn Grocott, did a very clever thing. She had written a book called ‘Cut the Strings,’ which is about her triumph over a whole string of adversities.

She was at a speaking appointment with mountaineer Chris Bonnington, who agreed to write the foreward to her book- after all, in their own very different ways, they had both climbed mountains.

Chris Bonnington’s name on the cover and recommendation inside is impressive, and is used in Lynn’s marketing.

Perhaps the most famous foreword ever was that of T.S. Eliot on a collection of Kipling’s verse. Eliot is attributed with rehabilitating Kipling, who at the time was viewed as nothing more than a jingoistic rhymster. The foreword was so successful that it became forever linked with the verse and is regarded as a piece of literature in its own right.

Surely it goes without saying that a celebrity assessment of your work will have far more authority if it comes from someone who has some relationship to what you are doing. I once interviewed a man for a care job, and at the end he proudly produced a letter of commendation from a celebrity. The celebrity was the star of a current Science Fiction film. His protegee may have been a dab-hand with a sonic screwdriver or lightsabre, but would he be able to assist someone having an epileptic seizure without panicking?

He didn’t get the job.

 There must be a lesson in that somewhere. For job hunting and book marketing… and for life, I suppose.

Alcohol- the cause and solution of all our problems, as Homer Simpson once said. There is a strange relationship between alcohol and writing, a stereotype which goes something like this: the tortured author, poet, or hack, sitting in his garret over his typewriter (wordprocessor doesn’t quite fit this ‘romantic’ image) churning out volumes of original thoughts, his creativity enhanced by the juice of the barley or grape or whatever comes to hand.

The epitome of this is perhaps the poet, Dylan Thomas. Apparently when asked what he liked about being drunk he said something like ‘because it’s different everytime,’ (Thomas fans please correct me- it usually happens when I mention a writer I know little about!) Funny that- I like a drink but to me the aftereffect is sort of samey most of the time.

Stephen King in ‘On Writing’ does a lot to explode the myth about alcohol and creativity, in a passage which is well worth the read to see how a truly successful author recognised and conquered the demon.

Truth is, if you write something whilst under the influence you will probably feel that you have just written the most original and creative piece in the history of writing. Until the next morning.

Although I have never had an ‘alcohol problem’ I would be lying to say that I don’t enjoy a drink. Recently I went for my ‘middle-aged fat boy test’ (or Glucose tolerance test as they call it) and was found to be prediabetic. This means that I have had to make some lifestyle changes.

Which leads me to some dietary advice for those of you wishing to cut down on your alcohol intake:

Buy Morrisons or Tesco Value Lager- doesn’t matter which. The advantages are:

. It only costs about 92p, so helps you save money in the credit crunch

. It is only about 2% proof

. Each can has only about 0.9% alcohol

. It tastes like shite, so one can will last you all night.

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!              

At the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence not only can you see ‘David’ but also several of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures.

An assumption I had always held about sculpture was shattered the day I visited that gallery: I had always assumed that a sculptor would chip away at the front of his slab of marble, then gradually move round it, whittling it down to a figure. Not so Michelangelo- He worked from front to back- and the unfinished pieces look as if all you have to do is to break the remainder of the ‘cocoon’ from aroud them to reveal a complete statue.

Some writers work that way. Stephen King, for instance, starts at the beginning and writes until he gets to the end, developing characters and situations naturally as they emerge.

I don’t think that I could write that way as long as I’d got a hole in my **** (or, for any American readers, ***.) I’m more of a potterer around the marble with my chisel sort of writer- I may start at the beginning, but in my mind I have scenes from the end or half way, and I need some sort of structure- loose as it may be- to hang the story on- a plan, an idea of major themes and significant scenes.

I don’t mean anything too complicated, and it doesn’t even have to be written- especially not on stone, so that once the characters start to find their feet they can run if they want to.

Having a structure can help when you hit the block- you might be getting bogged down with an earlier part of the story, but feel inspired by a theme which has flashed into your mind from further on. I would recommend that you go for that, write it (In these days of Word Processing it will hang around for you below the earlier pages until you catch up with it) then return to where you got stuck, refreshed with a dip into your creativity. Usually I go back to the sticking point after this and find that it is so below the level of what I’ve just been writing that I just delete it and start again.

And what about chapters and where to end them? Remember: each chapter MUST add something to the story- either in moving the story on or revealing something new about a character. If it doesn’t, you might as well get rid of it. And try to end your chapters with ‘page turners.’ Although my last posting was partly a bit of fun, there is something to be learned from an aspect of Dan Brown’s writing which is shamelessly parodied there. You get to the end of a Dan Brown chapter and there is always something there you didn’t expect, or which makes you ask ‘what happens next?’ or ‘how do they get out of that?’

To my mind, a lot of Brown’s page turners draw too much attention to themselves for what they are, and I think that he produces tiny chapters in order to do this (Look at chapters 53-59 of ‘Deception Point’ for example.) But who am I to knock this? I have read and enjoyed all of Dan Brown’s novels (with reservations about the DaVinci Code because I am a qualified theologian and know just how much he twisted the ‘evidence’- but hey, this is entertainment, and his sales figures speak for themselves.)

The point is, if you want to know what a page turner is, just go through a Dan Brown novel and simply read the last line of every chapter.

And when you’ve done that, if you are a writer, go through the last lines of each chapter of your novel. Do they just fizzle out, or do they make the reader want to read on?

This is your homework until next time.


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