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Are You Writing the Next Blockbuster?

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article this weekend addressing the huge advances that publishers will pay for a title that goes to auction. Why, in this economy, are they taking such risks? And how can you have it work to your advantage?

Anita Elberse, author of the article and associate professor at the Harvard Business School, points to the fact that blockbusters often bring in the lion’s share of profits at a publishing house. If a publisher backs out of the big auctions, those agents who tend to find the gems won’t include them in the next big opportunity. In essence, they get shut out in the future.

Makes sense, but how do you capitalize on this opportunity? First, you need to gain access to those top agents. Second, you need to convince them that your book is a future hit. Your query letter and book proposal can accomplish this.

Elberse gives the example of Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World, a book by a first-time author that attracted a seven figure advance. The book was touted by the agent as “Marley and Me for cat lovers.” Is there a bestseller you can compare your book to?

You’ll need a combination of compelling writing, an entertaining and powerful story (think laugh out loud funny and moving at the same time) and a popular or intriguing subject. And that special ingredient that makes people talk about and share it with others.

It’s exciting to think in terms of blockbuster status–a book so exciting that the publisher will pay seven figures and then spend their own money to promote it heavily in order to recoup the advance and more. However, as a writing coach and book coach, I still encourage aspiring authors to stick to the basics that agents are looking for:

1.  Work on your author platform: Grow your mailing list, create an internet presence, speak to audiences, get your articles printed in national magazines or get yourself some good national publicity on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, if you can.

2.  Make your book fresh and exciting:  Research what’s already out there and find out what’s missing that your audience needs or wants.

3.  Understand your audience:  You’ll hit the mark if you know exactly who your audience is, where your readers are coming from and what they most want and need.

4.  Create a powerful book promotion plan:  Publishers are companies looking for a solid investment. If you show them a compelling book promotion plan for your book, you’re much more likely to get them excited about your book.

Let’s hear from you:

* Is there a bestseller you’d compare your story to?

* Do you have a question on how to entice literary agents and publishers with your book?

* Have concerns about whether your platform is adequate, or whether you really need a platform with your specific book?

Share your ideas and questions for this writing coach as comments to the blog. I’ll be sure to respond and would love to hear from you.


Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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Comments

  1. Kalin says

    Lisa,
    I completed what writers call writing for fact, but I feel overwhelmed by what the same writers call writing for impact. I looked for inspiration at other books–I liked Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath–and found that a good approach to science books is mystery and suspense. But, in your experience, what are other, specific approaches to keeping readers’ interest throughout say 100 pages? We’ve all read pieces that were enjoyable to read even though we were not interested in the subject.

  2. lisatener says

    Hi Kalin,
    Here are some tips for keeping reader’s interest: use stories (that make it come alive) and examples, use fun metaphors, use humor (exaggerate), play with words (alliteration, puns), use tip lists, add interesting facts. You also asked in your e-mail about books besides Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and Zinsser’s On Writing Well. A recent new pick of mine is Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney. Stephen King’s On Writing is also terrific. Good luck.

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