Archive for July, 2006

How Adults Learn

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

This next post is based on a conversation I had with Michelle Price of

At a past job, Michelle designed education programs for grown-ups. We were talking about a book I was editing that I thought was too theoretical, without enough meaty (well, tofu-y, I’m vegetarian) ready to use information.

In agreeing with me, she mentioned 3 principles of adult learning that I think are particularly appropriate for authors.
Here they are, in Michelle’s words:

1. Adults want to enjoy the process and have fun learning.
2. Adults want to be able to apply what they’ve learned in their own life – it needs to be relevant now.

3. Adults want to be able to share what they’ve learned with others so concepts should be simplified (not dummified) – an easy way to do this is to find a way to compare what you are teaching to something they already know, which will anchor it for them.

If you’re writing non-fiction, check what you’ve written against this list.

Book Clubbing II

Friday, July 14th, 2006

Just to make my point even further, I was just looking at a list of debut fiction that recently sold, and here’s another that sold as a pre-empt–in other words, an auction was about to be held, but one publisher came in with a high bid right out of the box, pre-empting the auction. What that means is that the book sold for a lot more money than most debut authors get.

It’s by Susan Breen and it’s called THE FICTION CLASS. The book is populated by a teacher and the offbeat members of a creative writing workshop she leads.

A ongoing class is a kind of a club, right?

The author is a writing teacher.

It must be cool to have a novel written about the writing class you’ve taken.

But hey, there really was a Broadway musical written about the songwriting class I took when I was trying to make it as a composer and lyricist for Broadway.

I talked about that  in my last newsletter. You can subscribe by going to

Book Clubbing

Friday, July 14th, 2006

I don’t know when this trend started, but editors seem gaga when a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, has a club or a group in it.

Maybe it started with Sex and the City, or maybe it was just those non-fiction Sweet Potato Queens, but it seems like every publisher likes a book with a club in it. And the Jane Austen Book Club was a bestseller. (I once even heard an editor at USA Weekend say something to the effect that if anyone ever published a novel called The Over the Hill Dating Club, she would cover it as part of a dating trend piece.)

Club books often sell at high prices– Yoga Mamas sold at auction– and the latest “club” book mentioned by Publisher’s Weekly was sold via a seven house auction. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a debut novel by Mary Ann Shaffer. It’s about neighbors who survive the Nazi occupation who by meeting over potato peel pie to discuss classic novels.

With seven houses involved, this book fetched a high price. Yes, it’s probably well-written. And yes, there’s a historical factor.

But I believe the best money making factor that had seven houses bidding was that it’s about a club.

For great info on how to promote your novel, go to

More Big Name Marketing

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Brad Meltzer is one lucky guy. His first published novel, The Tenth Justice, made the New York Times Bestseller List. So did his next four.

He doesn’t have to do anything extra to market his books. Still, his next novel, The Book of Fate, due out on September 5th, uses a marketing trick every author should think about.

The hero’s best friend, Rogo, is a lawyer who helps people fight speeding tickets. His web site,, is mentioned frequently in the book.

And guess what? You can actually go to the downwithtickets web site. There are links to info about the book and the real lawyers who have a speeding ticket practice.

This concept got me to thinking: if Meltzer were a new author, he could put postcards with the down with tickets site under the windshield wipers of cars all over his home town. The site could feature information on him as a local author, and free downloads of the first chapter. And if he was really aggressive, he could even put the postcards under the wipers of all the cars parked at his local TV and radio stations, and his local paper. It’s such an unusual promotion, it could easily get media coverage– especially locally.

Frankly, you could do the same thing– whether your book is a novel or non-fiction. Let’s say you have a character whose hobby is gardening.

You could have her get tips from And you could have a web page for plant telepathy, with your bio, and a free first chapter of the book. And you could do a windshield wiper campaign at gardening stores, and perhaps also put out postcards at your local new age bookstore as well. (And you might as well go for the media, too.)

The name of the game is to help as many people as possible find out about your book in as many ways as possible.

Do Big Names Market Harder Than You?

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Lately, I’ve noticed a rash of well-known authors and film directors making smart marketing moves that unknown authors should emulate.

Frankly, if you’re writing a book proposal– you should include ideas like these in your marketing section.

Two of my favorites come from Kevin Smith, the director of the upcoming film Clerks II, as well as Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Jersey Girl.

Smith is an established director with a built-in fan base, but he’s still working hard to attract new fans– particularly Generation Y fans– in other words, the MySpace crowd.

Smith is giving the first 10,000 people to add one of the movie’s pages to their “friends list” a credit on both the movie and the DVD.

But not only that–he’s also running a banner contest. The top 11 people who get the Clerks II banner on the most websites, message boards, MySpace boards and blogs win prizes.

First prize is a walk on part in Smith’s next movie. The contest is at:

By the way, one side benefit of creating interesting marketing is that people like me, with blogs, and newsletters, write about you.

More tomorrow.

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