Unpublished? Know Thyself!

(Laurence O’Bryan, international suspense writer of note, asked me to write a guest blog for his website, http://bit.ly/12mQSW1. Flattered as I can be, I share it with you now.)

Last fall, less than seventy-two hours after returning from a writers’ conference accosting acquisitions editors, a Big Six Imprint asked for my first manuscript. Things then slowed considerably when they deemed my heroine “too atypical.” A very fine literary agent now shops the three-book proposal everywhere.

I am a patient woman.

When Laurence graciously asked for a guest blog about this writing adventure (which began with a journalism degree in the eighties, and was honed in marketing and advertising for twenty-five years), I thought immediately of the social media challenge. Writers I know tend to be hermits like myself, so tossing a private soul to public wolves is intimidating and puzzling. What to do?

My epiphany occurred when I realized I was no longer me, but rather the product. I instituted the demographic grinder: who is my market? What are they interested in reading? What are they buying? The NYTimes bestseller list is a good place to begin research, and the recent-release shelf of your local bookstore depicts what publishers are buying. (If you’re not using a professional facebook page, you’re missing a demographic bonanza; the reports are invaluable.)

I questioned my “product.” What is its competitive point of difference? How does it nest uniquely in the marketplace? How can I position it in the best, most engaging light? To answer these, I had to know market and genre, study competition, and analyze accomplishments and topic. Gone are the days when authors are Hemingway catching a marlin with one hand while writing The Old Man and the Sea with the other. Today’s authors have to be aware, educated, and savvy. Businesspeople.

Then I analyzed data and budgeted. What could I do—copy and design—and what did I need to contract? I fearlessly created facebook and twitter pages, and my original website (now being redesigned as my persona evolves). Fortunately, I’m a prolific (if untalented) photographer, so photos colorfully enhanced the initial platform that professionals now take to the next level. I sought input from the most qualified, talented people I could afford.

And I write. Two manuscripts are complete: first professionally edited, second scheduled for edit in July. I’ll finish the third by year’s end. A fourth and fifth lurk in my mind’s dark recesses. Meanwhile, manuscripts and persona mature simultaneously, creating the professional author’s image publishers seek.

I am an optimistic woman.

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