Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boiling a Shameless Self-Promoter

This week's sample is something different: nonfiction. Jim Bernheimer is the author of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain and Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery, and has a lot to say about effective self-promotion. In this case he's sent us 520 words to boil down. Here's the first part of his piece, entitled Confessions of a Shameless Self-Promoter:

The Original:

Lots of people have great ideas and they turn them into books.  There are hundreds of thousands of novels released every year.  As a writer, you have to figure out how to rise to the top.  To some extent, this requires that you become a shameless self-promoter. 

A shameless self-promoter is always willing to talk about their books.  I remember setting up for a signing at a Barnes and Noble one time and a young lady was asking me about one of my books.  I fumbled through my description; she smiled, and walked on – missed opportunity. 

Those who have posted a book know that getting the book out there is one thing, but marketing it is an entirely different operation and many of us are out of are element when it comes to that.  I’m not saying you have to become a carnival huckster or the next Sham-Wow guy, but you need to know the good points of your books and be able to recite them on a moment’s notice.  Up until a couple weeks ago, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain was the top rated superhero novel on Amazon.  (Curse you Stacey Rourke!)  Being able to guess the person’s likes and dislikes helps to.  My rule of thumb is that if I make eye contact for more than three seconds, it’s time to start talking, be personable, make a few jokes, and hopefully sell some books.

If you want practice at one on one sales, I suggest you go visit a flea market and see how the successful tables do it, but there is more to being a shameless self-promoter than the one on one sales.  You have to look for opportunities.  My wife works at an architecture firm and they do a lot of work with the area hospitals.  One of them has an annual fundraising gala that we weren’t certain we’d be able to go to this year.  Ultimately, we did and only then did I remember their theme was Superheroes.  Admittedly, it would have cost me some money to donate three hundred and fifty signed copies of D-List to the organizers as part of their goody bags (maybe I could’ve just done pens or fridge magnets), but without risk comes no reward.  That was another missed opportunity for me. 

On the other hand, I was doing quite well selling at ConCarolinas this year.  Across from the table I was sharing with James Maxey was the Carolina Ghostbusters doing their Sci-Fried Eggs podcast.   One of the staff came up and let them know that Kandyse McClure (Dee on Battlestar Galactica and the convention’s guest of honor), was going to be delayed for thirty minutes.  Game on!  I scooped up a copy of Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery and D-List and headed on over.  Sure enough, I got on the podcast and had a great time hanging out with them.

Also, it’s about listening and social networking.  See what other authors are doing to market their work and see if it’s right for you.  Imitation is the best form of flattery and it can also help your sales.

The Condensation:

Lots of people have great ideas and they turn them into books.  There are hundreds of thousands of novels released every year.  As a writer, you have to figure out how to rise to the top.  To some extent, this requires that you become a shameless self-promoter. 

The first sentence takes the form of "this exists, and does something." We can boil it down by combining the clauses. And then we can merge it with the next sentence!

"As a writer, you have to" = "A writer has to".

The fourth sentence can boil a little by removing the "become", thus rendering it more active.

Hundreds of thousands of people turn great ideas into books every year.  A writer has to figure out how to rise to the top.  To some extent, this requires shameless self-promotion. 

A shameless self-promoter is always willing to talk about their books.  I remember setting up for a signing at a Barnes and Noble one time and a young lady was asking me about one of my books.  I fumbled through my description; she smiled, and walked on – missed opportunity. 

"is always willing to" = "will always"

We don't need to tell people that we remember something--if we didn't, we wouldn't be able to tell them about it! While "Once while" isn't shorter than "I remember", it's less obtrusive and allows us to remove the "and".

I don't know that the location of the signing is integral to the point.

"One time" is clutter, "was asking me" = "asked me", and "one of my books" = "my book".

I'd ditch the comma in the last sentence, and boil out "missed opportunity" as well, as this is clear from what happened--especially if we add an "unprepared" at the beginning of the sentence.

A shameless self-promoter will always talk about their books.  Once while setting up for a signing a young lady asked me about my book.  Unprepared, I fumbled through my description; she smiled and walked on. 

Those who have posted a book know that getting the book out there is one thing, but marketing it is an entirely different operation and many of us are out of are element when it comes to that.  I’m not saying you have to become a carnival huckster or the next Sham-Wow guy, but you need to know the good points of your books and be able to recite them on a moment’s notice.  Up until a couple weeks ago, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain was the top rated superhero novel on Amazon.  (Curse you Stacey Rourke!)  Being able to guess the person’s likes and dislikes helps to.  My rule of thumb is that if I make eye contact for more than three seconds, it’s time to start talking, be personable, make a few jokes, and hopefully sell some books.

Before splitting up the first run-on sentence, let's see if we can't boil it down. As our audience is authors (or aspiring authors), we can boil out most of the description. We don't need to say that publishing and marketing are different, just that many people are out of their element when doing so (and fix the "are/our" typo in the process.)

"I'm not saying" is clutter: we never have to say what we're not saying. Or at least, we never have to say that we're not saying it. What we want to do is say what we're saying!

Also, I'd pick either "carnival huckster" or "the next Sham-Wow guy"--I like "Sham-Wow guy" more than "carnival huckster", but an international audience might not recognize it, and furthermore it's becoming more dated every day.

The latter two clauses can be condensed, because one can hardly recite what one doesn't know.

The information about Confessions of a D-List Supervillain may be something we want to convey to the reader, but it's out of place in this paragraph. Bona fides should come at the beginning or the end of the piece.

"Being able to" is clutter. (Let's fix the to/too typo, too.) But I'm not sure this sentence fits with the rest of the piece; it's not advice, it's just a statement of something that's self-evident. Some people will be good at it, others won't, but everyone understands that it will help you in just about every dealing with another person. Thus, let's boil it out.

We don't need to state that there's a rule of thumb, just give it.

I think the "rule of threes" dictates that we boil out one of the four actions at the end of the paragraph. Given that one cannot make jokes while not talking, I think "start talking" is the best choice to boil out. And ditch the adverb.

Many of us are out of our element when it comes to marketing.  You don't have to become a carnival huckster, but you must be able to recite the good points of your books on a moment’s notice.  If you make eye contact for more than three seconds, it’s time to be personable, make a few jokes, and sell some books.

If you want practice at one on one sales, I suggest you go visit a flea market and see how the successful tables do it, but there is more to being a shameless self-promoter than the one on one sales.  You have to look for opportunities.  My wife works at an architecture firm and they do a lot of work with the area hospitals.  One of them has an annual fundraising gala that we weren’t certain we’d be able to go to this year.  Ultimately, we did and only then did I remember their theme was Superheroes.  Admittedly, it would have cost me some money to donate three hundred and fifty signed copies of D-List to the organizers as part of their goody bags (maybe I could’ve just done pens or fridge magnets), but without risk comes no reward.  That was another missed opportunity for me. 

We can assume that people who don't want to practice one-on-one sales won't follow this (excellent) piece of advice anyway. And like rules of thumb, you don't have to say that you suggest something, just suggest it.

"go visit" = "visit", and I'd change the "and" to "to"...and I'd break this sentence up after "do it". "There is" = "there's", "being a shameless self-promoter" = "shameless self-promotion", and we can ditch the "the" before "one on one". "You have to look for opportunities" can be condensed with the "there are" from the previous sentence.

"and they do a lot of work with the area hospitals" = "that works with area hospitals"...except that I don't like the echo on "works". Let's change the second "works" to "contracts".

The detail that you possibly weren't able to go to the gala is moot to the story.

"It would have cost a lot to" = "I couldn't afford to", "to the organizers as part of their" = "for their", and the "without risk comes no reward" is sufficient a cliche that it can boil out with no loss of content.

The parenthetical deserves its own sentence, and by changing "could've" to "should've", we render the final statement redundant.

To practice one on one sales, visit a flea market to see how the successful tables do it. But there are opportunities for shameless self-promotion other than one on one sales.  My wife works at an architecture firm that contracts with area hospitals.  One of them has an annual fundraising gala, that year with the theme "Superheroes".  I couldn't afford to donate three hundred and fifty signed copies of D-List for their goody bags. In retrospect, I should’ve done pens or fridge magnets.

On the other hand, I was doing quite well selling at ConCarolinas this year.  Across from the table I was sharing with James Maxey was the Carolina Ghostbusters doing their Sci-Fried Eggs podcast.   One of the staff came up and let them know that Kandyse McClure (Dee on Battlestar Galactica and the convention’s guest of honor), was going to be delayed for thirty minutes.  Game on!  I scooped up a copy of Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery and D-List and headed on over.  Sure enough, I got on the podcast and had a great time hanging out with them.

"On the other hand" is clutter, and "I was doing quite well selling" = "My books sold well". I had to read the second sentence twice; it could use a reorganization. Along the way, "I was sharing with" = "I shared", and "doing their" can be replaced with "'s". Sci-Fried Eggs is a weird enough term to suggest quotation marks.

"One of the staff came up and let them know that" = "They learned that", and "was going to be delayed for thirty minutes" = "was thirty minutes late".

The scooping up and heading on over can be condensed.

"Game on!" and "Sure enough" might be clutter, but they fit the colloquial, familiar tone of the piece, so I'm going to spare them from a good boiling.

My books sold well at ConCarolinas this year.  I shared a table with James Maxey, across from the Carolina Ghostbusters's "Sci-Fried Eggs" podcast.   They learned that Kandyse McClure (Dee on Battlestar Galactica and the convention’s guest of honor), was thirty minutes late.  Game on!  I headed over with copies of Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery and D-List.  Sure enough, I got on the podcast and had a great time hanging out with them.

Also, it’s about listening and social networking.  See what other authors are doing to market their work and see if it’s right for you.  Imitation is the best form of flattery and it can also help your sales.

This isn't a boil, but an editorial comment: "Also, it's" is rather vague. I think it reads better with "Sale are".

"what other authors are doing to market" = "how other authors market", and I'm changing the second "see" to "determine" to avoid the echo.

The final sentence adds no content, so out it boils.

Sales are about listening and social networking.  See how other authors market their work and determine if it’s right for you.

The Result:

...well, not so fast. Upon a re-read, I found that the first sentence of the third paragraph belongs in the introduction, and the first sentence of the fourth paragraph works better as the end of the second paragraph. This kind of thing happens quite a bit with a boiling--you find that, distilled down, things need to move around a little.

With that bit of rearrangement, this is what we end up with:
Hundreds of thousands of people turn great ideas into books every year.  A writer has to figure out how to rise to the top. Many of us are out of our element when it comes to marketing, which to some extent requires shameless self-promotion.
A shameless self-promoter will always talk about their books.  Once while setting up for a signing a young lady asked me about my book.  Unprepared, I fumbled through my description; she smiled and walked on.  To practice one on one sales, visit a flea market to see how the successful tables do it. 
You don't have to become a carnival huckster, but you must be able to recite the good points of your books on a moment’s notice.  If you make eye contact for more than three seconds, it’s time to be personable, make a few jokes, and sell some books. 
But there are opportunities for shameless self-promotion other than one on one sales.  My wife works at an architecture firm that contracts with area hospitals.  One of them has an annual fundraising gala, that year with the theme "Superheroes".  I couldn't afford to donate three hundred and fifty signed copies of D-List for their goody bags. In retrospect, I should’ve done pens or fridge magnets. 
My books sold well at ConCarolinas this year.  I shared a table with James Maxey, across from the Carolina Ghostbusters's "Sci-Fried Eggs" podcast.   They learned that Kandyse McClure (Dee on Battlestar Galactica and the convention’s guest of honor) was thirty minutes late.  Game on!  I headed over with copies of Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery and D-List.  Sure enough, I got on the podcast and had a great time hanging out with them. 
Sales are about listening and social networking.  See how other authors market their work and determine if it’s right for you.


305 words from 520 is a 41% reduction. What do you think?