I made the mistake of responding to a question on Facebook

How not to sell your book

I know what you’re thinking; “That was stupid, Joseph.”

Yeah, well. Sometimes you just have to let the fool be slapped, you know?

I tend to not post on boards. I monitor them. I wouldn’t classify myself as a lurker. I don’t believe I have much worth sharing, don’t think of myself as interesting or noteworthy, don’t find the majority of comments worth a comment, so why get involved?

It’s tough being social when you self-define as “I’m boring and dull.”

But today someone asked “Would you read a novel about two boys forced to take psychiatric drugs and the battle to save them?”

That’s a marketing question. I spent twenty-five years developing tools to answer exactly such questions. One thing developing such tools taught me is there are more important questions to ask before asking that specific quotation.

But before I go further, how would you answer that question? I’d like to know. As a reality check. Perhaps my response is way off base and I’d really like to know.

My response was

Agree with [a previous comment]. Would I read a novel based on “two boys forced to take psychiatric drugs and the battle to save them”? No, there’s not enough information to interest me. Make me (the reader) empathize/sympathize with these two boys, show them as heros or victims (and better, as both). Describe the conflict. Give me a reason to want to read more.
“Please note my suggestions are intended as encouragement.

Previous to me, the above mentioned commenter wrote, “You’re asking the wrong question. The question is, can YOU write the story so well and make it so compelling that I want to read it.”

Basically I was expanding on the previous comment. Something like “Here are some suggestions for writing a story so compelling that people want to read it.”

Here’s the response:

Sure. I answered this with [previous commenter]. Thanks

But wait, there’s more.

“What,” you may be asking, “was the response to that previous commenter?”

Glad you asked.

Understand. Well, I have 2 five star reviews so far – one had a glitch in posting, though. You can go to “look inside” if you are interested to see if you think it’s well written. Thanks.

Well Chaysus H. Christobol hold me the frig back while I go leaping and bounding to waste more time.

I didn’t offer a response. I mean, where do you go with someone throwing down the gauntlet like that. “Go see if you think it’s well written.”

Okay, alright. Let’s be fair. Let’s take a look…

…well…umm…the book is so-o-o different from what I expected when reading “Would you read a novel about two boys forced to take psychiatric drugs and the battle to save them?” that I could use it as an example of poor advertising/marketing if not deceptive marketing.

So here’s another question for you, what do you think a novel teased with “Would you read a novel about two boys forced to take psychiatric drugs and the battle to save them?” is about?

To the question “Is it well written?”

Umm…no…my internal editor kicked in before the end of the first paragraph. It’s well enough written, not well written. It’s better than lots of people could do, it’s worse than lots of others have done.

Five-hundred positive reviews, now that’s an enticement.

But telling a potential reader a book has x number of reviews isn’t telling that reader about the book, it’s telling the reader other people’s opinions of the book. Probably people the reader doesn’t know. Two reviews isn’t an enticement. Five-hundred positive reviews, now that’s an enticement.

Also telling the reader “Go look and decide if it’s well written” isn’t an enticement. If I’m at a book con and someone walks up to me asking, “What’s your book about?” I’ll give them a synopsis and be enthused when doing so. If I simply hand them a few pages and move on to the next person in line, I won’t be surprised if everybody in line walks away.

On the other hand, if I’m enthused about my book and share that enthusiasm in answers, chances are I’ll get fans (or at least make friends) and sell books.

Lastly, I won’t tell the person asking me the question “I answered that question to that person over there. Go ask them how I responded.”