Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is your book better than it sounds?

I've quoted this man many times before. I will quote him again. From Seth Godin's blog:

Better than it sounds

Mark Twain said that Wagner wrote music that was better than it sounds.
It's an interesting way to think about marketing. Is your product better than it sounds, or does it sound better than it is? We call the first a discovery, something worthy of word of mouth. The second? Hype.

I often feel that way about the great things I've come across. When I get excited about something -- be it a book, a movie, a lecture, whatever -- I try to explain it. My words collide into each other, meaning is lost, and the barrage of adverbs and adjectives must be nauseating. But in my excitement, the person listening wants to find out why Ara is so flippin' excited about this 'whatever it is.'

This is a typical issue of mine. Which is why I have been struggling with my query letter--never quite happy with it. Just to be clear, this is an internal struggle. I am never happy with what I do--not completely. I am certain I can do better. I push and push until I'm proud of the work. As for the query letter or synopsis, it doesn't seem to capture the excitement I have for the story. I feel that I don't do my main characters and the story they go through justice. One person who has read my manuscript and provided feedback on my query letter said the following, "You are totally underplaying the story, the characters and the connection they have."

This issue is greater than just about the query letter. It's an all encompassing phenomena. It's about how we talk about our craft and our work with others.

"What's your book about?"
                      "What do you write about?"
                                               "Where do you get your ideas?"

Back to Seth--this is not about being a better marketer or a salesman. Because obvious marketing comes across cheap, planned, with lack of honesty behind it. This is about releasing any and all judgement you have about yourself, your work, and your passion. It's about trusting your work and letting it sing. Maybe even generate music that last the test of time. Sort of like Mark Twain, Wagner, and Seth Godin.

Remember this, it is YOUR responsibility to make your book's pitch consistent with what it is. No one will sell the 'hook, book and cook' for you, better than you. You may chalk this off as, "I'm not the business man, I'm the creative one." Selling is not a bad thing. It's the way we clarify the value to someone else, so that they also get the benefit. It is using words to convey the story we're trying to tell. Who better to do that, than writers?

Fight the good fight!


  1. Queries are so tough. We want to strike the right balance. Like a job interview. Don't be overstate yourself, but don't undervalue yourself either. Gah!

    I think we're so close to our own story that sometimes it's hard to see the big picture of it. Anyway, great reminder. Good luck!

  2. You nailed it, Gwen. It's just like a stinkin' resume. One difference, when I'm hiring, I actually post the "requirements" and typically get resumes that are ~60% in the ballpark. With agents, the needs are generic "Interested in Commercial fiction, Mystery, etc". Tough, but clearly not impossible. This is why when someone gets an agent, it feels like the gates to heaven have opened :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...