How NOT to Promote Your Book

I attended a session at the HNS-2017 conference yesterday morning that taught me a valuable lesson. If you want to sell your book, there are a couple of things you absolutely should not do.

The session was actually a Preconference Academy offering, a two-hour block devoted to Dynamic Pacing. It's a skill that's incredibly easy to recognize when you're reading, but often seems impossible to construct and maintain throughout any type of written document, from proposals, to marketing materials, to, yes, novels. The speakers were Irene Goodman, a "super agent" with decades of experience, and Selden Edwards, a novelist who got his book (The Little Book) published after thirty years. He's now working on his third book. I was actually quite interested in his personal story, how he managed to persevere for thirty years. And I was ready to buy his book.

Until he opened his mouth, and wouldn't shut it.

He seemed to believe that the session was all about him and all about promoting his novel. Irene Goodman was interesting, helpful, and incisive. But he seemed oblivious to the fact that we had paid additional money to hear about a specific topic, Dynamic Pacing, and how we could improve our work. Not endless, repeated plugs to buy his book and windy stories about how he had to hire a professional editor to whip his manuscript into shape. Well, NO KIDDING. The audience wished you had that person with you, to edit your presentation.

I wanted to walk out, but Irene Goodman was giving useful information, so I stayed. My on-topic takeaways:
  • Pacing is partly rhythm, and rhythm conveys confidence in your story.
  • Pacing is directly related to plot. And oh, by the way, plotting is NOT a sequence of events or a series of episodes.
  • You want your readers to ask "now what's going to happen" at the end of each chapter.
  • Read first sentences of books and compare them to yours: the first sentence is the most important sentence in your whole book.
  • Leave important details, or secrets, until the end. At least one or two.

So, I did learn several important things about writing. But I witnessed a lesson in how to turn off an audience. And lose book sales in the process.


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