Build it and they will come – the power of seeing your book before it’s published

I subscribe to many writers’ newsletters. Sometimes I have the time to take a look at them, more often than not, I end up deleting them (and feeling a little guilty about it.) I just don’t have the time to read them all.

But it was the post title (and the recommendation from a friend who told me to “build it and they will come” ) from Writetodone.com that intrigued me enough to open a particular email during a lull one weekend.

The title was “How to Make your Ebook a Run-Away Success: An Interview with Jim Kukral.” I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the marketing of ebooks lately what with all the hype around 50 Shades of Grey – the Twilight fan fiction that went nuts based on word of mouth. When done effectively, there is some potent mo-jo around emarketing of ebooks.

In a nutshell, Kukral defines these steps for your ebook:

Step 1: The very day when you have the idea of the book in your head, sit down, give the book a title, and write down who the book is for.
Step 2: The next step is to create a book cover. You can get that done  on Fiverr.com for only $5.
Step 3: Place the image of your bookcover on your blog, on Facebook, or wherever you tend to hang out. You can say, ‘Hey, I’m writing this book,’ and build anticipation. It’s like the way big movies do it. You can see the trailer long before the film is ready for viewing.
Step 4: Create a short video or blog post about your book idea with an email signup form. Six months down the track when you’ve actually written the eBook, you’ll already have a group of customers waiting for it.

Here’s the funny thing. These are pretty much the same steps you would take if you were writing a hardcopy book.

I have a book in mind, I’m trying to pitch it. It exists. The only problem is that, right now, at least, it’s not real to others.

So I followed the article’s advice and I went over to fiverr.com to get a book cover for my idea. Why not right? It certainly couldn’t hurt. After signing up and doing a search on book covers, I found someone who would create a cover for me (along with a 3-D cover for, you guessed it 5 dollars total.)

I filled out the designer’s form and waited the 3 days. Sure enough, I got an email message telling me that my book cover was done. I opened the file and what I saw took my breath away.

Not because it was so magnificent, in fact we ended up making a few small changes to the design, but because it took the book from my mind and turned it into a reality.

I’ve printed out this cover and I have it on the wall in my office. The psychological difference in “I’m writing a book” and “this is the book I’m writing” is HUGE. I liken it to those vision boards where you paste pictures of the things you want to happen in your life.

So here’s my advice to you. Even if the thought of a book is just a gleam in your eye, figure out a title, go over to fiverr.com, and spend 5 dollars turning that gleam into something that is concrete. Print out that cover and post it on your office wall, as well as by your bed, so that it’s the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see each morning.

And then go out and tell all your friends that you are writing a book.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).

Look at me, I’m building. 

So you want to write a memoir?

As a journalist, I’m often assigned stories where I have to interview an individual. 

Guess what? The people I’m told to interview are not being written about because they are boring, “do-the-same-thing-everyday” people, they are chosen because they have done something extraordinary, something that is considered news-worthy. They have risen above life circumstances and they’ve done something that people want to read about.

I actually love these assignments. They tend to inspire and renew my faith in the condition of man.

But one thing that comes out all the time is that when I interview these people, invariably they say “I should write a book about all this.” Sometimes they should, sometimes they shouldn’t, that’s not my call but from my experience, if you want to write a memoir, at a minimum, this is what you will need for your story.

A story line
A good story line has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. It also has a plot with tension. Your experience shouldn’t be a breeze, we want conflict, we want to hear about getting a wrong diagnosis, being caught in an elevator when it’s time to deliver your baby, having your arm stuck between a rock and a hard place. If your experience doesn’t have a little bit of drama, a moment or two of “I don’t think she’s going to make it.” then it’s not going to be read by too many people.

Winning a multi-million dollar lottery is not going to make a good memoir. Winning that lottery and then spending all that money until you go into debt so that you have to work at a fastfood restaurant in order to feed your family and make ends meet, but learning there is honor in work – now that might be a story.

Just the facts ‘mam
Your memoir shouldn’t be your life story (unless you are incredibly famous and people might want to know everything about you) limit your story to the beginning, middle, and ending of your specific life adventure. This doesn’t mean that you can’t pull in relevant experiences from your past, by all means if faith kept you alive for 23 days on a raft then mention your Sunday school experiences as a child.

My point here is to limit the information. Make sure that everything supports the main experience, if it doesn’t then consider not keeping it in the story. Consider the extraneous the gristle on the steak, if you don’t get rid of it, your readers are going to have to work too hard and will probably end up leaving your book on the plate.

A memoir has to have an ending
A beginning, a middle, and an end. I talk to a lot of people who might have a good story but there is no ending yet, they haven’t finished chemotherapy, they haven’t risen above welfare, their child has finally gotten the medical help they’ve needed but have not fully recovered yet.

If you’re in the middle of an experience that you think might be good for a memoir, keep constant notes, maintain a journal, and hold onto all documents. You might even want to blog about it as it happens, the point is, you can’t write your memoir until there is some sort of closure to your experience (think a recovery, or rescue.) And please, if you have anger about your situation, let it cool off a bit before you write your memoir. Anger is a great motivator but it can also be quite the poisonous pill to writing making you seem bitter instead of victorious.

Could I do it?
The reason we read memoirs is because we want to learn from them. How did that guy find the strength to cut his arm off to survive? (and could I?) How did another mother battle illness while raising her large family (and could I?) What exactly does Daniel Craig do for his daily workout? (and can I pretend that I could? – see what I mean about famous people?)

Rise above
The point of a memoir is to show how you endured a terrible or unusual situation and you lived to tell about it. We want you to be a better person for having gone through what you did.

We do not want to hear about how chronic illness stinks, what we really want to know is how despite chronic illness stinking, you were able to overcome and persevere. Inspire us to become the better person you’ve become because of your experiences.

***

 Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).

And yes, I am currently working on a memoir about living with the children and chickens. 

Photo Credit: Chris Friese