Category Archives: Marketing yourself

Part 2: The 8 Things Writers Should Do to Influence Readers (and Make a Sale)

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

WARNING: I’m in the middle of shaking you up, baby.   Okay, now read on.

A purchase is a one-time exchange. But demand is what creates a career.


So your job is to create that demand, that interest, that desire for what you offer.

Certainly the quality of your work can create a demand.

We writers love to rely on that, because it’s what we care about: our writing.  Plus it’s passive which is so much less effort.  Write, send it into the world, let the writing speak for itself.  Wait to be recognized.

What we hope:

Readers (clients) will be so inspired by our quality, they’ll make it their mission to demand more.  Well know about this mission because they’ll spontaneously call us just to rave.  Thank goodness they’re not distracted by their own lives.

Might be good to ask how can WE, also, create a demand.  What is our power in influencing readers? ( Us, not our marketing materials, not our business cards and tag lines.  You and me.)

But why????

Because not everyone will have read your past writing.    These people–who could easily be your future audience, buy your products, champion your skills–won’t know your sentences are pure glory.

But if they meet you, speak with you, they could become the people who demand your work, even though they HAVEN’T read it.

Now that’s the power of demand.

As I said in Part 1, when you speak, nothing influences demand better than the 8 languages of passion.

Read Part 1 HERE.

We’ve already covered the language of Mastery, Excitement, Heart, and Confidence.  Onward now to the final 4 ways you represent your passion.

5) Extraordinariness.

We all want to think we and our writing are special, are unique.  But we’re usually talking about being special and unique in the same way as everyone else is. 😉

(That’s especially true if the specialness is a product of a marketing exercise where you have to write down something that everyone will agree is a mighty-fine quality.  It’s always too generic.  Too fake.  Too  filled with hype.

So what we think of as special and unique is Not. Good. Enough.

What I’m talking about instead is the crossroads where “blow your mind” and greatness meet up.

You’ve heard of a delight factor, right?  Well, I’m  talking about a delight factor that is authentic to you and inspires that wow feeling in others.

And yeah, you might not be aware of your own delight factor unless someone else points it out..

So go figure it out.  Then learn to include what delights you and others, what makes you extraordinary, in conversations.

No, not with an agenda.  That ruins everything, doesn’t it?  In an authentic way, because how can you NOT talk about the thing that captivates you the most?  How can you look forward to having a conversation about something that delights the folks you talk with?

Imagine writing for Groupon and not sharing how much you enjoy writing crazy things like : “The hamburger is an edible American icon, much like coleslaw made with shredded Norman Rockwell paintings.”

The Groupon voice is the writer’s and the reader’s delight factor!  It’s what makes a job writing coupon ads extraordinary.

Here’s an interview with Markus Zusak, the author of The Book Thief,  He talks about his choice to make Death the narrator, and about his breakthrough thought, “What if Death was afraid of us? What if Death was haunted by humans?”

It’s an extraordinarily special approach to an award-winning novel, and he talks about it in the most ordinary way.  Such a good example about how you do this.

Imagine if he hadn’t mentioned it at all?

What a missed opportunity that would’ve been to create a demand for his novel in the very people most likely to appreciate what he, himself found extraordinarily captivating.


clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

The 8 Things Writers Should Do to Influence Readers (and Make a Sale)

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

I know you’d like to send your writing out into the world, sit back, and listen to the applause.  (I often pretend I hear it. A girl has to have some fun.)  But… no career really works that way.  Sob.

You’ve gotta get up and represent.

Snoopy Knows How to Represent

This article is about you, Dear Writer, and the relationship you create with potential customers through your spontaneous interaction (and not your lovingly crafted prose).

But before we get into that, I want to make sure you understand who your potential customer is.  It’s anyone who buys your writing, hires you to write, facilitates that process, might recommend you for a job, or could possibly speak highly of you.

I use this term pretty broadly.

My point is that sometimes potential customers end up spending money and buying your product or service.  And sometimes they don’t spend money, but they still contribute to your career.

If customers are only those who buy your writing, you miss the entire class of “industry professionals.”  And the big ol’ world of  “influencers” called a network?  You can’t even see them if you focus solely on money.

Basically, I think of your potential customers as all those people who create a demand for your work.

Demand is what creates a career.  A purchase is a one-time exchange.

So, you’re in the business of creating a demand for your work.  (Write that down.  There’ll be a test some day.)

Back to spontaneous interaction, or as I like to think of it…

The Art of Communicating Passion…

(…and inviting your potential customer to share it with you.)

For 20 years, I’ve been a keen observer of how some of the best writers I know never get a career launched, no matter how good they are.  And others limp along with anemic careers that don’t begin to do them justice.

To be blunt, these writers never caught on.

It’s not fair.  It’s frustrating and heart breaking.  And it has nothing to do with how hard they worked or how much they believed in their dream.

It does, however, have a lot to do with demand.

For book writers, it’s only recently that authors can truly participate in creating demand.  But it’s still such a new concept to them that they often sit back and wait to be recognized out of habit.

They also sit back because they have no idea how to influence demand.  So, I’m going to tell you how, right now.  This isn’t about what to do.  It’s about HOW.

You have to learn to speak the Language of Passion.

And here are the 8 passions you should share freely, openly, and joyfully:

#1 Mastery.

Do you love reaching for the stars? Striving for excellence? Challenging yourself with each new project? Readers love this too.

Learn to speak the language of excellence and to talk about how jazzed you get trying to be the best you can, at what you do.  This is NOT bragging.  It’s not about talking about how good you are.

It’s about talking about your quest for quality and your delight when you reach it.

#2 Excitement.

Make your joy apparent.  Share your deep love of what you do.

Frankly, it’s boring to hear about how “special” folks are because “this is their dream” and “they’re meant to do this.”  But the fire and delight of a passionate, awake mind never gets old.

#3 Heart.

Sometimes what comes across to readers and customers is the overpowering stink of desperation, the yearning of one person focused on her/his personal dreams.

You know what combats that?

Warmth, compassion, and a bigger perspective that includes other people.  Find other people interesting.  Let them inspire you.  Honor the motivation and good fortune of a shared path.

#4 Confidence.

Over confidence is pretty ugly–so ugly that most trustworthy people avoid feeling confident all together.

But a lack of confidence is unnerving.  Plus we believe that it’s a fact.  “You’re right.  You must not be any good.”

But here’s what works.  Be in touch with your credentials and your experience.  Be excited about it at the same time you know you’re destined to grow even more.

Credentials, experience, growth: these things are true.  They’re how you earned confidence.

And yet, I know you’re still not sure about this whole confidence thing, as our society only seems to talk about confidence in the sense of someone with no self-confidence or way too much.

But I think of it this way.  There’s a pose in Yoga called Mountain Pose.  And when it’s done right, Beth Irvine says it feels “grounded, still, powerful, and majestic.”

When you can really speak with confidence about what you have done and will do, this is what you share with your reader and potential customer.


clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in FictionMastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

5 Shockingly Easy Ways to Create a Successful Pitch

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

In my other life, the one where I wear my “evil genius” costume and am secretly a billionaire, I help writers with their verbal pitches.

It’s rather addictive.



Today, I share 5 secrets that I usually guard with my life.  No, wait.  Make that your life. (Cue evil laugh.)

1. Tell us how to listen to your pitch.

Assume we’re expecting to hear a pitch for something that is not remotely like your book.  Perhaps we expect an a story about an alien love-child’s secret trip to corporate America where she falls in love with a janitor?  Yes, why not.

Now, correct our expectation.  This is your opening.


  • This is a young adult, fantasy romance about a 16-year-old high-school student who falls for an exchange student from the North Pole.
  • This is a literary mystery about two murders that happen 300 years apart but are unfolding in parallel timelines.
  • This is a non-fiction book about the inconsistencies in courtroom testimony and how to correct that during a trial.

2. Talk about people.

Most books involve people or characters (fake people) doing things. 

Coincidentally, that is how readers think about books, too. 

So even if you start out with an epic situation, setting, or high concept, tell us about the most central players and their initial actions (the big thing that really gets the plot going).


* This book is about the Gold Rush.  When Mira’s husband dies, she takes her 5 children to California to pan for gold.

* An asteroid is headed to Earth.  Arnold is a boy of 7 whose believes he’s an alien, and his missing family will be on that asteroid.  He sets out to the projected Ground Zero to make sure they’re able to find him.

*  Set across war-torn Europe during World War II, Jim searches for his younger, disabled sister, who is missing after their town is bombed.

3. Tell us only the stuff that makes up important scenes.

We listeners think everything you tell us equals “a whole lotta important scenes.” 

  • Sean, a comic book writer… (Oh, good, there will be lots of scenes where Sean is drafting a new comic book!)
  • Terry, an Admiral in the Navy… (Yes!  This is a story set in the world of the Navy, and we’ll get to see Terry fulfilling the role of Admiral!)
  • Jauny, the wife of a serial killer… (Cool!  This will be a story about a woman who is married to a serial killer… and that life.)

Imagine our confusion when we find out that…

  • Sean is on vacation in Costa Rica and never references writing comic books.
  • Terry’s story is about his ancestral home which is haunted, and the whole story is set there, not on the High Seas.
  • Jauny left her husband before he was caught 10years ago, and now she’s a chef on a cruise line, who wants to sing.

4. Take out every generic description and cliché.

Tempted to say things like “she must learn to trust again,” or “he’s handsome and sexy”?


This tells us nothing about how your book is special.  Instead it tells us that your book is like all the others.  Pass.


Instead of  this: “A jaded cop doggedly pursues a serial killer before he kills again.”

Tell us only what makes your story unique: “Tom Mallory, A rookie patrol officer, gets involved with a homicide detective obsessed with the work of a famous serial killer—a killer who might be her twin brother.”

5.  Don’t tell us the end.

In most cases, it will only sound underwhelming.

And disjointed.

And a big, fat let down.

(Or so obvious we roll our eyes.)


  • And they do find gold after an earthquake and a stampede.
  • But the asteroid misses Earth.
  • He looks for a long time and finally finds her.  She’s okay.


And notice, nowhere did I tell you the number of words your pitch needs to be or any other silly rule. 

Also, no formulas to fill in. 

And certainly no threats that you’ll fail if you don’t follow everything I said in this column.

You don’t have to be perfect.  Just be the best and most interesting you can be today.

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in FictionMastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

An Agent’s View on Platform Building

I’m currently writing up a review of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing and Publicity, by Rob Eagar. It offers a fresh take on author marketing, in part because Eagar is a marketing consultant, as well as an author.  He includes interviews with experts in the publishing, including this wisdom from literary agent, Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency, regarding an author’s platform:

“First, authors need to assess what kind of writer they are, who their target audience is, and how that audience is typically reached.”

fruitloopsThat’s right. Put down your cereal bowl, pour another cup of coffee, and figure out how to honestly profile your ideal reader before spending any money on marketing your writing.

Gardner then goes on to suggest you begin with perhaps three platform building strategies, such as blogging, public speaking and social media. She cautions it takes time to build a platform, and it “should grow out of who you are and feel natural for you.”

Author Rob Eagar also advises:

“With over one million new books published each year, the world doesn’t need more authors who just write their books. Rather, the world needs more authors who know how to get their books in front of more readers.”

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes about, coaches and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network (, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

8 Secret Reasons You Hate Marketing Your Writing (Secret #6)

by Diane Holmes, Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book, founder of Pitch University.

Secret #6 – That Giant Sucking Sound is Me Trying to Market My Writing

(clever solution below)

Excuses, we all have them.


YOU – Version A: I suck at this marketing crap.

It’s not what I do for a living, and I’m really, really, really bad at it. All shades of bad. You haven’t seen bad until you’ve seen me market my own business.

YOU – Version B: I have zero time to do it right.

Strategic marketing is a fulltime job, and I had to make a choice. I already work 80-hours-a-week on my business. Where exactly am I supposed to get the time for this?

YOU – Version C: Cheesy marketing can hurt your business. I’ve taken a stab at it, and I’m cheesy. So, I quit!

You – Version D: I have no money, no freaking idea where to begin, no skills, and no personality. So read my lips: NEVER MIND.

ME: This, my friends, is The Siren Song of “I Can’t.”

There are a million excuses to any endeavor, and you’ve cleverly found one that works for you.  You’ve even turned it into a catchy tune.

And as your friend, let me say, “Oh, honey, you’re harshing all over yourself. That’s like anti-marketing. Stop that.”

Solutions Lead to Confidence

MYTH #1 : I’d feel confident about marketing if I were supposed to do it.

MYTH #2: I have to do the type of marketing everyone says is important, the type I don’t feel confident about.

Truth Part 1: For every excuse and roadblock, there is a solution you can embrace.

Truth Part 2: When you find it, you’ll be amazed at how having a solution–implementing that solution–will jumpstart your confidence.

Truth Part 3: The solution will be something you already feel confident about.

Finding the Solution

Here’s a trick that my creativity coach taught me:

Say to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, but if I DID know the solution, what would it be?

What a great question!  That said, what you don’t want to ask is something that directly denies your perceived reality.  Example:  If you believe you suck, don’t ask, “If I didn’t suck, then….”

All you’d be doing is finding solutions you don’t believe you can handle. No help, that.

Instead, say, “Yeah, yeah, but if something existed that I didn’t suck at, something that functioned as marketing but wasn’t marketing, what would it be?”

Notice the shift from you sucking (“if I didn’t suck”) to the solution being something that didn’t suck.

Then, brainstorm.  And if you don’t come up with an answer, ask friends to brainstorm with you (in person, via Skype, in email, whatever it takes).

Same 2-step process for every excuse….

  • But if I knew something that didn’t take additional time, it would be…
  • But if I had an idea that used skills I already had, it would be…
  • But if I knew something to do that wouldn’t make me look cheesy, it would be…
  • But if I could find something easy and free that would help with marketing, it would be…

Ask the right question, then brainstorm. You get the idea.

It’s questions like this that actually lead to marketing that will work for you for the long haul.

BONUS: This sort of brainstorming leads to innovation. And nothing works better in marketing than something that’s fresh and ahead of the curve.

Once clients have seen or heard a type of marketing over and over, they’re desensitized. They tune it out.

There’s the potential for a big win here.

A Good Example

Scenario: You have no time to market, but what you do make time for is teaching your clients how to turn a single post into a series of posts on their company blog.

You call this session: “Your Best Effort x 10.”

In this session, you teach your clients how to leverage their best single effort into something that gets them 10 times the bang for the “effort” buck.

And clients love this. They think you’re a genius.

Question: So you ask yourself, “If I already knew of marketing that uses what I currently do in my job, what would that be?”

Answer: “I’d use my “Your Best Effort x 10” sessions to get new clients.

Question: If I already knew how to do this, what would that look like?”

Answer: “After my client gushes about how much I’ve helped them, I’d ask my client if I could quote her gush. If she agrees, I’d write it down right then and there, letting her see that I seriously appreciate her words (and allowing me to capture her comment while I still remember it).”

Another Answer: “I’d ask my client in advance if she’d like to invite an industry colleague to our session, as a gift from my client to the colleague.”

What a good way to get a referral and let them see me in action.

And Another Answer: “I’d ask my client if she’d be interested in learning about additional ways I can bring the ‘Your Best Effort x 10’ to her business.”

It’s no cost to her, I already know her business, and she’s already proved willing to hire me.

Keep brainstorming.  You can do it. You can make marketing work for you.


In This Series So Far:

Step Inside the Marketing Confessional

Does Marketing Your Writing Feel Like Prostitution

Marketing Manifestos To Shake You Out Of Your Rut (don’t be a lemming)

Every Writer’s Marketing Dream

Marketing Is Funny Stuff

Marketing Your Writing Without Feeling Like a Brute

8 Secret Reasons You Hate Marketing Your Writing (Part 1)

    Secret #1 – My ethics will be tarnished the second I open my mouth

    Secret #2 – I’m forcing them to listen to me… against their will!)

    8 Secret Reasons You Hate Marketing Your Writing (Part 2)

    Secret #3 – The Crass Factor: Last Refuge of the Talentless Hack

    Secret #4 – I’m Not Ron Popeil or Billy Mays: “I don’t know what to say” vs. Skilled Patter

8 Secret Reasons You Hate Marketing Your Writing (Part 3)

Secret #5 – My Writing Isn’t Even That Good

Diane Holmes Crop 1Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

She’s the Founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

Seth Godin: on reality

I don’t know what it takes to become a ‘guru’ anymore, in this age of overnight sensations. But Seth Godin is indeed a freelancer’s guru. Author of many powerful books, some of which he gives away, Godin gets to the point of making money as a writer. He reminds us that it requires patience to succeed, to build a career, to make good money. He should know: He’s written a dozen best-selling books, now translated into 33 languages!


We read all about ways to work smarter, save money, do faster research,  get more assignments, but we don’t all have the sense of commitment required to stick to our genius plans. We might rev up for a few days and then get distracted, waste time reading, cafe hopping, and fall back into the idle time waiting for the next assignment to fall from the sky. If you want someone you can turn to in a flash, visit Seth Godin’s blogs, download his ebooks, learn from him, and find a simple path to staying focused and getting ahead without falling backwards again, time after time.

He believe that if you’re patient, success comes, but it is drip, drip, drip, and then the last drip proves once and for all that you were doing the right thing all along.

It still takes ten years to become a success, web or no web. The frustrating part is that you see your tactics fail right away. The good news is that over time, you get the satisfaction of watching those tactics succeed right away.

Get a free copy of some of Seth Godin’s books here. Some of his minimalist wisdom is meant for speed reading, other notions will stay with you forever, such as this piece on getting things done,

The key to the reinvention of who you are, then, is to become someone who ships (as in ‘get the work out’). The goal is to have the rare skill of actually getting things done, making them happen and creating outcomes that people seek out.

If you are in need of immediate motivation, download the PDF of his Bootstrapper’s Bible here.  It includes a manifesto you can tape to your bathroom mirror. Feel better now?

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.