Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Literary Agent Les Stobbe Discusses Ways Authors Can Increase Book Sales

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Guest post by Jennifer Slattery



In today's recovering economy, numerous bookstores and publishing houses are struggling to maintain sales. Because of this, they evaluate each submission with an ever-increasing critical eye, unwilling to waste valuable resources on something that won't deliver. Established authors don't necessarily have a leg-up. In fact, debut authors often land contracts faster than authors with low or diminishing sales. If you are unpublished, this means you need to have an established audience before your first book hits the stores. If you are a published author, this means you need to spend a great deal of time marketing.

Literary agent end Executive Editor of the Christian Writers Guild, Mr. Les Stobbe, suggests three, easy-to-apply ways for authors to generate and increase their sales:

1. Get involved in the social media with exciting content well before your book comes out. Build a following. One client has gained an incredible series of reviews of her book on social media.

2. Learn to write your own press releases, develop a press kit, and be aggressive in sending them out. One newsy press release got a client a major article with photos in the largest daily in her region.

3. Aggressively go after book signings in bookstores in your region. Two clients consistently sell 20 to 30 books per booksigning. A friend circulating in the store can generate traffic to the signing table just by friendly suggestions to check out the book. Another author exhibits every year at an ethnic fair and sells thousands of her books because they have an ethnic flair to them.

This is especially true in regard to ebooks. As more and more readers venture away from bookstores and toward Amazon and other online outlets, shelf placement isn't nearly as important as a strong online presence.

And yet, regardless of the industry changes, story remains king. "E-books are a convenience driven by marketing possibilities," Mr. Stobbe says, "but as writers we know that people will always be looking for a great story to delight, entertain, and inform them. That’s why fiction way outsells non-fiction in E-books. The world will always need thinkers, creative writers, even amusing writers."

Strong stories have strong plots, dynamic characters and vibrant settings. These characteristics are easy to learn through writers' groups, writers' conferences and craft related book. Critique groups can also be an invaluable tool for helping a writer hone their skills, but according to Mr. Stobbe, not all critique groups are valuable.

"As I interviewed authors for the newsletter of Christian Writers Guild they often told me how important a critique group had been to them," Mr. Stobbe says. "But I’ve also been appalled at the bad advice some writers have received in critique groups. Word Weavers, which started in Florida, has developed an effective critique group format that is now being launched nationally by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild."

If you're looking for some tips on how to write that next best-seller, Mr. Stobbe's not going to give you any. "I prefer not to answer this question because editors vary widely on what they are looking for," Mr. Stobbe says. "Personal taste plays a far more important role in fiction than non-fiction. I just know when I read a good story—and use a reader to weed out those with bad techniques."

Hone your craft, find qualified critique partners, write the best novel you can write, then send it out again and again until you find that agent or editor looking for the story you're selling.

I hope you gleaned a lot of valuable information from Mr. Stobbe's interview. I am very grateful he took the time to answer all these questions. Visit his website, StobbeLiterary.com to find out more about him, his agency and the type of books he's looking for.

And I'd love to hear from you: Do you have a critique group? Has it been a positive or negative experience for you and what advice would you give to writers looking to find a critique partner?

An active Literary Agent for 17 years and Executive Editor of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, Les Stobbe also serves as director of International Christian Writers. He’s taught journalism as Journalist in Residence at Gordon College, Wenham, MA and wrote most of the lessons for the Apprentice Course and Journeyman non-fiction course for the Christian Writers Guild. He has been denominational editor, magazine editor, newsletter editor, book editor, book club vice-president, curriculum managing editor, and president of a book publishing house. He has written 14 books and hundreds of magazine and newsletter articles. He has been married to his musician wife Rita for 54 years and is very proud the five grandchildren of their two children.

6 comments:

Lynnette Bonner said...

I have a critique group and I love it. We come from all levels of writing. I think the one thing that really works about our group is we are very careful to couch our critiques with "this is my opinion" instead of "you HAVE to change this because...." When it comes down to it, writing is a fairly subjective art - there are all kinds of tastes.

tomynate said...

If it weren't for the critique group I belong to, I doubt I would be published. Their goal is to get each member published. They give good critiques with a gentle touch.

Tom Blubaugh
Night of the Cossack

jennifer said...

Lynnette, great reminder of the need for grace when we critique. I admit, often I can be heavy-handed with my crits, and sometimes I forget to mention what I like. I'm trying to work on that.

Tomynate, that's awesome! I love my crit partners! It's very helpful to hear another's perspective when writing.

Chrissy said...

I don't have a critique group or know of any. Actually I find it hard to talk to people, even friends about my book. It is still in the writing stage yet. I am afraid I will give too much away and with the internet, maybe some how my plot and ideas will get out. That would leave someone with more drive than myself the chance to get a book out before me!

Beth K. Vogt said...

My critique groups--one nonfiction, one fiction--are invaluable to me as a writer. I know I wouldn't have gotten a contract for my nonfiction book without the help of my crit group. When my editor told me I turned in clean copy, I said, "I have a great crit group!"
Developing a critique group takes time. You have to learn to trust each other so you can give honest feedback--both the positive and here's where you need to improve kind.

TNeal said...

My crit group formed through ACFW connections has been together for several years now. We were all rough around the edges in our initial writing and critiquing but I've seen each writer elevate his or her craft through the process. I've gone from "oh, no" to "wow" when I receive email from my crit partners.

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