About keelyboeving

I'm an Associate Agent at WordServe Literary. I also do freelance editing and ghostwriting for a variety of clients. You can find me at www.keelyboeving.com.

WordServe News November 2017

Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of WordServe authors’ recently released books along with a recap of agency news.

New Releases

Dr. Daniel Amen released Memory Restore with Tyndale. Expert physician Dr. Amen reveals how a multipronged strategy―including dietary changes, physical and mental exercises, and spiritual practices―can improve your brain health, enhance your memory, and reduce the likelihood that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s and other memory loss–related conditions.

Dr. Amen also released Stones of Remembrancea companion to Memory Restore that invites readers to discover the healing power of Scripture meditation and memorization as an intentional spiritual discipline. Remembering God’s acts, promises, and guidelines for living can contribute to a healthy spiritual life and a healthier mind and body as well―reducing stress, increasing brain capacity, and even helping to reverse problems like memory loss.

Stephen Arterburn released 6 Ways for Men to Thrive in Midlife with Aspire. Midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis of identity or a failure in self-confidence. Midlife can be a season of discovering how your past years and present situation are the very stuff that an exciting future is made of. Steve Arterburn offers readers proven strategies and guidance from God’s Word that will set you up to thrive.

Stephen Arterburn also released 7 Ways to Choose Healing as part of the same New Life series with Aspire. The power to heal (emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically) is in God’s hands, but the ability to receive his healing touch is your choice. Using biblical principles and trusted counseling advice, this book helps you break the bondage of pain and hurt and guide you towards healing, forgiveness, and freedom.

Jim Burns released Understanding Your Teen: Shaping their Character, Facing their Realities with IVP Books. For teens to become responsible adults, parents need to help them grow to attain a healthy self-identity, establish good relationships, make wise decisions, and grow in their relationship with God. Burns shows how parents can shape behavior and character, navigate social media challenges, and communicate and resolve conflict healthily.

Julie Cantrell released Perennials with Thomas Nelson. In this beautiful novel set in Oxford, Mississippi, two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, where a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.

Donald Stratton and Ken Gire’s bestseller All the Gallant Men was released in paperback this month from William Morrow. The most gripping, intimate, and inspiring account of Pearl Harbor, this first memoir ever published by a USS Arizona survivor is a must-read for all World War II military history buffs.

Joe Wheeler released the 2nd Edition of Abraham Lincoln Civil War Stories with Howard Books. Updated to highlight the character and leadership of Lincoln, this beautiful collection reveals the servant heart of the President, his dedication to those who served him, and his homespun humor and wisdom.

New Contracts 

Ron Moore signed with Regnery Publishing for Finding Your Heart for God, due for publication in early 2019.

Anita Agers-Brooks signed with Kregel for her newest book, Exceedingly: Stories, Skills, and Strategies for Unearthing Your Abundant Purpose—an inspiring guide to help the everyday woman or man answer the burning question of their purpose—unearthing the real reason God made them.

Mary Davis signed with Barbour for her novella, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure,” which will be included in the MISSadventure Brides Collection due out for publication in 2019.

Tim Riter signed with Harvest House for his book Easy Riding, due to publish in early 2019.

New Clients

David and Karin Holder, David Muller, and Preston Ulmer signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Dr. Amen’s book Memory Rescue reached #1 on the Amazon best seller list for Aging Medical Conditions & Diseases.

Christian George’s book The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon Volume I Collector’s Edition was one of the winners of the ECPA Top Shelf Award to promote and recognize outstanding book cover design in the Christian publishing industry. Congrats!

Library Journal listed Krista Phillips’ The Engagement Plot as one of their best books of 2017 for Christian Fiction!

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WordServe News October 2017

Happy Halloween! Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary.

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

Christian George released Volume II of The Lost Sermons of C. H. SpurgeonPart of a multi-volume set that includes full-color facsimiles, transcriptions, contextual and biographical introductions, and editorial annotations, and written for scholars, pastors, and students alike, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon will add approximately 10 percent more material to Spurgeon’s body of literature.

Krista Phillips released The Engagement Plot with Barbour’s Shiloh Run Imprint. Perfect for fans of “The Bachelor,” it follows the story of Hanna and Will after Will shatters Hanna’s heart in front of millions on reality TV. When he shows up on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota, can she find it in her heart to forgive him?

Curt Steinhorst released Can I Have Your Attention?, cowritten with Jonathan McKee. Steinhorst shows business leaders how to cut through the noise and get their employees back to work. Technology has left people spending so much time responding to the interruptions that they’ve lost the ability to focus and do their jobs. Yet, the potential for harnessing the power of your team’s attention has never been greater–if you can capture it.

Glenn and Ellen Schuknecht released A Spiritual Heritage with Kregel. In this guide for raising children to be Christ-following adults and parents, through compelling, insightful stories from parents and grandparents who’ve been in the trenches, the Schuknechts demonstrate why that heart-level connection is so crucial in building long-lasting, connected relationships with a foundation of Christ.

Tiffany Smiling released Your Dream. God’s Plan. Written with Margot Starbuck, it shares Smiling’s story of suffering a stroke in high school that left her paralyzed, and how God convinced her that he could use the broken pieces of her life for a greater plan. It also promises the reader that he has something better in store for you, too–God is writing your amazing story, designed for His glory and your fulfillment.

Joe Wheeler released Christmas in My Heart 26, the latest volume in his long-running series of old-fashioned Christmas stories. Featuring 16 new stories, this anthology offers something for the whole family to enjoy.

New Contracts 

Paul Basden and Jim Johnson signed with Harvest House for the publication of What Do I Tell My Kids About…?, which tackles the toughest topics kids and parents face today and offers wisdom rooted in biblical truths and personal experience to help parents confidently engage their kids in meaningful conversations.

Kathy Berry signed with Kregel for the publication of When Words Fail, a collaboration with Westminster Canterbury Richmond that offers practical information and tools to equip minsters, laypeople, and other members of faith communities to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of those living with dementia.

Michael and Christopher Ross signed with Harvest House for their next book, “The Kid-Only Guide to Winning in Life.” Packed with faith tips from sports celebrities and written through the eyes of a Christian teen, this tween devotional applies God’s Word to their everyday hangouts: media, gaming, sports, friendships, school, and life on the home front.

Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam signed with NavPress for the publication of their book, Exhale. It is due out in the fall of 2019.

Christian George signed with Lifeway for the publication of a 4-volume series, If Spurgeon Still Preached: Modern Sermons from a Classic Author. The first volume will release in 2018.

New Clients

S.M. Carlson, Jason Coombes, and John Starke joined WordServe Literary this month. Welcome!

Amazon Book Sales Rankings Explained

The following guest post comes from Rob Eager of WildFire Marketing. It first appeared on his blog

Have you ever suffered from a bout of Amazon fever? It’s a strange condition that can take over an author’s brain and compel him or her to peek at the Amazon sales ranking for their book 10 – 20 times per day. Each time you look, you pray that the ranking will improve before you check it again in another hour. Authors who catch this fever might even get up in the middle of the night to see how their rankings fared after the sun went down. Going cold turkey and avoiding the rankings altogether is an option. But, freedom from the fever sometimes requires an intervention, which is why I wrote this article.

I’ve battled the fever myself, and many of my consulting clients struggle with the problem as well. It can be addictive to see how your books are performing on Amazon, where the vast majority of books are purchased. Besides, it’s easy to reason that authors need a quick way to gauge sales without having to call the publisher, check BookScan, or wait for a royalty check.

However, most people know that Amazon sales rankings must be taken with a grain of salt. The company guards their algorithm like gold in Fort Knox. No one knows how accurate the numbers really are. In fact, even the staff at Amazon has admitted their system isn’t completely precise. Thus, why even bother?

Actually, Amazon sales rankings can provide helpful clues about the performance of a book during a campaign. Plus, the rankings can help compare how similar titles are faring against each other. Since Amazon practically owns the book retail market, it’s easier for authors to judge immediate response to specific marketing activities by checking one website. In addition, the rankings give self-published authors a way to prove that their sales can be every bit as good as an established writer.

Yet, what do Amazon sales rankings really mean for a book and should you care? My answer is yes and no. I don’t mean to sound hypocritical, but the reality is that the rankings can only provide a ballpark idea on actual sales. Amazon updates the rankings every 60 – 90 minutes, so the numbers constantly fluctuate throughout the day. A book could have a good ranking in the morning and a worse ranking that same evening. Therefore, you never get numbers that are solid enough to make big decisions on its own. At best, the rankings can show real-time sales momentum or a lack of consumer interest. If you want to draw any real conclusions, it’s always best to include actual sales data from more reliable sources, such as BookScan. But, is it possible for Amazon rankings to give any reasonable insights? Here’s an example.

Earlier this year, I helped a New York Times bestselling author launch a new book. During the pre-order campaign, we found that the Amazon sales rankings provided a decent indication of sales momentum. That’s because my author client offered a series of special gifts to encourage pre-orders. In order for people to receive the pre-order gifts, they had to go to the author’s website, provide their retailer receipt number, and tell how many copies they purchased. I captured this customer information each day in a database, and then compared the data to the book’s daily Amazon ranking over time.

Before I discuss the results, let me emphasize that everything you see is purely a guess. There are no hard and fast rules. Do NOT quote these numbers or assume they will directly match your specific book sales. I simply conducted this exercise to prove a series of other important points, which I’ll mention in a minute. Here’s how the Amazon sales rankings translated into customer purchases according to one book that I tracked:

Amazon Sales Ranking = Copies Sold on Amazon:
2,500 = 30 – 75 per day
5,000 = 15 – 30 per day
7,500 = 5 – 15 per day

10,000 = 25 – 40 per week
100,000 = 5 – 10 per week
150,000 = 1 – 5 per week

300,000 = 5 per month
500,000 = 1 per month or less

Note: Numbers ONLY reflect book sales at Amazon. Other retailers are not included.

Why would I show you this information when it’s just a guess that cannot be trusted? For several important reasons:

1. As you can see, a good sales ranking of 7,500 or less doesn’t mean you’re actually selling that many books. Those numbers mean anywhere from 5 – 75 copies per day. That’s quite a wide range and doesn’t mean you’ll get rich anytime soon. Even if you maintained sales of 75 copies per day for a really long period of 30 consecutive days, you would only sell 2,250 total units.

Therefore, there is NO reason to brag to anyone about your Amazon sales ranking. In contrast, there is no reason to get depressed if your sales ranking is worse than other authors or books you see. The only authors selling a ton of books on Amazon are those with rankings less than 500 who maintain that level for multiple months. Those are the icons of the industry with major publishers and massive resources behind their campaigns.

As another example, I consulted on a backlist book that consistently maintained an Amazon sales ranking of less than 500, which is amazingly rare. But, it typically sold only 2,500 – 3,500 copies per week. Yes, that’s way above average, but no one is retiring to a private island on those numbers.

2. More importantly, if you tell people that your book is a #1 bestseller on Amazon, it means absolutely nothing. Any author who makes such a claim smacks of desperation and a lack of ethics. Here’s why:

a. First, any author can mount a marketing campaign that spikes their book to #1 for a brief period of time – maybe one day or two. But, that spike is a fleeting moment, which quickly drops off. If a book gets to #1, you could use my chart above and guess that it sold 100, 250, or even 1,000 copies in one day. That’s good, but it’s still not that many copies.

Then, what about the next day when the ranking quickly falls off to 500, 2,500, or 5,000? Sales are back to modest amounts of 50 – 100 per day. Therefore, a brief spike to #1 doesn’t mean a lot of books were actually sold. In order to hit the legitimate bestseller lists, such as the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, or Publishers Weekly, you’ve got to sell around 5,000 copies or more in a week. (Amazon now has their own official bestseller list called Amazon Charts.)

Telling people your book made it to #1 on Amazon is like telling someone you’re the fastest runner in your neighborhood. It’s doesn’t mean you actually sold many books, and it doesn’t mean you’re actually a fast runner. Your neighborhood could be full of slow people. Or, a faster neighbor might have been out of town the day you decided to race. You get my point. No one really knows if it’s true, and no one really cares. Authors who make ridiculous claims about being #1 on Amazon look foolish, because they take an unverifiable number and make a big deal out of it. However, the public doesn’t look very smart either when no one challenges these preposterous claims.

b. Second, there is an even more bizarre issue. Some authors now claim to be #1 on Amazon in a specific category, such as women’s issues, advertising books, or even “children’s pig books” (yes, that category actually exists). These arbitrary categories are a distant cousin of the main Amazon sales ranking list. And, if you know anything about distant cousins in real life, they’re usually out of touch with the main family.

I’m shocked by how many authors and publishers will go out of their way to display “#1 Amazon bestseller” on their websites, press releases, blogs, Facebook pages, and even back cover copy. Are we so desperate for accolades that we resort to making up random awards with no basis in fact or actual sales data?!

Just because a book is temporarily #1 in an arbitrary category on Amazon means nothing. For instance, at the time of writing this article, below are rankings for three book categories that I randomly selected:

  • The #1 book in “Mortgages and Real Estate” is #3,353 overall on Amazon.
  • The #1 book in “Advertising Graphic Design” is #13,771 overall on Amazon.
  • The #1 book in “Mice, Hamsters & Guinea Pigs” is #34,444 overall on Amazon.

As you can see, being #1 in a specific category is a far cry from being #1 on Amazon overall. Not many books are actually being sold. Plus, the rankings fluctuate by the hour. So, claiming to be top dog in a random Amazon category is like claiming to be the biggest Chihuahua at a dog park. It doesn’t make sense.

Here’s the real issue. When authors make unsubstantiated claims about their Amazon rankings, they tend to ignore solid principles that could actually help sell more books. If you want to be considered a real bestseller, earn it through legitimate marketing efforts that create results:

  • Learn to master the pre-order sales process
  • Build a large email list
  • Create joint partnerships with other successful authors
  • Secure more speaking engagements and media interviews
  • Spend more money on advertising

For instance, what if I touted myself as the “#1 Book Marketing Consultant in the World”? Who sets the standard and how would anyone know the difference? I could display that title on my website, but you’d probably think I was a little over the top and question your ability to trust me.

Writing and marketing a book requires hard work that can already make an author seem a little crazy. Why make things worse by creating silly claims about a book’s Amazon ranking? Being an author with a book on Amazon is a rare achievement by itself. We get the unique opportunity to educate, inspire, and entertain the world. There’s no need to work ourselves into a frenzy and manufacture false accolades. Take this article and use it as my prescription to forever avoid getting Amazon fever.

—–

Rob Eagar is one of the most accomplished book marketing experts in America and a leading specialist in the field of direct-to-consumer sales. Rob’s consulting firm, Wildfire Marketing, has attracted numerous bestselling authors, including Dr. Gary Chapman, DeVon Franklin, Lysa TerKeurst, Wanda Brunstetter, and Dr. John Townsend. As an expert in direct-to-consumer marketing, Rob also helps companies and non-profits build Million Dollar Email Lists that create seven-figure revenue and donations. Rob is the author of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire (published by Writers Digest), which is considered the bible of book marketing.

“Fever” image courtesy of David Dominici Castillo via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

WordServe News September 2017

Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

Steve Arterburn’s The Arterburn Wellness Series was released by Cook. The first three books in the series include Understanding and Loving a Person with Depression, cowritten with Brenda Hunter, Ph.D.; Understanding and Loving a Person with Borderline Personality Disorder, cowritten with Robert Wise, Ph.D.; and Understanding and Loving a Person with Attention Deficit Disorder, cowritten with Timothy Smith M.Ed.

Debora Coty’s Too Blessed to be Stressed 2018 Planner was released by Barbour this month. If you’re already thinking ahead to next year, it’s time to get your hands on Deb’s funny, encouraging planner to help organize your life and transform your heart. Featuring monthly and weekly calendars, a year-at-a-glance section, pages for frequent contacts, and more, this planner offers an important reminder: God’s grace is enough for the ups, downs, and all the in-betweens of life.

Kent Hunter released Who Broke My Church? with FaithWords. Based on a survey of 75,000 people in churches from 65 denominations and thousands of interviews, Hunter gives practical direction for Christians to experience the impact every church could make on society. Utilizing seven key strategies for helping churches be more effective, it will leave readers feeling  refreshed, energized, and ready to be the change.

Jonathan McKee released The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices with Barbour Publishing. Perfect for teens, this book will help readers navigate the digital world with 21 refreshingly honest and humorous tips that will not only inform, but that also just might change the way you think about your social media interaction.

Melissa K. Norris published Hand Made with Harvest House. This modern guide to made-from-scratch living helps you open your heart to God-given rest and discover practical and tangible ways you can craft your home into a refuge for yourself and the ones you love. Tips include how to bake old-fashioned recipes, grow medicinal herbs, and make your own cultured foods at home.

New Contracts 

Andrea Gurney signed with Kregel for her book After the Ball Fall: How to Build Happily Ever After in an Age of Broken Fairytales, a compelling guide to emotional and relational health and wholeness, utilizing principles from psychology, foundational Biblical truths, and the burgeoning field of relationship science.

Jamie Sumner signed with FaithWords for Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations in Motherhood. Sumner walks readers through each chapter of her own journey to motherhood through infertility and special needs parenting and pairs it with that of a woman in the Bible, offering readers comfort, hope, companionship and honesty rooted in biblical truths.

New Clients

Jamie Erickson and Rev. Anthony Thompson joined WordServe this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Julie Cantrell’s The Feathered Bone won the ACFW’s Carol Award for Contemporary Fiction. Congrats!

Lynne Hartke was selected to be a Voice of Hope with the American Cancer Society for 2018. Congratulations!

WordServe News August 2017

Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

Jan Drexler’s The Prodigal Son Returns was re-released by Love Inspired as part of a 2-book package along with Emma Miller’s Redeeming Grace. In Drexler’s tale, a criminal’s trail has brought FBI informant Bram Lapp to Ellie Miller’s Indiana community. Now he’s posing as the kind of man he once hoped to be—someone who might be worthy of Ellie. Enjoy these two sweet novels about second chances at an Amish happily-ever-after, now available as a single package!

Jim and Bill Putman’s Hope for the Prodigal was released by Baker Books. With wisdom that comes from personal experience, Jim and his father, Bill, offer brokenhearted parents and loved ones hope for their prodigals. A prodigal son himself, Jim has also found himself in the role of the prodigal’s father when his own son rejected the faith. This family’s powerful story of restoration, along with solid biblical truths and practical advice, will inspire, motivate, and equip readers to go after their lost sheep with acts of love and service.

Jordyn Redwood released Taken Hostage with Love Inspired Suspense. When neurosurgeon Regan Lockhart’s daughter is kidnapped, the abductors want to make a deal for the little girl’s life. If she wishes to ever see her child again, Regan must hand over the virus she uses in a radical cancer treatment. Can bounty hunter Colby Waterson prevent this from happening–and save his sister in the process?

Amy Sorrells‘ book How Sweet the Sound was re-released by Tyndale. This lyrical novel, set in the Gulf Coast, considers how behind the gentle facade of white pillared porches and acres of cultivated pecan orchards, family secrets can smolder. Redemption, grace, and forgiveness take center stage as old secrets and sins are finally brought to light.

New Contracts 

Cara Whitney signed with Thomas Nelson to publish Unbridled Faith, a devotional based on country living accompanied by color photographs featuring horses and other country images.

Angela Hunt and Bill Myers signed a 3-book deal with Regnery. The first book, God Stories, will be published in 2018.

Barbara Scott signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for The Reluctant Bride series. The three books, Dreams of My Heart, Love of My Heart, and Desires of My Heart, will be published in 2018 and 2019.

Linda Thompson signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink. The first of the series, The Plum Blooms in Winter, will publish in January 2019.

Mary Davis signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for her series The Quilting Circle. The first installment will be published in July 2018.

Marjorie Jackson signed with Barbour for the publication of The Devoted Life: A Girl’s Guided Creative Journal. A follow-up to her first book, Devoted, it will publish in late 2018.

Jonathan McKee signed with Barbour for his next book, The Bullying Breakthrough. It will publish in early 2019.

Kara Powell signed a 2-book deal with Baker Books for Unleashed, which will publish in 2020, and a second untitled book to publish the following year.

Bob Welch and Dick Fosbury signed with Skyhorse Publishing for The Wizard of Foz, the never-before-told story of Dick Fosbury, a failed Oregon athlete whose new high-jump style ultimately helped him win a gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and revolutionized the event so completely that no jumpers today use any other style but his.

New Clients

Dr. Donese Worden and Rev. Anthony Thompson joined WordServe Literary this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Mandy Harvey, who along with WordServe client Mark Atteberry is the author of Sensing the Rhythm (due out from Howard Sept. 27), made it to the semifinals of America’s Got Talent! The singer-songwriter has been deaf since 2006, yet she has perfect pitch and kept pursuing music via her ability to feel vibrations. Her incredible story is detailed in the book, available for pre-order now.

WordServe News July 2017

Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

Jared Boyd released Imaginative Prayer with InterVarsity Press. When we lead our children through guided times of imaginative prayer, they can experience a connection with God that transcends mere Bible knowledge or doctrinal content. This book provides six units of weekly guided imaginative prayer on themes such as God’s love, loving others, forgiveness, God as king, and the mission of God; providing a yearlong experience of spiritual formation for children ages 5-13.

Jim Burns and Doug Fields published The First Few Years of Marriage: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your “I Do” with David C Cook. In this follow-up to Getting Ready for Marriage, Burns and  Fields offer a practical guide designed to help newlyweds build a strong foundation for a marriage that will last a lifetime. Along with explaining the traits of a healthy marriage, it helps couples rekindle romance, fight fair, and deal with stress, the challenges of the first baby, and much more.

Patricia Lee released An Anchor on Her Heart with Mountain Brook Ink. McKenna Nichols, a young wife abandoned by her husband in favor of his work, is left alone to raise their autistic child. She promised to love him until death parted them. But when circumstances drive a wedge into their marriage and Dane chooses to escape what life has dealt them, how long can she be strong?

Craig Selness released Living with Pain without Becoming One with Worthy Publishing. With his own chronic pain ailing him, pastor Craig Selness writes about pain using a Biblical perspective on living well. The good news of the gospel is that we can continue to do good — to be kind and gracious and loving and hopeful — despite physical struggle. This book will encourage anyone who hurts or loves someone who does.

New Contracts 

Dianne Christner signed with Barbour to publish The Marmalade Belle, part of the Southern Belle Brides collection, for publication in 2018.

Christian George signed with B&H Publishing to publish The Lost Poems of C.H. Spurgeon in 2019. Taken from some of Spurgeon’s earliest writings, which were lost to history for nearly 160 years, these poems are now revealed to the public for the first time.

Fred Sievert signed with BroadStreet to publish Grace in any Crisis, featuring inspiring, real-life stories of how people have sought, and found, God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, often resulting in miraculous relief from their pain and suffering and a driving passion to return that grace in Christian service to others.

New Clients

Sharon MacArthur and Nicole Phillips joined WordServe Literary this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Martha Bolton received a Golden Scroll Merit Award for Fiction for The Home Game (FaithHappenings Publishers). The award was announced at the annual Golden Scroll Banquet, sponsored by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and held at the Hilton Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 27, 2017.

Margot Starbuck also received an AWSA Golden Scroll Merit Award for He Knows Your Name. Her book with David King, Overplayed, received a Silver Scroll Merit Award. And He Knows Your Name was honored again by the National Indie Book Awards as an Excellence Award Finalist. Congrats, Margot!

Perfect Pitch

Last month, I spent a day at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park. It was a beautiful setting, and I got to hear a wide range of pitches from new and accomplished authors. Some of them really impressed me, leaving me eager to hear more. Some of them… weren’t quite as successful.

What accounts for the difference between a good pitch and a bad pitch? Well, some of it simply depends on the project, but I found that I was willing to listen to a pitch for just about any kind of book if it was done well. The difference between pitches really came down to a few things: preparation; knowledge; engagement with the agent; enthusiasm for your project; and avoiding a few simple mistakes. Let me elaborate.

1. Preparation

When you’ve only got 15 minutes to pitch your book to an agent and convince them they need to know more, preparation is king. You have to know what you want to say, how you’re going to say it, and have all the necessary materials at hand. Now, I’m not saying you won’t forget some of it or flub a few things because you’re nervous—everyone is!—but preparing beforehand what you want to say and how will really help ensure that your pitch is smooth, organized, and leaves the agent with a clear idea of the project.

This doesn’t mean that you have to memorize a script, but write down a few bullet points. Do you want to lead with the book’s hook? Do you want to establish your credentials? The conversation may take a different path once you and the agent start chatting, but having some points in the back of your mind that you know you want to cover will help you to steer the conversation if it flags.

I’d also recommend having a one-sheet to hand to the agent at the beginning of the pitch. This includes information such as the book’s one-line hook, a brief synopsis, word count,  intended audience, and a brief biography of your writing credentials. Having a full proposal is great, but by starting with a one-sheet you can give the agent a quick overview of the project without losing too much time. I’d rather hear you talk about the project and then review the proposal on my own time than spend the whole 15 minutes wading through a 50-page proposal.

2. Knowledge

It may seem obvious, but you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. You need to know your project back to front. If it’s fiction, be able to explain the plot in a few sentences. Have a ready answer for the important themes and what you want the reader to take away. And be able to demonstrate knowledge about the world of the book—if it’s a medical thriller, have you researched the medical topics involved, interviewed a nurse, done background reading? If it’s a non-fiction book, be able to demonstrate your expertise on the topic. Point to the research you’ve done, experts you’ve consulted with. Be prepared for the kinds of questions a novice might ask about the topic. And don’t be afraid to show your smarts—that’s what we want to see.

3. Engagement with the Agent

You need to be able to set yourself apart from the tens or even hundreds of other pitches, and one way of doing that is by making a connection with the agent. Know who you’re pitching to before you approach them. Explain why you wanted to pitch to them—“I know you’re interested in historical fiction” or “I see that your agency represents So-and-So, and I’m writing in the same field.” By demonstrating that you’ve put in the time to prepare for this meeting and that you respect the agent’s time, you’ll make a great impression and start things off on the right note. That personal connection may make them more likely to remember your project among the many others they heard, and increases the chance that they’ll see you as someone they’d like to work with.

4. Enthusiasm for Your Project

I’m not saying go over the top here—you can be too enthusiastic about your work—but it’s important to show that you care deeply about your book. Agents want to see commitment: someone who believes in what they’re doing and who is willing to work really hard to get their message out there. Emphasize why you’re so passionate about this project, and explain to the agent what you’re willing to do in order to see it in print. Enthusiasm is infectious. If an agent can see how dedicated you are to a topic—that you eat, breathe, and sleep it—they’ll realize that you’re an author worth getting behind. We want high-energy, motivated, excited people who won’t let the difficulties of the publishing industry dissuade them from seeing their project all the way through.

5. Mistakes to Avoid

I’d rather focus on dos than don’ts, but there are a few tips that I’d recommend avoiding when you’re pitching your work.

  • Don’t give an overly lengthy, extremely descriptive synopsis of your novel that includes every event that occurs in every chapter. You’ve got 15 minutes; at the most, five of those should be spent talking about the plot.
  • Don’t begin by asking the agent what they want to hear about. Take control of the meeting, deliver your opening line, and be active in steering the conversation.
  • Don’t show up without materials. You’ve got to have at least a one-sheet to hand over, if not a full proposal.
  • Don’t take it personally if the agent expresses that they’re not interested. You are not your work, and each agent is looking for something different. It’s a better use of both of your time if agents are upfront about projects that simply aren’t a fit for them.
  • Don’t forget to thank the agent for their consideration, leave your business card, and if they’ve asked you to, follow up with them afterwards. The onus may be on you to get in touch; make sure you do so within the week if they express interest!

There are a lot of things that go into a good pitch, but perhaps the most important is this: don’t be afraid. Agents are excited to hear about new projects, and they want you to succeed as much as you do. We wouldn’t be in this industry if we didn’t love authors and books, and we really are on your side. Our greatest hope is that these pitches turn into lasting client relationships, exciting new projects, and great book deals. So keep ‘em coming!