Recently I was chatting with a celebrated writer and he discovered that I had written some books under a pen name. He want to know what the titles were, what market they were for, why I wrote them–he wanted, in essence, my elevator pitch for them. And I began my usual fumbling, bumbling, and self-deprecating joking. Finally, he stopped me and said, “Why are you are so embarrassed? I think this is a wonderful thing.”
My cheeks flushed and I changed the topic.
I have the Southerner’s curse of not being able to talk about myself comfortably. In fact, I’m sure this curse is not at all confined to the South. Growing up we were taught never to talk about ourselves or our achievements if it could be avoided–and if it absolutely couldn’t, the best plan was to downplay them, joke about them, explain to everyone why they didn’t really count or they never really mattered anyway, if you looked at it properly.
This attempt at modesty comes from a good place but it’s impractical for writers and bloggers. What you write about or what you blog about will be the first question people will ask when they discover that you have a passion for writing. It’s a natural question, a normal question, and learning to answer it without fumbling or embarrassment is key. Why? Because this person doing the asking is a potential new reader. And you never know when you’re going to meet someone who can help you along your journey. Maybe you’ve just bumped into an editor. Maybe you’ve just rubbed shoulders with a designer.
[Side note: It's very important to me that this blog represents books and best practices across the industry and doesn't just promote the books and marketing campaigns we're working on at Chronicle. In fact, to date, I've never featured a book or a marketing project from us. However, today I am going to feature Blog, Inc., which is a Chronicle title. If/when I do choose to feature a Chronicle book or campaign, I'll always be sure to call it out clearly for you and the reason I think it's important to include this book or campaign.]
Blog, Inc. is a must-read for anyone thinking of starting a blog or any blogger looking to grow, monetize, or improve an existing blog. Even though I’ve been blogging in some form or fashion for years, there were still things I learned. The book also neatly explains so many best practices of digital marketing that I think its usefulness extends far beyond the realm of blogging, making it a great read for writers getting serious about online promotion.
In a section entitled “Prepare Your Cocktail Party Spiel” Joy writes:
“Talking about your blog in person can be hard to do without visuals or a laptop. But remember that making real-life connections is important, too. Whether you’re at a blog conference or your spouse’s holiday party, always be prepared with a succinct description of your blog that tells others why you started it, what you blog about it, and why it’s fun and different.”
If you’re not a blogger but you are a writer, just substitute in the word “book” for the word “blog.” If you’re both, you probably need two different spiels or a spiel that encompasses both your book and your blog.
To be honest, I was floored when I read this. I love the way she breaks down exactly what needs to be included in your elevator pitch and if you follow her instructions, your quick statement will not sound like you’re nattering on and on about yourself. I’ve been working on one for my blog and so far I have it down to this:
With the rise of self-publishing, more books are published each year than ever before–but most of these books only sell an average of 150 copies. Since I’ve been in the publishing and digital marketing spheres for a while, I wanted to start a blog that helped writers make their books stand out and gain followings.
Easy, simple, clear. And it doesn’t make the Southern belle hiding inside of me cringe. Now I just need to figure out one for the eight books I published and the current book I’m working on.