Friday, July 30, 2010


Contributed By Hank Quense
© 2010
This three-part article describes one aspect of marketing and selling books. With the gazillions of other books available, authors need something to make their book grab the reader's attention. Book differentiation is one way to do this.

Part One: The Differentiation Process
Getting a book published means you can call yourself a "published author." You may not know it yet, but it also means you can add the titles "marketing manager" and "sales manager" to the title of "published author." In other words, you, the published author, are in charge of marketing and selling you book. Surprised? I was.

What do these new titles mean? As marketing manager, you have to spread the word on
your book and create a buzz about it. This will get some folks interested in or curious about the book. These folks will visit your selling site. As sales manager your job is to convert these visitors to customers. Your differentiation statements are the key to converting the visitors. These statements tell the world why your book matters and why readers should buy it.

This is a vital aspect of self-marketing. Consider this: thousands of new books become available every month. Consequently, your book is competing against all these other books for the readers' attention and money. Your book has to stand out from all the others and persuade readers to shell out money to get a copy.

I've read a number of books on self-marketing and using the internet as a marketing
platform. While they all contain good ideas, many ignore this subject. When it is
mentioned at all, it is covered rather quickly and shallowly. I intend to cover the subject in depth because I believe it is of paramount importance.

For many years, I worked selling high-tech telecommunications equipment. If I wanted
to talk about a new product or new features on an existing product, I'd call a customer, explain what I wanted and the customer would set up a meeting with other interested departments. Later, I'd give a presentation and answer any questions. The critical point to make is this; I knew the customers and could get a face-to-face meeting whenever I needed to. Marketing and selling on the internet are entirely different processes for several reasons. First, you are selling from websites, not in-person. You don't know the website visitors and the majority of them don't know you. A second reason is that I presented my product to what amounted to a captive audience. Website visitors are not captive; they are capricious and fleeting.

To sell your book, you have to devise a sales plan. Yeah, a sales plan. You're the sales manager in charge of selling the book and sales managers develop sales plans. After you develop the plan, you then implement it. The sales plan consists of two parts. The first part is to develop your differentiation statement. The second is to develop the means to use the statement most effectively. That is, place the statement where potential customers can see it.

The good news about the sales plan is, that unlike many other marketing activities, it's free. It can also be completed before the book is published. I start working on a differentiation statement for a new book long before the book is finished. This gives me ample time to tinker with the messages and to perfect them.

Part Two: Differentiation Development
Essentially, what this process entails is developing three sentences or short paragraphs that can be used to sell your book. The pitch line is the hook to grab the readers' attention. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to keep reading the other two statements. It should be simple, a few short sentences at most, and it must make a clear statement about your book. What's in it for the buyers? is a statement that explains what the reader (i.e. a book buyer) will get in exchange for money. This must be explicit. This statement is not the place to get cute. Don't come across like the legendary used-car salesman. Tell the readers what benefit they'll get from buying the book. Think of this statement in this way: If your
book is surrounded by hundreds of similar-sized books on a shelf in bookstore, what would persuade the buyer to choose your book instead of one of the others?
What's different about this book? With all the books published every month, what
makes your book stand out from the others?

These dry descriptions are difficult to grasp so I'll use examples from my published
books. Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty humorous short stories. Here is my differentiation statement.
Pitch Line:
Live longer. Laughter is good for your health. Read this book and you may live longer.
What's in it for the buyer?
Unusual characters, settings both strange and familiar, and bizarre plots are a few of the things you'll experience and enjoy.
What's different about this book?
Aren't you tired of reading scifi and fantasy stories that take themselves too seriously? Well, you won't find any stories like that here. It doesn't take anything serious. Politics, Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, the military, aliens, the undead, they all get cut down a notch or two.

Fool's Gold is a retelling of the ancient myth of the Rhinegold. The story involves a magical horde of gold and ring of immense power. Sound familiar? Tolkien borrowed part of the myth to write Lord of the Rings. My version takes place in the future and uses aliens instead of fantasy creatures. Here is how I worded my differentiation statement.
Pitch Line:
A Ring of Power? That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power and it produces
What's in it for the buyer?

Aliens, ancient Gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal,
greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone.
What's different about this book?
This is the only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.

Finally, there is my nonfiction book Build a Better Story.
Pitch Line:
Have a story that needs to be told? Here's the best way to go about doing it.
What's in it for the buyer?
The book describes a process that eases the work involved in developing a story. This
reduces the time spent in reworking flawed and imperfect drafts. Following the process allows more time to be spent on the creative activities and shortens the time spent on less creative work.
What's different about this book?
Besides the process, this book takes a unique approach to character building and
plotting. It identifies problem areas that inexperienced writers struggle with and explains how to address those areas. Two of them are character motivation and scene design.

Of course, when you use the statements don't use the questions, just the answers. So
my complete differentiation message for Fool's Gold looks like this:
A Ring of Power? That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power and it produces laughs.
Aliens, ancient Gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal,
greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone.
This is the only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.

Do you get the idea? How do you start? Take a blank sheet of paper or a start a new
mind map file on your computer. Jot down every possible idea that comes to you for each of the three statements. Don't eliminate any ideas because you think they are too dumb. This 'dumb idea' may trigger a great thought or two later on. Keep refining the ideas. Add more ideas, combine others. Eventually, suitable statements will evolve out of this exercise, but it may take more than a single session to get it.

Once you develop the complete statement, don't sit back and relax. You need at least
one, preferably two paraphrases of the message. These are used to repeat the message -- to emphasize it -- without using the same words.

Part Three: Using the Message
What do you do with these statements after you develop them? You stick them
anywhere they'll fit. On your website, on blogs, on ads, press releases, in your trailer. If you can't fit the entire statement someplace (such as Twitter), use the pitch line by itself.

On your book-buying page, make the pitch line the opening statement followed by the
rest of your differentiation message. Why? Earlier, I mentioned captured audiences when I made a sales presentation. On the Internet, no one is captive and their attention span is too minuscule to measure. When these visitors land on your Web page, you have a second or two to persuade them to read beyond the first line of text they see. That is the job of your pitch line; to get the visitors to read further. The next statement (what's in it for the buyer) has to tell them there is something of value here, something they can use or enjoy.

Finally, your page tells them what is different about your book, what is in it that they can't get elsewhere. If this works, the visitors will read even further where they can learn how to get a copy and how much it'll cost. If you get a sale, you have accomplished the difficult process of converting a visitor to a customer.

Make sure your differentiation statements are clearly visible and emphasized in the
trailer. Get the message in the beginning and the end of the trailer. Innumerable people from all over the world will view the trailer and you want them to understand your message.

Log onto social media sites and post an announcement that your book is available.
Include the differentiation message in the announcement. Log onto book sites like Goodreads and Librarything. Add information about your book. You can upload the cover and add descriptive text about it. Make sure that text includes
your differentiation messages.

Display your differentiation messages prominently. Make them the opening statement in
the body of the release. Rephrase the message and place it a second time further down in the body.

Use the signature capability in your email program to build a unique signature using the pitch line by itself. Link that pitch line to your book-selling Website. Now, every time you send an email, you'll also be pitching your book.

Once the differentiation statements are completed, you've taken a big step toward
getting people to buy your book. Keep going! You can do this.

Hank Quense writes humorous fantasy and science fiction along with an occasional article on fiction writing. He lives with Pat, his wife of many years, in Bergenfield, NJ. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

To date Quense has over forty stories and articles published. His novel Fool's Gold is a sci-fi retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth. Tunnel Vision, a collection of twenty previously published stories. Both books are available in e-book and print formats.

Build a Better Story is non-fiction and will help fiction writers with a process to develop a story.

His latest, Tales from Gundarland, is a collection of humorous short stories and novellas.

He is presently working on a novel that is a blend of fantasy and science fiction and a second novel that is pure fantasy.

Visit Hank’s Website at or his Blog at

Sunday, July 25, 2010

YES YOU CAN Easily Create an Author Website

Since most books are now sold via the Internet, it is an absolute must that authors have an online presence; and I don’t mean a simple Amazon listing or online publisher listing. What I’m referring to is a Website or Blog of your own.

In the past I have tried to persuade most of our “new author” Blog visitors to create a Website for their book(s). Some of you have done so and might I add, done a great job of it! Others are not so easily persuaded, mostly because they think they just don’t have the technical knowledge to conquer such a task. In reality, Website development is much easier than you think.

Al Albers is an author who I have in the past attempted to persuade to build a Website for his books; finally, he has done so and his new Website looks fantastic! In this interview with Al, we will find out how the process was for him and maybe we can encourage some skeptics to give it a try. After all, writing a book isn’t an easy task, but if you can accomplish that, creating a Website should be simple enough!

Carol Denbow: Welcome Al, so glad you’re here to help our Blog visitors learn how to combat their fears and get to work building a Website to promote their books.

Let me start by asking you if you are indeed one of those authors who thought they were not capable of building their own Website?

Al Albers: Before I begin, I want to say, “THANK YOU, CAROL” for the interview; it’s much appreciated. I hope my experience in creating my Website will encourage others to take the plunge.

I was positive this was something I could not do. In fact, two years ago I was given the book FrontPage for Dummies so I could learn how to build a Website. As I started the process, I realized it was going to take time—lots of it. I managed to build two pages, but there were a few “glitches” that I couldn’t figure out. After a frustrating hour, I came to the conclusion that I needed to decide what was more important: the Website, or the new story I was writing (I had alternated my weekday evenings so that one night I’d work on the Website, the next night on the story). Right or wrong, in my mind, the story was more important and that’s where I focused my attention.

My new plan was to work on a Website after the second novel was published. Sadly, that didn’t happen. I had an idea for a third story (I’m almost finished) so I jotted down some notes and then began writing.

The Website would again have to wait.

Carol Denbow: When you decided to take the plunge and give it a try, what was your first step in the process?

Al Albers: The first step was to decide whether to return to FrontPage or hire a Website designer. As fate would have it, I was talking with author Clyde Dowell and he asked if we could swap Website links. I told him that I didn’t have a Website…yet. After I related my story, I found out that he created his Website on Yahoo in a matter of hours.

“You don’t need to learn HTML?” I asked.
“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Everything you need is at your disposal; all you have to do is add content.”

Later that day, I learned that Microsoft Office Live also offered a similar service. After I read the FAQs and the information in the other links, I compared notes; I decided to use Microsoft.

The issue now, was when to begin. I didn’t want to work on this in the evening hours, so my only option was a weekend. I played devil’s advocate by asking myself, “What if it takes longer than one day?” That’s when it dawned on me that the July 4th holiday weekend was less than two weeks away. Furthermore, I had planned on taking one day of vacation to have a four-day weekend. Perfect!

Now that the decision was made, my first step was to decide what page titles and their respective content did I want to include on the Website. Fortunately, I had my original notes to fall back on.

For those contemplating taking the plunge, my suggestion is to look at what others have done, and not just authors. What you’ll find is that there is a lot of commonality, specifically, a bio, product or service reviews, and a blog, to name just a few. Authors include their book covers, an excerpt, and reader reviews. Since the protagonist in my novels is a magician, I included a page that gives the visitor a smidgen of information about the two main magic organizations in the United States, including hyperlinks. So do your research; you might find a great idea for a page on your Website.

Carol Denbow: Were you surprised at your ability to do-it-yourself?

Al Albers: I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it would be much harder, but the hard work is done long before the Web design begins. By that I mean the page titles, content, pictures, book covers, etc. Once you have these parts readily available, placing them into their respective pages is easy. If you’re not happy with its initial look, it’s easy to change the page format and start anew.

Carol Denbow: Did you need much computer experience to complete this project?

Al Albers: You don’t need to learn a computer language, nor do you need to buy a “Dummies” reference book. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with these books. I have a few and they’re helpful. If you can type, cut, and paste, and know how to save your work, you can do this project.

Carol Denbow: How much time did you need to invest before your site was first published online?

Al Albers: I have to answer this question in two ways. For the Website, I completed it in one day—a Saturday. The following day, I accessed the site and carefully read each page. I found a typo and that took all of two minutes to fix. For the content, it was about two hours. I had to search the computer’s hard drive to find the information from my initial foray two years earlier.

The important point to remember is that you’re not writing a complete chapter of your book in one sitting. Once you’ve gathered all the information, the next step is to drop the bits and pieces into place. I sincerely believe an author can create their Website over a weekend.

Carol Denbow: Do you need to update information on your Website and if so, how often?

Al Albers: Some pages may not need to be updated, for example, an excerpt from your book. Other pages may need to be updated when you have new information you wish to share. When I created my Website, I was in the process of having my books converted to e-Books, so I added a note stating that they’d soon be available in this new format. When my publisher notified me that they were available, I updated two pages of my Website. There’s nothing written in stone that dictates when an author should update their Website. In my case, I’ve made two updates to it since the 3’rd of July.

The day after I added the last one, a light bulb went on. “How will a visitor know if I posted something new?” That’s when I realized I needed to add some notation that indicates new information has been posted. On the “News” page, I added “updated on 7/23/10.” When the visitor clicks on that page, he or she will see a complete list of recent (and not so recent) events.

That said, don’t let your Website become dormant once it’s up and running. Continually adding something will encourage visitors to return to see what’s new.

Carol Denbow: Was it easy to add different pages to your Website, i.e., contact page, bio, etc.?

Al Albers: It was very easy. There are various templates available and each has generic pages that are ready to be populated. All that needs to be done is to rename them to reflect your preference and choose the page layout. After that, you cut and paste the content. One thing I strongly recommend is that you click the “save” button every 10 or 15 minutes. There’s nothing like having your computer burp at the most inopportune time, and in that microsecond, see your work disappear.
I’ve only added one new page since the Website went online. Once I had the information to populate the page, it took all of 15 minutes.

Carol Denbow: How expensive was it to build your Website?

Al Albers: Microsoft Office Live hosts the Website for free. When you initially start, you’re given what’s called a “fourth domain name.” That means there are three “dots” in between the URL (uniform resource locator) name that identifies your new Website. I wanted a standard domain name, which I had to purchase at a cost of $14.95/year (a bargain if you ask me). There is a link to do that on the Microsoft Office Live site and the process is explained in great detail. Trust me, it’s very easy. By the way, you are not required to buy a standard domain name, it’s an optional feature.

The only thing you’ll need to remember is to initiate the process to renew your domain name a month or so before your year ends. If there’s an option to renew for a longer period, two or more years, you may want to consider taking advantage of that deal. Bear in mind that if you don’t renew in time, the domain name goes away.

The last thing I did was to add a personalized e-mail address. In my case, I used; no sense making it complicated. The reason for this personalized e-mail is to allow visitors to leave feedback, or ask questions about your books, and not send their questions to your personal (home) e-mail address. By the way, there is no cost for this feature so I would definitely take advantage of it.

Carol Denbow: Now let’s show our viewers what you created. What is the link to your Website?

Al Albers:

Carol Denbow: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. Al, hopefully you have persuaded some of our visitors to step up and get more exposure for their books by building their own Website. I know I was glad to hear you finally did!

Again, visitors take a look at Al’s Website at You can do it too!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Hook Your Reader

Contributed By Cindy A. Christiansen

There's nothing more important than a perfectly written beginning. It is necessary to grab the attention of the reader and hook them so they won't put your book down.

You can accomplish a great beginning with four easy tips:
1. Establish who, what, when, where and why.
2. Ascertain what kind of story you are writing.
3. Let the reader care about the character(s).
4. Set the tone of your book from the beginning.

Let's take a closer look:
Fiction writing is no different from any other writing. You must answer all of the "w" questions right up front as much on the first page as possible without being obvious. Let's look at each one:

WHO: Give the character's name right up front to establish from whose point-of-view (POV) the story is being told. In first-person that is "I". In third-person you want the name to reflect the time period, the personality of the character, and the tone of your book. Think about how you want the reader to relate to the character.

In my current work in progress, my heroine's name is Lizzie Cantrell. I point out in the story that Lizzie is not short for Elizabeth but that her mother named her after Lizzie in the play, Rainmaker. She is an artist looking for adventure. The hero, however, is Phillip E. Van Dyke. He insists that his employees call him Mr. Van Dyke, and if they call him Phil, he is extremely upset. Seriously injured, he is determined to keep people from getting too close. By having everyone use his formal name, he believes he can keep his emotions locked away.

Choosing the right name can greatly impact how your readers relate to your characters.

WHAT: To establish a relationship between your reader and your character, you need to suggest what the character is trying to gain or lose based on their goals. In the story above, Phillip keeps pulling up his turtle-neck. I suggest there is something wrong, but I don't give it all away yet. You need to suggest what is going to happen and make the reader curious to find out.

WHERE AND WHEN: Let the reader know up front in as little detail as possible where your book is taking place and what time period. You don't have to state the precise date, however that works in some cases. In contemporary novels, any detail about modern conveniences is usually sufficient. If you are writing a historial, use a known event, war, or invention that will signify the time period.

WHY: Again we don't want to give the story away, but this is where you reveal what drives your character and why. You just need to give a clue as to why they are pursuing what they are to let the reader know more is to come.
This may sound complicated but it's not. Here is an example from "A Novel Approach" by Kathy Jacobson that shows all of this important information in just a few short sentences:
Liz had nothing against sleeping with men, but she never again wanted to be married to one. After three years of freedom, even Jeff's wealth didn't look like a good trade-off. She smiled at him across the breakfast table and handed back the diamond ring she'd almost cracked a tooth on.
"It was clever of you to hide this in my muffin, but I really can't accept it."

Here's the summation: Who - Liz. What - she's declining a marriage proposal. Where - her breakfast table. When - three years after her divorce. Why - she prefers her freedom over wealth. Everything in one neat little paragraph. Wow!

The next important part of a beginning is starting with an important action when the character's life changes. A good resource for understanding this is Orson Scott Card's MICE quotient taken from his book, "Characters and Viewpoints." This will affect your beginning in different ways. For MILIEU it would be when the character enters the new environment. If you are writing an IDEA story, you want to start with something that affects the question being asked. When writing a CHARACTER story, you would concentrate on the character's emotions concerning the change in environment. With an EVENT story, you begin with the event that pushes the character into a new adventure.

Don't start your book with the character's back story. Begin with the circumstances that changes the character's life. Back story is very important and can be added throughout the book in interesting ways, but starting out with the character's life story is boring to the reader and you will lose them.

You do, however, want to have your character performing some natural task to make your reader identify with them. Then take them on the journey. If you throw them into the middle of the action too quickly, the reader is confused about what is happening, who the character is, or why they should even care.

Make sure you give the reader a reason to relate or like your character. You can accomplish this by making sure your character has goals and their reasons for their choices are clearly stated, especially that first scene. Make sure your scenes are well thought out according to POV. Remember that if you switch POV you lose the tension in the scene. It is important to stay with the opening character long enough for the reader to bond with them.

Choosing your genre will help determine the tone of your book. Is it suspenseful, humorous, or gory? Your writing needs to reflect that. Even your synopsis should reflect the tone of your book. The editor needs to know you can project the same tone that the book will be written in.

Well, that's it. It sounds simple enough and really it is. It takes some thought and practice, but it can be done. Given these four tips, you will write a book that will hook your readers and keep them turning pages. Good luck.

***Cindy A. Christiansen is a multi-published fiction writer. Visit her at:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Entrecard Clickers, Let’s Make Money!

Many of the visitors to this Blog stop by just to click on the Entrecard Drop button. Several of you who are Entrecard members also run ads with CMF or other online advertizing methods where points or cash is paid for each click; so I have a plan. What if whenever an Entrecard member stops by a Blog to drop, they also click on a CMF or other ad? We could ALL benefit more, couldn’t we?

The next time I go “dropping” for Entrecard, I plan to click on just one other ad on the site and see if I can’t help my fellow Bloggers get some extra perks for their hard work—join me?

Have a Blog and don’t know about Entrecard? You’re missing out on many additional hits to your Blog. Click HERE to learn more about Entrecard and sign up. If you have trouble because you don’t know how to create a logo for your drop button, just let me know and I’ll help you do it. Don’t miss out, Entrecard is great!