A Writer’s Guide to Success—Or Not

Recently I went to a meeting about secrets to sales success. The business consultant leading the seminar usually works with investment and insurance companies. His words can also apply to small businesses. Here are some examples as applied to the Great Agent Hunt.

Ask negative questions

The consultant showed this in a pitch in which he stated some of the problems of the industry, demonstrated his credibility, and then ended with a negative question. He called it a 30-second commercial and I’m sure it’s very effective in business.

But it makes me laugh like a loon. I had to practically cover my mouth with my hand during the seminar. Remember all that advice to not start a query with a question because you don’t want the agent to just say no and delete your query? Can you imagine starting a query with this little nugget? It would go something like this:

“I talk to agents all the time who are so tired of receiving queries for paranormal romances. You’ve never had that happen, have you? Well, Awesome Agent, that’s why I’ve written a paranormal story with romantic elements instead. Your clients, um, I mean, the editors you submit to, won’t already be saturated with my kind of story. You wouldn’t be able to place such a story, would you?”

Now imagine an agent reading your email and immediately clicking Delete. Like I said, laughing like a loon.

Threaten to close the file

When you don’t hear back from a prospect, leave them a voicemail in which you say that since you haven’t heard from them despite repeated attempts, you’re going to assume they’re no longer interested, close the file, and move on.

This is actually pretty sound business advice. For other industries. Human nature dictates that we don’t want someone to close the file on us. We get that message and shout, “No, wait. Don’t close the file. I’ll call you. We can do business.”

But agents don’t want us to call. Or show up at their office. And they don’t care if we close the file on them. If we haven’t heard from them, especially after one or two innocuous status request emails, they’ve probably already closed the file on us.

The Triangle

Now this one actually makes sense for everyone, no matter what you do, who you are, and what you want out of life. The three sides of the triangle—the three keys to daily success—are behavior, attitude, and technique. According to the business consultant, most people ignore attitude, but attitude drives and is driven by daily behavior.

As writers, we have to maintain positive attitude, professional behavior, and work on our technique on a daily basis.

Buyer’s Psychology

Here’s more information that can actually work for us. According to this consultant, people buy emotionally and then justify it intellectually. For writers, that means we have to appeal first to an agent’s emotions. We have to hook them with heart or excitement. Then we have to follow up with a plot and character arc they can justify to their intellect, their fellow agents, and eventually to editors.

What’s your favorite piece of advice from people who don’t necessarily “get” publishing?



Filed under Getting Published, writing

10 responses to “A Writer’s Guide to Success—Or Not

  1. Yeah, we can laugh like a loon trying to imagine using technique 1 or 2 on an agent query. But honestly, I don’t see those working for me in sales, either? At least not as the buyer. If a salesperson used either of those techniques on me, I’d be looking elsewhere and FAST!

  2. I like this emotional take to reel them in. Hmmm. I could make that work. Yes I could! Thanks for sharing this, it’s very cool.

  3. I got hives reading this post. There are some real ding-a-lings out there. My favorite is when friends say, “Forget making it a book, just sell it as a movie.” Ach!

  4. You had me laughing to tears. 🙂
    Sadly I have no example for you. I’ve stopped talking writing with people in my real life who aren’t concerned about it all.

  5. Hi Vicki,
    I read your post with great interest, having been in one sales environment or other throughout my adult life. The bottom line is pounds and pence or dollars and cents and even in the agenting and publishing world the dollar is key. So, IMHO, it’s the psychology part of a sale that’s most important. Pushing someone to make a purchase, no matter what the commodity or product is, doesn’t work. People just switch off. Appeal to their vanity and their wallet and instantly, they’re listening.
    I’ve tried to make sure my current manuscript is driven by emotion and character, and I just hope everything I’ve learnt in the sales environment will help me sell it. I guess it’s just business.

  6. Oy, all these “tricks” and none of them really work. If they did, we’d all have agents immediately. LOL

  7. denizb33

    Ooh, that last one especially is important. I struggle so often with distilling the excitement of the novel into a one line pitch or a one paragraph blurb.

  8. Great job relating it to writing! LOL. Non-writers really don’t get it. But they usually mean well.

  9. Your query example was hilarious!!! That would definitely get you deleted, and maybe even blacklisted with an agent. But the last two examples were great. i’ll have to remember that: “buy emotionally, justify intellectually)

  10. You’re right – the first one is hysterically inappropriate 🙂 I think the last one makes the most sense to me, and seems like something to really try to implement.

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