Stefanie Hartman In The Press

Tell me about your Book

Posted on 06 September 2011 by Stefanie

I found this great blog series on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys!  Enjoy.

All the best,


Part I: Tell Me About Your Book.
So you’ve written a book. Hooray! That’s a huge accomplishment. Be proud, tell all your friends, do a silly dance and take yourself to dinner. You deserve it all.

But easy on the champagne there, partner. The work isn’t over yet. Writing a book is one thing. Getting people to read it is entirely different, as big an undertaking as writing it in the first place. So congratulations on finishing something huge. Now take a deep breath and get ready for Something Huge – The Sequel: Promoting Your Book.

A book can’t get read if readers don’t know about it. It’s your job as the author to make that introduction. At its bones, that’s what book promotion is. Matchmaking between your book and the right readers for it. It doesn’t take a lot of money or Oprah’s home phone number. But it will take preparation, time, smarts, and creativity, the exact skills you brought to writing your book. Which tells me you can do it.

There was a time (in the age of stone tablets and loincloths) where you, the author, didn’t have to promote. It was your publisher’s responsibility to get your book its readers and you, having finished one book, took a deep breath, and then started another. But that was a long time ago and let’s not dwell on it. It won’t come back in fashion any faster than the horse-drawn plow.

So how do you introduce your book to the right reader? We’re all familiar with the obvious ways to find out about new books. The front table at your local bookstore, a primo interview on NPR, The Daily Show. But every other author in the known universe knows about them too and how many readers they reach. As such, those opportunities are winning lottery tickets, once in a life timers. They aren’t smart planning, any more than “I’ll strike oil in the backyard!” is smart planning for your kids tuition money.

How do you introduce your book to the right reader? That’s what this series is about. We’re going to travel together chronologically though the process, meaning that the essay you’re reading now is the very first you’ll do, next week’s will be the second thing and so on. Each part is designed to make you as smart and nimble with your career as you are with your prose.

Let’s go.

“Tell me about your book.”

The entire story of book promotion begins with that phrase. Without a good answer to it, you the author are trying to grow flowers without soil. Nothing else in book promotion happens without that answer. A good answer to “tell me about your book” is “Once Upon A Time…”

A lot of people are going to ask you “tell them about your book.” Here’s a short list…

  • Booksellers who need to know what shelf it goes on at their store.
  • Members of the media who what to know what they are covering.
  • Readers need to know why your book should be read before the 15 others currently piled on their night table.

They all need an answer and they need it fast. These are busy people and there are several dozen authors in line behind you who want their attention.

“Tell me about your book”

You’re the author. You know the story of your book better than anyone. Nonetheless I’m amazed how many authors break out in sweat when asked that. The answer then comes out something like this….

My book is a mystery novel, set in Seattle, 409 pages long with a main character named Sally Ann. She has a boyfriend who plays baseball and a dog. I thought about not giving her a dog because how would she solve crimes if she always had to go home to walk Woof Woof? I didn’t want to name the dog Woof Woof. The dog’s name was originally Thurston Terwillager and wait, did I mention Sally Ann, my main character’s favorite food is anchovies? Anchovies are very important to the story and…

Still listening? I’m not. We’re six sentences into “tell me about your book” and I still don’t know what’s about. I’ve already moved on to the author in line behind you.

If book promotion is matchmaking between your book and everyone who you want to know about it, “tell me about your book,” is the first date. And nobody wants to be on a first date with a motormouth who can’t keep their thoughts straight. If you WROTE the book and can’t say, with confidence, what it’s about, is there any point to continuing the conversation? All I’m thinking is “If this author writes as badly as they explain…”

I know you’ve worked on this book for two years and want to talk about everything in it. But it isn’t time for “everything.” You’re on a first date. You goal is to get a second date.

When someone says “Tell me about your book” here’s what they are actually asking you…

  • Tell me what category your book fits in–mystery, memoir, poetry, romance etc… This gives me a frame of reference.
  • Tell about what happens.
  • Tell me just enough about your book so that I’m left curious. Tell me too much and why do need to read it?
  • Tell me about your book in 20 seconds or less. After that, I’ll stop paying attention.

Your answer therefore has to accomplish a lot in not much time. Sounds hard, I know. But let’s try it with our friend Sally Ann.

My book is a mystery novel, set in Seattle, about a detective named Sally Ann framed for murder, when her dog Woof Woof finds the body of her boyfriend, A Seattle Mariner Shortstop on her front lawn.

I want to read more, don’t you? What happened to her boyfriend? How does Sally Ann solve his murder? Who framed her? Is Woof Woof crucial to the mystery?

Where can I buy this book right now and find out?

Every great book summary has these 3 parts:

  1. A category (“mystery novel”)
  2. Parameters aka what happens and what is the reader getting themselves into (“Seattle”, “a detective” “a dead boyfriend”)
  3. Something left to the imagination (a dead body, a framed main character)

More is noise. And on the first date, you need to speak loud and clear. Noise makes me plug my ears and run away.

Assume this: Everyone who wants to hear about your book is yes, busy but also dying to get hooked into a great story. Or else why would they be interested in books in the first place?

Don’t stand in their way. A confusing, messy summary leads to a confused frustrated conversation about your book that no one–not media, bookseller, reader–will want to have. They’ve just lost interest and haven’t even picked up the book yet.

A great summary does the opposite. It sharpens, clarifies and focuses your efforts. A great book summary helps whomever you’re talking to gauge their interest quickly and decide if they want to hear more, have a second date.

No book is for everyone (The editor of Men’s Health is not going to write about “Twilight” no matter how many millions of copies it sold. His readers are not “Twilight” readers) and the sooner you know who yours are, the less time you will waste in promoting your book to readers whose interests lie elsewhere. It doesn’t matter what happens in chapter 9 of your military biography. Your book is not for a radio show aimed at teenage girls.

A good summary clarifies that immediately. For you and your reader.

“Tell me about your book.” A good answer is difficult but vital. Without “once upon a time” why would anyone continue reading? If you can’t begin the conversation about your book, who else will?

In the next installment, we’ll be talking about who exactly you’ll be promoting your book to.

Exercise:  Using the “Rule of Three Parts” (category, parameter, imagination), come up with a great answer to the question “Tell me about Your Book” launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

Popularity: 11% [?]

Tell me about your Book

6 Comments For This Post

  1. Ruth Seebeck Says:

    Great article, Stephanie. Every book needs an ‘elevator speech’ introduction, and your three points clarify what to include. Thanks a lot for the clarity. Looking forward to the next article.

  2. John Fahy Says:

    Great article Stefanie and look forward to the rest of the series. Categorisation troubles me a little bit though. If you write something non-fiction that is truly original, it is not always easy to find a category for it because it may span several. I know bookshops need to know where to put it but equally I dislike that we all have to find a ‘genre’ to be in!

  3. Auguste Dinoto Says:

    Thanks for the tip. I knew this, but it helps to hear it from someone else. I find this harder than writing the book. Looking forward to hearing from you again.

  4. Maryann Ehmann Says:

    Hi Stephanie! I agree. Great article. Did you happen to get the other parts of the blog before they shut down?

    Stefanie Reply:

    Hello Maryann, great to hear from you again! You bet, I’ll post every Tuesday and Thursday so you have a bit of time to digest the info!

  5. Jo Lyn Cornelsen Says:

    Thanks, Stephanie! Great article – exquisitely written! Please share the next installments!

  6. Iya Ifalola Omobola Says:

    Hi Stefanie:

    Wonderful article that came just as I needed it. (Isn’t the Universe grand???) I am looking forward to the rest of the goldmine you have managed to secure.

    How’s this?

    “I’ve written a self-help book that shows how to handle your fear, not by getting rid of it, but by transforming it.”

    (Sneaky, right?)

    Iya Ifalola Omobola

4 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. It's who you know for your book promotion - Hart of Success Says:

    [...] Book Promotion: It’s Who You KnowIn our last segment, we talked about how you, the author, must develop an airtight answer to the first question anyone [...]

  2. Getting ready for your book or product promotion - Hart of Success Says:

    [...] Book Promotion: Getting Your House in OrderSo far in our series, we’ve discussed how best to describe your book in an airtight sentence and who your first group of readers will be. This week, we’re going to [...]

  3. On the Book Tour Circuit - Hart of Success Says:

    [...] your media stations, especially your local ones and let them know what you are up to (remember the first post in this series and stay tuned for the sixth installment for support with this)Tell the producer: [...]

  4. Writing the Perfect Pitch - Hart of Success Says:

    [...] that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! When I put up the first installment there was some great comments including that it could be harder to write how you introduce your [...]

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