A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Help Lightning Strike Twice

Once something magical happened to us--some incredible blessed-by-the-gods stroke of luck. And we spend our lives waiting for it to return. There's little that we wouldn't do to see it one more time. How we wait...and we wait...and we wait.


The time I've returned to again and again: 1988. A year of glory and heartache: I had a literary agent, my first book was in print--but I couldn't find it anywhere. My publisher, I learned, had failed to list it in their catalogue. I knew who would take the hit if I had zero sales. But lightning struck. I'd joined one writers' group and had their newest mailing list. I was widely read in my genre and started ticking off the names of those I would approach. Next, I and my agent worked on obtaining free copies of my novel from the publisher. They complied because they owed me. What next?

From there, the pieces all fell into place as I heeded both instincts and logic:
--I had a hardcover novel with a first-rate cover, a story of a stolen custom-tailored suit. Though the gift of a paperback book's no big thing, I thought my book might be well-received: a hardcover horror novel sent out to horror writers.
--Better yet, I could gift wrap each copy, including a personalized note.
--Also, I'd only approach writers who'd work I had read. And instead asking for favors, I'd the book as an expression of thanks for the pleasure their work had brought me.

Well, the gifts were well-received and the book was nominated for an award...which it went on to receive.


Now, here I am all these years later, wondering if lightning can strike twice.


Common sense tells me that it can't strike in the same way. I'm no longer a first-time novelist and won't pretend I am. For now I'm publishing original ebooks, which don't translate to my ancient strategy. And, sad to say, I've put on a few years. So looking back on the opening quote, the same place simply isn't here for lightning to strike twice in.


If I turn my focus from blessings that I can't repeat to new blessings I possess, I see ways to encourage the return of that groovy old lightning. I'm doing better work today and I've built a considerable body of work since my traditional publishing luck headed south. Furthermore, if I can't repeat my strategy, I'm free to draw on the principles behind it:
--Have a gift I can send that is cool in itself--and totally appropriate to the book, or books, in mind.
--Make the packaging striking, memorable--and equally appropriate.
--There must be no strings attached--not the tiniest whiff of 'I'm sending you this in exchange for or with hopes of a review, an awards vote or a date your daughter or sister.
--The goal should be both pure and simple: introduce myself to those whose books or reviews or service I enjoy. Regardless of their reaction, I have high hopes that the gift is enjoyed.

Now, I'm not giving the store away as far as far as the particulars of the gift this time around...or the ingenious packaging...or my mailing list. But in the end I've offered something far more valuables: a short list of working principles to try out in your own campaigns.

1) Don't ask for favors from strangers who are already under siege.
2) Let your introduction in itself be a memorable gift, without strings.
3) Ground your approach in your own reality. Once upon a time I had a hardcover novel...now I have a series of ebooks. Different hooks for different books.
4) Whatever else you do, project this aura: I'm looking at you.

This is my report.

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