How to write a business bio

Or not. Here’s what professional copywriters will tell you. There are two steps to writing your business bio:

  • provide an overview of your skills and experience.
  • include related or interesting facts to punctuate your credentials.

Pretty simple, right. Wrong. Why is it so difficult to write in third-person? About yourself? (And I need send this to the publicist later today.) So, I wrote a first draft. It works. It’s short. Simple. To the point. But something is missing. So, I searched a couple web sites for help. Here’s a few basic principles I gleaned from Terje Johansen:  [1]

  • write in third person
  • list facts, not wishes
  • cite relevant experiences
  • belong somewhere
  • write tight
  • add a hook

Here’s a few things to add to that list:

  • audience
  • storytelling
  • social media

The business bio I’m writing is to be placed on a publishing house’s web site. So that audience will be authors and readers. A dash of storytelling to the bio helps readers remember who you are because of the narrative you share. And be sure to include your LinkedIn info. Here’s what I plan to send to the publicist:

Matthew Mulder began his career in a quiet Wisconsin studio of a calligrapher where he learned a hands-on approach to color, design, typography and the ancient art of Celtic knots. As creative director, he brings more than sixteen years of experience to the art department and provides creative, strategic solutions to the publishing business. After-hours, Matthew is a culture-maker in the literary community of Asheville, North Carolina where he is invited to present his work to audiences at bookstores, cafés, and fine art centers. His published work appears in such literary journals as Crab Creek Review, H_NGM_N, Small Press Review and others. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mxmulder or LinkedIn.

What do you think?

NOTES: [1] Terje Johansen provides the basics of writing a business bio . Here’s a couple other resources: 16 questions to help you write a douche-free bio and A Great Professional Bio.

Three ways for authors to promote their new book

This is obvious, but essential. Connecting with a local bookseller is vital to promoting your book. Most booksellers see your book title listed in their wholesale catalogs. All you need to do is remind them it’s there and then see if they’ll host an event. Be sure to contact the bookstore’s event coordinator, not the store’s book buyer. The PR  & Events Coordinator schedules store events like readings and book signings and is the best point of contact for a newly published author.

Consider non-bookstore venues. Schools, public libraries, or other venues may have suitable audiences for your book title. Don’t just assume that your audience only buys books at Barnes & Noble. Libraries are great places to read. I’ve read in various locations including a tavern, café, ballroom, art studio, church and several other places. One author I know had a reading at a chocolate shop. Be creative with your events.

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are great tools to promote your book. If you don’t have an account, you’re already behind. Be authentic and approachable on these sites. If you sound like you’re a pushy salesperson, you’ll lose your audience. Share with your social media audience the same way you approach your book reading audience. Make converts from social media followers to book buyers.

Advice to authors regarding indie bookstores and Amazon.com

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) offers advice to authors seeking to work with indie books stores:

  • Know the Marketplace
  • Know Who And How To Contact
  • Know the Terms (i.e. your business arrangement with the bookstore)
  • Don’t shoot yourself in the foot (avoid mentioning that you book is available on Amazon.com)

This is good advice for authors when working with indie booksellers. The operative words are “with indie booksellers.” Truth be told, the majority of the sales for books I’ve helped publish come from Amazon.com. The reason for this, I suspect, is that Amazon.com is where the masses go to buy books.

Know that I am a big supporter of indie bookstores. But I’m also practical and know that indie bookstores attract a niche audience of readers. Some book titles do better at indie bookstores than others. For example, if you’re a local writer with a book on regional hiking trails or you’re a local poet with a book, you may do better at an indie store than on Amazon.com. That being said, Amazon offers a 45/55 terms of sale (a smidge better than indie stores offering a 40/60 terms of sales). That may not seem like much, but if you’re a small publisher, that 5% difference may cover cost of shipping products to bookstores which directly impacts breakeven numbers for book titles.

As an author (or small press publisher), know that you have sales options. And avoid mentioning Amazon.com when working with indie booksellers — it gives them ulcers.

Link: How To Market Your Book to Independent Bookstores

Interview: Seth Godin on How Often to Post to Your Blog

From AdAge.com:

Seth Godin: My goals in blogging are:

  1. To spread ideas
  2. To put my ideas out there and get them out of the way of the next idea
  3. To encourage people to add alacrity to their diet

I find that I have about six bloggable ideas a day. I also find that writing twice as long a post doesn’t increase communication, it usually decreases it. And finally, I found that people get antsy if there are unread posts in their queue.

Hence, the compromise on daily.

Link

You’re kidding, right? Magazine ad sales increase?

Ad pages in the monthly magazines’ January through September issues had fallen 7.4% from 2007, according to Media Industry Newsletter. The first nine months of 2007, by comparison, slipped only 1% from 2006. Before that, we’d seen a few years of gains.

Okay, so maybe it is not all bad.

The Economist… presented a crisp example of excellence in editorial, ad sales, circulation and marketing. Women’s Health continued its ascent…. Every Day With Rachael Ray even reversed the newsstand decline of first-half 2007.

Some Bright Spots in a Gloomy Year for Magazines

Targeting your book’s demographic? Or manufacturing your book’s audience?

Positioning one’s book in an already cluttered publishing arena is essential. Niching-down is another way of targeting a reader audience. Consider horror novels with all the sub genres: macabre, goth, post-apocalyptic, mystery, Victorian, etc. Authors and agents understand that before a manuscript is finished it needs to fit a market. Genre-defying books tend to be a challenge to position and are often avoided by major publishers. Is it a mystery or romance or high literature?

Cory Doctorow appears to either be a happy capitalist or a guerrilla marketeer by taking advantage of his online prominence (secure, soft market) and publishing leverage (200-copy give-aways are not cheap if one considers obscene postal rates) to penetrate a teen reader market.

“Since this book is intended for high-school-age kids, my publisher has agreed to send 200 advance review copies of the book to school newspaper reviewers, along with the same press-kit… (actually, the school kit has even more stuff — it also includes a signed personal letter explaining why I wrote this book and why I hope kids will read it).” (via Boing Boing) Link

Strategically this is a smart move—even for smaller, independent publishers. The best marketing device is the actual product. However, I wonder if offering a free downloadable preview—or entire book—would be more effective. Why bother with book reviewers? The actually end-user, the reader, is the one who will purchase the product—not the high school book reviewer.