- Article: “Writing Your Own Best-Selling Business Fable” by Suzanne Murray
- Tips for Authors: “5 Tips to Promote Your Business Book” by Corinne Liccketto
--Thank you to everyone who signed up for Sandra Beckwith’s teleseminar, “9 Novel Ways to Promote Fiction,” in which Sandy Diaz presented. We appreciate your support and hope you enjoyed the great tips! Let us know if you’d like information on the topics covered in the teleseminar.
--Dan Smith, Smith Publicity founder & CEO, has co-authored his first business book, Business Mojo: Achieving Success Through Mystical Exploration, with his sister Judy. The Smith duo reveal to readers how to improve and enhance business skills by blending spirituality and New Age ideas with traditional business practices. For more information, visit: http://www.businesssuccessbook.com/.
--If you’re interested in having your book(s) displayed at the London Book Fair and/or BookExpo America this spring, please let us know. The deadlines are coming up quickly! (Deadlines: LBF – March 11 / BEA – April 29) For more information, please visit: http://www.smithpublicity.com/book-event-exposure/. We’ll be in touch later this month with more information.
Questions? Contact a representative of the Smith Publicity sales team:
Writing Your Own Best-Selling Business Fable
by Suzanne Murray, Managing Editor, StyleMatters Writing Services
Who Moved My Cheese? Our Iceberg Is Melting. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The classic fable format has been growing as a business-book genre since Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson first popularized the technique more than twenty years ago in their best-selling One-Minute Manager.
But turning your business knowledge into an instructive yet entertaining tale worthy of readers’ time and money takes practice, skill, and an ability to create a compelling and engaging story. Attempting this kind of book is not for the risk-averse, but its rewards can be tremendous. A book with a metaphor that resonates with a broad audience has true potential to “go viral.”
If you have a story to tell, this article is for you. Below are three critical rules I live by as I go through the process of developing a story. Those are followed by three pearls of wisdom for writing great stories from one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut.
1. Show, Don’t Tell
While nonfiction business and self-help books regularly tell the reader what to do and how to do it, business fables don’t have that luxury. The goal is to communicate wisdom through real-time action, character dialogue, sensory description, and plot development. So instead of telling the reader that Joe Smith hired Jane Doe for the job, describe how Joe extended his hand to Jane, gave a hearty handshake, and said, “Welcome to the team.” By using physical details and the nuances of how events unfold as symbols to convey meaning, you will be able to avoid directly telling the reader your business wisdom (a somewhat uninspiring prospect when one is hoping for a good read) and instead be able to show the reader through the way in which the story progresses and develops. This can be a far more engaging and entertaining mode of communication.
2. Be Mindful of Time
Many of the successful fables describe a tale that occurs over a relatively short period of time. To help you stay focused and keep plot development tighter, look for a storyline that plays out over a year, a few months, or even a day. You can carry this principle right down to the level of the chapter as well. Although there will be times when you may want to zip the reader quickly through an event to get to another event or place and time, use such techniques consciously, saving them for well-placed transitions. This will help to ensure that you share the play-by-play advancing action that is happening in a given scene and avoid simply telling the reader what happened (helping with #1 as well).
3. Less Is More
In nonfiction business (or self-help) writing, more tends to be better. After all, you don’t want to simply introduce a concept and then leave the reader hanging. But in fables—as in film—less really is more. Most readers are intelligent and perceptive. Give them a hint, a symbol, a metaphor, or a short burst of powerful dialogue and they will catch your meaning and think you are clever in the process. Wax too philosophical or dwell too long on a particular symbol and the reader may feel like you are beating him or her over the head with the obvious.
Crafting a business fable that both engages and instructs is a delicate process. The trick is to take the reader through the journey of a very good story that “just happens” to convey wisdom in the process. (Think Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five.) In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, writer Kurt Vonnegut shares eight rules for writing fiction. Here are three of our favorite, which can help you continue to craft a business fable worthy of the best-sellers list.
Vonnegut’s Tip #3: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”
Conflict drives stories. So ask yourself, what is the main problem that drives your fable and how will it ultimately be resolved? No one wants to read a book about a person having a picnic on a clear-skied day. But give your character a challenge to overcome, and you’ve got something to keep your audience’s interest. Add rain, wind or hail—add ants or a swarm of bees—and then your main character has a challenge to beat, while your book’s audience has a reason to read on. Give your characters a conflict to overcome—even if it is finding a glass of water—and readers will have a reason to stay with your story.
Vonnegut’s Tip #2: “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”
Great stories have villains and foes, but your fable also needs a leading character that readers can root for. This will give your audience a reason to care and a reason to stay invested in your story. The conflict itself (à la the quest for a glass of water) will provide fodder for your readers to care and root for a character. But the conflict alone will not be enough; the character also needs to be likable in some way. Giving your lead character quirks and idiosyncrasies will make her more realistic and relatable. Your readers aren’t perfect and they don’t want the characters in the books they read to be perfect either. When crafting your business fable, find ways to make your main character likable but realistic.
Vonnegut’s Tip #4: “Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.”
As the fable’s creator, you may have a vision for every detail and every event in the story’s unfolding and back story. The more detail you have about your characters and the events that shape them, the richer your story can become. Yet, readers do not need you to spell out every single detail—only those that matter. Once you have written the first draft of your fable, go back and reread it. Is all of the material you included needed? If a sentence does not reveal something relevant about one of your characters or does not help the drama of the story progress, delete it or revise it so that it does. Readers will stay with your fable—and recommend it to others—if you make every sentence count.
Best of luck to you in this process! I welcome any questions or comments, so please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or give me a call – I’ll be happy to talk them through with you.
Suzanne Murray is the Managing Editor at SyleMatters Writing Services. StyleMatters Writing Services, LLC provides writing, marketing, research and publishing services for authors, companies and publishers. They create, develop and deliver blogs and Web content, books, social media strategies, market analysis, trade magazine articles and more. StyleMatters clients span the globe and include numerous consumer companies, such as Mint.com, content providers such as Dubai-based Zawya; publishers such as SHRM, Davies-Black Publishers and Jones & Bartlett Learning; and a wide range of universities including Columbia University, Harvard University and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. For more information about StyleMatters, please visit: www.style-matters.com
Tips for Authors: 5 Tips to Promote Your Business Book
by Corinne Liccketto, Sales & Marketing Manager, Smith Publicity, Inc.
The business book market is ever-growing and highly competitive. To be successful, you must know your product, flex your expertise muscles, and keep your book relevant.
1. Start promoting to your niche business market first: Have you written a finance book? Start by promoting your book to finance media. Is your book a ‘how to’ for small businesses? Begin by pitching your book to small business interest media. The key to publicity is to build awareness in your niche market before you target mainstream media. By contacting media specific to your business genre, you’ll establish recognition among the groups that matter most. Once the ‘buzz’ sets in, then you can test out the waters in the mainstream business market.
2. Write by-line articles: Write what you know! Your by-line articles should be an extension of your expertise and your book. Each main point in your book can be a topic for an article. Another ideal source for by line articles comes from tracking industry news. Writing and pitching articles that tie in to current business events will help brand you as the ‘expert’ in your field and keep your book timely since publicity for you will encourage publicity for your title. If you’re ever struggling to think of article topics, go back to your table of contents and extract the main idea of each chapter. Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning to get a fresh start!
3. Monitor the news: By tracking industry news trends, you’ll be able to respond more quickly to ongoing business developments. With news – and with business – it’s important to have the edge and staying on top of ongoing trends allows you to position yourself for interview and commentary opportunities before your peers.
Tip: Set up Google Alerts for key phrases in your industry. You’ll be quickly notified of breaking news and can pitch your media contacts to offer insight into appropriate issues and trends.
4. Make your own news. Some of our best material to pitch comes from business authors who created their own surveys, statistics, or identified trends in their industry. Your information and your results become “news” and when it is covered in an interview, article, feature story, you are continuing to build your brand and name as a thought-leader.
5. Set up speaking engagements: There are a few business-oriented groups that provide business professionals with great places to network and grow their brand.
- Register your company with your local Better Business Bureau: An organization founded on “advancing marketplace trust,” your local BBB will introduce you to other organizations within your industry. You may contact these organizations and offer to hold a presentation about a topic in your book.*Don’t plug your book during the presentation but do let your audience know that they can learn more about the topic in your book before you close. For information about your local BBB, visit: http://www.bbb.org/.
- Join the National Speakers Association: Membership to the National Speakers Association (NSA) allows you to expand your client list service and reach a wider audience through your message all while generating awareness about your book. Their annual convention is a great place to network! Believe us, we’ve been there. For more information about NSA, visit: http://www.nsaspeaker.org/.
- Now that you’re starting to present, make sure your speaking practices are top notch with Toastmasters International: “is a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.” For more information about Toastmasters, visit: http://www.toastmasters.org/.
About Smith Publicity Beginning in 1997, Smith Publicity has evolved from a one-person operation run from a bedroom office to one of the leading promotional firms in the industry. Fueled by a passion for making good things happen for clients, we’ve worked with over 1,000 individuals and companies—from authors and entrepreneurs to publicly-held companies and business— representing a wide range of industries.
The Smith Publicity reach is international; we’ve effectively worked with clients throughout the United States, Canada, the U.K., and from Australia to Israel and Malta. We have offices in New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles and London.
While our expansion from boutique publicity agency to a multi-faceted public relations firm has greatly expanded the breadth of our services, the fundamental driving force behind everything we do is superior presentation, promotion, and positioning of our clients. Our refrain, “make good things happen for clients,” has propelled Smith Publicity from just another agency to a premier promotional firm offering outstanding, cost-effective service with unparalleled customer attention.
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