It was last night when my fiance felt like just cuddling in bed with the dogs while I stay up on the computer. She decided to turn on The Wolf of Wall Street of all things, a movie I made a point to ignore. But I could not help but overhear the dialogue and antics coming from the other room which piqued my interest at some points.
While the movie itself is a true story with a Looney Tunes vibe, some parts grabbed my attention in which are analogous. One such part was the end when the Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Jordan Belfort, renown for abusing the stock market, selling out his comrades and serving time in jail only to become a presenter at seminars on selling. It’s this scene where he goes up to multiple audience members with a pen in hand and asks one at a time to sell that pen to him, all ultimately failing to do so as the movie fades out.
It’s this scene that really resonated with me – just how does one sell someone their own pen back to them?
I thought about it all day today and my own points in making the sale. As an aspiring writer, it is my task to sell my story to an audience, to captivate them and give motivation to have them keep turning the pages to the end of the book.
So how would I sell the pen? Well, at first I wanted to use the cliché of “the pen being mightier than the sword” and empower the person. It would go something like this:
“Why is that phrase true? Simple – a sword is designed for one thing which is killing someone. A pen could do just the same by either stabbing someone in the eye or throat, or sign a decree that issues a death sentence making others do the dirty work for you. A pen could do just the opposite in saving that same person with a pardon. So why this pen though? You could go get a cheap 8-pack from your local grocery store where you have copies among copies of the same boring pen – or you could have this pen, YOUR pen. Your pen in which you are about to craft the world around you by signing checks, leases, contracts; all these things which establish ownership to an individual. Would you want a cheap pen to do that, or your pen, this nicely crafted pen in which your are subconsciously reluctant to lone out when someone asks for it. This pen, that when wielded from your pocket, strikes either fear or encouragement into others where you give them your signature and make life happen – wouldn’t you want that pen to be recognized as your pen?”
Of course, after doing some further research on Jordan Belfort, he would advise to not take the route I did. Jordan compels a salesman to not “shove pens down your customer’s throat.” Instead, he encourages the seller to ask questions like “so how long have you been in the market for a pen?” or “what are you looking for in a pen?” By doing this, the seller is engaging the customer and making it about them and what they want.
These questions are gold, especially for writers. How can someone, especially in the self-publising area, apply these questions to their audience when one is already “shoving” a story down their throat?
I may not have the exact answer, but I will speculate. As I have come into contact with other newbie novelists, I keep seeing the same soliciting of their audiences with “read my book and then leave a review” or “the best Christmas gift you can give an author is a review of their book.”
I have been told by professionals in the publishing industry that reviews are only good for two things – writing an excellent five star review showing how much a product has changed their life, and writing a distasteful one star (if they could give less) review. Customers and readers want to be heard, they want to feel like they have a say in the matter without bias and coercion. And with self-publising, review systems with mediums like a two, three and even four star option is becoming inconsequential towards what really rates and makes a book, and people will not take that into consideration of buying it.
So what is the author’s job then? Sell the book, or sell the reason to read it in the first place? If you’ve guess the latter, then you have the right idea, but it doesn’t stop at just that. An author needs to sell the idea that their world is REAL. An author needs to sell the idea on why I or anyone else should care about a character and their adventures, emotions, and ambitions. An author needs to sell the next page…and beyond.
I’ll admit, I’m a terrible salesman. I have tried many times, but the artist in me always takes precedence. So just how the hell am I supposed to sell my stories then if one does not like fantasy or sci-fi for which I write? Well, I refrain from selling the whole genre in the first place. I would rather say “it is a tale of someone growing up in a hopeless world around them, and learning how to overcome the very intimidation of that through friendship and friendship alone. With others, we gain confidence because it takes one to know thyself, objectively as well as introspectively.” I sell them the humanity of it first as we all have friends who have helped us through the dark times of life. I’ll tell them the genre of it later if it piques their interest. But if they are not interested in reading at all, then I will just move on to someone who does.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go re-write some chapters.