Book Review:  “Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets” by James Russel

 

I really should have reviewed this book earlier.  When I attended USC Cinema/Television we spent a lot of time on screenwriting, but not a lot of time on how to sell a script.  Then, years later, when I picked up the keyboard again, I needed to know what to do to sell my finished work.  Fortunately, I found this book on Amazon.com.

The book starts out with the basics.  Story structure, plot, character development.  These are all things that you should really know before you even try to sell a script, but it’s a good review for anyone who’s been away from writing for a while.  It then goes on to the basics of format – and the importance of format.  Never underestimate the importance of format.  Throughout the book there is an emphasis on professionalism.  If you don’t look professional, you work won’t be taken seriously.  Format is one of the key factors of that.

The book then goes into how to write a query letter.  This was the most important part of the book for me.  A qerye letter is the letter you write to an agent to try to get them to represent your work.  As I said in my last post, most production companies won’t even look at your work if it doesn’t come through an agent.

There is an art to writing an effective query letter, just like there is to writing a good screenplay.  You introduce yourself, you have your log line, and you include any credits you may have like education, awards you’ve won or work you’ve sold.  That’s it.  If they like your letter, they will ask to see your script.  Two agents did ask to see my Christmas screenplay.  And thought they didn’t decide to represent it, my screenplay is in the hands of two professional agents.

The author even goes into how to assemble your package.  What order things go in, what size envelopes to use, even what kind of stamp goes on the envelope.  Yes, even the stamp on the envelope.  Agents get hundreds of query letter a week.  They are looking for any way to cut down their workload.  If you have some goofy looking stamp (like Goofy or some other cartoon character) they will think you are not serious about writing.  Only a “Freedom” or other serious stamp will do.  Again, everything has to look professional.

The author ends the book with a list of agents that will look at your work if you mention that you have read this book.  To them, reading the book shows that you are serious.  This list alone is worth the price of the book.  Be warned, some of the agents have either moved or gone out of business, so you will get some of your letters back.  It’s still worth it.

This is the book I recommend most to anyone who is ready to sell his work.

Book Review: “How to Blog a Book” by Nina Amir

This book is really geared for those writing nonfiction.  If you are writing on a nonfiction topic, this book should be a great help to you.  The premise is that if you want to write a self-help, how-to or other informational type book, why not do it as a blog?  There are several benefits to this.  It forces you to discipline yourself to write on you topic every day or every other day, depending on what schedule you want to set up for yourself.  Even if you blog just three times a day, by the end of a year, you will have enough material for a book.  And in the processes, you will build and a following.  This following becomes you author base.  I had never heard of an author base before I heard Nina Amir talk about it at a GLAWS Writer’s Conference.  An author base is your followers, people who know who you are and see you as an expert on your field.  This is important to build because when it’s time to seek an agent or a publisher, these are people who are seen as potential buyers for your book.  To a publisher, it means you are not an unknown.

Throughout the book, Amir takes you through the basics of blogging a book, developing a business plan, creating your blog, driving traffic to your blog, and what to do when you have finished your blogged book.  At the end she includes Blog-to-Book success stories.  It’s interesting to note that some authors started a blog with the intention of turning it into a book, while other didn’t, but publishers found them on the internet and offered them a book deal.  It can work both ways.

As a writer of fiction (particularly steampunk) I still found this book useful.  I want to build an author base so that a publisher will be more willing to take a chance on me.  In fact, a lot of strategy that went into making this blog came from this book.  It’s also encouraging to know that How to Blog a Book started as a blog.  http://howtoblogabook.com/   And thought the book has already been published, she continues to post new tips and advice.