Monday, August 28, 2017

Learning From Shark Tank

I fully admit it! Watching Shark Tank is a guilty pleasure of mine. No, I don't DVR the show, but if it is on, I love to swing by and watch these people up there pitching their products. What I find most appealing is how these people try to convince the Sharks as well as, listening to the reasons they end up with their decisions. I bring this up today, because I think it is important for authors to spend some time watching episodes of this show. Through this, they might be able to finally realize why everyone has passed on their project.

I watched one just a couple of days ago and there were several rejects that stood out as analogous to the things I see authors doing.

One guy had, what seemed to be, a lot going for him. Great back story! Great enthusiasm! Great product! And yet, he almost lost it, and frankly, I seriously doubt even the sharks will save him. He had several problems.

First of all, when he pitched his product, he spent all of his time talking about his personal growth story. He spent the time talking about the people he was helping through his work. He only spent a little bit of time talking about the product. So, what was wrong with that?

I see authors do this all of the time when pitching a story to me, either face to face, or through a query. If you are not showing us your story and showing why your story is the most amazing thing out there, you are missing the point. A frequent mistake I see in a query is the author spending over the first third of the query telling me all of the other stories their project is like (but never being specific). Then the spend a small paragraph giving me a back-cover blurb that really doesn't give me a sense of the character, the plot of the story. Then, the spend another large block of time telling me how they got into writing, the books they read and why their debut novel was a "labor of love." Mistake! Tell me about the story.

Now, here is where the guy on Shark Tank made another mistake. He had not done his research. He didn't know how the product would get made. He did not know how it would be distributed. And, what is worse, he had only made a total of $200 in sales.

For authors, we see the same thing. Authors write a story and immediately start shipping it out to agents and editors and not having a clue about the industry. I don't care what approach you want to take with publishing. you have to understand the business you are entering.

On a second level, there are a lot of authors who have been selling their stories independently, or simply getting feedback from others on their books, and tell editors and agents that a ton of people like their project. A Lot means more than just your extended family. Fantastic reviews mean much more than just your friends on Amazon and Good Reads. Show us objective review. Show us sales of 50K or more.

On that same show, their was another person pitching to the Sharks who had a pretty good product. The problem is that their product was not as big as they projected it to be. Look, you can be enthusiastic about your product, or a story for writers, but know the true potential of your story. Don't think your story is bigger than it really is. I am sorry to say this, but your novella is not likely going to be a movie that hits the big screen.

This same person on Shark Tank made another huge mistake. She argued with the Sharks. You can be persuasive. But remember you are coming to the editors and agents because you believe they can help you and you need their expertise. Telling them they are wrong is not a good political or professional move.

Take a look at the show Watch it and listen. But when you watch it, don't get hung up on the people or the products. Listen to the arguments and the pitches. Now go and think about your query letters and your pitches. Think about the books you have pitched and gotten no where with. Think about your critique partners who also may have gotten less than favorable responses. Do not think about the story or the catchy things in their story. Listen to the words. You may be find what you have been missing.

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