A Marketing Team reason for rejection

In the hit movie musical, Chicago, Queen Latifah plays Matron Mama Morton, a media-savvy, happily dishonest Warden at a women’s prison. As a way of welcoming new inmate, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), Mama sings a little melody that gives the basic rules for success within the walls of her prison. What it all boils down to is this: 

“When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you.”

Why is that important for you to know? Because, in the world of publishing, the role of Matron Mama Morton is played by my Marketing VP. (Well, except for that “happily dishonest” part). That person holds the keys that can set your book free from its unpublished prison and send it on to its rightful renown. The problem is that we authors most typically aren’t good to Mama. In fact, we view Mama with contempt, or irritation, or worse. 

For instance, when a book fails after publication, authors will almost always point a finger at the marketing department. “My book just wasn’t marketed the way it should have been,” we’ll shrug and say. “It never had a chance.” By the same token, when a book succeeds, we authors generously ignore the marketing team and soak up the credit for ourselves, assuming it was our writing skill and passion that was rewarded by an adoring marketplace. 

The truth is, professional success as an author depends equally on your ability to write and your ability to market your work. Ask just about any self-published writer. It takes much more than mere talent with words to make an impact with the book-buying public. It takes a proactive, productive partnership between editorial and marketing to be the driving force behind any significant sales success.

And marketers know that. What’s more, my marketing team is sick of being blamed (by you, by the sales department, by your editor) for failures—past, present, and future. They want to contribute to, and be credited for, making a book a successful publication.

And so the bottom line is this: If you can make yourself a valuable contributor to my Marketing VP’s success, you will be successful yourself. You’ll have transformed that generally negative person into one of your biggest allies in the decision-making process. 

Remember that the next time you want to publish a book. Be good to Mama, and she’ll be good to you.

What You Can Do About It

1. Make yourself indispensable to my Marketing VP. 

Marketing guru, and mega-bestselling author, Seth Godin says, “If you’re not indispensable (yet) it’s because you haven’t made that choice.”

Mr. Godin is right. If you’re not yet indispensable to the Marketing VP at my publishing house, it’s because you’ve chosen not to be. Over the last few dozen reasons for rejection in this book, I’ve given you a quick glimpse at what my VP needs to get her marketing team excited about making your book successful. I’ve shown you, pretty clearly, how to make that VP think you’re indispensable to her own personal success. 

Trouble is, most authors want to skip over the marketing requirements for publishing success. “That’s someone else’s job,” we tend to think—and sometimes even say out loud. Still, writers who are in the early stages of their careers simply don’t have the luxury of that kind of attitude. 

So make the choice to make yourself indispensable to my marketing team. No, it’s not easy. But if you do that, you’ll find you have a productive future in publishing after all.

2. See yourself as an ally of the marketing team. 

This is simply an attitude change on your part.

Look, my Marketing VP is already biased against you. She’s going to shine a spotlight on all your weaknesses and argue against taking any real risks with an unproven author.

So what? You can either fight that criticism and take whatever lumps make come in the process. Or you can picture yourself on the marketer’s team and make yourself an ally of my VP by creating something that she actually wants. Guess what? When you do that, she’ll shine her spotlight on all your strengths and become a vocal advocate of you and your book to all the other members of my publishing board.

And believe me, having a Marketing VP as an ally goes a long way toward publishing success, both before and after your book is contracted.

3. Be good to Mama.

Before you send anything to an editor, ask yourself, “What’s this editor’s Marketing VP going to ask about this proposal?” Seriously, go ahead and make a list of anticipated questions that will concern the marketing team about your book.

Next, figure out how to answer all those questions in ways that are “good to Mama”—that is, in ways that show the Marketing VP you’re doing the best you can to make the marketing team’s job both easier and more successful. 

This may take some thought on your part, and some questions may strike you as impossible to answer. But if you can think of the questions, you can bet your editor’s Marketing VP is going to ask them. So tackle them head on, and be that rare author who actually makes Mama happy with a new book proposal.

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