7 things authors can learn from watching the Oscars
Perhaps you were one of the tens of millions who tuned in to watch Hollywood’s biggest night — the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Oscar parties aren’t just for the Hollywood elite; some average folks do it up big, with red carpet events, replete with voting and awards for most correct guesses. Whether you attended a private Oscar gala or watched from the comfort of your couch in an old pair of sweats, Savvy Book Marketers can take a few lessons from watching the Academy Awards.
- There’s no accounting for taste. My father used to repeat this phrase again and again, usually with the not-so-thinly veiled intention of letting me know he didn’t like what I was wearing, reading, writing, watching, etc. Well, I saw five of the nine films nominated for Best Picture and liked two of them, but even those didn’t seem strong enough to receive Best Picture nods. So it’s true. There is no accounting for why one person loves a movie — or a book — and another hates it. That’s great news for authors, because it means there’s probably an audience for your book somewhere. If you’re writing a business book, it might help to know what the audience wants first. If you’re writing fiction, you may have to go out and find your audience. Either way, your audience is out there waiting for you to connect with them.
- The best nominee doesn’t always win. A friend of mine feels Viola Davis was robbed last night. That’s not mine to say. Sometimes, the Academy coalesces around an actor you don’t think deserves to win. The same can be true of books. Ever wonder why a certain middling writer becomes popular? (A) They’re in the right place at the right time. (B) It’s who they know. (C) A little luck goes a long way. (D) All of the above. Create your own luck by leveraging all or your resources to position yourself to your own best advantage.
- You’re never too old. With nearly 200 acting credits to his name — some of them truly outstanding performances — one would have thought Christopher Plummer might have won an Oscar before now. Not only did it take till this year for him to earn the honor of oldest Oscar winner ever at age 82, but he was not even nominated until 2009. If you’ve been telling yourself you can’t write this book because you’re too old, throw that excuse out the window. Age is just a number, and it has no impact on your ability to write, publish, market, and sell a great book.
- Don’t do it for the glory. With 17 Oscar nominations, Meryl Streep was lauded last night as the actor with the most nominations of all time. Yet it was 30 years between last night’s win for her role in The Iron Lady and her prior win for Sophie’s Choice. But who would argue that she has made anything but amazing films in those last 30 years? While it may be true that it’s just an honor to be nominated, had she been motivated by the glory alone, she might have given up a long time ago. If you write with passion, your audience will feel that passion and connect with you much better than if you write for the paycheck or the glory.
- Make it long enough, but no longer. Did you notice that the awards program ended at 9:38 last night? Yes, they’ve shortened things up a bit by having one presenter hand out multiple awards, but this show felt uncharacteristically short. Additionally, I saw only one winner go over time with their acceptance speech. One of the first questions new authors often ask me is “How long should my book be?” Like the Academy Awards, it should be long enough, but no longer. Of course, if it’s 50 pages, it’s more like a booklet than a book, but there’s a new trend toward short works, so that may be a good thing. Write long enough to thoroughly cover your topic — then stop.
- Hire an entertaining host for your event. What would the Oscars be without the host? A circus with no ringmaster, essentially. But as we saw last year, the experience and skill of the host makes a big difference. Fame and beauty aren’t enough to carry the job. Having a host for your book launch event enables you to be fully present without worrying over all the details. You’re there to read, talk, answer questions, and sign books. You don’t have to greet the guests, serve the food, coordinate the seating, or bother about any of those details. Whether it’s one helper or a team, get others involved in your book launch.
- Rehearse your speech ahead of time. After watching about a half-dozen people fumble through their acceptance speeches, my husband turned to me and asked, “If you knew you were nominated, wouldn’t you prepare a few words, just in case you won?” Yes. Yes I would. And authors, you never know who you’re going to meet, so make sure you’ve rehearsed a brief description of your book well enough that when the time comes, you can say it without fumbling or going on and on till the other person walks away out of boredom. Rehearse your book pitch till it rolls off your tongue fluidly!
Happy movie watching!
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