Asking for the Sale

 May 17, 2015

 Big news: I got a new job.

You probably didn't know I had the first job. Last we talked, I was still in school, wasn't I? Or applying to grad school? But yes, I worked. And now I work somewhere else. I'm still applying to grad school, of course. I just happen to sell radio advertising now as well.

Say what? Radio advertising? Why would I do such a thing - it doesn't seem like me at all!

Radio advertising is actually a lot of fun. I get to talk to great people, eat lunch out all the time, and write ads. Ads are fun to write, and work a lot like free writing for me. They clear my mind from my current WIP and get the creative juices flowing. Despite the fact it is my job, there is less pressure writing a 30 or 15 second advertisement than writing a 50,60, or 70 thousand word novel.

My new boss told me the hardest part of selling advertising isn't the writing, or the talking to people. It is actually asking for the sale. Very few people, apparently, are willing to not only describe their product but also ask someone else to accept it.

Now, my whole life isn't work. I come home and write, and now I need someone to read what I've written. Betas are both the most important people you could ever ask for and the hardest person to sell to. Now that the need for betas seems to be skyrocketing (and what's up with that?), finding someone available is more than difficult. Which means finding someone available who is interested in your book is even harder.

You don't just sell a book to publishers. Before that, you need to sell it to an agent. Before that, you need to sell it to a beta. And it is easy to fall into the trap of "post in forum xyz and writers a, b, and c will love it." That isn't true. And you can't brag about your work and be Zapp Brannigan to your beta's Leela. Life just doesn't work that way, as Zapp should have learned a loooong time ago.

There are a few things you can, and should, do:

First: Determine what you need. Is your book a YA? Do you need someone who likes longer novels, since yours is in the 250k region? Or maybe you wrote a book about bee keeping in the desert of an island no one has heard of and you need an expert on bees and deserts and islands.

 This also applies to what you want your beta to do. Do you need a beta who will tear apart your grammar, sentence structure, dialog, and even the entire plot where needed? Or do you prefer a quick read and a single-paragraph reply explaining how they generally felt? 

Second: Determine what the betas want. Okay, so you have a YA novel that is 250k words and is about bees in a desert on the island no one has ever heard of. Fabulous. Now you need to cross a lot of names off your list. Scratch off betas who don't like YA. Scratch off betas who want short work. Scratch off betas who only read sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, or romance, or "insert genre here." Who do you have left? YA, long work, literary-ish betas who love fiction because it is art and want to be swept away into a world of hot sands and buzzing insect wings.

Maybe you can't find a perfect beta. Maybe they don't exist. Now you have another problem, and that is if you've written a book with too small a potential audience. I'm not going to get into that, but be aware that this is possible. Less likely with fiction if its written well, but definitely possible.

Let's say you DO have the right beta in mind. You don't know them but you've seen some of their writing online. You've read some of their posts on that forum where they talk about that writing stuff. You think they are trustworthy, and you even found that post where someone said they were a great beta! All is well! Now all you have to do is ask for the sale.

Tonight, folks, I did this. I found someone, and she had no clue who I was. I emailed her, and I pitched my book. I hit "send" and I prayed. What did I say in the email? I introduced myself, and told her where she could find me online. AW. My username is Rachel. My avatar is the happy cloud. You might have seen one of my 11,000+ posts. All of that is the first paragraph. The introduction.

Then follows the pitch. My novel is about a beekeeper in the desert on an island no one knows about. It is 250k words long. I think you'd love to follow the beekeeper on his journey through a sticky situation. I think it is right up your alley.

Yes, the sticky situation is honey. You guessed it. Vague puns.

But after the pitch comes the scary part. I'm thinking it took me longer to write the last line than the rest of the email. It is hard to ask for the sale. Anyone who has looked at a blank Word document and realized anything is possible knows that this beta could hit Reply and ruin my night. Putting my work out there is the most difficult thing I can do. But I did it. I asked if it was something that interested them, and if it was I asked that they let me know. I added a "Thank you!" and moved on.

Move on. It isn't the end of the world if they say no. There are other betas out there, or maybe this means you have time to let your work sit a while so you can focus on something else.

Maybe it means you have time to blog?

I hope you all can find the right beta, agent, and publisher for you and your work. I really do! And if not, I recommend we all eat mug brownies (recipe below or next page or something). I'm going to go to bed knowing I did a huge thing today. I asked for the sale. And even if I don't get it, at least I asked.

Love and hugs,