Sure, we could have picked out some other words, but this one is far more important than the rest. If you (and your book) are not kenspeckle, you will not sell one copy.
Kenspeckle: \ˈken-ˌspe-kəl\ conspicuous, distinctive, easily recognized.
You and your book want to be all of those things.
In a world where we are known frequently by our associations, it is easy to take You write like _______ as a compliment. Do, however, only to the extent you want to be associated with _______.
What are the given names of the last three celebrity impersonators you saw?”
The problem with being like someone else is multifaceted.
First, you will be held to the standard of the author to whom you are compared. Someone tells you your writing is like Dean Koontz, over time they are going to wonder why you have not been churning out books and selling millions of copies.
Second, you fall prey to the same criticism, even if it is undeserved. Having your poetry likened to Mary Oliver is likely to get you put on poetry readers’ repetitive memes list, even if you only market your poetry once per week and never do interviews.
Third, deviation is not a considered option. When your reputation is built on the fact you can emulate a popular author, developing your true style (or actually releasing your independent work) turns away groupie fans who only bought your books based on your ability to be a surrogate to their favorite writers.
In the end, being inextricably linked to another author means you fall into the vast morass of impersonators whose sole claim to fame is the ability to emulate someone of genuine acclaim.
While the list of best-selling authors whose style you do not want to emulate grows exponentially, one credit each deserves is they are easily recognizable. Whether it is simile-laden, meandering sentences or painstaking pounding of pretentious peculiarities, they each have a trait you recognize even on ripped books.
Developing a truly original style is difficult given the enormous number of preceding authors. It is possible to stand your ground on plausible idiosyncrasies. Choosing one which is a component of good literature is the safest gamble:
- In depth character development
- Uncluttered language
- Disguising the divining of minutia
- Masking scathing social commentary with humor
- Weaving a smooth fabric of an entertaining story
Unmasked. Obvious. Noticeable. Prominent. Outstanding. Attention-grabbing. You want this, no? Sure you do. All authors do. No one writes to be at the bottom of the list, be it genre, new release or talent.
Being conspicuous is not as much of a Catch-22 as you may imagine. It does require having the answers to some specific questions:
- Who should read your book?
- What does it offer them others do not?
- What is the primary function of your book?
- Is your pricing on par with the competition?
- What evidence do you have?
The last question seems like you need someone else to give you these answers. You do not.
1. You chose your audience. You catered the point of view to them. You delivered in language befitting their education level and life experience. Answer the question.
2. There are more than 130 million books. Chances are good you have not read them all. However, knowing the contents of your direct competition is a good idea. The piece of information you have no one else pressed is your hook for readers who would pass on your book because they read the competition first.
3. If the primary reason you wrote your book was to get it out of your head, you are fighting an uphill battle. Does your book provide for social awareness, offer discovery of a little known situation or fact, ease stress with humor or entertainment, enlighten your audience to a new path to the enjoyment of literature, challenge readers to think independently, …? Something?
4. The Mine Principle will convince you your book is priceless. Be reasonable. The book-buying public is frankly uninterested in your personal investment in your book and extremely interested in getting a demonstrable value for their purchase price.
If you book’s advantage over the competition is kenspeckle, buyers will purchase to get only the aspects where you exceed the competition even when they had been convinced the competition would satisfy their needs.
5. Would you walk into a stock broker’s office and ask for $50,000 worth of shares in the ACME Buggy Whip company? Why would you invest $50,000 worth of hours into writing a book having no idea if it is a redundancy which will never sell?
- Be distinct from the celebrities.
- Be easily recognized for your style and authority.
- Make your book the conspicuous choice for readers.
What makes your book kenspeckle? How do you break away from insistence you write like someone else?
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