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These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the
April 11, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Taking the Horror Out of Selling Fiction
After five years of work, Brian Keene is ready
to devote himself full time to horror. "Ghosts and werewolves
were my love since I was a kid," he says. Now a marketer for a
credit card company by day, and a writer by night, Keene has just
given the two-week notice that will free him to take his writing to
the next level.
Keene speaks to the Garden State Horror Writers on "Guerrilla
marketing for writers," on Saturday, April 14, at 11 a.m. at the
Monmouth County Library in Manalapan. Free. Call 609-443-3438.
At one point in his life, Keene, a Baltimore resident who drifted
into sales after a four-year hitch in the Navy, thought he was
to be "cursed forever as a traveling salesman, going from job
to job." His routine was eight or nine hours of selling, followed
by long writing sessions every night and every weekend. "I only
sleep four or five hours a night," he says.
The fruits of his labor include a book, "No Rest for the
which will hit bookstores in May, stories that appear on CD-ROM horror
anthologies, audio books, a website (www.briankeene.com), numerous
stories and articles in print publications, and contributions to
As Keene worked on his writing technique at night, he came to realize
that he was honing equally important skills at his day job. "Any
writer can sit down and write a story," he says. "The trick
comes in selling the story." Succeeding at writing, Keene is
is "only 50 percent talent." The rest is skillful — and
relentless — self-promotion. Keene devotes two hours a day, every
day, to marketing. He shares some of the strategies that got him to
the point where he can depend solely on writing income:
card, printed with the author’s name, the name of his book, and
its ISBN number, can drive sales. "I go into Borders and put my
card in every best seller there," says Keene, who cheerfully
to being tossed from the stores upon occasion. He knows this technique
works because a number of his fan letters come from readers who tell
him they were reading another author’s book, saw his card, and bought
his book. He says a friend of his, a webzine publisher, went from
a paltry audience to a top 10 ratings in his Internet niche, horror
fiction, within one year by dropping business cards absolutely
Movies are an especially productive venue for business card seeding.
"I would hit the theaters for movies like Hannibal," Keene
says. "Put business cards on every seat." This technique,
he says, "exposes you to other than the hardcore fans."
in, say, romance, or Medieval history, or dog breeding, might not
reap much benefit from placing business cards at a Hannibal screening,
but could be on the lookout for films their target audience would
build recognition, and writers should not limit themselves to
their work only at bookstores. Keene has held readings at Halloween
"spook nights," in comic book stores, at shopping centers.
"Look for an opportunity outside of the ordinary," he says.
While he has not yet done this himself, he suggests that a horror
reading held at midnight in the Pine Barrens would draw an audience.
of newspapers, magazines, radio stations, cable networks, and Internet
sites know he is available to comment on all things horror-related.
"When Stephen King was in the accident, the local paper called
me," he says. "I had only met him once, but they quoted me
as `local author’." The trick here, he says, is to let the news
outlets know that you are not just seeking coverage for your latest
book, but rather are happy to give your time to speak on any
within your genre or area of expertise.
Keene devoted lots of time to working without pay to build up his
name recognition. "For one year, I was associate editor of the
Masters of Terror website," he gives as one example. "I
16 hours a week, and made no money, but I reaped 20 times what I put
in." The website became the "number one horror webzine out
there," he says, and its visitors saw his name, and bought his
Keene says, "to compile a database of people who will buy your
work." He now regularly sends press releases to 425 people. Some
are press contacts and others are fans, whose E-mail addresses he
adds to the database as soon as they write saying they enjoyed a
Still others are editors who have rejected his work. He says the fact
that he promotes his own work has earned him a second look by editors.
He believes they like the idea that if they publish him, his releases
may build traffic for their publications or websites.
days, writers don’t expect just to write," he says. For many,
it’s either get a day job, or learn to be a publicist as well as a
Ozana Castellano describes herself as an "ESL
She and her family arrived on Long Island speaking Croatian and
not one word of English," when she was 11 years old. Within six
months, she had learned how to communicate in her new language so
well that "no one could tell I wasn’t born here." Now
has found her dream job, training employees of area corporations how
to succeed in their careers by mastering the language of business
Castellano teaches a six-session course on "Communicating with
Power and Style" beginning on Monday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at
County Community College. Cost: $128. Call 609-586-9446. She also
speaks on the subject on Thursday, April 19, at 6:15 p.m. at a free
meeting of the Association of Women in Science at Wyeth-Ayerst in
Monmouth Junction (732-274-4607); and on Friday, April 27, at 8:15
a.m. at the Princeton Hyatt for Administrative Professionals Day,
co-sponsored by Mercer County Community College, among others. Cost:
$129. Call 609-586-9446.
A graduate of Hofstra University, Castellano received an MBA from
St. John’s University, and began her career in retail management.
She then taught undergraduate business courses at Adelphi, and started
a career coaching business, through which she prepared clients for
job interviews and helped them write more than 1,500 resumes. Arriving
in New Jersey in 1997, she went to work for Mercer County Community
College, where she teaches in the business and communications
and in the Institute for Training and Development, and does corporate
training for the Center for Training and Development.
A West Windsor resident and the mother of two girls, one an eighth
grader and one a junior in high school, Castellano says her work at
MCCC is "the career of my life." It’s a perfect fit, she says,
both for her lifestyle and for her talents.
In her courses, Castellano tells students they need to use
to make people like them. "Likability, that’s the magic
she says. "When you have that you gain credibility." Then,
"even if you fumble, you’re forgiven." Here are her
for achieving that happy state:
can lie with words, but non-verbal cues give you away," says
who reports that 93 percent of meaning is derived from non-verbal
communication. "When verbal and non-verbal cues conflict, people
believe the non-verbal cues," she says.
You can say you’re dying to hear what the boss wants to say, "but
if your eyes stray to your watch, you’re saying `I’m not really
and I’m not listening’." Similarly, if you blink too much, you
will be perceived as a liar no matter how strongly you protest to
the contrary. "Nixon blinked excessively during the Watergate
hearings," Castellano says. "It’s normal to blink 10 to 20
times a minute. Nixon blinked 30 to 40 times."
While rapid blinking suggests you are toying with the truth,
your head or biting your lip leads listeners to believe you are not
confident. Ditto with wringing your hands.
time, look him right in the eye, offer a firm — but not too firm
— handshake, and include his name in a short greeting. In her
classes, Castellano has students practice a handshake. Few things
are as off-putting, she says, as a limp handshake. Some men taking
her courses confess to using a weak handshake with women. This is
no good, she says. The same solid, confident handshake should be
to everyone. But avoid a bone crusher, she says. It conveys your
to exert control.
is as sweet to a person’s ear as the sound of his own name,"
says. "Make sure you learn the name correctly, and repeat it right
away." In our multi-cultural society, this is not always easy,
but it is essential. Saying a name right after you first hear it is
the best way to start to memorize its pronunciation. Then use the
name many times during each conversation.
make you a star. Castellano has her classes name public figures who
are great communicators. Asked for her own opinion, she hesitates
not at all. "Bill Clinton," she says. "His magic bullet
is that he can be in a crowd of 100 and make each person feel he is
his favorite. Leaving Monica Lewinsky out of the picture, that is
his charm." He, and other expert communicators, reel in a crowd
through expert use of their eyes.
Achieving eye contact is fairly simple in a one-on-one situation,
but is trickier with a group. Here is how Castellano says it should
be done. "Look at someone for three to five seconds, then slowly
go to someone in a different part of the room. At the end everyone
feels connected to you. Everyone thinks `he likes me best.’"
Holding the eye contact for a decent period of time is key. Those
who spray their glance around, darting from person to person too
have what Castellano calls "sprinkler eyes." Rather than
rapport, they risk being seen as furtive.
Castellano promises. It will make you likable, and that, she says,
is everything. She uses "Fiddler on the Roof" to back up this
assertion. "Tevya," she says of that play’s hero, "was
a Russian Jew. His youngest daughter was marrying a non-Jew."
All of Tevya’s friends and relatives were horrified that he approved
of the union. "I know," he said. "I know, but I like
If the prospective son-in-law’s defect had been so much as a hangnail
and Tevya did not like him, Castellano is convinced there would have
been no marriage.
When young people who want to break into sales
ask Isabel Kersen, an industry veteran, how she got started,
she tells them her career path no longer exists. "There’s no more
getting there by doing it," she says. When she began training
salespeople back in the early 1970s, "there were no courses in
instructional design, in human resources management," says Kersen,
who began her work life as a teacher.
Kersen runs Performance & Learning Associates in Secaucus and has
trained more than 3,000 salespeople in many industries. "I’ve
done them all. There’s nothing left." Kersen speaks on
Price Objections" to the New Jersey Association of Women Business
Owners on Monday, April 16, at 6 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel in Edison.
Cost: $37. Call 732-828-3394.
Kersen graduated from the City College of New York in 1955 and earned
a master’s degree in English from CCNY. Only after decades of work
did she go back to school to study the discipline she had been
She obtained a doctorate in human resources development from George
Washington University, because, she says, "I was curious. Was
there something I hadn’t picked up?"
What she found was "a lot of theory that explained why I did what
I did. I had been going on instinct. I would say `trust me. This is
what works.’" Armed with a formal education in her discipline,
she works the same way, but can now offer complicated rationales for
Kersen got into sales consulting entirely by accident. She had been
teaching English when a fellow teacher recruited her to do some
for Xerox for three days. "I found I loved it," says Kersen,
who worked on the Xerox project for three years. Corporate work
including stints at Hertz and 14 years as vice president for a U.S.
subsidiary of Loreal International. Then, four years ago, she decided,
"enough with the corporate nonsense," and started her own
Beyond being irritated that upper management often made decisions
"without understanding, or caring, about people in the
about whether the decisions made their jobs harder or easier,"
Kersen wanted more freedom to, among other things, manage her own
travel. "That is a horrendous part of corporate life," she
says. "I am so sick and tired of hotel rooms." Consulting
on her own still requires travel, but Kersen says she can now plan
it better, avoiding the 75 percent travel that was sometimes required
when she was a corporate employee.
As she does travel around training salespeople, they consistently
tell her their biggest problem is handling price objections. The
of turning this obstacle into a positive cuts across all industries.
The strategy Kersen teaches is always the same. Her tenets:
"it’s just an opening gambit for negotiations," Kersen says.
In other cases, the objection may cover a prospect’s lack of funds.
An initial grumble about price should in no way spell the end of a
Kersen says. "Know exactly what the person means when he says
`too expensive’." It could mean he thinks he can get it for less,
or that the price doesn’t seem to indicate good value, or that the
item just isn’t in the budget. The salesperson has to ask.
Kersen says. "Okay, I certainly understand price is a concern.
What is it about the price that is a concern?" This leads a
into giving details, and it allows the salesperson to be get further
information without becoming confrontational. Once the specifics are
out in the open, the salesperson continues in the same vein, saying
something like: "So if I understand correctly, your question is
`Can I get the same for less?’ Is that your question?"
process as often as necessary, using each `No’ as an opportunity to
pose a new question. A key point, Kersen says, is to refrain from
ever — really ever — proving the prospect wrong. You may be
able to pull out hard data showing that he is all wet in thinking
XYZ Corp.’s product is cheaper in the long run, but, says Kersen,
"he won’t like you."
<B>Jim Lenskold has gotten to know a lot of
in the four years since he started a marketing business catering to
the needs of start-ups. "They’re all the same," he says.
all think all they have to do is build a great product." Not so,
says Lenskold. He has seen a number of young businesses run out of
money before they were able to get the message about their new product
out to a market that would bring them some revenue.
Lenskold is the founder of Lenskold Marketing Group, a nine-person
company based in Morristown. He speaks on "Struttin’ Your Stuff:
guerrilla marketing techniques for growing companies," at the
Venture Association of New Jersey, on Tuesday, April 17, at 11:30
a.m. at the Westin, Morristown. Cost: $45. Call 973-631-5680.
Lenskold joined AT&T’s marketing strategy group right after that
began operating in a competitive environment. In his nine years with
AT&T, he started up the company’s acquisition marketing and retention
marketing groups, and was responsible for a number of its campaigns,
including True Savings and True Rewards. He liked the work because
it gave him a chance "to be entrepreneurial within a large
But Lenskold, a 1985 graduate of Rutgers who earned his MBA from
while working for AT&T, wanted even more of an entrepreneurial
He left AT&T to start a systems integration company, and stayed with
it for four years before succumbing to the entrepreneurial itch again
and starting up his marketing company. "That’s where my strength
and my passion is," he says of the field. And, what’s more, his
latest venture "is not only a start-up, but works with
From his experience in building companies, and in working with other
start-ups, Lenskold has come up with five principles for launching
new initiatives. All take into account that new companies have a
need to win customers, but also have limited budgets. Lenskold’s five
of time, people say `Conservatively, we’ll get 10 percent of market
share’," Lenskold says. Start-ups get these numbers from benchmark
studies, but forget, he says, that the benchmarks are for established
companies. Start-ups are up against much greater odds. "As a new
venture, you’re seen as a risk," Lenskold says. "You don’t
have any real credibility." Many dot-coms made this mistake, he
says. "They were heavy on awareness, but didn’t get across
need and value."
To minimize a perception of risk, start-ups may need to offer their
product for a very low cost. "Practically give it away to get
sales," Lenskold says. Other strategies for making customers
enough to take a chance include entering into partnerships with
companies and picking up credibility through speaking engagements.
all, are absolutely sure there will be a tremendous demand for their
product. "They’re all convinced all they have to do is open the
door, wave the product, and people will buy," Lenskold says. But
everyone is now so overwhelmed by sales pitches through any number
of media that entrepreneurs have to realize it is not easy to cut
through the buzz.
To do so, entrepreneurs need to think carefully about their prospects,
and their prospects’ priorities. "If it’s the top executive, he
may look at profitability," Lenskold says. "If it’s someone
lower down, he may worry about what could go wrong." Tailor the
pitch to customers’ concerns.
Lenskold’s door most often start out thinking their product will solve
everyone’s needs. Maybe so, but, he tells them, "You have only
so many dollars." He suggests that most new companies conserve
marketing dollars by aiming at being a big fish in a little pond,
or at most in two or three ponds. Customers can be targeted in any
number of ways — by age, geography, interests, or perhaps
Once a target is selected, Lenskold says entrepreneurs’ strategy needs
to be: "Let me make sure this group hears my message over and
over." Once the message does get through, there will be word of
mouth. Soon, there will be momentum, and the new company has a shot
at being a leader in its target group.
In choosing the target group, Lenskold suggests it can be a good idea
to look at profitability. "Some groups spend more," he says.
"And some require less customer service." It’s also smart
to go for a group where competition is weak.
Lenskold says. "Not all marketing works with all groups."
This is especially true in the technology field, or for any company
introducing a new product. The more revolutionary the product, the
more customers have to be educated, the more trial and error will
have to go into marketing. "I’ve seen businesses run out of money
just as they’re moving up the learning curve," Lenskold says.
is for companies to go all out on one type of marketing, and then,
when that doesn’t work well, start all over in another direction.
This is not only expensive, but can be fatal to attempts to attract
further funding. If investors see a company is not getting results,
they hesitate to put more money into the venture.
With test marketing, however, a company can try many types of
all at once, and generally for far less money than would be sucked
up by two or three ineffective marketing campaigns. A relatively small
sample population — maybe 50,000 people — can provide insight
into what works well, and what doesn’t. Divide the 50,000 people into
10 groups, Lenskold suggests. Five of those groups could be sent
mail, and five "something quite different," maybe online
The message sent to each group would be different, giving a company
an opportunity to see which generated the most sales. With 10
Lenskold says, the chances of finding one that works is pretty good.
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