What's the Secret to Selling Your Book?

The 15 authors in the inaugural Grub Street Launch Lab stumbled upon one answer to this question two Saturdays ago.

Our guest, author and content czar C.C. Chapman, had just wrapped up his talk. And then he asked: "Why should I buy your book? Imagine it's just you and me, chatting, and you have to convince me."

One by one, we went around the table, hawking our recently published or soon-to-be-released titles.

Amazing things will happen if you try pitching your book to the one and only C.C. Chapman.

Here's what we discovered: Pitching to C.C. in person was much easier than reciting a one-liner intended for general marketing.

Most of us began our pitches like this: "C.C., you should buy my novel because...."

Or: "C.C., as the father of two girls, here's why you'd enjoy my book...."

Or: "C.C., listen: My book is ideal for someone like you...."

Addressing C.C. made everything simple. In the same way that a phone call is more personal than a press conference, and an e-mail is more casual than an essay, speaking directly to one person took away the trembles that a few of us still feel about pitching. And that's because it didn't feel as if we were pitching. It felt more like a chat.

So, what's the secret to selling your book? During his talk, C.C. emphasized that there's no silver-bullet answer to this question. But one thing's for sure: It doesn't hurt to be more relaxed -- and more personal -- when you're making your pitch.


Susan Carlton's Love & Haight is one of three Launch Lab titles featured tonight at Harvard Book Store.

Three Launch Lab authors are appearing tonight (Dec. 10) at 7pm at the Harvard Book Store. Their presentation is called "The Young and The Brave." YA authors Kathryn Burak (Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things) and Susan Carlton (Love & Haight) and psychologist Donna Pincus (Growing Up Brave) will read from their books and host a panel discussion about adversity and teens.

In the coming months, there will be additional readings at the Harvard Book Store and the AWP conference highlighting the other 12 Launch Lab participants. Those authors are:

Chris Castellani (All This Talk of Love) -- The third novel from Grub Steet's artistic director, about which Claire Messud said, "[A]s moving a rendition of the losses and discoveries of old age as I have ever read."

Sarah Gerkensmeyer (What You Are Now Enjoying-- A collection of short stories, one of which features Wonder Woman. Stewart O'Nan calls Sarah "an original, a sneaky sorceress of a storyteller.”

Andrew Goldstein (The Bookie's Son-- Jenna Blum calls it "Whip-smart, atmospheric and funny." Check out Andrew's interview on Chronicle.

Deborah Halber (The Skeleton Crew-- Did you like The Orchid Thief and Stiff? Then get ready for Deborah's story of a sleuthing subculture.

Marjan Kamali (Together Tea-- Her agent calls this "a novel that was meant to be." Here's why.

Ron MacLean (Headlong-- Ron's third book. Why did he write a plot-driven quasi-crime novel? Let him explain.

My first novel is a comical bildungsroman about overcoming the world's indifference to your childhood traumas. I am forever indebted to my amazing friend Christina Regon, who designed the cover.

Ilan Mochari (Zinsky the Obscure-- My first novel. Kirkus Reviews calls it: "A powerful debut with Dickensian touches in its heartbreaking and occasionally humorous chronicle of the life of a modern young man."

Maria Mutch (Know the Night: A Memoir) -- Maria has combined the stories of her son, who has both Down's Syndrome and autism, with that of Byrd's stay in the interior of Antarctica during his second expedition, 1933-1935.

M.L. Nichols (The Parent Backpack) -- The goal of M.L.'s book: to empower parents to navigate schools successfully and connect to their kid’s education in effective, meaningful ways. It's also the goal of her web site, which is a treasure trove of parental resources.

Henriette Power (The Clover House) -- Muse and the Marketplace attendees and short-story submitters know Henriette as the editor of The Drum literary magazine. This is her first novel, about a young woman discovering the secret to her mother’s wartime youth in Greece.

Barbara Ross (Blood Moon) -- An anthology of New England crime stories, from Level Best Books, which Barbara is editing and curating. Her mystery novel, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was published in 2010.

Rosie Sultan (Helen Keller in Love) -- Rosie's novel reached No. 6 on the Denver bestseller list. Want to learn about Helen Keller's love life? Good -- Rosie wrote about it in the Huffington Post.

About the Author See other articles by Ilan Mochari
by Ilan Mochari

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