Susan RoAne will speak Friday morning September 16th at the AuthorU Extravaganza.

Susan RoAne is the best-selling author of the classic Silver Anniversary of HOW TO WORK A ROOM, The SECRETS OF SAVVY NETWORKING, WHAT DO I SAY NEXT?, FACE TO FACE,  and three other books. She has sold over a million books worldwide in 13 countries and was #1 on Book of the Month Club’s bestseller list (and the San Francisco Bay Area Bestseller list). She is also the Zsa Zsa Gabor of authors, has had six agents (one per book) and now is the best/right agent. Susan, an in-demand keynote speaker, founded PickMyBrainconsulting.com to assist, coach, nudge and match make aspiring best-selling authors on-line, on the phone and in-person over lattes.

“NO matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up.”   Lily Tomlin

Disclaimer:  I promise, to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about the world in which I have lived for over 28 years. It may NOT be pretty but it will be real.

Have a dream, MAKE A PLAN.  Educate yourself about the industry, study the successes, the failures and GO FOR IT.

YOUR BSS =  P.T.P.   +  M.A.Z.E.L.

Best-seller status = Price to Pay +

           M  – mentors

           A  –  allies

           Z  –  zeal

           E  –  editors

           L  –  LUCK  (timing meets preparation)


 Are you willing to pay the price?  Are you ‘teem-ing’ with Time, Energy, Emotion, and Moxie?

 There is a cost!  The following information is what I wish I had 28 years ago … and the ME now, then!

You will hear some bad words but I will say them in Yiddish. Ask me later what dreck means.

Are you willing to PTP?

A self–administered (self-inflicted) QUIZ

GET ready   

Y  N                                                                                            

1.   Spend 6-18 months perfecting a proposal?

2. Cogitate, reflect, research and distil?

3. READ:  papers, mags, books, research?

4. Dance the POP Cult CHA, Cha, cha?

 (learn all you can about is going on)

5. Interview the marketplace?

6.   Go to the Mag racks and assess where there is a fit with your book?

7.  Be alone, silent and introspective?

CONSUME information, ideas, industry trends?

8.  STUDY the industry?

9. Visit bookstores to 5-sense books? (Get the feel, visual, listen to market, etc).

10.  PAY a personal editor?

11.Meet deadlines? This CANNOT be underestimated in its importance.

12. EAT, sleep, breathe your BOOK while staying

in balance? (or at least trying)

13. LOSE sleep?

14. Buy and wear BROWN lipstick? (Because you’ll have to kiss a lot of ifs, ands and butts).

15.  Defer to others, give up control?

16.  Wake up at 2:30 am PST to do a

 time radio interview EST?

17.   Allocate funds for professional book publicity?

18.   Take a book publicity course?

19.   Schlep through cities, airports, carrying your bookmarks and autograph pens?

20.   BE VERY nice to all bookstore personnel!

(Those paid the least are those who hand sell).


21.   Pay for media training (an interview is NOT a speech)?

22.   DROP everything to interview with a newspaper, Journal or Magazine, podcast or radio on their deadlines?

23.   Get outside of yourself, your interests, your expertise?

24.   REMEMBER from whence you came? Bringing along the next generation of best-selling authors?

25.   Spend the time and energy to BUILD YOUR PLATFORM both through social media (online, subscribers, friends, followers and “likes”) and personal and professional contacts.

26.   Write a full-blown business plan for promoting, marketing and selling your book.

Scoring this test is not as important as knowing the SCORE about the world of publishing. And the book biz is changing radically, daily and with the speed of light.

E— GADS… E –books are here and here to stay.

The options are many, the banquet is bountiful and best-seller-dom has new faces.

Definition of Best-Seller:  A book that makes recognized Fiction or Non-Fiction legitimate lists (ie: Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, NY Times, Chicago Tribune).

Not obscure —or even known—online lists segmented by minuscule categories:  Amazon personal development for people in food service business in the Northeast.  You get my drift.

The secret about BEST–sellers: IT’S A CRAPSHOOT! 

Period, end of story. None has a clue as to what new author’s book will really make it to the top of the charts. There is much we can do to promote, entice, market and publicize but we cannot force people to buy our books.  (Though I often wish we could). For our genre…we must write books that people perceive as their own need not that we think they need. That is how How To Work A Room made it big and still sells. It meets a need that people own. 

An important question for you to answer.    

Who is the real market for your book?  What newspapers, magazines and TV shows (and online venues) represent the audience that could and WOULD buy it?

Here is Advice/ Quotes and Tips from people in my network in the industry:

From an editor at a major house:  Think differently about a concept that is already a topic of other books.

Quote from anonymous buddy in the book biz:

“I believe any 10 people on the street have as good an idea of what will sell in publishing as any 10 people in the industry!”

Quote from a successful author who got a big advance and NO per support…

“Just think of publishers as high-end printers with DISTRIBUTION.”

She just revised her book with a former editor at the new house for NO money but LOTS of PR, marketing, media support both on and offline.  And is far happier.

Quote :  Larry Kirshbaum, former CEO Time -Warner Trade Publishing

“Harry Potter is a phenom. With our focus groups, research, and marketing we never could have created this series and frenzy. He was created in the head of a young girl who as an adult on the dole sat in a coffee house and gave him life.

Once the swirl begins, then the media and PR arm of a house can increase the awareness but we could not have created nor anticipated Harry Potter.”

Go back to and uncover your roots and core constituencies -. Jewish, Catholic, Christian, African –American, profession (teachers, lawyers, tetchiest, nurses, Small biz people), organizations (high school clubs, fraternities or sororities, bowling league) hobbies, kids…. etc. Include in overall association mailing for under $100. 

Forget feeling aggressive… publisher and author have the same goal.  Fill in the schedule of what they are able to book and work in tandem.  Organizations, associations, gift shops. Get to know the special sales person at publishers.  Make sure the small window, provided by the publisher, is augmented by us.

Tip from me:

This is still a business run on relationships. It’s still about who you know who knows you and will gladly make the introductions to the people they know. Former editors have new colleagues… they go to another house and get the support to support us as authors! 

Identify your potential Best-seller Support Network!

Quote from an author:  “Get your money upfront… it determines what the house will do for you. If they don’t .. who cares… you have the money.”

RoAne reminder,  “IF you do nothing because they have not, and the book does not make numbers, the NEXT advance is impacted.”

Partner with colleagues and associates with a large subscriber and opt-in lists. Ask them to help spread the word.

From Leslie Rossman, independent book publicist, formerly of Harper, San Francisco, and others:

What makes a bestseller?  It is the “thing you can’t put your finger on” or we all would do it.

Books that get a huge advance don’t necessarily get the publicity department attention.  PR person who loved the book could leave the house or have 30 books assigned to her, the Director may just have had a baby and FAVORS the book on life after motherhood, they could have pitched the book to the ‘majors’ and gotten a lukewarm response and the ardor cools. Or a national event occurs and neatly ties in with another book that was not even a lead title but becomes one.  (Columbine and Raising Cain).

Being on Oprah did NOT guarantee a best-seller.  It depends on the segment, how you are positioned.

But you have to ‘Be in it, to win it.’  So you do book signings cause you just NEVER KNOW who will show up and where that will lead.”

Quote from CARL, Chairman of the Board of The RoAne Group,

“ Remember, get your ego out of it.  You can get your money in royalties as well. Those great checks twice a year are a great bonus and diminish the tax hit.”

Quote from a very successful author:

“Remember who works in publishing… people willing to punch a clock for a living…. For NOT necessarily a LIVING wage.”

SPEAKERS ADVANTAGE:  We are marketing savvy and do it all the time for our biz.  We have press kits, one-sheets,  PR material, articles, quotes by and about us and VIDEOS.  We already have a client base, database and CAN speak…. At book signings, at Author events, and to the media. We have calendars of where we will speak that the house can build on for media without airfare and media escorts.  Speakers who travel are savvy travelers… we know how to get from an airport to a hotel and one radio show to a TV taping. (Sometimes a publisher will have an AUTHOR tour, but there are fewer of them.  We offer several city options OVER a LONGER period of time.

And we know our material and have signature stories, BONS MOTS and 3-7 step strategies (mini-cures for the world’s ailments):  VERY sound bites and bytes.

Most of us can write a 500-1200 word article or do a draft and have our freelance editor send it to ‘charm school.’ 

We as authors (even the techno yutzes like moi) have websites, links, interactive material, content and some marketing savvy to pull visitors and have a ‘sticky’ site.  Publishers LOVE it.

We can read mag articles on the subject and PAY our consultant colleagues to help us use the internet for our book publicity and encourage our publishers to hire people who know how to market on the web.

TIP:   AS I am just ‘Wild About Harry … Golden’ here is my FOR 2 Cents Plain: 

“As in speaking, our book buying audience must feel we are a part of their world, not APART  from their world.” “Once the word of mouth set sales on fire… then the house can help.” “Once the word of mouth set sales on fire… then the house can help.”

TIP:  Do not compare yourself to the exceptions (According to Patricia Fripp) but use them as models. There is only one Chicken Soup Series, one Dummies series, one Harry Potter series, one alphabet mystery series.  The rest are copies… maybe even good ones and one or two of the copy cats may break through the roof.

Tip:   Self-publish to prove there is a market  (Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, One Minute Manager, The Celestine Prophecy and multitudes more).

Tip:  Attend Writers conferences in your town, state, region or a national conference.  There are many good ones. OR help your local library, bookstore or state university organize one.

Tip:  Work Rooms full of agents, editors, and publishers. (YOU never know who might be in those rooms).

The industry is changing and is frightening the folks in traditional publishing.  Authors get to deal with their angst, editorial angst and publishing house angst.

TIP:  Study publishing catalogs to see what they say they are doing for authors marketing and PR. (This is often NOT what they really do but it is info for you to plan).

Tip:  Be a timely author… meet deadlines.  (OR you will give the house a reason to NOT allocate monies for your pr or worse —cancel your book).

TIP:  Support your local bookstores and community. John Grisham started with his local bookstores and library and those are the ones he goes back to visit now that he is a wild success!  He has not forgotten his roots and support team.

Tip:  BUY your books locally…. If we don’t support local stores, we won’t have any left.

IF you get on a credible best- seller list… other stores see that and the movement starts. Bestseller lists:  They can be bought and have been.

The numbers fluctuate. IF the BIG TEN authors are not getting published that week nor is a celebrity  (Al Roker, Maria Shriver, Tim Allen), you could sell fewer than 8,000 books and MAKE NY Times Bestseller

ROANE RULE:   BEST seller means only that…DRECK makes it to many lists.

NOT all lists count  (the Marin Independent Journal  does not, San Francisco- Bay AREA does).

DRAFT A BUSINESS PLAN FOR YOUR BOOK. With elaborate marketing, PR and promotion sections. DREAM big, but keep your feet firmly planted in reality. Remember, print has the shelf life.  Radio attracts more thinkers as listeners and TV sells sometimes. (Oprah, Larry King, maybe a national a. m. show).

A ROANE REVELATION:  Getting a lot of print does NOT guarantee a best-seller.  Editors and publishers have seen that happen often.

 LEARN the houses’ divisions, heads, editors, players… be nice to them all.  (One book buddy sent the copy editor of a national paper that featured his article a THANK YOU note). Be a partner to your publisher never forgetting that it is the FLAVOR of the Millisecond… so fickle.

 Quote from a young PR person at a HUGE house about a very ‘spiritual’ well-known speaker and author,”

“He was a NIGHTMARE, a control freak who is so passive-aggressive that the house will PASS on anything he writes in the future.   How he treated us was the subject of many conversations that went to the top!”

Get to know book bloggers and reviewers before your Pub date.  You can do so via twitter, LinkedIN groups, and association sites. Numbers of books sold do NOT make you a bestseller.  MAKING placement on qualified lists does. (the amount you sell in the back of the room…means squat).

Tip: GET an Ingram account… They now dropship, cost about 42% off list and you get royalty and sales numbers that count for best-seller and real sales. What you buy from the publisher does not.

Tip: Invite bookstores to your talks to sell books. YOU LOSE money in the short haul… for #s and best-seller status… And you gain the support of Bookstores.

Tip:  Schedule book signings.  IT does matter more than who shows up that night.  The store will highlight the books prior and may sell many before you get there. Autograph stock and it will sell more you leave the store.  Make it a party and bring food.

IT is a NUMBERS issue… not that they were bought at that exact moment of your signing.

Tip: Work with your local bookstore.  Let them handle sales, shipping and you still get royalties and #s that count. Now with BookSense, you can have the support of a network of independent stores. DECIDE if you are a speaker who wants to have a book (for back of the room sales) or a writer who sees themselves as an author who speaks.

Design your plan accordingly. (I chose to LOSE lots of money in the short haul for the long-term goal). And I hated getting that blue stuff from credit card receipts on my fingers.


You need a great idea or a unique perspective on a problem.  According to Toni Boyle, the Duchess of Digital, VP of Content of youachieve.com, “Be able to put the vintage wine in a NEW goblet”.

A RoAne-proposed Proposal:

1.  Title page with all of your information.

2.  Overview -A concise summary and selling statement and should be first person, present tense.

3.   Competition-  Do your homework in a bookstore and online.  No more than 5 books and be sure to include what is DIFFERENT about yours.              

4.  Market–A market research plan.

Who the market is (the book buyers)

Male,female, professions, geog. location

How they will learn about your book

WHY they would buy it.

Where they might purchase it.

5. Publicity-  HOW YOU as a speaker can help drive sales. (speaking gigs, book signings, media appearances tied to speaking schedule).

What you are willing to invest: time, money, travel, etc.

For how long you are willing to invest.

Any history of talk shows, radio interviews, print press and online raves.

If you have had national media, compile a videotape to show your skill and media savvy.

BUILD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE and lists before you write your book proposal.  Publishers want to know your “reach” and the numbers to support it.

6.  Bio- what makes you the RIGHT person to write this book; your expertise, experience, credentials,

national expert status, research stats you discovered.

7.   Chapter Outline: Table of Contents This is the guts of the book and will give the editor and the sales team an overview of the book in readable English that is engaging, interesting and informative. Should be no less than 8 chapters for a non-fiction how –to. Have 2 chapters written.

8.   Date of delivery and length.  (8-12 months) Big books (except for Harry Potter) are not in favor.  Consumer wants the book they can put in a briefcase and carry.  30,000 –50,000 or even less.

9.   Title and subtitle. Preferably a term already in the Lexicon  (work a room is an old politic term). Clever, catchy and clear.

10.   List of potential endorsement quotes.

While you should have a vision for the cover, most art departments screw- up covers big time, but the proposal is not the time nor place for it.

The Authors Guild has excellent samples and information on contracts.  www.AuthorsGuild.org

I have been a member since 1989 and learn so much about this industry and get ideas from their journal.

CAVEAT:  Having a full speaking calendar is also no guarantee of best-seller status but it can help.

Some books sell more over time than the flash in the pan best-sellers and earn the status as a GREAT backlist (bread and butter) book.  Smart publishers treat their best-selling authors well. At a recent publishing conference, two NY-based editors made it very clear that they prefer the books that consistently sell…over time than the “one week on Amazon, Wall Street or New York Times best-seller lists.”

HIRE a publishing attorney who works for YOU.  Agents who have attorneys in the company may be sufficient. Attorneys know the words that can screw an author; agents do want to make the deal and the 15%.

The search for the right agent is as complicated as Mr. Or MS. Right….  There has to be chemistry, connection and a belief in YOU and sharing your vision. Respect and trust are part of the package.  If you have a stomach ache if you have to call them…. Pay attention to the signal.  We are happy if they want us… but chose wisely. If you think, feel that something is awry and you’re your agent has ‘done you wrong’ you are probably right. Remember, agents need writers… or they have no one on whom to make their 15%.

 And the right agent is a dream comes true. They share your vision, fight for you, believe in you and want to nurture you as an author. They are connected and respected in the industry and KNOW which person at which house is the right fit for you and your book. The perfect agent for your friend may NOT be the right one for you.  While liking them is optional, it sure makes for a better book life.   Having a network in the publishing biz is a great idea and opens doors.  Giving back to that community is a great idea and good Karma. Develop an ANGEL agent friend. I had one that I met at the  Maui Writers conference in 1996.. Though I am not in her romance genre … she is a friend and a great sage who helps me slog through the Slough of Despond -ENT author musings.

My story is full of pain, pitfalls, night -and every day- mares.  It is a 25-year saga of theft, dishonesty, agent misfires, mistakes and mishegas (craziness). And the joy of best sellerdom, a triumph of good over evil, GREAT friends, support, and baptism of FIRE, fury, and fear. I have matched several authors with major publishers including Judith Briles, Terri Lonier and Terri Mandel and  more to come. I have a network of wonderful young people in the industry whom I support, encourage and who, I hope remember me in my SUNSET SUSAN author years.For 12 years, I flew to New York to give my pro bono talks at NYU Summer Publishing Institute.

Several of my students ended up at my publishing houses and I worked with them. My current editor at William Morrow/Harper was one of the students in my 2010 presentation for NYU’s. It is a very tiny industry so I am careful about the bridges I want to blowup.  YOU NEVER KNOW who is friends with or related to whom.  Mother warned me about this!  I hate it when she is right!


How To Write a Book Proposal  Michael Larsen 

Guide to Agents…. Jeff Herman

CrowdFunding Guide for Authors and Agents  Judith Briles

How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos Judith Briles

Some of us write, others transcribe a program for a first draft… others talk into a mike or computer. First drafts are just that.  EDITing is where the real writing happens. Have a team of people who can guide you… another couple pair of ears and eyes. YOU DO NOT NEED 50 people just one or two trusted and experienced “readers” and one heck of a great book doctor. There are few of us who really write our own books. If you love the written word, respect it and LOVE books, it is all worth it.

And, with all you do, best-sellerdom still is a crapshoot. But, we as speakers and SAVVY authors can load the dice!!!!




Susan RoAne can be found at www.SusanRoane.com or pickmybrainconsulting.com. 


header-logo1.pngAuthor U is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the author who wants to be seriously successful. Monthly education programs delivered face-to-face and online, The Author Resource ezine, BookCamps and the annual Author U Extravaganza are tools designed for authors pre, during and post publishing of their books. Join AuthorU.org today.

 If you are looking for FREE author and book coaching … call into Judith’s Author Monday Mornings at NOON Eastern each Monday. The number is 218-632-9854; Access Code 1239874444 … have your questions ready–there’s a full hour to ask and listen

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