George Fraser has been writing stories since he was a kid, and during the course of his life he's learned a very successful way to share them. The best-selling author talked about some of those experiences and lessons with dozens of attendees Thursday morning as the keynote speaker for the Pilgrim Press Writer's Conference in downtown Cleveland.
"Wherever writers or want-to-be writers gather, I want to contribute the experiences I've had in the world of writing, authorship and publishing in hopes of encouraging them to tell their story and teach their lessons to tell their family. There's a kinship that we ought to be helping those that love this work -- that we ought to be sharing," Fraser said.
His speech highlighted the key aspects of ways aspiring authors should approach writing a book, starting with finding a strong pitch that is brief, powerful and hooks whoever is listening. After telling the crowd the importance of a strong pitch, Fraser emphasized there's often a short timeframe in which to deliver it. He demonstrated how it works as he presented a 71-word summary of his success and accomplishments as an author. The room nodded in harmony when he asked them, "Is that a good pitch?"
More than 50 attendees gathered at the Meeting House at the Radisson Gateway in downtown Cleveland -- a city that Fraser said "is one of the best kept secrets in America." The Pilgrim Press, the oldest publishing house in the United States, hosted the one-day conference Oct. 18 that featured four workshop sessions, a presentation on book publishing in the electronic age, and Fraser's keynote.
Fraser, a member of Mt. Zion Congregational UCC in Cleveland, explained to the audience that good writers must first be good readers. "We have a reading problem in America. The average American reads only one book a year," Fraser said. "We need to get back to reading. Reading is the cornerstone to better writing. Because I fell in love with reading, and thus fell in love with learning, I self-educated myself and wrote three best-selling novels."
While writing a book is a challenge within itself, Fraser says that is only five percent of the big picture for most authors. The other 95 percent of the work is done traveling to promote the book after it is published. And most books that make it into major bookstores are only on the shelf for just a few weeks.
"If you are fortunate to have a best-seller to stay on the shelf long enough, once you stop promoting it, once you stop speaking and your voice is no longer heard in public," Fraser said, "it will stop selling."
Fraser is considered the new voice for African American authors, and one of the foremost authorities on networking and building effective relationships. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and worked for the Proctor & Gamble Company, the United Way Foundation and Ford Motor Company.
Organized in 1640, the Pilgrim Press is a gift of the United Church of Christ for scholars and students, thoughtful laypersons, and church professionals.