By the time The College Board unveiled a new essay component to the SAT in 2005, Tom Clements, a former college English instructor, had already been teaching prep classes for 15-plus years. He understood the components of good writing but wanted to develop a way for students to write well and fast, since test-takers are only allotted 25 minutes to complete the written portion of the test. Thus How to Write a Killer SAT Essay was conceived.
“Using my students as a ‘focus group’ I presented strategies and techniques for prefabricating their essays with content examples varied enough to apply to any topic (called prompts) The College Board might throw at them during the SAT. My students did so well — average scores for their essays were in the 92nd percentile range — that I decided to incorporate both my methodology and my students’ actual essays in a book that would teach kids not able to take my class in person to nonetheless dominate the SAT essay.”
Despite the innovative strategies and proven success of Tom’s technique, How to Write a Killer SAT Essay faced challenges on its road to publication — at first. After completing the book, Clements signed with a major West Coast agent. Soon the manuscript was making the rounds at major New York City publishing houses, all of whom “loved” the writing and methodology, but were unwilling to take a risk publishing a book by an unknown author in the crowded and highly competitive test prep book market. So Clements decided to self-publish — a decision that has paid off.
Released in October of 2011, How to Write a Killer SAT Essay has received positive reviews from students, parents, and various publications. Forewordreview.com noted, “For students who want a fighting chance against those two intimidating blank pages, Tom Clements’ book can be an ally.”
Before publication, Clements’ marketing efforts centered around his test prep company’s website. After the book was released, Clements created a Facebook page, which he asked former and current students to “like,” and purchased ads targeting high school students on the popular social network. He also paid a nominal fee to have How to Write a Killer SAT Essay covered by Clarion, which ended up awarding the book its prestigious five-star review. Last, but not least, Clements paid for Lulu’s six-week publicity package, which helped him place articles he wrote on educational topics in magazines and on webzines and was instrumental in landing him web, radio, and even TV interviews.
Yet Clements concedes that his thoughts about marketing have changed since publication.
“At first, I thought I was only promoting my book ‘as a book.’ I didn’t realize all the collateral activities (articles, interviews, promotions) you have to engage in to do the job well.”
Now Clements is thinking well beyond the book. Because millions of students take the SAT every year, he’s expanding his reach by working on an eBook for distribution on digital networks as well as iApps with tips on SAT grammar, math, and more.
“At some point after publication, it dawned on me that publicizing the book on its own wasn’t enough; I’d have to develop a ‘brand’ of products, all of which could be used to point back to my book as the brand anchor.”
In addition to helping students increase their scores, Clements hopes his combination of PR, marketing, and brand development will get him closer to his own numbered goal: five-figure book sales within two to three years.