Archive for October, 2006

A Different Book Signing

October 19, 2006

While I haven’t done it recently, I have participated in several book signings at Barnes and Noble.  Few new authors seem to realize it but unless these events are carefully orchestrated and planned, they are about as much fun as going to the dentist to get some teeth pulled. It turns painful being set up with a stack of your newest book and no one interested in buying it. Yes, I do all the tricks—I bring candy to draw people. I stand on the other side of the table so I’m approachable and talk with anyone passing by the table.  Unless you are a bestselling author with a ready-made crowd of eager book buyers, my experience is pretty similar to other authors. If you try one or two of these types of unsuccessful events, then you are reluctant to do another book signing.

Now a book signing at a trade show is a different matter from my perspective. The publisher has brought the books to give away to the retailers.  It’s much easier to scare up a crowd and give away the books. In the case of the trade show, the publisher is hoping to stir interest in the author and the book with these retailers.

In the October 9th issue of Publishers Weekly, Judith Rosen writes about how book signings have been turned into profit centers.  It’s a good article to study for some book marketing ideas.  As an author, I’m eager to participate or even orchestrate events related to the topic of my book. It’s a different forum where the author arrives as an expert, talks about the topic of the book, then hooks people into purchasing the book. It’s a different twist on the book signing event.

Last week at the Glorieta conference, I signed a number of copies of Book Proposals That Sell. It’s always fun to write a few words of encouragement into someone’s book. Each of us have hopes and dreams and aspirations and I’m eager for readers to use my book to awaken those dreams for their own life. I’ve seen writers use the material repeatedly to gain a book contract with a traditional publisher. At the same time, not everyone wanted their book signed—or even thought about asking me to sign their book. I understand and I’m happy to sign them or not sign them. I was glad to simply get the book into the hands of readers.

David Morrell taught several hours about writing fiction at the Glorieta conference.  I have a couple of David’s books that I carried to the conference so he could sign them. As he signed my books, someone else on the faculty introduced me and said I had written Book Proposals That Sell then pointed out the book. The light of recognition passed across David’s eyes and he said, “I have a copy of that book on my desk at home, but I haven’t read it yet.”  I smiled and said I hoped he would read it some day soon. I knew exactly how he received his copy. Last summer I met David Morrell briefly at the First International ThrillerFest in Phoenix. I understand this author meets many people and has sold over 28 million books. Seizing my opportunity at ThrillerFest, I gave David a signed copy of Book Proposals That Sell. He’s the co-president of the International Thriller Writers.  I’m still hopeful he will eventually read my book.  become enthusiastic about the contents—and tell others.  This business of spreading the word about our books takes consistent work. We will not be successful with every single attempt—but you have to keep trying. It’s the same with other aspects of the writing life.  It’s key to continue growing and writing.

Professionalism and Passion

October 18, 2006

I’ll admit it’s a tricky balance: professionalism and passion.  When you present your book idea to an editor, you want it to come across as professional yet you also want to be passionate about your topic.  It’s the same way as an editor. When I teach at a writer’s conference, I want to fill my brief time with each person with a measure of help and professionalism. Some times you only have a brief time with an individual and other times you have a longer period to teach. In each case, I understand the financial and time investment that each person has made to attend the conference. I want them to feel like just attending my comprehensive class on the nonfiction book contained enough value for the entire conference. I’ve attended many workshops where I’ve not received much value and I don’t want to give that experience to the people listening to my teaching.

While I want to be practical in my teaching about books, also I want to be passionate.  I continue to recall the impact of certain books on my own life and I tell a few of those stories when I teach so the participants can tell that I care about what the printed page does in the life of the reader. Several people at Glorieta kindly wrote notes of appreciation and left them for the instructors.  During my plane ride home, I read these notes. One of the comments struck home to me—individuals thanked me for starting my workshop in prayer. It’s something I do at Christian writers conferences—mostly because I can—and I can’t take this step in many other settings where I teach. I consistently pray that God will use my words and time to inspire and help each listener to fulfill the dreams in their hearts. I believe the listeners could hear my passion for the way the printed page changes people. I know firsthand because it has changed me.

During my time at the conference, a number of people told me how they were using Book Proposals That Sell to improve the responses from editors. It was encouraging to hear the excitement in their voices and the reaction from editors when they used the principles and tools in this book to shape their book proposal. It was a personal encouragement to me because one of my key goals for this book is to improve the overall quality of writer’s pitches to the editor. It seems to be happening in a small way—writer by writer.

In these entries, I mentioned an online workshop that I taught over a week ago about Book Proposals That Sell. More than 60 participants gathered in this chat room for about an hour. I spent the first part of the hour giving some instruction and the remainder of the time answering individual questions. It was a good session but I didn’t think a lot about the possible results.  A week ago, I traveled to the conference and took a few minutes to check some email and online information.  While I don’t fixate on my Amazon sales number, I do look at it. To my surprise, my number was the lowest that I’ve ever seen it. Now these numbers shift throughout the day, so I quickly highlighted it and pasted it into a Microsoft Word file. Here’s what I saw on October 11th at about 6 p.m.:

BookProposalsThatSell-small

Book Proposals That Sell

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #7,755 in Books

My encouragement to you today is to find that balance between professionalism where you give the best possible presentation to the editor—and passion about your particular topic. If you choose to show it, the passion will shine through to the editor.

Do You Notice the Publisher

October 17, 2006

If your work is associated with publishing (book or magazine), then you are probably aware of who published a particular book.   You join a small group of people who recall some of these details. It’s outside of the normal thoughts for a reader. I do not walk into my local bookstore and think, “I wonder what Doubleday has published lately. I’m going to look for their latest title.” Instead consumers buy books related to a particular author or a particular subject or a catchy book title.

I’ve been involved in publishing houses who spend hours in meetings talking about the distinctions of their particular imprints.  Over the last few years, publishers have worked hard to distinguish one imprint from another—particularly in the larger publishing houses.

Thomas-Nelson-logoWhile I was at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference, I heard Thomas Nelson had a company-wide meeting on Friday. A Publisher’s Weekly article showed one of the key contents of that meeting.  Effective April 1, the ninth largest publisher in the United States will be dropping all of their 18 imprints—including the three which were recently acquired from Integrity Publishers. As the Lynn Garrett’s article said from CEO Mike Hyatt, “The old imprint model no longer serves us well. It’s an inside-out way of looking at the market, self-focused rather than customer-focused. The only ones who care about imprints are publishers, and they are expensive to maintain.”

If you scan through the history of Thomas Nelson, you will see some easily recognized names are going to disappear including: WestBow, J. Countryman, Tommy Nelson and others. As the PW article details, books will all bear the Nelson name.  As I pointed out in an earlier entry about the writing life, this change will involve many books (3900 on their backlist and 500 new titles last year plus new ones entering the marketplace every day).

While some people may bemoan the loss of these distinguished imprints, from my view, it’s a healthy shift—and a wise one.  It’s a way to refocus on the basics—such as publishing well-crafted material from great authors.

Teach Out of the Overflow

October 16, 2006

Late last night I returned from the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. For over six hours, I taught the continuing class on the nonfiction book. I appreciated the opportunity to help others through this conference.  Besides the teaching sessions, I had dozens of one on one interaction with writers in addition to over 20 fifteen-minute editor appointments. It was a busy time.

GWC-LogoThey taped every session and if you’d like to tap into this resource (no matter whether you were at this conference or not), then check out this link. It has past years and soon the 2006 conference will be here. My comprehensive class is #201 and called The Truth Is Stronger than Fiction.  I had a plan of what I would teach and sent handouts ahead of time, etc. At the last minute, I decided to change the entire content of what I taught about nonfiction book proposals for the second day. It had many of the same points but I told them in a fresh way—at least for me. I’ve written a longer article called Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission.  I’m unsure if this title will stick or not but I’ve submitted it to possibly become a part of the Amazon Shorts program. This material is not available yet but I’ll let you know when it is available. In the meantime, I used some of the content of this article for my presentation at Glorieta about book proposals.  I’ve learned that I teach best from my overflow.  I’m not tied to my notes or my outline but I’m comfortable with my material and can simply talk from the heart—yet with many practical applications for the people in my session.  This experience was affirmed again at this conference.

Throughout my time at the conference, numerous people pulled me aside and talked with me about their book proposals. Several times I heard writers say they had used the contents from Book Proposals That Sell to help shape their own book proposals and improve the response from editors.  It’s why I wrote this book in the first place—so as editors we can receive better proposals. As I’ve written in the past, I’m consistently surprised at what writers will try and present to editors—either via email or the mail or at a conference. If you want to get your book published, then your responsibility is to make a good and lasting impression.

While it’s off my theme of teaching out of my overflow, I’m going to tell you one more lesson I learned from this conference. I ignored the advice of the conference organizers and booked my travel fairly late to this event. We were encouraged to book it early because of the Albuquerque Balloon Festival which was happening at the same time.  Last night my flight left Albuquerque about 9:30 p.m.—and changed planes in Las Vegas to arrive in Phoenix about 1 a.m. (2 a.m. on Glorieta time). I arrived at the Albuquerque airport well in advance of my flight and checked my luggage.  Early this morning I was standing in the Sky Harbor Airport waiting for my luggage—and it never came.  The airline located my bags and they arrived a short time ago.  Next time, I will plan differently.

And the Quill Winners Are…

October 13, 2006

ArtHed_VOTEQuills_small

Several weeks ago, I encouraged you to raise your voice and vote for the Quill Book Awards. Tonight the results of the winners were announced.

I’m still on the road for a few more days—at the beautiful Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. The fall colors on the trees are vibrant. When you count the faculty, there are about 500 in attendance. It makes for a loud buzz in the little appointment room but the enthusiasm and energy which everyone has for writing is invigorating. At this point, I’ve taught the first session of my continuing class on the nonfiction book. I will have a total of four sessions and my first session seemed fairly packed with at least 60 people. It was an encouraging start to this conference.

Off and Running

October 10, 2006

Yesterday, I spent an hour online with writers about book proposals at an online writer’s conference (which continues this week). I sent ahead a brief handout, then used some of the time for lecture and other time to quickly answer questions. The conference director moderated my panel and also sent a list of all the registered participants. I followed up the session with a news release to each of them which stressed some additional benefits in Book Proposals That Sell. While this effort wasn’t a huge one on my part, I write about it so you can see the on-going necessity to tap into your core audience and tell them about your book or to be speaking on the key subject of your book.

With the number of available books sold (and it grows daily), it takes time and effort to find your audience. Some writers give up too easily. Connecting with your audience doesn’t have to consume your every waking moment—but I believe it is something you should be doing on a consistent basis (particularly if you are looking for a successful book). Over the last few days, I’ve been pulling my teaching notes and my books to head for the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. It begins tomorrow evening in New Mexico. For the first time at this conference, I’m teaching the continuing class on the nonfiction book (or about six hours). Part of that session includes information about book proposals but I will be covering many other topics during this time period. I’ve prepared 16 pages of handouts (my conference limit) which are crammed with additional information and resources for the people in my session. I’m eager to pass on my information and experiences. If you are headed to Glorieta or another conference, make sure you read these articles about the value of a writers conference, networking and the keys to a successful conferencebefore you go. It will help you take full advantage of your time and give you some solid reminders.BPTS-Bookmark

Finally today I want to tell you about a simple, cost-effective way to promote your book—but it takes careful planning and thought to put it together properly. I’m talking about bookmarks. For the Glorieta Conference I’m carrying enough bookmarks for each attendee and each staff member. At a trade show or bookstore, I’m always picking up these bookmarks and looking at them. Some are more effective than others—that’s why you have to plan. This entry includes my current bookmark (but a bit smaller than the actual printed bookmark). Notice I have a short simple headline to draw you into the topic. It says, “Achieve Your Dreams.” Then I include a color miniature of the book cover—but not too small that you can’t read the title.

Next I include an endorsement which stresses the benefits of my book from someone with credibility (an editorial director at a publishing house). While I put together this bookmark, the words on it are from someone else—which increases the effectiveness in my view.

Finally I include the critical information so people can use the bookmark to get the book. I include the retail price (which is also printed on the back of my book), the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). With this number, someone could carry the bookmark into their local brick and mortar bookstore and order Book Proposals That Sell. Then I include the name of my publisher (Write Now Publications) and finally a website address. When I launched the book a couple of years ago, I created this website and maintain it and keep it current. For example, this site includes my speaking schedule.

I see a number of bookmarks which do not include the necessary information. I’ve mentioned it before but one of the most difficult things for anyone to proofread is something which is not there. Before you run out and print several thousand bookmarks, make sure your bookmark includes the essentials which help your reader purchase your book.

For my writing life, I’m interested in effectiveness. It will be something that I will be challenging the individuals and participants in my workshop.

Blogs and Other Resources

October 7, 2006

I tend to read a number of books and print magazines but it looks like I’ve been a bit slack in some recent online reading. Until the recent comment from Heather Ivester on an entry about the Writing Life, I had never heard of Debbie Weil.  She’s got some great resources if you are blogging. I’d encourage you to follow this link and sign up for her newsletter and also the free downloads.  I’ve been reading and learning from a number of these resources. The strange thing about this material is one place leads to another to another. Just watch out or it could consume your afternoon. I’ve had to monitor my own reading of this material—in moderation like other things.

Also today I updated my Amazon blog. If you have books, I hope you are using Amazon Connect as a way to reach out and touch your readers. It is certainly working for me. If you aren’t using Amazon Connect and you have books, then follow the link and sign up to begin the process. For example, when I updated my Amazon Blog, it instantly updated on over 20 different Amazon pages. It’s a great tool and the price is right—free.

Finally, the November issue of Faithful Reader is online. Normally I’ve been reviewing fiction but this month, I was assigned two nonfiction books: Praying For My Life by Marion Bond West and The Unusual Suspect by Stephen Baldwin with Mark Tabb.

GWC-LogoThis coming Wednesday, October 11th, I travel to the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. I’m looking forward to teaching the continuing class on the nonfiction book (about six hours) which I’ve called Truth Is Stronger Than Fiction (based on the actual 2005 sales numbers for last year). We’ll see if I get to add some entries on the Writing Life—but if not, you will know what happened to me.

I’m eager to help people improve their book proposals and pitches to editors through this conference. If you are going to be there, let’s make sure we connect. It’s a busy but solid writers conference with lots of opportunity and choices.

The Power of Books

October 7, 2006

I believe King Solomon had it right when he declared in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “Of the making of books there is no end.” One of my publishing friends said that verse should be carved in stone at the front of their publishing house. I’ll admit, it’s easy to get a bit skeptic and jaded about any new book. Because of the huge volume of material in print—new and backlist—you begin to wonder about the impact. And if you’ve forgotten that volume: 190,000 new books a year is the number that sticks in my mind from the 2005 Bowker press release.

You've-Got-to-Read-This-BooWith this preface,  my skepticism was overt when I saw this new book from Jack Canfield called You’ve Got To Read This Book! I saw it advertised on the Shelf-Awareness newsletter and wondered if it really delivered the promised benefit in the subtitle, “55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life.” During a recent visit to a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I picked up a copy of this book and flipped through it. It includes authors like Christiane Northrup, John Gray, Dave Barry, Debbie Macomber, Larry Jones and Stephen Covey.  I decided to get a copy and begin reading.  For anyone involved in publishing, this book is a solid shot of enthusiasm for our work. With each chapter, you clearly see the power of books to change lives.  Some of the people involved in this book have even created an online community in its infant stages called the Illumination Book Community. It’s something else for you to investigate.

I want to give you a few paragraphs from the introduction as a taste of what’s in this book. Each chapter contains a different voice and a different life-changing experience with a distinct book.  Some of the books are spiritual while others are not. It’s a broad mixture of titles which have changed lives. On page 17, “What is it that gives certain books the awesome power to change lives? Noted author Deepak Chopra once said that reading has a special transformational power because “it gives you the opportunity to pause and reflect.” Opportunity for reflection is a rarity in today’s world, dominated as it is by visual media such as television, which fires a constant stream of images at you point-blank. And even if you are nimble with the mute button, the silenced visual stream still requires continuous mental processing. This is not the case with books: When you hold a book in your hands, you’re in charge of the pace at which you read and the images you choose to form. You can stop and digest concepts and try on different perceptions and feelings.”

“But even that doesn’t guarantee transformation. As our friend Bernie Siegel writes in his story in this book, “To be honest, I really don’t believe any book can change your life—only you can. Look, two people read the same book: One is inspired while the other is bored. It’s the person—not the book—that creates transformation.” When time for reflection is combined with the willingness to be transformed by what you read, the possibility for real growth is created.”

This is why a book can have different effects if read at different points in one person’s life—and why two people can learn different things from reading the same book. In the following pages you will find stories that illustrate situations like these, as well as many other examples of that most powerful combinations of: books plus people open and willing to receive the ideas contained in them.”

I don’t know about you, but I love this type of book—because in each chapter, it affirms the transformational power of the printed page. Yes, that change will be different for each person but the reading experience should renew you to work harder at the craft of writing and book proposal creation.  At least that’s what reading this book has done for me.

Celebrate Innovation

October 5, 2006

As a writer, I try and celebrate and learn from the innovations of others. I hope you take this type of action in your own writing life. It’s what I’ve written about repeatedly in these entries.

At the moment, I’m facing some deadlines but I wanted to give links to several innovations and resources. First, today marks the final day of the first online book fair. It’s on a site called Love Of Reading so cruise over there, enter the raffles and learn from the author information. I signed up for their newsletter and applaud their creative efforts.

Here’s a second innovation where there is still time to participate. Next week Muse Online is launching an online writers conference. It’s been a huge effort for Lea Schizas. There are many people who for financial reasons or physical limitations, can’t get to a conventional writers conference. The response has been massive—something like over 400 people was the last number that I recall.  Because I’m teaching the continuing class on the nonfiction book next week at the Glorieta Christian Writer’s Conference,  there was only one day (Monday) which I could get involved in this online conference. I’m teaching a single hour about Book Proposals That Sell.  Don’t rush over to sign up because Lea tells me that she has cut off the registration for my class at 60 participants.  While I’ve done some online chats, I’ve never participated in this type of conference so I will learn something from the experience. I look forward to this new experience.

Finally, I want to tell you about Janet Switzer and her book publishing protocol. I downloaded this material about a week ago and have read it once—but need to process it again. Today I noticed she has a couple of MP3 audio files on this page. This morning I’ve downloaded both of them but haven’t had a chance to listen to the full program. It looked like another innovative resource and it might be something to help your writing life

I look at each of these innovations as a way to increase our learning about publishing and some of the things happening in the marketplace. If it works for you, great. If not, then please don’t email me and complain about it.  From my limited investigation, each of these innovations are designed to help you in your journey within the publishing community. I celebrate each innovation. From my experience within publishing, too many people are stumbling around trying to gain insight. If any one of these innovations, help people, then the entire publishing community is better for that experience.

Make Your Own Applications

October 4, 2006

Marketing-TrendsIf you read these entries very often, you know that I read a number of magazines.  People love to follow various trends. I appreciated this article in the August issue of Entrepreneur Magazine by Gwen Moran called Hot New Marketing Trends.

I found these trends interesting but here’s the real rub when it comes to reading these trends: they are only as good as the person reading them. The key is not just knowing about them and understanding them—the rubber meets the road in the application to your own writing life. For example, it’s all fine that the marketplace advertising is moving toward greater use of text messaging and mult-media where people will make purchases over their cell phones. Great information but how are you going to translate that information into your own marketing plans?

From teaching at writer’s conferences and participating in different online groups, I realize millions of people are eager to get their books published—yet many of them are stumbling around in darkness and unsure how to begin the process. Many of them have checked out publishing a tiny bit—enough to know there are scams and crooks and ways to lose their money. Few people seem to understand the necessity of consistently increasing their visibility in the market—through magazine articles and nurturing their relationships with editors and others in the writing community. Others don’t seem to understand the necessity of crafting an excellent book proposal.

As for me, I’m looking for applications to trends which yield results. I’m more interested in working smarter than working harder. I was fascinated some time ago with Mike Hyatt’s answer to the secret of his success: responsiveness. How can you incorporate this element into your own marketing efforts? Is there something from these hot trends that you can take into your writing?