Archive for February, 2007

Build New Business

February 12, 2007

The article addressed booksellers but I was instantly interested in the topic: Booksellers: Tips for Building New Business by Janet Switzer in the February 5th issue of Publishers Weekly. I knew Switzer’s name associated with marketing Chicken Soup for the Soul.

While this article is addresses to booksellers, much of the information can easily be applied to writers–at least writers who are working at their craft more like a business than a hobby. Switzer is a skilled marketer who has sold millions of books. Next month she has a new McGraw-Hill book, Instant Income. Notice the planning that went into this article. It’s targeted to a niche audience for Publishers Weekly and it appears immediately following one of the most read sections of the magazine (the various bestseller lists).

The online version of the article includes an active link at the end of the first paragraph along with this sentence: Switzer also has developed an entire book signing promotion kit for bookstores, at http://www.instantincomebooksigning.com/. I clicked the link and when I reached this landing page, I signed up for her Instant Income Book Promotion Kit. It is a fascinating study in a smart campaign with great tools for any retailer to use and promote her book which releases next month. Notice how each item in the package considers her audience (retailers) and is targeted to them with useful tools.

I’ve seen too many book authors not enter the process until too late or with too little energy. Then they are surprised with the lack luster sales results. It will take consistent work on your part–just like you’ve had to work at learning to write a book proposal or other parts of the writing business. I appreciated this post from John Jantsch, the author of Duct Tape Marketing who asks, “How Long Should It Take For My Marketing To Work?” It’s not a one time event but something you work at for the long haul.

Let’s return to Janet Switzer’s article for the writer and I’m going to ask a few probing questions for you. Are you targeting your book proposal to a specific category and niche of buyer? Are you working to create media events around the launch of your books or your travel plans to other places? In Switzer’s materials, she’s open to scheduling a teleseminar for a “informative virtual booksigning.” I’m sure she qualifies these teleseminars to make sure the audience is going to be substantial.

The other key points of her article can also be developed for writers with a little creative spin. Are you working to open new doors and build new business for your writing? It’s more of a lifestyle mentality than a one time event.

A Matter of Focus

February 9, 2007

Are you stuck some place with your writing life? Maybe you’ve started several novels but not managed to finish them. Or maybe you have a half-baked query letter and haven’t completed it and sent it out to various magazine editors. Possibly you’ve started a book proposal yet not submitted it. Years ago, one of the people in my writing critique groups had a whole desk drawer full of manuscripts. He had not submitted any of them. Or maybe the array of writing choices overwhelm you and you wonder which thing to tackle first.

In some ways it’s a matter of focus and getting out of stall then forming a plan to move ahead. This past week, John Kremer included a short article about Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone. [If you don’t subscribe to John’s free newsletter, take a second to do so because it’s packed with great information]. The current issue of Reader’s Digest includes an article from Ferrazzi about how to achieve your dreams.

Then Ferrazzi created a simple online quiz so readers could follow through. Check out this tool and it may help you get out of stall and on to the next level in your writing life.

Publishing Switch and Bait

February 7, 2007

Over the last fifteen years Greg Stielstra, author of Pyromarketing, marketed hundreds of Christian books including The Purpose Driven Life. During that time he noticed a disturbing trend. Some Christian authors sought fame because they believed only celebrities could influence culture. What’s more, they thought selling lots of book required hiding their Christian content. In a sort of publishing bait and switch, some authors thought that if they must achieve a platform with secular books–or at least books that minimized faith content before they could use their new platform for good. The formula was, “First become famous and then make a difference.”

Greg saw things differently. He saw authors like Lee Strobel achieve tremendous success by writing books that helped people with clear biblical content. The formula was reversed; first make a difference and then the platform will follow. “Aim at Heaven,” C.S. Lewis correctly noted, “and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you’ll get neither.”

Greg wondered how to alert authors to this insidious deception and decided to copy a tactic first used by C. S. Lewis in a book called The Screwtape Letters. The book was a collection of fictitious letters from a retired demon named Screwtape to his young nephew Wormwood on how best to manipulate the human he was assigned to tempt. The book provides a look at temptation from the devil’s perspective and can help us see the battle with new and often clearer eyes. As you read Greg’s modern-day warning to Christian authors remember that because it is written from the demon’s perspective, phrases like “the enemy” actually refer to God.

I wanted you to see Greg’s letter with you in case you have ever struggled to overcome a similar temptation:

My Dear Bookwormwood,

I note with great excitement that your patient has become a Christian author. This is splendid news. Your last letter was a disappointment as you indicated your patient had shown great devotion to the Enemy and a sincere desire to meet other people’s needs. I feared you might fail at your assignment and be subject to the punishments such failures require. But this new development presents an unequaled opportunity for you to change his course. In fact, the temptations now at your disposal are so numerous I feel compelled to apologize, in advance, for the length of this letter.

It is with trepidation that I suggest what you must do first, for it requires a subtlety you may not possess. You must slowly and deliberately turn your patients mind from one kind of thinking to another. Each step along this process is itself a small victory and brings us closer to accomplishing the whole thing. As I mentioned at the start, it appears your patient desires to meet other people’s needs, and in so doing to bring glory to the Enemy. This is where we must begin, but perhaps not in the way that you might think, for we do not aim to change his desire to help, but rather to alter his view of people. Our record of success with this method is impressive. It has been the undoing of many whose names you might recognize. That is why I am confident that you can make it work with your patient as well.

Plant in his mind the idea that thinking of people as individuals is limiting. Better to think of those who may buy and benefit from their book as groups of people instead. From groups you must expand his thoughts to large groups and from large groups to masses, and so on. Each successive step increases people’s anonymity and further insulates your patient from the reality of the reader’s situation. If your patient is allowed to think of them as individuals, then he may accurately imagine the reality of their need, or of their family’s concern, or, worst-of-all, the Enemy’s love for them, and determine to help at any cost.

So long as your patient is thinking of masses he cannot consider individual needs and will search instead for a characteristic common to the group. At this moment you must suggest the idea of money so that your patient thinks of the masses as a source of revenue. Then, before he has the chance to question this thought or consider it further, lead him on to the idea he should divide the masses into groups called Christians and Non-Christians. Done properly, this will all seem quite natural and your patient may even congratulate himself on a brilliant market analysis, or something of the sort.

Now, once your patient has divided the masses into Christians and non-Christians, he may begin to wonder about the relative size of the groups. At this moment you must be ready with a lie your patient is eager to believe. Persuade him that Christians are few and non-Christians are many. “Since non-Christians are the larger group”, he will reason, “I must concentrate my efforts there.”

It is best if you can shelter him from research studies that show how 142 million Americans attend church weekly, or that 187 million Americans attend church with some regularity, or that 252 million Americans consider themselves Christians. However, it may not matter if he discovers these truths, since, thanks to the work our brother Mediawart has done with the national press, he is not likely to believe them. He is more apt to think that, since stores like Barnes and Noble or Wal-Mart are not overtly Christian, that the millions of people wandering their isles cannot be Christian either. This error of logic is precisely what you must reinforce. Don’t let him ponder the idea that the customers in those stores are a cross-section of America and must, therefore, reflect the nation’s religious affiliations and practices to the same degree.

Once your patient believes his book must appeal to “non-Christians,” then you must move him quickly to a second conviction–that it is necessary to dilute, or disguise, or otherwise hide the biblical underpinnings of their message in order to appeal to this audience. Encourage him to imagine this is somehow evangelistic by using terms like “crossing over.” Crossing over feels like progress, since, he will reason, taking even a diluted version of the gospel message to those who haven’t heard is better than nothing. Once he has “crossed-over,” he is ready for you to suggest the idea of “pre-evangelism” which goes beyond crossing over to crossing out. The fools are ready to believe the ridiculous notion that the most effective way to recruit for the Enemy is to avoid talking about Him whatsoever.

Diluted Christian content leads readers to believe there is no real difference between the Enemy’s approach to finances, or sex, or marriage, or parenting, or business, and anything else in life, than the approach favored by our master. With no apparent difference, readers are free to imagine Christianity irrelevant and to happily ignore it.

When the difference is startling and clear, however, so are its benefits. What’s worse, the reader may conclude that because the Enemy’s perspective helped them with one life problem, the Bible’s advice may apply to other areas too. Before you know it they are living successfully by its principles and recommending it to others. Need I say that it would not go well at your performance review were this to eventuate?

To solidify the separation between Christian and non-Christian, you must cause your patient to discount the affirmation they receive from other believers and especially “average people” who have found help and comfort in their book, and to covet instead, the approval of those least likely to give it. Our most proficient tempters have used this strategy with great success in high schools for years. It goes like this: A young girl has a group of good friends and the love of her family. They tell her she is beautiful and adore and respect her just as she is. We, however, convince her that this is not enough–that her friend’s familiarity somehow invalidates their love and praise–that to be truly significant, she must win the admiration of “the popular boys.” And so she abandons her friends, compromises her convictions and sacrifices her virginity in the vain pursuit of their acceptance. They, in turn, take her purity, and then toss her aside when she no longer suits them, and all without granting the acceptance she sought in the first place. It’s really quite brilliant.

Be especially careful not to let your patient realize that the “average people” are loved by the Enemy and that when his book helps one of them, it is as though he is helping the Enemy himself. Such a realization could cause him to concentrate on eternal rewards and lose sight of the temporal acclaim which we want as his focus.

In the same way, it must not be known that the “popular boys” work for us. For with this realization, our strategy may become apparent. Distract him instead with the pursuit of popularity. Popularity is un-tethered to eternal truth and thus we are free to change its qualifications just as your patient seems about to achieve it. In this way we can lead him about, willy nilly, wasting his whole life, while averting the serious threat he might otherwise have presented. Not only is this strategy effective, it can be quite fun.

Popularity makes an excellent goal for the additional reason that no one is ever quite sure when they have achieved it. Its pursuit, therefore, can occupy their every waking hour and persist without end. Use this to your advantage.

Return again to your patient’s mind the desire to help and make it stronger than ever, but with the additional conviction that he cannot make a difference until he has achieved a great degree of popularity–especially among non-Christians. This has the effect of making his pursuit of popularity seem noble, further bolstering him against advice to the contrary.

At this point his conversion is nearly complete for you will have turned his focus from individual people’s needs, to the masses, and then to non-Christian masses, and finally to himself. Your last task is to make your patient forget that his worth is secure in Christ, and to think instead that it is determined by his performance which, in turn, is measured by bestsellers lists, or appearances on Oprah, or book sales, or the size of his book’s marketing budget, or best-of-all, depends entirely on the affirmation of the masses whose individual needs we have convinced him to ignore. Do you see the brilliance of this plan? It is a trap from which few escape, especially if you can arrange for him to be surrounded by, and receive counsel from, others whom we have already tricked in this way.

Oh, Bookwormwood, I have painted the picture of an entire campaign, though I realize you are still at its beginning. But, let me encourage you that it is possible. If you are successful then your accomplishment will be double, for you will have prevented your patient and his book from doing any real damage, while giving him every opportunity to unwittingly exhibit the kind of hypocrisy which has caused so many to turn from the Enemy and join our ranks. Such an achievement would not only remove the stains from your past record, but may even warrant a promotion. How does, “Director of Televangelists” sound?

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

Start at the Beginning

February 6, 2007

It’s not very profound to tell people to start at the beginning–yet you’d be surprised how often people want to jump over several parts of the writing world process and start some place in the middle.

I thought about this simple fact when I received another phone call from a writer with a 65–page manuscript on the Lord’s Prayer.  I have not seen this manuscript. From an inspired feeling, this writer sat down and created a manuscript focused on a particular topic. Now she was trying to figure out how to get it published.  You have to admire her diligence and discipline to have completed something–and I did–yet I also tried to gently point out her need to understand the publishing world and the intense competition (and expense) to get the book properly launched and into the marketplace.

First I explained the majority of these types of books are produced as gift books.  The majority of these gift books originate from packagers. [I’ve written about packagers before and if you don’t understand this term–use the search tool in the right-hand column of these entries.]  It’s less likely an editor will seriously consider a single gift book than a series of gift books from a packager. The writer needs to get publishing experience writing for the packager. Many writers don’t understand the need to show the editor publishing credentials–magazine and newspaper credits are a great place to start. Yet even to write for the magazines, you have to learn to write a query letter and pitch ideas that interest the editor. There is a learning curve for everyone who enters the realm of publishing.

Where are you on this curve and are you willing to learn the ropes? Some people are and some people aren’t. For this writer with the Lord’s Prayer manuscript, I recommended that she get Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Sally E. Stuart.  Now she may rush out and order this book. Will she read and study this book and follow the seasoned advice about learning the market which is woven in-between pages and pages of names and addresses for various markets? Some people will and some people will not.

One of the best ways to short-circuit the learning curve in publishing is to attend a large writer’s conference. There are some terrific conferences around the country, I list several of them and will be speaking at a several of them over the next few months. Notice I said “large” conference and there was a reason.  As a first-timer, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, yet you also have the possibility to increase your learning from the experience.

My own journey in the publishing world has been years in the making. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along  the way (and still make them). I wrote for the newspaper in high school then majored in journalism while in college. I wrote in college yet little of my material was published beyond the college newspaper (one of the top ten daily college newspapers in the country). Then for ten years, I left the commercial writing world and spent time in academic writing and linguistics. Those years provided some valuable lessons when I returned to the writing community and started at the beginning–writing for magazines not even attempting to write a book. Your journey will be different from mine. 

Whatever you are trying to write today, take a moment and see if you are starting in the right place. It may save you a lot of rejection and get you moving in the right direction.

A Universal Online Library

February 5, 2007

Name the visionary or person with the dream to be realized–and you will find detractors. Some way or another the people who accomplish their goals and dreams put aside these naysayers and push ahead to achieve their dreams. It comes with the territory and we need to be prepared for it.

Make sure you read Jeffrey Toobin’s article in the February 5th issue of The New Yorker magazine about Google and their quest to create a universal library of books titled “Google’s Moon Shot.” Toobin provides fascinating background and the issues related to Google’s goal of scanning all of the books in the world. Here’s some of the details which caught my attention:

*”No one really knows how many books there are. The most volumes listed in any catalogue is thirty-two million, the number in WorldCat, a database of titles from more than twenty-five thousand libraries around the world. Google aims to scan at least that many.”

*”As Laurence Kirschbaum, a longtime publishing executive who recently became a literary agent, told me at the conference, ‘Google is now the gatekeeper. They are reaching an audience that we as publishers and authors are not reaching. It makes perfect sense to use the specificity of a search engine as a tool for selling books.'”

*”‘What they are doing, of course, is scanning literally millions of copyrighted books without permission,’ Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Authors Guild, said. ‘Google is doing something that is likely to be very profitable for them, and they should pay for it. It’s not enough to say that it will help the sales of some books. If you make a movie of a book, that may spur sales, but that doesn’t mean you don’t license the books. Google should pay. We should be finding ways to increase the value of the stuff on the Internet, but Google is saying the value of the right to put books up there is zero.'”

It’s a lofty goal to scan the world’s books and put them online. The copyright and legal issues are also explored in this article–and how the program is pushing the previous ideas of what constituted fair use of books. When the current laws were created, no one imagined a scanner to digitize the content of a book.

In this realm of exposure for books, John Kremer has launched All Books Free, a site dedicated to giving away novels, children’s books, short story collections and poetry. As Kremer says, “The toughest challenge for a newbie or an unknown author is to get readers to sample your book. The best way to get people to sample your book is by giving it away as a free PDF download. This website is designed to make that easy for you to do. Most people won’t read an entire novel on their computer, but they will sample it. And, if they like it, they will go to Amazon.com or their favorite local bookseller and buy it. Then they will read your book. And, if your book is any good, they’ll begin to tell other people about your book. That’s how word-of-mouth begins. And, please note, 80% of all books are sold by word-of-mouth.” Part of what I’m doing through my affiliate program for Book Proposals That Sell is to open the opportunity for more people to know about and use this book.

There are many different ways to get out the word about your books. In the 6th edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, Kremer has over 700 pages of ideas with specific contact information to spur you in the right direction.

What dream is in your heart? What plans are you making today to move in the direction of fulfilling it?

Open Every Door of Opportunity

February 2, 2007

As an author, I want to knock on lots of different doors of opportunity, then be prepared to march through any of them when they open. It takes courage to often knock in the face of rejection but the opportunities will never come if you don’t continue trying. I know those last statements are not real profound. You would be surprised how many would-be authors give up during the journey. They should continue growing in their craft and ability to write. Plus they need to continue knocking on the doors of opportunity.

As an illustration, I’m going to use my Book Proposals That Sell. This proven book continues to help various writers with their dreams of getting a traditional publisher for their book. Last week I heard from another author who had used the information in this book and received a book contract. I’d much rather have someone pay me to write a book through writing a book proposal than self-publish (or pay someone else) to get the book into print. There are many reasons to take this route yet many have not found the right keys to open that door.

If you read these entries, you know I’ve worked hard (and continue to work hard) to get the word out about the results from Book Proposals That Sell. I continue to sell and promote the trade paperback through different channels. This promotion will continue as I speak at different conferences in the months ahead and other means. Many of you who read these entries have encouraged your friends to purchase the book, held it up at other conferences and used other means to spread the word about this product.

This week I’ve opened another door of opportunity for this book. Now anyone reading these words can promote Book Proposals That Sell to your own Ezine or your own audience–and profit from it financially. I hold the exclusive electronic rights for this book. I’ve created a new electronic version of the book and created an affiliate program. You can see my new promotional page for this book at this link. You can join my affiliate program here. The affiliate program is a simple registration form (three minutes or less to complete). You will have access to various promotional tools such as advertising you can slip into an email or your Ezine or banner ads you can use in HTML newsletters or on your personal website. Why would you do it? I’m going to send you 50% of the profits for any sales from it (much higher than Amazon.com’s Associate program or almost any other means).

In the past, I’ve attempted to get publishers and literary agents to include the book as a recommended resource. A few people (not many) have taken this step and included the book on their websites. Now I’ve increased their motivation because they can actually earn money from the recommendation. I was trying to appeal to their noble nature and get better book proposals–which I know firsthand comes from someone reading and applying this information. If you have an Ezine or a website or an email list of people who dream of getting a book published, go over to this link and sign up for the Affiliate program, then apply the information wherever you can do it.

I want to knock on every door of opportunity and help as many people as possible. The results can be better book proposals and increased success for everyone.

Grounded in Substance

February 1, 2007

When I first heard about this program, it sounded like hyperbole to me.  Over the years, I’ve heard a number of these get-rich-quick schemes. Maybe its my years as an editor and writer that cause me to be a bit skeptical.

My friend, Bob Bly, one of the top copywriters in America, told me about earning $4,000 a week with a simple strategy which takes him twenty minutes a week. From almost anyone else, I would have immediately dismissed it. Instead I wanted to tell you a bit about it and encourage you to try his risk-free guarantee. Bob and Fred Gleeck have produced an excellent audio CD program called The Internet Retirement Marketing Plan.  I’ve listened to almost this entire presentation. It is grounded in substance and perfect for anyone who writes or anyone involved in the publishing community.  It takes work but focused work in a limited amount of time which yield results.

One of the key elements of the program is producing content. If you write or are learning to write, then you have the ability to produce information products.  The entire plan is simplified for anyone. It’s worthy of your attention and exploration.

A second key to achieving the results in this program are actually doing it. It’s unfortunate and I’ve seen it often. People have great dreams and goals–yet they are unwilling to do the work to achieve them. In this case, it will mean getting the program, listening to the CDs, taking notes, then applying it to your own writing life.