Archive for March, 2007

What Triggers Someone To Buy A Book

March 27, 2007

Publishers and authors have been trying to solve this question for ages: What triggers someone to buy a book? It’s a combination of factors that involve timing, positioning and touching the reader’s needs. I confess I don’t have the ultimate answer but I do have a experience that I believe is worth recounting in this entry on the Writing Life.

I hold the electronic rights to Book Proposals That Sell and surveys have shown more than 81% of Americans would like to write a book and millions have actually written a manuscript. Get Published! (click this link to see how you can get a free copy of this how-to book) includes this statistic on page 60, “Finished manuscripts for an estimated 8 million novels and 17 million how-to books are lying in desk drawers all over the country, waiting to be published.” Now that is the kind of statement that strikes fear into the heart of every editor and agent (the folks who have to review this material!). So…there is a huge number of people who want to get published and don’t now how to do it.

From the reviews and other factors, I know Book Proposals That Sell is helping people achieve their dreams in this area. While the paperback still continues to sell, I’m also selling the electronic version. I’ve started an affiliate program with this book (and other products are coming). Every reader of these entries should be a part of this affiliate program. It takes two minutes or less to fill out the form and get your own link. Then you can recommend to others the book and potentially earn 50% commission from the link. I hope every agent and publisher and bestselling author will join this program and my goal is to improve the quality of submissions throughout publishing. Mark Victor Hanson calls this a BHAG or a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. At Mega Book Marketing University, Mark told us that a BHAG 1) inspires people to want to play. 2) it forces you to grow to achieve it.

A number of people have joined my affiliate program–including one highly visible book marketing expert. In the last week or two, several people have purchased Book Proposals That Sell using his affiliate link. After we get through my unconditional guarantee period of 60 days, I’m going to be sending this expert a check for these referrals.

Yesterday I took a few minutes to see what he was doing with my banners. He has a strong web presence and many different pages on his website. I discovered he was using my blinking banner on five different pages. I have no idea if it is the location of the banner, the words on the banner, the fact that it blinks or the terrific design. I just know it’s working and I hope other affiliates will use it as well on their own pages. And whether you use this blinking banner or not, do join the affiliate program and use your affiliate link to guide people to the page. (I know my banner here doesn’t blink–maybe it’s a blogger restriction. Go to this link and scroll to the bottom to see the changing banner).

Your link might be the trigger to get someone the publishing help that they need to take the next step in their own journey.

A Community in Change

March 26, 2007

Each month over six million copies of National Geographic are circulated worldwide. I’ve loved and read this magazine for years. I do not save them! Because of the beautiful production quality, many people have a hard time throwing the magazine away.

In the March issue, I was fascinated to read this well-crafted article from T.D. Allman titled, “The Theme-Parking, Megachurching, Franchising, Exurbing, McMansioning of America, How Walt Disney Changed Everything.” The article is online and gives a picture of how the Orlando community has changed with the arrival of Disneyworld. It shows the fluid nature of our culture and how it is constantly evolving.

The world of publishing is also constantly evolving and changing. It is a challenge (and somewhat impossible) for any of us to keep up. The key from my perspective is to continue growing in your communication ability and try different types of writing to see where you find your niche. Then when you find the type of writing that you do best, to write it with excellence and market it with excellence.

Of necessity, over the next few days these entries about the writing life are going to be more limited. I’m trying to complete a number of deadlines before I travel on Thursday to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. It’s one of the oldest and longest running in the United States. I know my schedule says that it starts on Friday–and it does. Like many of these conferences, they want the staff to arrive the day before. It will be a busy time. I have not been to this conference for several years. In many ways, it’s like an old fashion family reunion and some place I’ve been going since the mid 1980s. Yes, there will be many people at the conference who are attending for the first time. Also there are a number of writers who plan to attend this conference if they can’t attend anything else in the whole year. From early in the day until late at night, this conference is full of activity.

If the weather is good, I often will make time to slip away from the conference for exercise and to visit one of my favorite spots with redwoods on the planet. There is something about walking or running through a bunch of redwoods that helps you have a proper perspective on where you fit into the universe and the sea of change around you.

The Value of Papers

March 25, 2007

Allow me to speculate about something for a moment within publishing. I doubt few authors realize the value of their paperwork when they are in the process of creating it. I’m talking about the numerous drafts of a novel or the various gyrations that a nonfiction book passes through during its path to completion. Or what about the correspondence between authors and well-known people for the gathering of endorsements and other parts of the business.

Several years ago, an author now turned agent talked asked me if I had a plan for donating my papers some place. I scoffed at the idea of my paperwork being valuable. Actually I’ve moved and sorted about three or four times since that conversation. Another one of my author friends told me that three moves equals a fire. I believe there is some wisdom in that statement since each time we move I pare down the extra paperwork from different projects. In other words, I toss them into the trash in the moving process. If I really stop and think about it, my files do have a few letters of correspondence with well-known personalities. In terms of single letters, they probably don’t have much value but the gathering of them might.

I started thinking about this matter from an article in today’s Book Section of the New York Times which profiles a true paper chaser, Glenn Horowitz. It showed me a different side of the publishing business which is active and viable yet rarely highlighted.

The Self-Publishing Dilemma

March 25, 2007

During the recent Mega Book Marketing University, I’m still processing the information and people that I met from this experience. It was a well-done conference and if you get a chance to attend one of these mega events, I highly recommend it. There are plans to have them in various cities across the United States so be watching for additional information and dates.

During the conference, I met Shelley Phillips, a children’s book author from the Nashville, Tennessee area. We talked briefly about her children’s book, God Is Love, and she gave me a copy of the book. It’s a beautiful full-color children’s book with a music CD in the back. Shelley has a sophisticated website and asked me to give her any feedback about it. In particular she was wondering if a traditional publisher could possibly pick it up. I took it home and last week I read the book and listened to the CD. It’s a well-done product with a good message. She is selling the book on Amazon and if you follow this link, you will see I added my customer review to the page with this book.

Here’s the self-publishing dilemma: unless she sells many copies, I believe it will be a challenge to get a traditional publisher to take this book. Why? Full-color children’s books with a CD in the back are not inexpensive to produce. Many times, the publisher will like some element a great deal–and often dislike another element in the book. For example, they will love the words and the message but dislike the style of artwork or the music on the CD or _____ (you fill in the blank). The greater the number of variables, the more there is to reject and because of the large volume of submissions, most editors are looking for a way to stem the tide or something to reject. It can be something as simple as the size of the book and whether it’s standard or fits with the other children’s books for a publisher.

I wrote Shelley as I promised and encouraged her to use every means at her disposal to sell lots of books. For example, Amazon has a number of easy-to-use and free tools for any author. Notice this book released in 2005 and had no customer reviews–until I added mine to that page. A proactive author can orchestrate a few of these reviews. It’s pretty easy when someone says they love your book, you ask this person to go to the page and type a few sentences of review along with a Five Star review. The stars are important because Amazon averages these stars.

There are no easy answers with a book like God Is Love. I’m sure it was an investment on Shelley Phillips’ part to produce the book in the first place. Now I hope she will find the audience for it. It’s part of the self-publishing dilemma and why I’ve not gotten into this area of the market. Yes, I’ve written some manuscripts and proposed some projects which have not sold to a traditional publisher. If this happens, I don’t self-publish. Instead I figure I didn’t pitch it in the right place at the right time to the right person. Not every idea is supposed to move ahead in my view. It wasn’t the right one since it did not find a place. Each of us have to find our own way and make our own choices with these situations. There are no simple or easy answers in my view.

Apply The Lessons

March 22, 2007

Each of us have some things we do very well and others–well, we simply don’t do them at all. Maybe that’s OK not to do them but maybe you simply aren’t applying the lessons that you’ve been taught. It’s always good from my view to continue to grow, change and learn. It’s the mode that I’m in these days–and I’m determined to stay in this mode.

I’ve come to the understanding that I’ve not been as effective with my teaching for writers as I could be in the future. For many years, I’ve traveled the United States and Canada teaching at various writers’ conferences. It’s a rich experience for me and the opportunity to give back as well as learn from other writers. If you look at my schedule, you will see I’m continuing to travel and teach. In fact, I need to get over to the schedule page and add another conference from the last couple of weeks.

Many of these conferences are set up to record the sessions and sell workshop CDs (and it used to be cassette tapes). It’s a normal practice for the speakers to sign a release then receive a complementary copy of their workshop if they pick it up on the spot after the session. After my workshop, I’ll drop by and get my CD and carry it home. Then I stick it in a drawer and don’t think about it again–until I return from another conference. I haven’t been irresponsible with this material. I have not been proactive and sharing this wealth of information with others. I’m changing and applying some of what I’ve been learning.

At the Mega Book Marketing University in Los Angeles, I acquired some equipment to make some changes. I picked up an Edirol R-09 MP3 recorder, a telephone bridge and Sound Forge Audio Studio. I learned about this material from Mike Stewart, who is known as the Internet Audio Guy. You can follow his link to learn more about creating audio products and watch his demonstration videos.

I’ve been learning how to use the Edirol R-09–which is a complex professional digital recorder with loads of features. In the last couple of days, I managed to record a new introduction to one of my workshops about book proposal creation. Yesterday I used Sound Forge for the first time to make some simple edits to the workshop, then pasted in the new introduction. To my surprise, editing sound was like Mike Stewart had told me–very similar to editing a text file with the same sort of cut and paste functions. With a bit of a learning curve, it worked like the instructions and I managed to edit the audio of my workshop and send it into production. In the coming days, I’ll be telling you (and others) more about Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets.

One of the challenges with this project was getting the audio files sent to the production company. They told me about a site called Yousendit.com. This site was easy to use and accomplished the task to get the large file sent to someone else. It’s a good resource to know about if you need it. I learned the bulk of the techniques to produce audio product from Bob Bly’s Internet Marketing Retirement Plan. This four CD package is loaded with insight. I like the simplicity of the program. Bob out sources the majority of his production. I’m learning to apply the lessons from this material.

Each of us are on this journey to learn more information and apply it to our writing life. If you don’t have an online e-newsletter, I’d suggest you subscribe to my free newsletter and read the free ebook about it. Also read these articles about producing a newsletter. There are many articles to teach you about different aspects of writing through Right-Writing.com and these entries about the Writing Life. If you are looking for information about a particular publishing topic, use the search engine in the right-hand column of these entries. Then apply the lessons to your own writing life. It’s the course I’m taking and you can do the same.

The Tricky Balance

March 21, 2007

With increasing frequency I hear this little statement, “Talking about writing is much more fun than actually writing.” It’s true in some respects. Carefully crafting words on paper is hard work. It’s disciplined work and something you have to focus on and make happen. I know these elements firsthand because of the writing deadlines I’m facing–doing and completing all the time. For example, in the last week, I’ve completed a new Ebook which you will be hearing about in the coming days (now in the production process).

Often the first step for many writers is to learn the craft of writing and regularly practice their craft through magazine articles, articles for websites, book proposals and books. It’s one part of the process. Also I listen as some writers ignore another key part of the process–the personal marketing, platform building and promotion. Call it what you want but there is also a necessity to devote a certain level of energy toward this process. You can’t delegate this process to your book publisher or you will likely be disappointed with the results. This result is particularly true if you are a beginning writer and new in the process or in the middle-selling part of the pack.

Today I read a fascinating article from Marisa D’Vari who is one of my colleagues in the American Society of Journalists and Authors. We’ve met at our conferences. In the January/ February issue of Pages, D’Vari wrote “Platform Shoe-Ins, How Does Savvy Marketing Build A Bestseller?” This article isn’t available online–and I just found the reason (Pages is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy). Here’s a couple of relevant paragraphs to this discussion from D’Vari, “Victoria Moran, author of the bestselling Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know, takes a spiritual view of what it takes to create a bestseller, despite the fact she spends several hours a day building buzz for her books and hosts a radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Martha Stewart Living channel. “I do the footwork–the website, the online newsletter, working with speakers’ bureaus–yet what has really made magic for me is just showing up,” she says. “By believing in my message and that there’s a place for it in this world, great stuff has just come to me.”

“Media attention can create awareness of the author’s name, but what makes a bestseller is the right book at the right time with the right buzz. A large promotional budget can help launch a book, but it’s self-defeating for a shy author to appear on Good Morning America or embark on a book tour. Making a personal connection with readers can go a long way to building a readership, but in the end, Moran may be right–all an author can really do is believe in her message, promote the book as well as she can, and leave the rest to the universe.”

Notice the huge “footwork” Moran is doing to get out in front of the public. Also the way she believes in her message then is waiting for the right book at the right time. It’s a tricky balance.

Countdown Timer Resource

March 20, 2007

What does it take for you to focus on your writing and move ahead with a book proposal or a query letter or a magazine article or a book project? The answer will be different for each of us.

People are constantly amazed that I’ve written the volume of material over the years–especially when you consider my first book was released in 1992. My response is that writing a book is just like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time. You write one page at a time.

Yesterday a friend wrote and asked if I’d like to clone myself. My instant reaction was “of course, then I would accomplish even more things.” With a bit more reflection, I’m not really interested in cloning myself—even if it were possible. Instead, I’d like to increase the amount of things that get done through greater effective work habits. Believe me over the years, I’ve heard almost all of the excuses that people give for not getting it done–kids at home, traveling too much, ADHD, poor equipment, no writing space or something else. Also I know accomplished writers who have overcome each of these challenges and continue to publish valuable prose.

I continue to apply lessons from the recent Mega Book Marketing University in Los Angeles. As I drive around in my car, I’m listening to some of the material from this conference. I’m also returning to my large notebook from the session and recalling ideas from the various speakers. Alex Mandossian gave some terrific tools in one of the final sessions of the conference. I’m going to pass along one of them in this entry about the Writing Life in hopes it will help you as well.

The resource is a free countdown timer. Set it to whatever amount of time works for you. Alex suggested 45 minutes since almost anyone (even someone who is ADHD) should be able to concentrate on a single task for this amount of time. Make a plan and stick with it. You will be surprised at what can be accomplished.

Scared? Rise Above It

March 19, 2007

Because I have a number of web pages and write these entries about the Writing Life, many people figure I have the technology stuff licked. They aren’t even close to the truth if that’s what they think. I struggle with it as much as the next person. I am consistently working at improving and learning more about it. That desire doesn’t always translate.

I have some areas like word processing which I do day in and day out so I’m pretty quick and effective in these areas. Other things I rarely handle and it’s always a bit frightening to work on them. For example, I have features on my cell phone which I rarely use. I could become more productive if I learned how to use these features. I fight my fears and move ahead determined to rise above it.

Some people don’t know if they should reach me through my office phone or my cell phone. During the next few weeks this question is going to be an important one because of the large number of days I will be out of my office and away from my phone. I’ve taken the plunge into the technology area and learned how to use a feature called Call Forwarding.

There is an author I’m working with a great deal these days. Unlike many other people, he doesn’t have a lot of different phone numbers in my Rolodex. He has one number. It’s usually his cell phone but the other day we were talking and he put me on a speaker phone. It got me to thinking that he’s probably using Call Forwarding. When I investigated, I learned I could forward my office phone to my cell phone. And when I’m in my office, I can forward my cell phone to my office phone. The technology works–if I learn how to use it. If I continue in my old patterns and never learn something new, then I’m doomed to flounder along with the methods of the past.

What are you putting off learning that could improve your writing life? Is there a new skill that would improve your work habits or enhance your prose? Can you plan to get to a writer’s conference in the coming months and soak in the teaching from someone you want to hear? And not just soak in the information but make specific and measured steps in your own growth. I’m encouraging you to move through those nagging fears about some area and face it with confidence and courage. You will be surprised at the results.

A Celebration of Mothers for Women Writers

March 18, 2007

It’s unusual since I don’t usually write about contests but here’s one you should know about–particularly if you are a woman. Christian Women Online in conjunction with Art Bookbindery is sponsoring the “Her Life Reflected,” writing contest. They are looking for stories that illustrate how your mother, or a mother that you know has reflected the heart of God in her life.

Their panel of judges will choose only one winner, and that winner’s name will be published along with her essay in the May 2007 issue of Christian Women Online.

The Prize Package:

–$200.00 U.S. from Art Bookbindery

–A photo of Candace Cameron Bure, star of the hit TV series “Full House,” autographed to the winner

–An autographed copy of Barbara Cameron’s book, A Full House of Growing Pains.

–Two autographed copies of Darlene Schacht’s humorous book The Mom Complex ~ one for you, and one for Mom!

–A copy of Heather Ivester’s book, From a Daughter’s Heart to Her Mom

–A copy of Yvonne Parks music CD “Only One Love”

–One web page design or blog design (Blogspot only) by Yvonne Parks Design

–A selection of the following books from Allison Bottke:
A Stitch in Time (fiction)
I Can’t Do it All (non-fiction)
God Allows U-Turns for Women (anthology)
God Allows U-Turns for Teens (anthology)

Eligibility

–The contest is open to women aged 18 years and older, who reside in Canada or the United States. Employees of Art Bookbindery and their immediate families are not eligible to enter. Entries must be submitted in Microsoft Word format via email by 11:59 pm central time April 14, 2007.

And if you are male and would like to participate there is always ghostwriting in the name of your wife. It looks like a worthwhile contest with an attractive prize.

A Brilliant Yet Flawed Book Campaign

March 16, 2007

At the recent Mega Book Marketing University in Los Angeles, one of the presentations was about the virtual book tour. If you haven’t heard about this new technology from Alex Mandossian, it’s brilliant and involves several parts.

First, you create an “Ask page” which gathers questions from anyone who wants to ask you a question during a teleseminar. They gave us the template for this page. Each one is created the same and one of the examples they gave is from an attorney in the Phoenix area, Steven Allen. Steve is promoting his new book, You Can’t Take It With You and was attending the event in Los Angeles. They told us about his virtual book tour on March 7th.

I did not make the live book tour but in yesterday’s mail I received a personal handwritten card from Steve as a follow-up from our personal meeting along with an invitation to see the replay of his teleseminar. I went to the page, looked around and the link for the teleseminar replay was not on the page. I’ve written a short note to Steve and encouraged him or his webmaster to fix it. Hopefully by the time you look at this example, the right link will be added to the section that is turning from blue to red.

Then I began to look a bit closer at the handwritten card from Steve. It came from Sendoutcards. I checked that site–and it’s another fascinating technology company. For a fee, you can program their system to handwrite cards and mail them out to your list. I wondered how a busy attorney like Steve Allen would be able to handwrite such a card and I found the answer.

My point is these types of book campaigns are only excellent if every part of them works. It does not work to send me to a page so I can listen to the replay of a teleseminar and the link isn’t on the page. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in these entries, the devil is in the details.

Alex Mandossian has created an amazing set of tools. Through the Ask page, the author gathers questions about the book that his listeners want to hear the answers. These questions shape the content of the teleseminar (and the replay). Here’s some of the other books which have toured and more information about it.

No matter what you are doing–Internet, writing a book, writing a magazine article or anything else–you have to check and double check these details to make sure everything is working. And if it is not working, then take immediate steps to fix it. Otherwise you will do brilliant yet flawed work.