Archive for May, 2007

Take Marketing Responsibility

May 15, 2007

Communication snafus are everywhere. It happens for many reasons and most often it’s a lack of communication or the assumption that something is happening when it is not happening. For example, in the book publishing world, it takes a lot of work for a writer to get a publisher interested in their idea and concept. The writer has to learn the craft of writing and build credibility through writing magazine articles or ebooks or other media to build their credentials and abilities. Finally they craft a book proposal and get a publisher to issue a book contract. Their book is released into the marketplace. Because the publisher has invested a large amount of money and energy (and the writer has as well), the writer assumes the publisher will market the daylights out of their book and sell many copies. Now my last sentence is full of wrong assumptions. Publishers do want their books to sell and be successful but they count on a partnership with the author to get the word out about the book, build buzz and sales for each book. Some times it happens in the early stages and other times it builds to a loud clamor in the marketplace.

My encouragement for every author is to take responsibility for their own marketing. Let’s assume the traditional publisher will have good distribution (which in some cases is an assumption). Your book has entered the market and is widely available through distributors, sometimes in the bookstores and can easily be purchased at the major online places. It is not a time for the author to sit back and work on their next book (well maybe some of the time but not all of it). The author needs to continually take responsibility for their own marketing–even if they have had measures of success in the past. The public quickly forgets.

Last week I received a book proposal from an author who is eager for me to represent the project. The marketing section is two paragraphs and all fluff with the major responsibility on the publisher. I groaned the minute I looked at it because this author will need a huge amount of education on my part before this person can put together an attention-getting marketing effort. Yes, this person has had mega sales in the past but it will not necessarily transfer to this new direction and this new proposal. To believe it will transfer, the author is operating on a false assumption which may fall completely flat.

I’m personally limited about what I can put in these entries about the writing life. I have the same 24 hour constraints that you operate under. I’m going to give you some resources and places to turn. First, make plans to attend a Mega Book Marketing Event. They are coming to many different places around the country and the next one will be in New York City later this month. Unfortunately I am not going to be able to attend this event but it looks great. If you can’t go, then make sure you listen to the free preview calls and gain the insight of the speakers. Either listen to them live when they happen or listen to them after the fact through the replay buttons. This training is absolutely free and valuable to any writer no matter where you are in the journey. You can learn from these experts.

Also John Kremer, the Book Marketing expert, is having a free teleseminar this week. It’s another free and valuable resource.

In other entries, I’ve written about Debbie Macomber, one of the leading romance novelist and someone that I know personally. There is a fascinating article about Debbie in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Here’s a writer who has over 70 million books in print and is on the current New York Times bestseller list. She has not assumed her publisher will market her books and is taking a continual active role in this process. Notice the article points out that Debbie has a mailing list with 75,000 readers–and not a list she has purchased but people who have contacted her personally. I’m one of these readers and I get emails from time to time from Debbie. Every writer should be working on developing their list of readers. I’ve got my free Right-Writing News. Several times a month, I will email this list with single letters around a particular product that I am recommending. Then once a month, I will send a regular newsletter which is full of how-to-write articles. In the back issues (which are only available to subscribers—and free), readers have access to over 400 pages of information. I am continuing to work at growing my list and expanding it. If you have no idea how to write a newsletter or what to say, I’d encourage you to follow the links and learn about it, make a choice and get started. It’s another way for you to take responsibility for the marketing of your own books.

Break The Ice

May 12, 2007

Have you ever entered a new group of people and wondered, “How in the world will I begin a conversation? What’s a good question to ask?” There is an old proverb that goes something like: The man with many friends must consider himself friendly. At least you’ve got the Terry Whalin spin on this saying since I don’t recall where I picked it up.

A week or so ago, John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, wrote on his blog about Scott Ginsberg, who is known as the name tag guy. He pointed out several free ebooks on Ginsberg’s website. I downloaded the PDF files to my desktop and promptly did not read them. Today I got around to reading them. One or two of them, I didn’t find valuable but several of them I’ve actually printed and read. I don’t agree with everything but they have some good ideas and are worth your attention in my view. Let Me Ask Ya This has some good ideas for breaking the ice and starting a fascinating conversation with a new person. It’s a good resource to help you build some relationships.

Over the last few days, I’ve been listening to a recorded message from John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book. John says that one of the keys to selling your book–at any stage of the process is to continue to build and foster relationships. Each of us need all of the tools we can get in this process so if reading Scott Ginsberg’s ebook of conversation starters helps you to build relationships, then you need to use it.

More Than A Memoir

May 10, 2007

The writing community has been stirred and drawn to “memoirs.” It’s given writers great hope they can find a traditional publisher for their personal story. Such hope is filled with danger because many of those personal stories don’t have the national pull to become a bestseller. The majority of them are rejected almost immediately and if they appear in print, they are magazine articles. To all of these “regular practices” and “unwritten rules” within the publishing community, there are exceptions. I wanted to tell you about one of these exceptions and why you should rush out to read: If I Am Missing Or Dead, A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been gently cheering for this book and I’m glad to be able to tell you about it here–and other places such as my Amazon review. Janine Latus is a long-time friend and fellow member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. From a distance, I’ve watched her hone her writing craft in many mainstream magazines and excellent journalistic writing. In October 2005, O magazine ran an intense personal story called “All The Wrong Men.” Janine’s article was selected as an award winner at the ASJA 2006 conference. This article was the springboard for Janine’s book proposal for her first book. The proposal set off an intense bidding war which Simon and Schuster eventually won.

Janine wrote the book at a nearby coffee shop. In my view, the writing process of telling such a personal story must have been difficult and draining. The process of reliving the experiences captured in this book must have been tough. For a first-time author, I was interested to learn S & S printed over 120,000 copies, which indicates their expectations for this book. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a starred review (scroll down to see it from this link). Other reviews have appeared in People and Entertainment Weekly. If you go to Starbucks (I’ll admit not to being a frequent customer), then I understand If I Am Missing is selling a flash drive with the first chapter of the book and part of the money goes to Amy’s Courage Fund. The book is a tool to spur the movement against domestic violence. It is much more than a moving memoir. If you get the book, you should know besides being riveting, it does include some graphic language. Because I don’t typically read or write these types of books, I just wanted you to be aware of what’s inside the pages and not be shocked at my recommendation. It’s true to life so the material is included. After reading the book, my admiration for Janine has grown. Her desire is for the book to be an integral part of a movement against domestic violence. I celebrate the creation of things like Amy’s Courage Fund as a means to help women who are trapped escape these abusive relationships.

I will probably write more about If I Am Missing Or Dead in the future. For now, celebrate this new book and go to your favorite bookseller and pick up a copy.

Use the Power of Personalization

May 8, 2007

I’m learning how to use a tool called Audiogenerator.com to add the sound of my voice to different web pages. Here’s an example that I recorded last night:

Yesterday I recorded a welcome message for the subscription page of my newsletter. I’m experimenting to see if more people will subscribe with this additional boost.

Also you can send postcards with Audiogenerator such as this one. The tool is flexible and easy to use. I’m not very skilled in the technical area and I figured it out. If I can do it, almost anyone can give it a whirl. I see it as a powerful method to personalize your message.

Look For A Mentor

May 7, 2007

Throughout my writing and editorial life, I’ve learned a great deal from many different sources. About twenty years ago, I had no idea how to focus my magazine articles for the marketplace. It was through the patient teaching of a more experienced writer that I learned the skill of crafting a query letter and writing the assigned magazine article. The learning process wasn’t easy. Often my manuscript was returned with many editorial marks and I could have grown discouraged and given up. Instead I pressed on and continued writing. It’s a lesson I hope you will do as well with your writing–press on in the midst of rejection.

One of the biggest authors in the thriller writer area is James Patterson. I’ve read several of these books and enjoy Patterson’s crisp style and fascinating plots. I’ve wondered he has been co-authoring some of his books and how that process worked. You can gain a bit of insight from this Soapbox column in the April 30th Publisher’s Weekly by Andrew Gross titled, The Patterson School of Writing. I found several fascinating elements of this article. First, his connection to James Patterson came from his publisher talking with his agent. Catch that little detail in this article.

Next look at the different lessons Gross learned as he worked seven years with James Patterson. He gives five specifics (you can read the article for the various lessons) but here’s the truth which struck me: “In sum, I learned how to write for one’s audience, not the people you want them to be.” It’s a common flaw in writers. They are writing for themselves and not the audience.

Another key lesson that I’ve been learning is to focus on the people and the relationships instead of trying to figure out how to speculate what will happen from an income or financial standpoint. Yes, we need to have the financials in mind but it’s the relationship which will hopefully continue long into the future. I’ve had many mentors in my life and I continue to be mentored. I’m grateful for each person who continues to teach me either through a book or an audio program or face to face.

The Unknown City

May 6, 2007

Several years ago at an ASJA luncheon, I had the opportunity to meet lifelong New Yorker Pete Hamill. Whether fiction or nonfiction, Hamill writes about New York City.

I love the feeling in New York City with its rich heritage and diversity. It’s fun for me to melt into the crowd and ride the subway to different parts of the city. I often purchase a seven-day unlimited pass to ride to different parts of the city. It’s normal for New Yorkers but it stirs a sense of adventure for me to go uptown or downtown on the local or express trains.

Later this month, New York will be the host for Book Expo America. In honor of that event, Publisher’s Weekly included a stirring piece from Hamill about his city. Hamill writes, “Nobody truly knows New York, not even most New Yorkers. The city is too large, too dense and layered to be intimately known by anyone. I was born here, the first son of Irish immigrants, during the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, attended schools here, and worked for more than 40 joyous years as a reporter and columnist on the newspapers of the wider city.” I loved how the heritage and memories of the long tradition of the city are woven into this article. I hope you will read the entire article.

How can you weave this type of emotion and detail into your own writing? Can you capture the sense of place in your nonfiction magazine articles? Can you take me to the place with your fiction? It takes continual creative work for each of us to find the right words for each piece of our writing. Many people aren’t willing to do this work. Today I’d encourage you to lift your head and rise up beyond the ordinary in your writing. You can do it with the right amount of energy and effort. Let’s learn from the example from Pete Hamill.

Two Week Wonder

May 5, 2007

We had a great trip over to Las Vegas to hear Celine Dion and back. I appreciated each of the terrific comments about our anniversary.

On the trip over and back, I was reading through the May 7th The New Yorker. Typically when I travel, I’ve only been reading from takeoff until the plane reaches 10,000 feet so I’ve limited my reading time. On a regular basis, The New Yorker will include in-depth profiles of various authors. This week’s issue includes an article about novelist Paul Coelho. As of this morning, only the abstract is online. According to the article, Coelho has over 100 million books in print. Several months ago, my wife read The Alchemist for her local book group. Here’s the remarkable passage in the article about this book and is also in the abstract: “Life and letters about Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist in two weeks, in 1987. The book has been translated into fifty-six languages and has sold over twenty million copies.” Now that’s what I call pretty good work for two weeks if you can get it. It’s why I call this post the the two week wonder.

You may be asking, “What I do after they ring the little bell on a plane that they’ve reached 10,000 feet and the plane continues to climb?” I reach into the back seat pocket and pull out my AlphaSmart. They don’t allow laptops in that pocket but no one has ever objected to my AlphaSmart keyboard. I get more weird looks from the people around me but I switch on the machine and begin pounding the keys. I admit that I’m a hard typist. It’s a trait leftover from learning on a manual typewriter. I’ve managed to get a great deal of writing done in a short amount of time on these flights. For example, the flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix is only about 45 minutes. It’s been a great tool–even if it is a strange-looking thing.

Value For Failure

May 3, 2007

Ever wonder what in the world you are supposed to be learning from this situation? It happens to me on a regular basis. I’ve been trying to add to these entries on The Writing Life but other events have crowded into my schedule. I’ve been on the road again and on a slammed schedule which hasn’t allowed any time for blogging. I continue to learn valuable lessons and insight through different experiences. It’s what I’ve tried to capture in many of these entries. I’m off on another trip today (the second one this week) but it’s a special one–our 12th anniversary. While I am not real crazy about Las Vegas, it’s where we’re headed later today. It’s the last year for Celine Dion and her show, A New Day. It should be fun and a quick trip–over today and back tomorrow. It’s a glimpse into my life but I hope it helps you understand why I haven’t been as consistent with my entries here.

One of the publications which I enjoy reading is Fast Company. This month includes a fascinating article called, “Failure Doesn’t Suck” about Sir James Dyson. I recommend the entire article but make sure you read this opening, “Today, Dyson makes the best-selling vacuum cleaner by revenue in the United States and is one of the richest blokes in Britain. But it took him 15 years and nearly his entire savings to develop his bagless, transparent creation. His latest innovation, a hand dryer that uses neither heat nor evaporation, took only three years, but Dyson says his grinding, error-filled approach hasn’t changed.

You once described the inventor’s life as “one of failure.” How so?

I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.”

What an example of persistence! I’ve met many writers who have sent out their manuscript once or twice and been rejected, then they quit. They stick it back in their desk drawer and figure no one wanted to publish their work. In some cases, the proposal or manuscript wasn’t good and should have been rejected. The rejection isn’t always for that reason. There are many reasons for rejection and some of them are tied to the author’s work and some of them have nothing to do with the author. As I’ve written many times, it’s a matter of getting to the right publisher at the right time with the right manuscript. It’s like every detail has to line up right for it to happen and many authors are not willing to fail or persist to find that perfect spot. Are you learning from your failure and growing from them? I hope today each of us can follow the example of Sir James Dyson.