Archive for June, 2007

Why Social Network?

June 29, 2007

The majority of writers are introverts. It’s something that I’ve read as well as personally observed over and over. Yes, we dig down deep inside to write words and get them out to others. A few writers are extrovert in personality but the majority are not. An editor from a well-known Chicago-based company told me their entire office took the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory Test a few years ago. This company has many different print and online publications. Of the group of editors something like two of them were extrovert and the rest were introvert.

Even someone who is basically an introvert can rise to the occasion. It’s what I do when I teach at writers conferences and in other situations. Yet selling books is about creating relationships. You have to reach outside of yourself to create those relationships. The more relationships, the more people who know about your writing and you as a person.

John Kremer at BookMarket.com included a tip about the Book Marketing Network in this week’s Book Market Tips. I’ll admit when I read it my curiosity got the best of me—so I went to it and joined. John is the creator of this social network which is a growing network of people interested in the topic of book marketing. If you get real fascinated with social networks, you can even create your own social network. It’s another free networking spot. I’ve not spent a lot of time on my particular page but I have added a few links to some of my resources. There are several hundred people on this spot–and it is growing all the time. I exchanged greetings with a few old friends and have been meeting some new ones. It’s another resource to check out and become a bit more social.

Quick! Listen to this Replay

June 27, 2007

I’ve been reading a lot of “buzz” about Timothy Ferriss’ new book, The 4–Hour Workweek. The title alone is rather provocative (and inviting). I’ve had two emails in the last few days for teleseminars with Ferriss. I tried to get into one of them yesterday but it was already completed. I looked around for the replay–and couldn’t locate it.

Then a few hours ago, I got an email with the link to last night’s replay—but it will only be up for 72 hours (and the clock has already been ticking). While the replay includes a fast-forward button, it does not allow you to download the entire file–because Arielle Ford will be selling this interview as a part of a package. If you want to hear it, then you have to do it now.

A Glimpse into Book Cover Design

June 26, 2007

After interviewing hundreds of book authors for many years, you’d be surprised how frequently these authors want to tell me how much they dislike the cover of their latest book. Or they will tell me how the book title wasn’t the one that they would have selected. Inside when I hear these stories I shake my head and feel like shaking the author and saying, “Get over it and move on and be excited about what you have in front of you.” It doesn’t make a good impression on the journalist about this part of the publishing process.

Many years ago, one of my high-profile authors strongly disliked his book cover photo. The dislike carried into his eagerness to promote this particular title. Before too many months, this book faded out of print.

On the positive side of book cover design, Roy Peter Clark wrote “Judge My Book by Its Cover” in the June 18th Publishers Weekly. The article points out a simple truth: ideally the cover designer reads the book and gets in sync with the author and publisher about the vision for the book audience. It’s a good piece and I recommend you read it.

What the printed article does not show is Clark’s book cover for Writing Tools. I have not read this book but I’m familiar with Clark’s work at Poynter Online. Here’s a list of his 50 writing tools and articles. Here’s where he podcasts about these writing tools. It’s a rich resource and every writer can gain something from Clark’s Writing Tools.

Follow Or Ignore The Ideas

June 25, 2007

This past weekend I was definitely in the minority.

Over 400 women were attending the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was one of half a dozen men who were around at this conference. Besides being in the minority as a man, I was the only literary agent at the event. This annual conference trains women in two primary areas–as speakers and as writers. During the conference, I taught an hour workshop about Book Proposals then met individually with over 25 writers in 15–minute sessions.

Because this group of women have been receiving training about book proposals and talking with editors, in general I was impressed with the quality of their submissions. The majority of them came prepared to talk about their book idea. Many of them were petrified because it was their first time talking with an editor or a literary agent. There were several other editors and publishers represented at the conference who were also holding these 15-minute sessions. The format alone is always a challenge for these meetings. The participants are anxious for my feedback and I have to listen carefully to their idea and ask some probing questions as I flip through their proposal.

Years ago I sat in the position of these writers and hung on every word from the editor. I made lots of notes as they talked then tried to go home and follow through on each of their suggestions. I learned the hard way–and I suspect these people from last weekend will learn it as well–that I take the suggestions as just that “suggestions” and not the absolute truth. No one editor or literary agent has this absolute truth perspective with a massive amount of wisdom to pass along to the writer who is pitching. Some of those ideas are right on target while others need to be ignored. That choice is up to the individual.

I’ve told this story in at least one other entry. Years ago I had a 15-minute meeting with an editor that I respect. I took detailed notes as this editor critiqued my book proposal. I returned home and followed each of the suggestions then sent the proposal back to this editor. He didn’t recall that he had even talked with me about this idea. I was crushed and disillusioned and all sorts of other disappointed feelings. I thought I was receiving the total straight scoop about how to navigate the waters of publishing.

Now that I’ve had a few more years of experience in this area plus had the opportunity for the last few years to be the person who meets with writers, I return to the choice factor. The individual writer has to evaluate the advice, then decide if it’s right for their manuscript or book proposal or not.

You can imagine that I was a bit whipped and worn after meeting with writer after writer. I’m unsure if my counsel had much value at the end of the day. Never-the-less, I gave it my best shot. It’s all anyone can expect during these sessions. People forget the subjective nature of the publishing world. One person loves your idea while another person rejects it. One person believes your book is the absolute best thing they’ve ever read on the topic while the next person believes with equal passion that you’re work is only for beginners and lacked “freshness” (whatever that means).

As you listen to the opinions of various writers, editors, literary agents and other professionals, don’t forget to listen to your own internal voice about the writing.

If It’s Thursday Then…

June 21, 2007

I must be headed to the Phoenix airport for another conference. I’ll be going out to the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina this coming weekend.

Several of my friends are road warriors and travel almost weekly or several times a month. It’s not my normal travel schedule to have three weekends in a row in three different areas of the United States. In each place, I’ve had some good meetings and opportunities.

I’m excited about the potential in Charlotte and we’ll see what happens. I’ve been learning how to be very productive during the long airplane trips. I’ll have my AlphaSmart in my laptop bag. I continue to get some weird comments but it’s been a lifesaver for getting work done on the airplane–yes even in the coach section when the person in front of you puts their seat in recline. Because the AlphaSmart has a much smaller screen, it doesn’t have the difficulties of a laptop in that same situation.

My entries here will be scarce for a few days. If you ever wonder, just check my schedule and it may give you the answer.

Each Day Do A Little Bit

June 19, 2007

About ten years ago, I ghost wrote a daily radio program for a bestselling author. They were short pithy daily reminders for the listener which were one-minute in length. This author recorded the programs and sent them to radio stations around the country who played them for free since they fell into the Public Service Announcement category (PSA). I wrote over 300 of these programs and provided a steady stream of material going out to the radio community and reminding the listening audience about this author. It was a simple and effective strategy. I don’t know if the program continues today or not. This daily challenge is a powerful tool. My question today is: Are you incorporating some daily action into your life to build your writing career or boost your latest book?

The June 11th issue of Publishers Weekly used Christopher Lee Nutter’s article in the Soapbox Column called Author, Media Savant. While his book is a year old (ancient in terms of most publicity), he is “still on book tour” and a smart author who understands the necessity of continual publicity about his book.

This section was particularly insightful about how magazines and newspapers handle galley copies of new books, “It is true that my 13 years working as a writer and editor at magazines and newspapers has made me savvy. I’ve been on the other end of the pitch, so I know how to craft one. I also know that most book PR departments simply hurl galleys blindly at the media, using generic lists of publications and dated lists of editors, letting the galleys fall where they may–which is usually on the giveaway table. Countless times I surveyed the cemetery of galleys headed to their early graves, and determined to avoid this destiny at all costs. So way before I ever even met my publicist, I decided to take responsibility for my book’s publicity.” (I added the emphasis on this last sentence.)

Later in the article, Nutter gives this great attitude, “It’s a lot of work and uncertainty, no doubt about it. But it’s worth it. I love my book, and I didn’t write it for no one to hear about. While it’s true that I can’t make people buy the book, I can make sure they’ve heard of it.”

With the sheer volume of new books entering the market daily, it’s entirely possible that many people have never heard of you or your book. Nor have these people heard of me or my books. For example, my Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success has been in print for over two years. And new people continue to discover it and use it to accomplish their own publishing dreams. I’m grateful whenever they find it.

Each day, I continue to do little things which spread the word about my book. Here’s a couple of ideas for you readers of these entries on the Writing Life:

1. Join my affiliate program which is free and takes minutes to fill out the form. But don’t just join the program. You need to take the next step and begin using your own affiliate link in emails and banner ads on your websites. Why? Because as people click those banners or emails, if they come to my landing page and purchase the book, then you receive an email of notification (and I do as well). Here’s the great news: after the 60 day guarantee period, I send you 50% of the commissions–for any of my products. For example, with Book Proposals That Sell in the ebook format, that means $19.50 each time someone buys it that you have led to the site. There are even greater payments with other products such as Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets.

2. Use my free articles in your own newsletter or website. I’ve got these articles for anyone to use them so feel free–and I do have plans to add to them.

Take your long-range goal and put it into smaller pieces and attack it every day. Some of your efforts will begin to reap rewards.

A Solid Resource for Chidren’s writers

June 18, 2007

Last April, I participated in a several hour workshop on Perfecting Your Nonfiction Book Proposal as a part of the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference in New York City. One of the panelists was Liza N. Burby who is also an ASJA member. While Liza has written for many magazines, she has also specialized in children’s books.

There are many misconceptions among writers related to children’s books. Anyone can write these books is one of the predominant misconceptions. Particularly when my children were little and now for my grandchildren, I’ve read a number of children’s books. Some times you wonder how in the world such a book got printed. And other times, you read a book and think, I could have written that book.

The children’s book market has equal challenges to the adult book market. Recently at the Frontiers in Writing Conference, I participated in a several hour critique session with a small group of writers. One or two of them had children’s book manuscripts which were read then I critiqued on the spot. I mentioned the stiff competition and the difficulty of getting a children’s book published. Of course this last statement was my educated and subjective opinion about this market from my long-term experience. Another speaker at this conference, Andrea Brown, head of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency spoke on “The Hot Children’s Book Market.” Two of the participants in the conference tracked me down later in the day to ask about the difference in viewpoint. I explained that it was my perspective and opinion and that other people bring a different perspective.

This weekend I read through Liza’s excellent book, How to Publish Your Children’s Book, A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes. I love the practical, tested nature of the material in this book. It gives wise approaches about how to look for available markets, how to approach editors, how to research the needs and how to shape an excellent book proposal. And if you get a bunch of rejection letters for your effort, then Liza has good advice about that as well in the chapter called “If It Doesn’t Happen.” In her final chapter she writes, “I absolutely believe that you can get your children’s book into publication. The very fact that you’ve come to the end of this book shows that you have the drive you need to reach your goal. But, as you know know, there are no shortcuts to success. Hard work and dedication are needed to turn your dream into a reality. The rewards, however, are well worth the work. I strongly urge you to enjoy every moment of the process, from the time an idea first seizes you while you’re standing in line at the supermarket or driving down the road. Even the anticipation of preparing submission packets and flipping through the daily mail delivery can be enjoyable. Then one day, when an editor calls and expresses an interest in your book, you’ll feel an almost unbeatable thrill–unbeatable, that is, until the day you see your name in print on the cover of your book.”

You will definitely increase your odds of success if you follow the advice in this book. Throughout her book, Liza has scattered seven rules, which are explained in detail. The first rule summarizes what any published author should feel, “Sometimes, you just get lucky.”

Great Writers’ Archives

June 15, 2007

Do you ever wonder what happens to the manuscripts from famous writers? According to this article in The New Yorker, many of them land at the University of Texas.  I found the piece fascinating and maybe you will as well. 

I’m headed east to speak at the Outdoor Writers of America Conference in Roanoke, Virginia.  One of my classmates from my days in the journalism school at Indiana University is the conference director, Phil Bloom. Over the last year, we’ve talked on the phone and emailed but not seen each other in over 30 years. I’m looking forward to it.

When Fox News Called

June 14, 2007

Yesterday afternoon I answered my telephone and it was someone from the Fox News Channel. It was the first time I’d ever talked with someone from this news organization. I’m familiar with many of their programs from watching the news during my exercise stints on the treadmill.

The reporter was compiling a database of people who personally knew Billy Graham. From my journalism training, I knew the reason for this database. As high profile newsmakers grow older, news organizations around the globe prepare to be able to access appropriate people to comment on these people. This phone call struck me as out of the blue since I worked for Mr. Graham over 13 years ago. Even when I worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, I could count on one hand the number of occasions where I either met Mr. Graham or sat in a meeting where he spoke.

As I spoke to this Fox News reporter, I was trying to figure out why they had called me. Five or six years ago, I wrote an unauthorized biography, Billy Graham, which is a part of the Men of Faith series. While the book was unauthorized, it was a close to being an authorized unauthorized biography as you can get. Through my personal connections to BGEA, I checked every word of my manuscript with a long-term, close associate of Mr. Graham who made some key last minute adjustments on my manuscript.

I figure this reporter did a google search and my name came up attached to a Billy Graham biography and they had quickly located my work phone number. It was not difficult to connect the dots of how they made this connection. I discouraged my inclusion on this list of people to call for comment since there are many other people with a much longer personal history with Mr. Graham. And this reporter told me that I could tell her “no comment” when they call me–which is definitely going to be my response. While I care deeply for Mr. Graham and the Graham family, it’s not my place to be interviewed at the time of his death. As I spoke on the phone, I could hear the keyboard keys clicking and this reporter was not deterred but included my phone number in the database.

Later in the day I understood the reason for the call. Now this news is scattered across the globe that Mrs. Graham has fallen into a coma. Whenever Mrs. Graham or Mr. Graham die, it will be a major news story. Fox News is getting prepared.

Postscript: I wrote the above material early this morning. Late this afternoon, I heard that Mrs. Graham passed away. Earth’s loss is heaven’s gain. What a remarkable person.

Press Release Tools

June 13, 2007

Many writers have never written a press release. They figure that’s something their book publisher handles or something they can delegate to someone else. In the normal course of events, your book publisher will prepare a press release for the book. This release is focused on the content of your book and a mixture of information about you as the author and the unique marketing position of your new book. It’s a one time event then the publicity person moves on to another book.

There are almost limitless opportunities to promote your events, your forthcoming workshops, your new products and other aspects of your work–if you know how to write an effective press release. It’s another critical skill that every writer should add to their base of knowledge. The first part of this process is learning to write the release, then you need to effectively get that release to the right media person (newspaper, magazine, Internet, radio or television) and follow-up. The key will almost always be in the follow-up.

Whether you’ve never written a press release or it’s been a long time or you just want a tool to help you in this process, I’ve found this resource from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing. It’s an online press release generator. You fill in the blanks and it generates a press release which you can receive via email and send out. You have to subscribe and confirm your subscription to reach the Instant Press Release link but then you can save this link in your browser and use it over and over. John is using this tool as another way to build subscribers and it’s admirable. If you don’t want to be on his list, you can unsubscribe at any time but I see he provides continual value to his audience and recommend you stay with his list.

Another resource in this same area (where you don’t have to register for the tool) is the Press Release Builder. If you follow the various links here, you will gain an education in this aspect of the business, learn how to email reporters and much more.

A few readers are probably grousing about this post and wondering why they should even care. They want to get published in magazines. Or they have a novel that they want to get published. Or they have a nonfiction idea that they are putting together into a book. Here’s why you should care: you are the best person to promote yourself. Unless you write certain press releases and send them into the market and follow-up with the media, they will never be written. Yes, you can hire a publicist to write them for you but if your resources are limited, then you should broaden your skills and learn to write press releases.