Archive for the ‘book proposals’ Category

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.

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.

The Necessity: Ask The Right Question

June 1, 2007

I’ve watched writers over the years and know they are a creative bunch. The majority of them have some idea for a magazine article or a novel or a book, sit down and crank it out. Often they invest hours in the writing process and when it’s completed, they turn and try to sell that manuscript to a magazine editor or a book publisher.

Because there are literally millions of these ideas, queries, book proposals and manuscripts in the jammed pipeline, the writer waits forever for a response from some editor or literary agent. They burn a path to their mailbox or their email box looking for some response. And often when that response comes, it’s a rejection. That’s when the self-doubts set in for the writer.

It’s like the old chicken joke which has been around forever. What came first the chicken or the egg? Where in the creation process of the writing do you begin and write something that fills a need in the market? There are three large elements with this process: Messenger, Delivery System and Market. The majority of people believe they are the messenger, the book is the delivery system and they are trying to reach the market. It’s a long-shot way of touching that market in my view because not enough research has been put into discovering the need of the market.

Yesterday I was fascinated with this transparent post from Thomas Nelson President and CEO Mike Hyatt. While the writer invests vast amounts of time and creative energy in their idea, the publisher has the real “skin in the game” (as some people would say) or financial investment. The publisher has created a product and most of that creation is based on their experience and some “gut” reaction. Mike makes a case for the publisher to do more research before they produce the product. I want to take this idea a bit further and encourage the writer to survey the marketplace before they write another book proposal or another query letter.

How do you survey your market? I’d suggest you use a tool called the Ask Database. Behind the scenes, I’m using this Ask Database to compile the questions and data for my free teleseminar next week (and other teleseminars that are in the planning stages). I hope you’ve asked your question about book proposals or the publishing process because I’m eager to gather your input. Each writer should be building a list of people they can survey. It’s their market and they should be connecting with their readers to find out what they want–then write something that fills a need in that audience. You communicate to your audience on a regular basis through a newsletter like my FREE Right Writing News.

This process of asking the right question and meeting a market need is more important than ever for every writer. Why? We’ve been saying there were 170,000 new books published last year–and a very small percentage (something like less than 500 book titles sold over 5,000 copies–I’ve heard this statistic but can’t lay my hands on it–so I’m hedging) actually sold. Here’s the frightening detail: R. R. Bowker who compiles the statistics have reworked their method to compile the numbers. Now they estimate that over 290,000 books were published last year–a 120,000 jump from their previously published number of 170,000.

Whether the number was 170,000 or over 290,000, it’s a huge number of new books–and many of those titles are entering the market but not selling. I return to my key point in this entry: Are you asking the right question and what are you doing to get your answers?

The Seven-Year Difference

May 22, 2007

Yesterday I mentioned listening to iUniverse CEO Susan Driscoll when she spoke at Mega Book Marketing University 2006 in Florida. During this talk, Susan mentioned the difference that seven years can make in the life of a person. I found it fascinating and tracked down the specifics. She was talking about The Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown. No matter what you think about the book, it found tremendous success.

Susan encouraged listeners to track down a court transcript where Dan Brown was defending himself against accusations of plagiarism in the London Court (and Brown was successful in his defense). With a little work on Google I located the transcript which is 77 pages.

In the transcript, Brown talks about his journey as a novelist and here’s the quote which Susan highlighted for her audience, Dan Brown said, “This was not an easy time financially. I remember that we were forced to literally sell books out of our car at low profile publishing events. The few readers who read Angels & Demons had gone wild for it.”

Brown and his wife were traveling to small events and selling books from the back of their car in 2000. What a difference seven years makes in the life of a person. Last year (2006), Brown landed in the tenth spot on the Forbes 100 list of earning an estimated $88 million or up from 12th spot the year before.

Where are you in the process of pursuing your dreams about publication? It is hard work to make the right pitch with the right book proposal. Many people don’t put the energy and effort into their proposal to craft the right pitch. Or they send it to the wrong places. Or they give up on the idea too easily. It’s a subjective business and you have to tell your story over and over to build enough enthusiasm for it that it succeeds in the marketplace of ideas.

Why is it so difficult? The statistics repeatedly show that each year reading statistics are on the decline. Each year about 190,000 new books are published with millions of backlist books already in print (published in the past seasons or backlist). If you are feeling low, take some of the smaller steps.

Begin to build a newsletter list. Everyone has to start some place so launch a free newsletter and continue building that group of subscribers, feeding them great content on a regular basis. The back issues of my Right Writing News have over 400 pages of how-to information which is free but only available to subscribers. If you don’t now what you would write for a newsletter, then go to this link and read every article and follow the advice.

If you are getting rejected, make sure you are building your relationships and learning your craft at writer’s conferences. Learn how to craft a basic magazine article or short story. It will take you down the road to achieve your larger dream because you are learning the process and building your publishing credits. I’ve traveled the country teaching about book proposals. As a home study tool, pick up my new product, Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets and listen to it over and over.

Most of all, keep holding on to your dreams and working each day to make a difference. You can do it and if you need the encouragement, consider the seven year difference in Dan Brown’s life–selling books in the back of his car to #10 on the Forbes 100 list.

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.

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.