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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.

Interesting Book Buyer Statistics

June 5, 2007

Some people are purely nonfiction readers. I will often ask people what they read and they will tell me. Other people are purely fiction readers.  Novels and stories are about all they will turn to during their reading time. I’m one of those people who attempt to follow a middle ground in this area. I read both nonfiction and fiction in a wide genre of categories.

From my years of reading, I know there is one dominant genre in the fiction area of the market: romance. In response to this domination, there are some strong writer’s organizations which have supported and fostered these writers like the Romance Writers of America, the American Christian Fiction Writers (originally called the American Christian Romance Writers until a couple of years ago) and other groups.

Several times a year, Publishers Weekly includes a cover story featuring romance writers. Their latest is called Love for Sale in the May 28th issue. While the article is interesting, make sure you scroll to the bottom of this article and notice the statistics. With 31% of romance readers purchasing their books from mass merchandisers, it certainly explains why the grocery stores and bookstores continue to stock their mass merchandiser display. Whether you read the romance genre or not, it’s information worth knowing in my view.

On the Road Again

April 10, 2007

Occasionally I get a distressed comment on this blog wondering if I’m on  vacation. It happens especially when I haven’t posted in a week or so. I’m not on vacation (something I rarely do by the way). I’m usually away from my computer and not able to write any entries about The Writing Life. If you haven’t done it, I suggest you check out some of my older entries in this blog because much of the information is still useful to your writing life.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be challenged to write any of these entries. Tomorrow, my wife and I are driving over to Southern California for a family wedding on Saturday, April 14th. It’s a five-hour drive each way from Arizona.  I’m still continuing to work on the road even in this family setting. We return on Monday, April 16th and early the next morning, I fly to New York City for six days or until April 22nd. I’ll be one of the presenters in a three-hour session on Sunday, April 22nd on nonfiction book proposals at the American Society of Journalists and Author meetings. I hope to see you there. And if you wonder about my schedule, check this link. It covers most of my travel (but not everything). I have to leave a little mystery about my schedule.

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.

Get The Story Down

January 31, 2007

Over the last fifteen plus years, I’ve had many opportunities to interview book authors and talk with them about how they practice their craft. Whether fiction or nonfiction, I’ve always been interested in how they start the process.

Gilbert Morris, a prolific novelist, told me about his unusual technique. He creates an outline of his story and knows the background on his characters. Then he sits quietly at his desk with a tape recorder and orally records his novel.  The tapes are transcribed and he takes this oral storytelling as the foundation to begin his rewriting process. Gil Morris told me about Sidney Sheldon, the bestselling author who also uses this technique. Yesterday at the age of 89, Sheldon died.  His initial technique to start his writing process was tucked into the Associated Press story: “Unlike other novelists who toiled over typewriters or computers, he dictated 50 pages a day to a secretary or a tape machine. He corrected the pages the following day, continuing the routine until he had 1,200 to 1,500 pages. ”Then I do a complete rewrite– 12 to 15 times,” he said. ”I spend a whole year rewriting.” Several of his novels became television miniseries, often with the author as producer.”

I have a full profile about Morris planned for an upcoming issue of Right Writing News, my free Ezine which is only available to subscribers. If you haven’t subscribed, follow this link and get a free bonus 150 page Ebook called Ezine Marketing Magic.

Each novelist has to find their own rhythm and storytelling technique. It’s the same for the nonfiction author about how they practice their craft.  There are many different ways to get the story down for the first draft. You have to determine which way works for you–your ability, your lifestyle and your available time to write.

Profile of a Risk Taker

January 29, 2007

Writers are risk takers to pursue their dreams of publication. They invest hours in shaping their idea (or they should) into a book proposal and sample chapters. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, they write the concept from their minds into print, then send it to the editors and literary agents.

Publishers are also risk takers. If you don’t believe me, just take a quick look at this publishing quiz from Putting Your Passion Into Print which I posted almost a year ago. [If you wonder how I remember such things, I don’t. Use the google search engine tool in the right-hand column.]

One of the publishing community’s risk takers is Judith Regan. I alluded to her in my last post. Several years ago, I was sitting in the office of a New York City literary agent and she told me a story about Judith Regan. This agent had shopped a proposal from a leader in the skateboard community named Tony Hawk (before the huge popularity of his video games). The agent presented the proposal simultaneously to a number of publishing houses. Each of these publishers rejected the proposal–except Judith Regan. She understood the vision for the book as well as the risk. Regan Books published this book and I recall the agent telling me this title sold over 100,000 copies.

There are strong feelings about Judith Regan and how she operated in the publishing world. Just look at this article in Vanity Fair from two years ago if you don’t believe me. In this post, I wanted to point out this recent profile from New York Magazine about Regan. It’s another perspective about this risk taker.

Today writers will pitch many different ideas into the editorial and agent offices around the country. How are you positioning your pitch? Is it exactly on the target for a particular magazine or a particular publisher? Or will it be outside the range of what they publish? My encouragement is to polish your submission before you make this pitch into excellence. If you’ve worked hard on the craft of your writing and your persuasive language, it will lower the risk and gain a fair hearing.

A Rare Look At Contract Details

January 27, 2007

A great deal of publishing has a public face where the details are easily known about different aspects. There is also a rarely seen part of book publishing and that’s the book contract.

Several times, I’ve been privileged to write a couple of books which garnered a six-figure advance. One of my book proposals with a six-figure advance appears in the appendix of Book Proposals That Sell.

When you receive a book contract from a major publishing house, it can be daunting. Often these contracts are about 18–20 legal-sized pages of legalese. No wonder people turn to literary attorneys when they receive such an agreement. The parties to the agreement (the publisher and the author) sign the arrangement then tuck it away in their files. It’s not a public record for other people to read it or see how it even looks–normally.

Last year, I moderated a panel on contracts at the American Society of Journalists and Author meetings. One of the panelists brought a handout of the Random House Joan Collins contract from the pre-computer days. I posted it (follow this link) because the contract is in the public domain. You can see the cross-outs and how it appears.

Now because of another legal matter, you can see an actual Regan Books/ HarperCollins contract. It’s complete with the signatures and everything. The Media Bistro Blog posted an article about the cancelled OJ Simpson book. Because the contract went into a public court document, Media Bistro posted this agreement and you can see it from a link in the article. If you scan through it, as I did, you will notice the writer was paid $125,000. Many have discussed the inappropriate nature of this book and celebrated when it was cancelled–and I agree.

My point in this entry is to show you something rarely seen–a recent, signed full-length, complex book publishing agreement.