Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Great Resource Now Better

January 25, 2007

If you want to write for the Christian marketplace, one of the essential resources is the Christian Writers’ Market Guide by Sally E. Stuart. For more than twenty years, Stuart has been the go-to marketing person helping writers.

Because I’ve got personal relationships with many of the book editors and magazine editors, I’ll admit that I don’t purchase one of these massive guides each year. Instead, I get it about every third year. With the 2007 edition, Christian Writers’ Market Guide became even better. Now this reference book includes a CD-ROM for either Windows or Mac which includes a Word document and a PDF format of the entire text of the book.

Why is this important? Let’s say you are looking for a literary agent, you can cut and paste the various addresses rather than retyping them on your labels. If you’ve written a query letter and simultaneously submit it to several magazine editors, you will save time using the cut and paste feature of the Market Guide.

Before you do a massive mailing from a printed guide book of any type, be aware this information is constantly changing. For example, my defunct email at Howard Books is listed in the guide. Stuart works on constant updates. I’m sure she’s hard at work on the 2008 edition while the 2007 book has just released. This example shows the constant movement within Christian publishing. The market guide is just the first step in your research process to understand the various markets. It’s the writers responsibility to address the right editor and the right publication rather than glut the system with a bunch of wrongly-targeted submissions.

Besides the contact information for different portions of publishing, Stuart includes analysis of bestsellers and lists the most popular topics for books. This information can help you select the right publisher or the right publication for your idea.

A Thrilling Contest

January 23, 2007

I don’t enter many contests. The writing world has many of them and often they have the word “scam” associated with them. Occasionally you find a contest worth entering–and I wanted to tell you about it.

The International Thriller Writers are offering the grand prize of 150 signed thrillers for their contest. The contest runs until February 15th and to enter you have to fill out a short form with your name and email address. Through this contest, you are signing up to receive their newsletter, which is a good newsletter. If you don’t want the newsletter, you can unsubscribe. I would love to win this contest. Of course I am lowering my chances of that happening as I tell you about this contest. Everyone has an equal chance so give it a shot and you will get a great newsletter no matter what happens.

Last summer the ITW held their first ThrillerFest in Phoenix and it was a virtual whos-who of thriller writers. I learned a great deal and wrote a short article with tips for thriller writers. This month my article appeared in a writing publication. Page One and Page Two Whether you write thrillers or any other type of fiction, you can gain some valuable tips through this article.

Hope Against the Naysayers

January 22, 2007

If you travel in publishing circles, you hear lots of different opinions about what topics will break through and become bestsellers. Mostly these thoughts are thrown out on the negative side of things. I’ve heard the same things. People have been saying, “The children’s book market is completely flat.” Now there is some validity to this viewpoint and I’ve read articles in the trade magazines to validate this comment. Does this mean that you shouldn’t write children’s books? Not necessarily. Bounce that view off another conversation I had in a major literary agency about a year ago. I was a few blocks from Times Square in New York City meeting with a fairly new literary agency. Two former publishers at a major publishing house had opened their own shop. While the bulk of their work was with clients in the adult book area, one agent told me that the week before she had negotiated a major deal for a children’s author.

If you are a children’s book author, it is difficult to find a literary agent. The reasons for the difficulty are fairly straight forward. Literary agents work on a commission basis for their sales. In general, these agents follow the ethical guidelines of the Association of Author Representatives (whether they are members of the organization or not). You probably don’t want to be working with agents who charge reading fees. Most children’s books have modest advances (especially first-time authors). It takes a similar amount of time and energy to negotiate a $1,000 advance book contract as it would to negotiate a $10,000 advance or a $100,000 advance. Where do you think the agents would rather spend their limited resources of time and energy? That’s why in general, it’s difficult to find a literary agent for children’s books–not impossible but difficult. Also many book packagers are producing children’s books. The naysayers are everywhere saying, “Don’t do it.” Or “It is hard.”

With fascination, I read this Soapbox article from literary agent Stephen Barbara in Publishers Weekly. Barbara specializes in young adult and middle-grade novels. It’s an area of the market where there are many book packagers and long odds to place a project with a publisher. Yet in some circles the teen fiction market is really selling like crazy. Read the entire article but look at the hope in his conclusion, “Maybe there’s another way: write a work of highly individual imagination and flair. Build a world. Push the culture in a new way. Explore a taboo. Reinvent a classic. Experiment with the language. For the packagers do have a weakness: they’re good at sniffing out what’s hot now and producing that book, but they can’t create the Harry Potters, the Book Thiefs, the Looking for Alaskas–works that are ahead of the pop culture or beyond the vagaries of time. For a writer–and for publishers, too–that’s a pretty good place to be.”

It’s easy to get discouraged in the writing business. Rejection comes hard and fast. It’s the writer’s responsibility to put together a compelling case why you should be given the chance to write your book. It may be your writing needs some work and improvement. Or it may be that you are not writing a compelling pitch or book proposal. What are you going to do in the face of this rejection? You have a choice to set it aside and try a new type of writing (which can be a step of wisdom for some writers). Or you can labor on looking for the right connection.

Another Resource About Publicity

January 20, 2007

I’m continually amazed at the vast online resources to teach you about almost any topic. For the writer, the key is to choose to learn about the particular resource at the time they need to learn about it. If you want to write children’s books, then you need to be learn more about this area. If you want to write magazine articles, then learn how to craft your articles. If you want to write books, then you need to understand how book publishers process ideas and be crafting a book proposal.

Yesterday I wrote about press releases as a tool to expand your message and reach new audiences. One of the comments came from Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound. Until her comment, I had not visited her website but what a vast resource on this topic (and much of it free). In the press release area, Joan has created a free 89 lesson tutorial to teach you how to craft and use news releases. You gain her personal instruction and insight as a 20-year veteran journalist. Late yesterday I signed up to receive this instruction. Why? There is always something new to learn and I am continuing to learn and grow as a writer, editor and now agent.

As a writer, you can certainly delegate the publicity and marketing roles to your book publisher. That’s your choice and you will reap the results of such a decision–positive and negative. Publishers are looking for authors to partner with them in this process. I love the opening sentence in Jaqueline Deval’s Publicize Your Book! because it resonates truth from my experience, “The reality of book publishing is that there are too few resources to support every book.” While I haven’t examined each area of The Publicity Hound, it looks like a great place to learn more about this area.

Press Your Message

January 19, 2007

Can you use the power of the press to spread your news about a product, a milestone in your business or your writing life? It is a skill for every writer to learn about and develop. It will involve learning the skill of creating a press release.

There are some great online resources for you to develop this skill. I appreciate the work of Bill Stoller and his perspective in Publicity Insider. Check out this site to get his insight about how to write a press release. Also sign up for a sample of his newsletter. I’ve found each issue loaded with valuable information.

Why do you want to press your message with a press release? If you craft a press release, send it to the right person at the right time, they can quickly spread your news. Notice the conditions that I included (right person, right time, right shape of release). I’m letting people know about the launch of Whalin Literary Agency. This week I wrote a short press release, then sent it to a few key publications. Like a great deal of the work, there are no guarantees that anyone or any publication will use your material. My release was picked up in several online publications which reached thousands of people with this news.

Just to manage your expectations, press releases don’t always work. I was discussing this aspect yesterday and this person mentioned sending out a release about the addition of a new service. No one picked up on the news. It’s a gamble and involves many different factors outside of your control. You can control writing an excellent press release then sending it to targeted publications. Much of this type of work operates on the same principle: do what you can do and see what happens. It’s like the manuscripts which some writers stick into their desk drawers. That work will never reach anyone because it is not getting out to the marketplace.

The Literary Agent’s Role

January 18, 2007

For many years, I’ve been teaching writers about the book business, book proposals, magazine writing and the craft of writing. I shudder to think about those first few writer’s workshops where my own background was limited and what I could actually give to others was limited as well. Those writing tapes are probably still floating around some place. Occasionally someone will write and tell me they are listening to one of those old sessions. If that writer gets something out of it, then great but I’m a little unsure about that information because I’m constantly learning and growing in my craft.

I’ve met and worked with a number of outstanding literary agents. Also I’ve fired a few of them. There is great diversity among agents and each writer has to find the right match for their project and their particular needs. Many people have encouraged me to become a literary agent and I’ve resisted with all sorts of excuses which were mostly lame as I look at them. I’m in the process of telling people about Whalin Literary Agency. It’s taken me a few weeks to get some of the business structure for the agency in place (and that will continue to improve).

For most publishers, agents are serving as the developers and refiners of writer’s ideas. As an editor, I’ve often seen book proposals or manuscripts which could be improved–and maybe seriously considered for my publisher. Yet with the flood of submissions (which numerous people estimate to be in the millions), the editor can’t do much except send a form rejection. I’ve attempted to help writers through articles, these entries, Book Proposals That Sell and other venues such as teaching at writer’s conferences. As a literary agent, I will be taking on the role of helping writers shape their ideas and proposal packages into something compelling. I’ll be working back and forth with these authors to refine their proposals before sending them to various editors. I’ll also be looking at the big picture of their career and discussing where they want to go in the long run and planning the steps to get there. Then I’ll be fulfilling the other roles of a literary agent such as negotiating the contract, handling the business aspects and stepping in to help the writer if there is any problems in the process.

My personal vision about how I will handle my role comes from years of working with many literary agents. I continue to learn from these colleagues. I’m glad for the opportunity and expectant about my future. I’d encourage you to check out my agency website.

The Snap Difference

January 17, 2007

Bloggers love to include lots of links. It’s one of the trademarks of this form of writing and something I’ve practiced from the beginning of these entries on the Writing Life. The links are a way to give additional information and value to the reading experience. But what if you accidentally put in the wrong link or a link which doesn’t work? If you do, you frustrate lots of readers.

Yesterday for the first time, I went to Duct Tape Marketing, which has numerous blog awards. I’ll be returning here often. As I looked around the site, each time my mouse pointed to a link, to my surprise the actual site appeared in a miniature format. It’s a free tool called Snap Preview Anywhere that you can also get at Snap.com. It’s quick and a matter of pasting a bit of code into the blog template. According to Snap.com, 50% of searches end in failure. Their search tool is something you should look into downloading, installing and giving a test drive.

Attention Feedblitz readers: I’m including a little visual from Snap.com but this graphic doesn’t do justice to the experience. Please click over to my actual blog location from this email and test drive this addition to the blog. It is easy to install and free.

If You Hate "Marketing"

January 16, 2007

Many writers hate marketing. Yes, I understand it’s a strong word but in many cases, they avoid it like the plague. They say things like, “I’d rather take my time and write another book than to spend any effort on marketing.” I understand this perspective and feel like they need to use a different word than marketing–then maybe it will make sense to them why they need to be involved in this aspect of the business.
During the last few days, I was listening to a podcast from John Kremer. Follow this link and download this free resource. If you don’t know Kremer then you haven’t tried to google the words “book marketing” because he’s usually at the top or near the top of these words in almost any search engine. For many years, Kremer has been the go-to expert in this area. His best-known book is over 700 pages and packed with information for anyone interested in learning more about selling books. I’m talking about 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer (6th Edition). I’ll admit this book is a bit daunting to use from the sheer size. It’s an encyclopedia of ideas for reaching more people with your book and message–no matter whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction. Also you should get this resource no matter where you are in the process. Even if you are just “thinking about” writing a book, the insight in this book can help you get some fresh ideas for your book proposal or your pitch to the editor or literary agent.
I want to return to those people who hate marketing. The key point of Kremer’s podcast is that selling your book is about relationships. You are looking to expand your relationships with anyone interested in the topic of your book. It might be through a newsletter that you grow the mailing list. It might be through an online group. It might be taking your local bookseller to coffee and asking a lot of questions about the business. What active and daily steps are you taking to expand your relationships?
As another resource, go to Kremer’s site and sign up for his book marketing tips e-zine. It’s packed with information to help you expand your relationships. I appreciate what Mike Hyatt wrote about the importance of creating an excellent product. Your writing must be excellent and I’d encourage each reader to take steps to hone their craft and learn more about the writing. When you’ve created this desirable and important product, work on making new relationships.

Make Your Book Stand Out

January 15, 2007

Author 101 NonfictionOver the last few days, I’ve read the latest addition to the Author 101 brand from Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman called Author 101: Bestselling Nonfiction. I’ve written about each of the books in this series and while I understand the branding thoughts that went into the packaging for these books.  They appear very similar. Each Author 101 book tackles a different part of the publishing process. The black cover is on agents while the yellow cover is about book proposals and the green one is about book publicity. The newest title looks at the topic of the nonfiction book and is subtitled, “The Insider’s Guide to Making Reality Sell.”

I’ve written a great deal about the importance of a book proposal. This book moves beyond the proposal (and includes a small amount of information about it) to the full-length process of creating a nonfiction book with chapters such as Getting Started, The Big Idea, Does a Market Exist?, Planning and Outlining, Research, Getting Organized, Writing, Making It Special, Collaboration: How It Works, Collaboration: The Legal Implications, Tips: the Top Twenty, Mistakes: The Top Twenty and Summing Up.  I found each chapter contained valued insight from not only these authors but a number of best-selling authors who they quote throughout the book.

I loved the opening of the Making It Special chapter and here’s a bit of it for a sample of this book, “According to estimates 195,000 books were published in 2004, so the market for books is densely crowded. To interest publishers and readers, your book has to be distinctive and special, otherwise it will probably never be read. To make your book special, use every weapon in your arsenal; pull out all the stops. After you’ve clearly and intelligently written about all your essential points, impress agents and publishers with the full extent of your creativity and talent. Show them that you not only write brilliantly, but that you also have great, innovative ideas and that you will work tirelessly to make your book a gigantic success. Read extensively. Go to libraries and bookstores and note the qualities in books that you like and try to incorporate them into yours. Since books are not your business, study them from a new perspective. Examine book covers, titles, subtitles, designs, approaches, and writing styles to find the elements you like and that could work well for your book. Although most publishers insist on the right to decide on book covers, titles, and designs, give them your ideas. If you’re talented in any of those areas, offer your ideas and recommendations. Some may consider your suggestions and may even adopt those that could help your book.”

I hope you can see the wisdom of years of publishing experience which is loaded into this brief quotation. The key will be where the rubber meets the road. How will you apply this information to your writing? Will you get this book (or another book) and continue growing as a writer? If you get the book, make sure you read it. You’d be surprised how many people purchase the book then never open it or read the information inside it. Maybe you are looking at various writers conferences and planning to attend one of them. What are you doing to prepare for your conference? I guarantee you will get more out of it if you put in some preparation time.

What are you doing to expand your own publishing experience? While your primary goal may be to get a book published, understand literary agents and editors are looking for experienced authors. You can gain (and prove) your experience with print publishing credits. Notice I said printed magazines and not online. It’s because the publishing process is much more rigorous for print publications than something you’ve written online. What are you doing to make your book idea stand out? It will take work and creativity. I’m up for the task. What about you?

Find the Passion and Run With It

January 14, 2007

Over the last few days, I’ve read several different things where the word “passion” continues to be central.  When you face difficult days with your writing, what keeps your fingers on the keyboard and moving ahead? Every writer and editor faces such challenges.  At times in my life as an editor and writer, I dread going to work and the meetings and conversations that are on my agenda for that day. Or I do not look forward to a particular article or editorial task in the day. What drives me ahead? It’s passion for the work and the publishing business.

Years ago I interviewed best-selling author Bodie Thoene (follow this link to read her full story). Here’s the paragraph where she talks about her passion and drive to stay at the task: Bodie sits at her computer hitting the keys with two fingers. She may work until 10 p.m. to reach her goal–at least five finished pages. “No little elves come out of my closet to write 650 manuscript pages,” Bodie says. “Some mornings I don’t feel like writing, but I do it out of obedience to God.”

For each of us this passion is expressed in different ways. It was fascinating to read what Mike Hyatt, CEO at Thomas Nelson Publishers wrote about why he loves publishing.

I have those days when I don’t want to write or edit or face the things that are ahead of me.  One of my personal motivators is the power of the printed page to change lives.  While some times the connection is a bit of a stretch, I’m involved in the printed page every single day. For those who don’t know my personal story about how the printed page has touched my life, look at this story. A different version of this same story is the final entry in God Allows U Turns for Teens.

It’s key to face the discipline of the work, draw on your passion and keep your fingers on the keyboard. I know firsthand the way books and magazine articles can change lives. It happened to me.