Your Personal Invitation Plus

June 3, 2007

Today I created a simple audio postcard to invite participation in Tuesday, June 5th, free teleseminar event. Check it out right here.

I hope you will come to the event yet I want to do more than that in this entry about the Writing Life. Some of you are going to look at this postcard and believe I have some hired webmaster who I’m working with to pull off this postcard. That webmaster doesn’t exist.

Others will think that I have a high degree of technical computer skills with all sorts of programming training. No, that isn’t true either. Nor was the process so complex that it consumed hours of time to create. It did not.

This postcard was created using the templates within Audio Generator. If you can use Word for wordprocessing on your computer, then you can use Audio Generator. It’s all menu-driven or point and click. Anyone can use these tools. Find the courage and dive into trying it.

I’m personally inviting you to attend the Tuesday event. I hope to speak to you soon.

Gimmicks Can Work

June 2, 2007

The Weekend Edition of the Today Show was reviewing books to read at the beach and one of them caught my attention. It was a book called Poolside, or 14 stories from a number of well-known authors about their experiences around a swimming pool. The gimmick for this book is that it’s waterproof. In fact, they had a little plastic pool and fished it out of the water on the show.

I have no idea how the short presentation affected other people but I went to my computer and ordered one. It worked to get me and purchase the book. It’s definitely different and I’ll be curious to see what it looks and feels like–then to read the book. The real test is not going to be the gimmick. It’s going to be what is contained in the pages. If the writing and content is excellent, then I will probably be telling even more people about it.

With the proliferation of books, media and product in the marketplace, it is a challenge to get someone to purchase the book in the first place. The next step is to produce something so excellent the user becomes an evangelist for your product. You want to enable that person to actively spread the word about your book any chance they get the opportunity. It’s some of the principles of Greg Stielstra’s excellent book, Pyromarketing. If you don’t have it, get it and I recommend you read his introduction. I’ll be watching my mailbox for my copy of Poolside so I can check it out for myself.

One more thing: Numerous times in these entries, I’ve recommended snipurl.com. Their site has undergone a major overhaul. They say they are in beta mode but I applaud their improvements to the site. If you’ve never used it, register and log on to the site because then you can create your own private abbreviations for various links. It’s a terrific resource that I use throughout my day.

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?

A New Resource for Writers

May 30, 2007

For the last several years, I’ve been on the road about once a month teaching at various writers conferences. If you look at my schedule for this year, I’ll be at a number of forthcoming events including three conferences next month.

I know it takes time and financial resources to attend a writer’s conference and isn’t available for everyone. I’ve collected several of my resources and bundled them into a three-CD audio set called Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets. This product is available and you can learn about it on the website but I wanted to do something more to launch it into the marketplace.

Whether you’ve heard me teach at a writer’s conference or not, do you have a question about the creation of book proposals or the publishing process? I’d love for you to ask that question and have created a place for you to do it. Go to http://www.askterrywhalin.com/ and register for my free live teleseminar next Tuesday, June 5th. If you are away from your computer, you can call into the teleseminar on your phone or if you are near a computer, you can listen to the free webcast. I’m eager to receive your questions and the contents of the teleseminar will answer your questions.

It’s almost impossible for the average writer to get an editor on the telephone–and if they do get the editor or the agent, they are probably making the wrong impression (a negative one). Why? The bulk of publishing doesn’t involve an oral pitch to an editor but comes from your written materials–your actual manuscript and your book proposal. Yes, you have appointments at writer’s conferences where you give a short oral pitch, but in the end, it will be the words you’ve written on the page which will make the difference between receiving a book contract or a rejection letter.

As an additional incentive for you (and others) to register for the free teleseminar, on the confirmation page (where you receive the phone number for the teleseminar and the website for the webcast), you will receive a link to a free hour-long workshop that I taught called Straight Talk from the Editor. This workshop material relates to my new audio product.

I hope to speak to you during next week’s live teleseminar.

For the Sharp-eyed Reader

May 29, 2007

Some people are natural proof readers. They are the ones who read with a pen in their hand and correct the typos and missing words that they find in books. At small gatherings, these people always have some horror story about a printed book which was missing something.

I know the publishers attempt to be as careful as possible in the creation process. The majority of publishers have a series of checks and balances in this part of the process with the attempt to catch every error before the book is printed. Yet still mistakes slip through the process. Maybe the words are spelled correctly but something is missing in the context.

What action do you take (if any) when you spot such an error in a printed book?

Most authors and publishers are keeping track of such errors. When the book comes up for reprint. You can write the author or the publisher with a helpful tone saying, “Next time you reprint your book, you might want to fix…” During the rare times that I receive such a suggestion, I appreciate it and always thank the individual.

This morning I’m thinking about this element because I noticed an error in a printed book. It’s not necessary to tell you the book but it’s a beautiful hardcover which will hopefully go through many printings. It is a shame when it happens but the good news is that if you let someone know about it, it can be fixed. The choice is yours. Are you going to continue grumbling about the state of book publishing or be a part of the solution? For the error I spotted, I chose to do something proactive about it and write a kind and concerned note to someone in the publishing house who can get it fixed on the next reprint.

The Importance of Gratitude

May 28, 2007

Many people in the United States are kicking back today, enjoying a day off and the beginning of the summer season. It’s a holiday called Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day to celebrate our freedom and honor the men and women who died in military service protecting our freedom. Many of us can think of a relative or a friend or an acquaintance who has died in the service of their country. Take a few minutes to pause and remember that person today and celebrate their sacrifice. It’s a step that I’m going to take in my own day.

More than a holiday event, also consider the importance of gratitude in your own life. How are you practicing it? Are you looking for ways to express gratitude and thanks? For me, I’m better at certain times of my life than others. Last week I called an editor friend and left a short message expressing my appreciation for something but then I took it an additional step. I physically wrote a brief thank you note and mailed it to the editor. My handwriting is a bit challenging to read (even my printing) but I’m certain she will note my appreciation.

How are you facing your writing work? With thankfulness or drudgery? Can you make an attitude adjustment and face it with gratitude? Instead of looking at the glass as half empty, look at it as half full. Instead of obstacles, ask for a new vision to see them as opportunities. This perspective combined with an attitude of gratitude will help you have joy in the midst of the deadlines.

The Forgotten Story Continued

May 23, 2007

In yesterday’s entry, I wrote about the forgotten story of Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code and some of his not-too-long ago days in the publishing business. I included a short quotation from a court document. Just ahead of the quotation is another element in the story and points to a common situation within book publishing–change.

Authors are trusting of their publisher that they will carry out all of their promises for promotion. These marketing plans are nonbinding since they are normally not included in the actual book contract yet are used to show the publisher’s intentions for your book. These plans are offered in good faith but many things change within a publisher between the signed contract and when the book is actually released into the marketplace. Editors leave. Marketing people change houses and financial priorities shift. Many years ago I signed a contract with one of my books and the editor told us about plans to market the books in airports around the country with distinct displays and other such ideas. In between signing the contract and the release of the book (often separated by as much as 18 months), my editor left and none of those plans occurred. Yes the book was published but in a much more modest fashion.

For Brown’s earlier novel, Angels & Demons, he changed publishers from St. Martin’s Press to Simon and Schuster. Here’s the promised plans from his publisher, “Simon & Schuster said they were extremely excited by Angels & Demons. They promised to give the book considerably more publicity and support than my previous publishers. Their proposed publicity included a much larger print run (60,000), advertising in major newspapers, web advertising, a 12 city tour, an e-book release, and other exciting prospects.”

For a writer like Brown who was financially struggling, such a promise was a major encouragement. Yet the court document continues and reveals what happened: “Unfortunately, when the book came out, my print run was slashed down to 12,000 copies with virtually no publicity at all. I was once again on my own and despite enthusiastic reviews, the novel sold poorly. Blythe and I were heartbroken as we had put so much work into this book. Once again, we took matters into our own hands, booking our own signings, booking our own radio shows, and selling books out of our car at local events.”

You have to understand this incident took place in 1999 or 2000. Angels & Demons has gone on to become a bestseller. After the success of The Da Vinci Code, readers purchase Brown’s other books.

OK, what do you gain from this little historical trip? First, it’s a reminder of the ever changing nature of publishing. Also it’s encouragement for every author to take a pro-active stance with their own marketing and reaching their own grassroots audience. It’s not easy for anyone but if you are consistent (and have a book which is compelling and excellent), then you can eventually find your audience and success. Hold on to the dream yet realize it may take years of consistent work and effort to reach it. Everyone is looking for the quick way and more often than not, there is no quick way. If publishers understood it, then they would use it on the next book and the next book (which so often doesn’t work on a regular basis).

Authors need to keep working on building the audience for their books through forming relationships and the dozens of tools out there. If you need any inspiration in this area, pick up a copy of John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Books and start something that you haven’t been doing. In this area, I’ve been learning about virtual book tours and teleseminars. Last night my first teleseminar was successful. After the teleseminar, I edited the tape some at the beginning and the end using Sound Forge which is a terrific piece of software. You can get it from Mike Stewart, the Internet Audio Guy. Then I uploaded the file to the replay page using audio generator. I selected the “snazzy player” which allows you to fast forward or rewind the teleseminar. It was not complicated and I believe I created a great result–and learned a bit more about marketing books through teleseminars. Also I helped people learn about a great resource for authors, Author Law.

My encouragement to each of you is to continue forward–learning the craft of writing, forming new relationships and crafting better submissions for the editor.

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.

Soak In The Information

May 21, 2007

These days I don’t spend much time in my car. Because I don’t have a long drive to get to my workplace, my time in my car is often limited to a few minutes each day when I drive to my mailbox and return home. That time amounts to about 30 to 45 minutes a day or not much time. I’ve been in jobs where I’ve had a much longer commute in the car but even on a short drive, there is an opportunity to soak in information–if you choose to take this path.

I could be listening to the radio, music or something else. Instead, I’ve been listening to the Mega Book Marketing University 2006 tapes–a conference which I did not attend but I know many of the speakers personally. I’ve met Susan Driscoll, president of iUniverse on several different occasions but until I reached her presentation at Mega I had never heard her speak to a group. Her insight was fascinating. You can catch some of her information about publishing on her iUniverse blog and I liked this entry about returns (something most book authors never think about but is a critical part of the overall process in traditional publishing).

My idea for you with this entry is to look for short bursts of time when you can soak in some burst of information. For example, follow this link for Mega Book Marketing University 2007 in Los Angeles yet look at the special offers in the top right column. Some of these sessions are several years old yet the insight and information is still valuable–yet substantially discounted. I continue to learn a great deal from these older tapes and hope you will as well.

Take Your Best Shot

May 19, 2007

Next Tuesday night, May 22nd, I’m hosting a teleseminar with two literary attorneys. You will have a chance to take your best legal shot at asking them a question–and using some different technological tools in the process. I’m learning about these tools and this teleseminar will be my first experience to host such a seminar. Hopefully the first of many times.

Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia are two of the top speakers in the area of the law for publishing and intellectual properties. In their newest book, “Author Law A to Z, A Desktop Guide to Writers’ Rights and Responsibilities,” they reveal straight-forward how-to advice in an easy to understand manner for anyone in publishing.

I’m telling you this because I’ve convinced Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia to allow me to grill them during a LIVE 70-minute teleseminar on Tuesday, May 22, 2007!

Here’s the different twist: Rather than have the “content” come out of my head (or Sallie’s or Anthony’s head) for the May 22, 2007 teleseminar 5:30 p.m. PDT / 8:30 p.m. EDT, I decided to let you ask them a question.

Sound fair?

So, if you could ask Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia ANY question you wanted about the legal issues related to writing and publishing, what would your question be?

Here’s your chance to ask Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia directly and get registered for our call on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 (starts promptly according to www.Time.gov). Just use this link to ask your question.

If you register for the teleseminar, you will get a sample chapter from Author Law, A to Z.” You will receive 45 pages of invaluable information on publishing matters such as copyright, collaboration,
confidentiality and copyright in cyberspace. It’s all FREE if you ask a question and register for this teleseminar.

There’s more: I’ve convinced Sallie and Anthony to give away autographed copies of “Author Law A to Z” for three fortunate teleseminar attendees. You have to attend the FREE teleseminar to find out WHY Sallie and Anthony are doing this or WHO is eligible, so go ahead and ask Sallie and Anthony your question now.

Click on this link. After your question gets submitted, you’ll find out how to get phone access and webcast access to Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia and me for our LIVE teleseminar, May 22, 2007.

One more detail: Whether you attend the teleseminar or have to miss it, a complete professional transcript from the teleseminar is available for $19.95. Just use this link to purchase the transcript.