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Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Start To Get Your Writing Published


Where do you begin the process to get your writing published? Most people instantly think of books and want to have a book published. While I understand these thoughts, from my years in publishing books is not the first place to start.

At the recent Write to Publish Conference, I had a series of fifteen-minute back to back meetings with people who were attending the conference. One of my stand-out sessions was with a gray-haired cheery woman who immediately told me, “This is my first conference and I'm here to ask your advice. If you were just getting started in in the writing world, where would you begin?” What a thoughtful question!

“I would begin writing for print magazines,” I said. “It's a wide open opportunity for writers which is often forgotten. In particular, I would start with publications called Sunday School Take-home papers.” 

Almost every denomination has a variety of publications for different age groups. Within these papers, a common type of article is called the personal experience article. It's a story written in first person with a single point to the story (also called a take-away).

Here's several key points about this type of writing:

* Magazines reach more readers than books. It is a solid performance if a book sells 5,000 copies during the lifetime of the book sales. In contract, many magazines have a circulation of 100,000 or even 300,000. You definitely reach more readers with magazines.

* Magazine articles are shorter in length than books. Magazine articles have a short headline, a beginning, a middle and an ending (all good skills for any writer to learn on the short form). A typical book has  50,000 or 100,000 words where magazine articles range from 500 words to 1500 words in length so are easier to finish and get into the market.

* Magazines are a great place to learn to write for a target audience. Each magazine has a distinct reader or audience—just as your books will be targeted to a particular reader.

* Magazine articles get published quicker than books. In general magazines have a three to six month turnaround from publication acceptance to getting into print. Many book publishers are 18 to 24 months out from when you deliver your manuscript and the book is released into the bookstore.

* Editors and literary agents read magazines looking for writers. These publishing professionals are looking for writers who have experience in publishing (which you gain from writing for magazines).

I encourage you to check out the writer's guidelines for the particular publication. Many of these guidelines are online so use Google to find them.  The writing is fun and anyone can do it.  Almost every publication uses personal experience articles. Each of us have unique and interesting experiences which can be the backbone of these articles and you can write. A personal experience article is an excellent place to begin writing for magazines.

If you want to know more details about writing for magazines, I encourage you to explore this link where I give the basics of writing for a magazine. This type of publishing is great exposure and helps you build your platform and publishing credentials with editors. In fact, it is good for any writer at any place in the publishing journey. As I write these words (even as much material as I have published), it spurs me to write a few query letters and articles for magazines. If you don't submit the articles or ideas to an editor, it will never happen.

What magazine will you target today for your writing?

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Thursday, June 16, 2016


Do More Than Just Write

Writing is important. That first step in the process of getting published is to put your words on paper but what happens next? I've returned from another writers' conference which is a perfect place to get recharged and learn new insights for your writing life. 

Numerous times in these articles I've written about the importance of writers' conferences and taking action from what you learn at these events.  I understand the investment to attend a conference in actual cost, time and energy. There are also other ways of getting such training. 

One of my favorite ways to learn about the writing craft and market is through reading how-to books. I have purchased shelves of these books over the years--and they are not just for appearance. I know some people buy books and do not read them. On a consistent basis, I read these books, mark in them and take action from the suggestions inside the pages. 

Today I wanted to tell you about a recently published how-to book called Just Write by James Scott Bell.




I’ve known James Scott Bell for many years and long admired his work and his commitment to the craft of writing. I do not write fiction but have spent most of my writing life in the nonfiction world (yet I acquire fiction and read fiction). 


Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you need Just Write to learn from this skilled teacher and bestselling novelist.
Every chapter of this book is packed with insights. I encourage you to read with a yellow highlighter. The book is broken into two sections: Unforgettable Fiction and A Rewarding Writing Life. Each section has four chapters. Whether you have written numerous novels or never written a novel, you will profit from Bell’s instruction.

Here’s a couple of samples: “Craft mastery in any subject is a matter of study, observation and practice. As a writer, the better handle you have on the craft, the better prepared you’ll be to break a rule when the time comes. You’ll know why you’re doing it and whether it’s worth the risk to break it.” (Page 31) Or the chapter on Study the Craft begins, “When in doubt, just write. Write your way out of a corner, out of your fears, out of your setbacks. It’s a good default setting. But right up alongside it put another track: study the craft. Make constant and never-ending improvement a goal just as important as your daily pages. Just write and keep learning—these are the two steel rails that will carry you to a productive career.” (Page 146)

Every writer or would-be writer will profit from the study of these pages. I highly recommend Just Write.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016


Easy Children’s Books


Last week at a writer’s conference, I met with writer after writer in back to back 15 minute sessions. It amounts to an editor’s marathon when you have six or seven appointments in a row. After three or four of them it is a bit of a challenge to listen to these new ideas. Yet these appointments or pitches is the main reason that I attend these conferences. I'm actively looking for new writing talent. The prepared author is always easy to spot. They have their manuscripts ready—some of them have even brought the material on flash drives. Several authors submitted their manuscripts via email right after our session.

A number of the authors I met were writing children's books.  Several of these writers came from a teaching background and showed a passion for their manuscript and work. I'm a former instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature and have published more than a dozen children's book. I understand these feelings. Reading a pile of picture books, some writers have the impression that it's easy to write these children's books. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's not easy to get a children's book published. I've been reading a new memoir from Robert L. Bernstein called Speaking Freely. Bernstein was president of Random House for 25 years. One of the best-selling children's authors was Ted Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. As Bernstein writes, "There are more than 220 million copies of his books now in print--but he was not an instant success. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected by twenty-seven houses before an old Darthmouth friend who worked at Vanguard Press got it published there." (page 60). 


As a child, I loved Mulberry Street and it was my favorite children's book--and to think it almost didn't get published without the persistence of the author. Every author has to find their place to be published. In particular children's authors need to study and understand the marketplace. The marketplace is specialized into different age categories. For example if you are writing a children's picture book, then you need to understand whether your book is 24 pages, 32 pages or 48 pages (the standard lengths).  As the book grows in length, your book will need more illustrations so the preference is for 24 page books.

Your number of words are limited and each word has to be carefully selected. Also you don't have the ability to write on all 24 pages because each book has a title page and a copyright page. The prepared children's writer is encouraged to create a dummy or sample layout of the book. When you do this process, you will begin to see how your book will layout and it will help you rework the book into the proper format and length.

I met with one children's book writer last week who thought she had a picture book but from the length fo the story, it was an early reader book (which has more words and less illustrations). As a writer, the more work you do on refining your manuscript into the proper length and format, the more interest you will generate from editors in your work. Then your pitch sessions or appointments with the editors will be more productive and have more potential.

If you are writing children's books, I encourage you to study the market for your type of manuscript. Also create a book proposal for your children's book. Because children's books are short, the writer often comes with the complete manuscript. Writing a book proposal will help you pinpoint the distinctions of your book, the market for your book, and also the competition for your book. A book proposal will help your submission  stand out with an editor from the other writers. It will help you make a lasting and positive impression. 

My Book Proposals That Sell has never been so inexpensive and comes with a series of bonuses and extras. Whether you get the book or not, I encourage you to step up your preparation before you head to a writer's conference or email your pitch to an editor. It will help you succeed and get published.

Whether you are writing children's books or adult books or fiction or nonfiction, you need to give the best possible pitch to an editor or agent so you capture their attention.

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Thursday, June 02, 2016


Where Do You Buy Books?


Whenever I ask other writers where they buy their books, I receive a variety of answers but often it is Amazon. This online retailer has been around a long-time and makes it easy to purchase their books since all of your information is often stored in their system.

Amazon is not the only place to purchase books. I encourage you to support your local physical bookstore but also consider Barnes & Noble. If you check out my website for my Billy Graham biography, you will notice I have a number of different ways you can purchase my book. You can get it directly from me (and signed) or you can get it from your favorite independent bookstore or from Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Readers love to have different purchase options instead of sending them to one place.

In fact, if you take action today, you can get my Billy Graham book at Barnes & Noble and save 20%. Here's how:

1. Use this link to go to the book on Barnes & Noble.com

2. When you check out, use this coupon code: BNSUNNY20 and it will immediately take off 20% of the price. In fact, you can purchase other books or items from Barnes and Noble and save 20% on other purchases. To get this discount, you will have to move quickly since the coupon will expire after June 2nd.

There are many different ways to purchase books and if you are in a rut if buying from one website, I encourage you to explore your options. There are many terrific places to purchase books online or in the bookstore.  

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Why You Must Follow-up


These words could change the course of your writing career—if you take action and follow-up. I know this is a bold statement but I want to explain why I'm saying it.

During a writers' conference, I meet with many different writers. I listen to their ideas (pitches), read some of their work and then respond saying something like, “I love this idea and concept. Please send it to me.”

At this point in the process, we exchange business cards and I tell the writer to send the proposal or partial manuscript or all of the manuscript to my work email address as an attachment. The writer will frequently circle my email and make a note on their business card. If they have an extra hard copy, I will take this document home with me. Why? So I can follow-up our conversation with an email (and sometimes a phone call).

If you respond to this request, then you will be among the few from the conference who take such action. I understand the challenges of life. You return home from the event and plunge into your family and life. All sorts of things pull at your attention and prevent you from sending the requested manuscript.

Several of the people I met with gave me flash drives with their submission. Even during the conference, I used these flash drives and put their work into our internal system at Morgan James Publishing. Later this week those writers will receive a letter of acknowledgement in the mail (part of our unusual practice at Morgan James). To be honest, it does not mean they will receive a contract from the publisher or be published with the company since there are still a number of other steps to go before that happens. But they have taken a huge step in the right direction.

We work with people that we know, like and trust. This principle is a basic of sound business. It's true that we receive thousands of submissions and only publish about 150 books a year yet even with the mounds of material to examine, I am always looking for solid authors to publish.

Over the next few days, I will be creating and sending follow-up emails to the people who gave me promising proposals and submissions and exchanges. I follow-up to encourage the writer to take action and send me their submission. When they send the requested material (electronically) then they will keep moving forward in the process and possibly get their book published. It never happens if they do not follow-up and take action.

Years ago my first book was published after a conversation with an editor during a writers' conference. She encouraged my pitch and asked me to send my manuscript to her. I made a note about it, went home, wrote the manuscript and sent it. There were many more steps in the process before my book was published but the ball began rolling from my follow-up action.

Sometimes authors will follow-up with me many months after my request. That is OK with me because eventually they took action. I'm always eager to read their material and keep it moving in the process.

What follow-up work do you need to do with your writing? It might be a short email to an editor or literary agent? Maybe you've sent something and never got a response. Did they receive it? You must follow-up. Each of us as professionals have many things in motion. Your follow-up work is critical to the process and why you must follow-up.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016


How Writers Can Attract Editors and Agents


As writers, we want literary agents and editors to love our words and be attracted to our book proposals and manuscript pitches. The process is subjective and each editor and agent is looking for what will be right for their agency or their publishing house.  Yet after years in this business, we are attracted to great writing (and you don't have to read much of a manuscript to recognize excellence). Also writers who understand their target audience—and more importantly know how to reach them are attractive.

Today I want to give you four ways you can become more attractive to an agent or editor. This attraction factor can show up in any type of communication such as a phone call, an email or in person. I want to begin with something that does not attract or attracts negative attention. Recently I was corresponding with a novelist who was pitching her novella. She said, “I am no marketer.” As an editor, I don't want to work with an author who has this attitude. It started me thinking about how writers can attract literary agents and editors.

1. Have the Right Mindset. You may long to be a “writer” or “storyteller” and not a marketer. I understand and you are exactly like every other writer with this longing.  Yet saying such words to an editor or agent does not attract them.  In fact, it can drive them away from you. These publishing professionals are looking for authors who “get it.” If you have the right mindset, you understand you have to build your audience and work every day at being connected to readers. Everything begins with the right attitude or mindset.


2. Commit to consistent time to learning about the craft of writing and how to build your audience. It will take time to build your email list or your following. Get ideas from my free ebook, Platform-Building Ideas for Every Author. Your consistent effort in this area will pay off.

3. Don't let rejection get to you. When Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected repeatedly as they pitched Chicken Soup for the Soul (before they were published and when they were looking for a publisher), with each rejection they looked each other and said, “Next.” See the upbeat and looking ahead way they handled rejection. When you get rejected (and yes it will happen because it still happens to me after all these years), say the word, “Next” and move forward to the next opportunity.

4. It takes persistence to find the right publisher and editor for you. Editors and agents are looking for great material that will sell (subjective I know). You can be attractive to these professionals as you hone your pitch and test it with other writers. Get it down to a sentence or two that pulls the agent or editor to want to know more details.
Your persistence will pay off and if I can help in this process, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'm always looking and as an acquisitions editor, I send contracts to authors every week.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016


4 Ways NOT to Be A "Lost Author"


Last week I attended Book Expo America, the largest trade show for books in the U.S. I was there because of my work as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. Thousands of booksellers, media, librarians and others from the publishing industry were showing their latest and forthcoming books. It was exciting to see bestselling authors and enthusiastic readers of books.

This massive event can be overwhelming—especially to the new author. Several times during the week, I met authors who were “lost.” Now to be honest some of them didn't know they were lost. From my interaction with them, I knew they were in this category.

In different places of this trade show, there are small booth exhibitors. One booth was attracting people with fresh cookies. I stopped but didn't eat a cookie. I listened to the author. This former journalist had written a novel. I recognized the book was self-published from a company where I've met authors who have spent $20,000 with them and the books are only online and not inside any brick and mortar bookstore. I asked if she fell into this category in terms of her personal investment. To my relief, she had not. Wisely this author had spent most of her budget on editing her book.

As I listened to her pitch about the book, I learned she had written a civil war historical novel based on her part of the South. The cover was a “different” looking drawing (not your typical eye-catching book cover). I could hear the passion in this author's voice. It was not only a historical novel but a young adult time travel fantasy. See the challenge for booksellers and librarians to process this string of categories? It doesn't neatly fall into a single place in the bookstore or library. While I admired her passion and commitment to market her book, I knew this author was lost in the market and probably had no idea why her book wasn't getting attention and readers.

A little later, I met another author. This former pro-athlete who gave me a copy of his book.  I took a quick look and noticed it was also self-published. The book was small and an odd size. When I opened it, the typeface was not what you find in books and had full color photos. This author had passion and had invested in publishing his book—yet I knew he was also lost and unsure how to find readers and sell books.

While self-publishing is exploding with almost 5,000 new books entering the market every day, my personal bent is to get the broadest exposure for my writing and books. In other words, I want my books to be available online but also in brick and mortar bookstores. I want to give you four ways not to be a “lost author.”

1. Study the publishing world and get to a writers' conference, take classes and meet experienced professionals. I'm speaking at several events so check them out and I'd love to meet you at one of these conferences.

2. Write a good book. Your book needs a good foundation so make sure you have a target audience in mind and are writing for that audience. Get an outside editor or join a critique group to get feedback on your book before publishing it. 

3. Create a book which fits the market. The details matter in publishing. Even if you are going to self-publish, make sure you have an attractive cover and interior. Show the cover to the target market and get their honest feedback. Does your book look like books from major publishers? Does it have a little logo on the bottom of the book spine? If not, change it so it does. You don't want people to wonder about such details but to simply accept your book as a solid product.

4. Take your own responsibility to market and tell people about books. Get others to give honest reviews for your book. Tell the media about your book and get booked on radio programs and other venues.

Even if you do everything “right” with a solid publisher or have a literary agent, not every book sells or some books still have dismal sells or they take several years to take off. There is no set formula for a book to sell but there are good practices in publishing.

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