Sunday, September 23, 2018

How To Get It Done

Life is full and complicated for every writer. We have spouses and children and grandchildren and pets and extended family. There are interruptions and unexpected things which happen. In this article, I want to give you some ideas about how to get it done. 

Admittedly in publishing there is a lot to do—writing the work is a challenge, finding a publisher, then getting it into the market and on-going marketing. Every aspect of the business involves effort and work. Many of the aspects are routine and involve simply siting at your keyboard and moving your fingers. I don't want to be too simplistic but getting the ideas out of your head is often the first active step in the process.

On the surface, people look at my work and believe I must be doing something different. I've written more than 60 books for traditional publishers (and in many different types—but all nonfiction). I've also written for more than 50 print magazines (stopped counting at 50). Plus I'm now working in acquisitions at my third publishing house. I'm blessed to have great opportunities (which I try and seize) and I continually work at growing my relationships.

First, let me give you basic truth about how to get it done. There are many things which are not getting done in the process of getting something done. I have my own share of unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls, Things around the house to fix or clean…..the list goes on and on. No one gets it all done—even if they look like they are getting it done.

How do you get things done? Several things:

1. Baby steps and continually pushing ahead with your writing—in spite of what else is going on in your life.

2. Persistent and continual knocking on new doors of opportunity. I've written about this in the past and it's the need of every writer. When you aren't writing for magazines and the book contracts have stopped, take a minute and think about why this is happening. Are you still writing query letters and pitching your ideas to editors? Are you writing book proposals and pitching those new ideas? If not, maybe that is the reason.

3. As you have ideas, consistently take action on these ideas. For example, today I was scanning through my news feed on Facebook. I noticed one of my Morgan James authors talking about how her book will make a great Christmas present. It was a terrific action on her part—which linked to her book on Amazon. I clicked the link and noticed this book had one Amazon review. This book came out four years ago—the same year as my Billy Graham biography, which just went over 100 Amazon reviews). I reached out to this author on email, complementing her on the marketing effort—and giving a number of other ideas of what can do to improve. I may or may not hear from this author but I had some ideas and took action on them.

Also maybe you've seen my little personal campaign to get over 100 reviews on Amazon. It happened and I'm grateful for everyone who helped me. I blogged. I emailed (individually and on my email list). I called people and any other way I could to get to this number. My point is it did not happen organically or naturally or without any effort.

Nothing happens without your taking action and responsibility. You can do many things in the publishing world but your action will be the difference maker in this process. If I can help you in this process, my work contact information is on the bottom of the second page of this link.

What steps do you take to get it done? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Better Than Thinking: Action

Let It is great to have thoughts about the world of publishing. There is a place for careful deliberation in our writing lives. But the real difference maker is when you take action on those thoughts. How are you moving from idea to plan to action?

I noticed one of my writer friends launched a new book and recently made the New York Times list. Initially I looked at the details of the book and noticed it was over 500 pages. My reading time is limited so it is rare that I read a book of such length. Yet I was fascinated with the success of this book reaching the bestseller list. I noticed it was available on audiobook and I checked it out through Overdrive.

Listening to a few chapters, I could see why the book made the bestseller list. The writing and the storytelling was fascinating. I made a point to call my friend and congratulate her on the success of her book. We haven't spoken but exchanged voicemails where she told me that she has never listened to any of her books on audio. Our exchange was brief but we did make a connection. The continued connections is an important part of the writing life.

Last week I read a blog post from literary agent Wendy Lawton called An Innovative Approach—Case Study. Wendy wrote about the launch of a three book series from Doug Newton called Fresh Eyes.  I met Doug many years ago at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. David C. Cook where I used to work years ago, published these books. Often series books are released six months or a year apart but they decided to release all three of these titles at once. I looked at the books and found them intriguing. Then I looked at the pages on Amazon and Goodreads. I noticed the books had been out about a month and only had a few reviews.  I have plenty to read. In fact, people approach me almost daily to review their books. Yet I wanted to help my friend Doug Newton (even though I had not corresponded with him in many years).

I wrote asking for a review copy of the books and they arrived late last week. Over the weekend I read through one of them (Fresh Eyes on Jesus’ Miracles: Discovering New Insights in Familiar Passages) and caught the excitement and innovation in these books. I'm posting my review and promoting the book.

Why tell you about this process? Because you can follow the same course of action. If you learn about a book that you would like to read, don't hesitate to reach out to the author or publisher and request a review copy of the book. When you get the book, read it, then write an honest review. Finally send an email to the author or publisher after you have posted your review. This final step of follow-through is important. Everyone gets a lot of mail and email but the ones which stand out are the ones which actually take action.

How can you turn your ideas into action? What practical steps can you take today which will feed into your writing life? I applaud thinking and thoughtful consideration but even more I appreciate taking action.Let me know in the comments how you are taking action on your thoughts.


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Sunday, September 09, 2018

Levels of Persistence

Persistence is an important quality for every writer. When you get a rejection letter (and it happens to all of us), then you have to persist to look for the next opportunity for your writing. Instead of putting the submission aside, you take active steps to get it back into the market with a different editor or literary agent.

I've been thinking about the different levels of persistence and how it plays into the writing life. Since I studied journalism at Indiana, I have been a life-long newspaper reader. Not the digital version but getting a daily newspaper and reading it cover to cover. From time to time, my newspaper doesn't show up. Maybe the carrier skipped me or whatever happens but I have to call the circulation office for a replacement newspaper.

Recently my wife reminded me of a period years ago when I lived in a different city and the newspaper delivery problem was happening over and over. To resolved it, I actually drove to the newspaper office and spoke with someone face to face about it. My level of persistence was great and someone got the message and it was finally resolved.

In recent days I've been having repeated problems with my Denver Post not being delivered. I've called the circulation office almost daily but the paper has not been delivered. I decided to raise the level of persistence. I looked on the newspaper website and found the name, email and phone number of the Senior Vice President of Circulation. I called this executive and left a straight forward message and I emailed him as well about the poor customer service situation with a plea for him to get it fixed,. Now I understand thousands of people take my newspaper every day—but my level of persistence raised the situation. While my newspaper situation is not resolved, it is improving yet I'm determined for it to be fixed.

Do you have this level of persistence with your writing? Are you determined to get your book published or to get into a particular magazine or be represented by a particular literary agent? Maybe you want to speak at a particular conference or event? Are you contacting the leaders on a regular basis with innovative topics to speak at their event?

The reality is everyone has interruptions, family situations or some other personal crisis. It throws off their ability to handle your writing situation. With an email or a text or a call, can you get on their radar to help them with a need?As you meet the needs of this person, they will in turn help you meet your needs.

Are you persistent with your writing life? Tell me in what ways in the comments below.


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Sunday, September 02, 2018

The Hidden Costs of Publishing

Like an iceberg, there are hidden costs in publishing.

There are many things in the world of publishing which simply add to the cost and effort to happen but are never documented or talked about. In many ways, these elements become some of the hidden cost of publishing. In some ways publishing is like an iceberg. We can see the top on the water but don't realize all that is below the surface. In this article I wanted to tell you about a couple of these hidden costs then give you some tools and basic principles for your own writing life.

People look at my large twitter following and would like to have that ability to influence and touch others. Yet are you willing to do the work to build that following? I've detailed the five every day steps I take with twitter. I use a program called Refollow to help automate this effort. Sometimes the program does not work. Every day I can use it to quickly follow 800 people in my target market. Then I can also use this program to unfollow people who have not followed me back. Some of these people I followed years ago and I use Refollow to automatically unfollow them. This unfollow process involves clicking and unfollowing each person—up to 1,000 a day.

Recently several times the program gets stuck. The only way I've found to get it working is to leave the site (stopping the process) and to begin it again (and reclicking all those times). Other times error messages are thrown up on my screen. Maybe Twitter has blocked the unfollow process or something else. These stops and starts amount to some substantial time with zero or little results. Yet I persist because I understand it is all part of the process of continuing to build my audience and presence in the market.  I use these tools consistently day after day.

Over the years, I've created a number of online information products like Blogging for Bucks or my Write a Book Proposal course. I've automated many of these products through autoresponders and other tools. Each of these products include my 100% Love it Or Leave It Guarantee. If the buyer isn't satisfied in a period of time, they can send an email and ask for a refund. This guarantee is a key part of selling products online and it is rare that someone will ask for a refund. This email arrived at a time when I was challenged with other things—yet I took the time to make the refund. Carrying through with your promises is a key part of having an online business and successfully selling products online. It doesn't make it simple or easy.

Here's some basic principles for every writer to get beyond the hidden costs of publishing:

* Understand they are there and keep going in spite of them

*Automate when you can. Investing in tools like Hootsuite, Manage Flitter and Refollow allow me to continually grow my presence and saves time

*Keep growing in your craft of writing, attending conferences, taking online courses and reading books. I've got shelves of how-to books I've read over the years and continue to read them.

*Timing is critical and yet often out of your control. I've had authors who have looked for an agent for years (not found it) then return to Morgan James and ask if they can sign our book contract. I've had it happen numerous times. An author signed recently who I have been speaking with off and on for three years about her book.

*Take the long view of success yet keep doing the little things and working to promote you and your writing. Over and over I speak with authors who continue promoting yet have stopped telling their publisher about their promotion (big mistake in my view). The publisher is going to assume they are not promoting and has stopped talking about the author with their sales team and the sales team to the bookstores since it is tied together. Yet if the author continues to promote and tells the publisher, then the communication and promotion to the bookstores can continue. Consistent communication matters.

No little elves come out and write this material for us. We have to be the ones to tell the stories and complete the work. 

Do you recognize the hidden costs of publishing? What tips can you give us about how you persist and get it done? I look forward to reading your comments.


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

My Overflowing Bookshelves Remind Me About Realistic Expectations

Throughout my years in publishing, almost daily books pour into my home. I love books and enjoy seeing the various books that I've acquired for Morgan James Publishing. Our team is making some remarkable books and getting them into the brick and mortar and online bookstores. One of the books I acquired hit several bestseller lists last week including the USA Today bestseller list. These lists measure books that are selling inside bookstores and it was a thrill to have one of my authors on the bestseller list.

Reading books is also something I do in my free time and for fun. No one is paying me to read their book and write a review but if I read the book, I take a few minutes and write an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads. It is a consistent pattern that I follow and I've written over 900 reviews on Amazon and hundreds of reviews on Goodreads

I love books and it is fun to receive Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of books. Most of my reading is nonfiction but I do sprinkle a few novels into my limited time for reading. I love the storytelling of Brad Meltzer and have read most of his novels. In fact, last year, Meltzer made a personal apperance at my local library. I would have been there except he came at a date when I was speaking at a conference in another state. Meltzer has a book releasing in January, The First Conspiracy, The Secret Plot Against George Washington and the Birth of American Counterintelligence (Flatiron Books, January 2019). Last week (mid-August), I pulled an uncorrected ARC of this book out of my mail. I'm eager to begin reading it soon.

Periodically I have this problem: the bookshelves in my office are full. Then I begin to stack the books on the top of a bookcase. Eventually these books gather into about three stacks with at least a dozen books in each stack. Yes too many books have poured into my office and I need to purge through my bookshelves and remove books.

When I go through this process of sorting it reminds me of several truths:

* There are way more books that I'd like to read than I can actually read

* Thousands of new books enter the market every day and I need to continue to look for ways to promote and market my own books

* Often I have unrealistic expectations about what I can actually read with my limited time

As I sort through my book shelves, I will attempt to be more realistic and narrow the books that I will actually be able to read. Eventually, the overflow stack of books will be eliminated and my books will again be contained in their bookshelves. When completed, I will have several additional boxes of books which I donate to my local library or other places.

Each of us have limits on our time—even for something we love like reading. Do you go through this purging and sorting process at your house? Tell me about it in the comments below.


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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Who Believes in Your Writing?

Many of the words in this image are tied to belief.

Last week I signed a contract for another book project. As an acquisitions editor, I help others with their contract but my own writing has dropped in recent years as I focus on helping others. I'm excited about this new project but the experience made me think about the concept of belief.

Throughout my publishing career, I've been blessed to sign numerous contracts. Because I've worked inside publishing companies, I know a contract is not issued without a number of people deliberating and making the decision. These publishing professionals believe that I was the best person to write this book so they issued a contract. I'm looking forward to working on this book in the days ahead.

It has been my honor to believe in a number of authors over the years as an acquisitions editor. When you are writing your book or proposal, inwardly you wonder whether anyone will want to publish this book. Yes every writer has these doubts and faces this uncertainty. Yet they continue forward to write and complete the book.

I opened a package last week with a new book which releases in November, I Wanted to Be A Pilot by Franklin J. Macon with Elizabeth G. Harper. I met Liz at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. This middle school teacher had written an autobiography for Frank, one of the few living Tuskegee Airmen. This much decorated group of World War Two pilots is aging and Frank at 94 is one of about 100 living Tuskegee Airmen. It was a thrill to see this beautiful book and hold it in my hand. As an acquisitions editor, I was one of the first to believe in this book and the importance of it.

I spoke with another author who has one of the Morgan James contracts but hasn't signed it yet. I told this author how much I believed in her book and the importance of it. She thanked me for this affirmation and belief.  I'm eager to see this book get published and get into the bookstores and help people.

Who believes in your writing and your book? It could be a spouse or a friend or someone in the publishing world. If you don't have this person, I encourage you to look for them. Maybe they are in your critique group and believe in your work. 

And while you are looking for this person to believe in your writing, my encouragement is for you to believe in yourself. Continue learning and growing in your knowledge of this business and the craft of writing. Continue growing your audience and platform. Also continue to write and look for new opportunities. There is a world waiting for your book. If I can help you in this process, don't hesitate to reach out to me (my work contact information is on the bottom of the second page of this link).

Let me know in the comments below, who believes in your writing and ideas about how to connect with someone who believes.


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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Use A Writer's Work Around

In the tech world, when you run into a snag (which seems to happen with great frequency), you will find a work around. With this work around, you can achieve the same result but will have to use a different process to get there.

Often I need to find a work around when it comes to the ever-changing world of social media. As I've mentioned in these articles before, I don't spend a lot of time on my social media—but I do spend consistent time on it. Using a scheduling tool like HootSuiteI tweet about 12–15 times every day. These tweets also show up on Facebook and LinkedIn—which are other social networks where I have a lot of activity.

Whenever a social network makes changes, you have to find a work around for your activity to continue. For example, several months ago, Facebook posted my tweets but without images. Several times a day I would add the images to my posts on Facebook (which make them more attractive and read). Then without warning, Facebook began including the images with my tweets again so I didn't need to add them.

Last week, Facebook decided to stop the twitter posts from showing up on Facebook. As I understand it, this stop happened across the entire Facebook network. Suddenly twitter posts were blocked on Facebook. I had to search for a work around to get my posts on Facebook (where I get a lot of appreciation about the information I'm posting).

My current work around for this situation is to go over to Facebook several times a day. I simply cut and paste my posts from Twitter to my Facebook feed. In each case, I make sure my post and image are on Facebook. My work around is time consuming and I'm looking for some other method to get these posts on my Facebook newsfeed. Why do I care that it stopped? Because I have over 4,900 Facebook friends and I continue to get feedback that people appreciate the information. I don't want this regular marketing to stop.

My point of this article is to demonstrate each of us face road blocks to our marketing efforts or our writing efforts. These road blocks are a clear dividing line between people who get it done and others who are stopped. The persistent authors figure out a work around or way around the road block. The authors who are not persistent are thrown off with the road block and don't get it done.

This week I asked one of my writer friends about her proposal. I learned she had sent it to one publisher (two months ago) and gotten rejected. She hit a road block but it stopped her and she had not sent it to another publisher. Some of my friends have established a rule where if they get rejected, they take 24 hours to mourn that rejection, then they fire their article or proposal or query to another place. See their work around? These authors understand rejection is a part of our writing life—yet they do not let rejection stop them. Instead, they are committed to getting their submission back into the market.

What is holding you back? Is it rejection? Is it a tech glitch? Is it something with social media? What active steps are you taking to find your work around instead of letting it stop you? Let me know in the comments below.


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