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Monday, June 19, 2017


Writers and AudioBooks

June is AudioBook Month. This area of publishing continues to expand and explode from everything that I read in the trades.

Check out this article from the recent Book Expo America and mega-bestselling author, James Patterson. “Patterson (Crazy House, Hachette Audio) opened his presentation with a declaration: “Listening to an audio is reading. A lot of gatekeepers don't buy into that, but I do.” Noting the audiobook “is only scratching the surface of its potential importance and its audience,” he offered a pair of recommendations. “The first suggestion is that some audiobook people have to go out to Silicon Valley. We need to redesign audiobooks so they can be sold at a better price.” He also advocated for offering an irresistible audiobook package, which “could include, just for example, a John Grisham, a Patterson, Hillbilly Elegy, a Wimpy Kid novel, Alan's new book,” to automobile makers at close to cost if they would agree to put it in every new car they sell.” I found this idea interesting and will be watching the publishing world to see if someone takes James Patterson up on such an idea.

If you are wondering about the viability of audiobooks, just look at these recent statistics “In 2016, Audiobook Sales Up 18.2%, Unit Sales Jump 33.9% Audiobook sales in 2016 rose 18.2%, to $2.1 billion, and unit sales jumped 33.9%, according to the Audio Publishers Association's annual sales and consumer studies, conducted respectively by Management Practice and Edison Research. This marks the third year in a row that audiobooks sales have grown by nearly 20%. The APA attributed audio growth to an expanding listening audience: 24% of Americans (more than 67 million people) have completed at least one audiobook in the last year, a 22% increase over the 2015.”

“Among other findings:
  • More listeners use smartphones most often to listen to audiobooks than ever before (29% in 2017 vs. 22% in 2015).
  • Nearly half (48%) of frequent audiobook listeners are under 35.
  • Audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year.
  • More than a quarter (27% of respondents) said borrowing from a library/library website was very important for discovering new audiobooks.
  • A majority of audiobook listening is done at home (57%), followed by in the car (32%).
  • 68% of frequent listeners do housework while listening to audiobooks, followed by baking (65%), exercise (56%) and crafting (36%).
  • The top three reasons people enjoy listening to audiobooks are: 1) they can do other things while listening; 2) audiobooks are portable so people can listen wherever they are; and 3) they enjoy being read to.
  • The most popular genres last year were mysteries/thrillers/suspense, science fiction/fantasy and romance.
  • 19% of all listeners used voice-enabled wireless speakers (such as Amazon Echo or Google Home) to listen to an audiobook in the last year, and for frequent listeners, that rises to 30%.”
I hope some of these statistics caught your attention about the importance of audiobooks. Here's several ways you can get involved with audiobooks:

1. Listen to audiobooks on a regular basis. The first way for any of us to get active in an area is as a participant. I have written about audio books in past articles.

2. Use your activity to promote and encourage others to listen to audiobooks. As you complete an audio, book, write a review. If you look at my Goodreads book list, you will see many of these books are audio books.


3. Get active creating audiobooks. If you have no idea where to begin, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Richard Rieman's book, The Author's Guide to AudioBook Creation. This little book will help you learn more about the audio book industry and give you resources for launching your own audio products. If you live in the Denver area, I encourage you to come to the South Denver Chapter meeting of the Nonfiction Authors Association on Wednesday, June 21st. Richard is speaking about audio books. The first meeting is free and you can hear Richard and ask questions.

Are you using and creating audio books? Let me know in the comment section.

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Monday, June 12, 2017


Daily Word Count: A Key to Consistent Writing

It’s not profound but true: writers write. A common bit of writing advice is to write every day.

Some people fill this daily need with a journal practice. They consistently write every day about their activities. I understand such a practice but I’ve never created or written such a journal.

I’ve interviewed over 150 bestselling authors about how they practice their craft of writing. It is rare but I found one writer who used a timer in his writing process. He set a timer and sat at his computer until the timer sounded. To me, this process did not make sense. Anyone can spend time staring a screen but that does not mean you are creating words or telling stories during that time. You could be simply staring off into space.

A much more productive and common practice among writers is to have a daily word count. The amount of this word count will be different for each writer. Some writers are on deadline and to meet their deadline, they have to produce a certain amount of words each day. Other writers have created a personal goal and the word count keeps them on track. If the writing comes quickly, then they achieve the goal in  short amount of time. If the words do not come, then they spent much more time and energy at their keyboard or computer.

Like prolific novelist Bodie Thoene told me, “No little elves come out of my closet to write 650 pages. Some mornings I don't feel like writing but I do it out of obedience to God.” Severely dyslexic, Bodie could not read her own name in the Third Grade yet she writes riveting 500 page historical novels. Her talent and importantly her discipline as a writer are an example to each of us.

A daily word count goal is a way for you as a writer to move your project forward. For example, I have a book manuscript under contract that I need to finalize and get off to my editor (yes every writer has an editor—even one as experienced as I am). Currently this manuscript has not been happening but I’m committed to working on it little by little and moving it forward. Without consistent effort, it will not happen.

You have to do the same sort of effort for your own writing. I have busy authors who struggle to complete their manuscripts. I encourage them to set even small daily word count goals and keep moving forward. Even if they commit to writing 500 words or two double-spaced pages, with consistent effort, a month will yield pages of results. Notice the word consistent and regular. That constant effort is what helps you complete the work. Thinking about it without action doesn’t do it.

Where are you stalled in your writing? Would a daily word count writing goal help you move forward? Let me know in the comment section.
 
 

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Monday, June 05, 2017


5 Ways Writers Profit from a Conference

I know it is June. I took this photo on May 19, 2017 in Estes Park, Colorado at a conference.

For many years I’ve been attending conferences. My time at the recent Colorado Christian Writers Conference was unusual because in mid-May, we had over three feet of snow. It snowed for almost two solid days after we arrived at the event. Some faculty members who arrived late were stuck at the Denver airport. The snow made for an unusual and memorable event.

Some people wonder how I’ve published such a range of magazine articles and books. I’m not the best writer in the room but I am one of the most consistent. If I pitch an idea and an editor says, sounds good, send it to me. I make a little note, then go home, write the article or book and send it. Yes you have to write what the editor wants but overall I’ve found such a simple strategy works.

Just attending conferences is a financial investment of money, time and energy. In this article, I want to highlight five ways to profit from a conference.

First, listen for opportunities then take action. For example, one editor I met told me about a forthcoming series of Bible studies that his publisher will be doing. I’ve written Bible studies in the past and enjoy this type of writing. I noticed the opportunity so I made a point to email this editor and affirm in writing my interest in the project. The editor was grateful for my interest and said at the right time he would be in touch. This type of follow-up work leads to additional writing opportunities. You have to be listening for them.

Another editor at the conference has worked on a publication that I’ve never written for. It has a large circulation and I wanted to write for this publication for the exposure as much as a new writing credit. I’ve emailed the editor and we are corresponding about some ideas which I believe will lead to an assignment and eventually publication. You have to listen for the opportunities, then take action.

Advanced preparation before the event is a second way to profit from the conference. Study the faculty and see what they publish and then write pitches and book proposals. Most publications have writer’s guidelines and other information easily available online. Several writers at the recent conference brought flash drives with the electronic copy of their material. I appreciated the effort of these writers and it moved their submission to the top of my stack. I put their material into our internal system and moved it forward through the consideration process. In one case I’ve already turned in a writer’s project to my publication board and I’m hoping to get a contract for this author in a few weeks. The germ of this activity was her arrival at the conference prepared for her meetings. You can learn and mirror such actions when you attend an event.

Most conferences have a freebie table with magazines and writers guidelines. These publications are looking for freelance writers. You have to pick up the publications, read the guidelines then make your pitch or query or follow-through. This consistent action of follow-up is the third way to profit from a conference. When someone mentions an interest in your material, make sure you exchange business cards with them. Then when you get home, send them an email and follow-up.

At the conference, I met many people and came home with a large stack of business cards. I’ve been following up with writers and encouraging them to send me their proposal and/or manuscript. Yet few of them have reached out to me—and this type of situation is typical from my experience. If you reach out to the editor and take action, your actions will receive positive attention and you will get publishing opportunities. This is the fourth way to profit from a conference.

One of the reasons to attend a conference is to learn a new skill or a new area of the writing world. The fifth method to profit from a conference is to take action on these new skills. Are you learning how to write fiction or a magazine article or tap a new social network? A variety of skills are taught at conferences.

It’s easy to put away the notes and never look at them again. The writers who get published take a different course of action. They review the notes and apply it to their writing life. At the Colorado event, I taught an early bird workshop about Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams (my book). I worked hard on my handout which had many additional resources and links for those who used it. Here’s my handout for your reference: http://terrylinks.com/js I encourage you to download the handout, print it and follow the extra material to profit for your own writing life. I'll be at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference next month and other events this year. Check my speaking schedule link to connect and I hope our paths cross later this year and I can help you one on one.

As writers we are continually learning and growing in our craft. A conference can be a huge growth area if you take action and follow-up.

Have I given you some ideas? If so, let me know in the comments below.

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Monday, May 29, 2017


Why Trade Shows Are Important


This week the largest book trade show in the United States will take place in New York City called Book Expo America. I'm looking forward to attending this event. While I've been going to trade shows for many years, I know many writers have never been to one nor understand why they are important. In this article I'm going to cover some of these basics.


Almost every field has trade shows which are closed to the public but draw thousands of participants. Librarians, booksellers, retailers, publishers and many others attend these closed events. The first step is to make sure you can get into the event. By closed, I mean it is not open to the public.


Last week one of my Morgan James authors from California, planned to meet at Book Expo, had booked his plane ticket and hotel, then emailed me that he wasn't sure how to get into the event. We worked out the details to get him into the event but you should take care of first things, first. Can you get into the event? Publishers, exhibitors, vendors and media are all ways you can get into the closed event. Often in years past, I've registered as a journalist, writing for a particular publication.


When I arrive at the event, I find the media or press room to get my credentials to get into the show. When I say the event is closed, there is someone standing at every entrance checking badges and credentials. If you don't have the credential, then you can't enter the event. The registration place is different for different categories of participants.

Ok, so you know it is difficult to get into this event but why do you want to get inside this closed trade show?

Book publishers and others related to the publishing industry exhibit their latest products at Book Expo America. There are miles (no exaggeration) of exhibits.  The publishers are giving out books which will not release to the public until the fall. Most of these books are marked as “advanced reading copies” and not for sale. It is a way for you to read books before their actual entrance or launch into the marketplace. Publishers give away bags so you can carry these giveaways.


Over the years, I've learned the hard way to execute some common sense with these giveaways. Why? The exhibit hall is a long way from your hotel room. You have to figure out what to do with these bags of free books and whether you want to lug them all over the event with you.




Literary agents and editors are attending Book Expo. I've reached out to a number of people and scheduled meetings during the event. Also from my planning, I have learned about agents who are not attending and I will have to meet with them in another way (phone, email, etc). These face to face meetings can be a productive aspect of attending the trade show.

During the event, I will bring lots of business cards and exchange them freely to form new relationships. Also I've learned to keep my eyes open because you never know who you will see at such an event. I've seen editors and publishers who I've known many years. I've seen celebrities and well-known authors at this event.


Your activities after attending a trade show are also important. I'm talking about the follow-up on ideas and connections and new projects. I've formed many important relationships at trade shows and understand the importance of them for my writing life. There are several keys:


1. Work it out so you can attend — i.e. get inside.


2. Form new relationships and connections


3. Follow-up on the opportunities.


One of the reasons I enjoy Book Expo is the entire trade show is focused on books. For many years I attended the Christian Booksellers Trade Show which was renamed the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). With the name change, ICRS grew their gift (non-book) aspects until it is almost 50% of the exhibit floor space. ICRS has grown smaller each year and for the last two years been held in Cincinnati, Ohio or a venue which it could not have done years ago. I haven't been to the ICRS event for at least seven years.


Trade shows can be valuable to writers but it takes careful planning and follow-up. Let me know in the comments if you have been to a trade show and what you have gained from it.


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Monday, May 22, 2017


Insights about Getting Book Reviews


Often I see books launch into the market with zero reviews or only a few reviews. With over 4500 new books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for any author to find readers—and to find readers who will write a few sentences of honest review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads and other sites.

In this article, I want to encourage authors to take an active role at getting book reviews and give you some resources and insights.

First, take your own responsibility for getting book reviews. Whether your book is brand new or has been out for a while, continually work at getting reviews. When you get a review—especially a positive one—promote or tout that review on your social media connections (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). Go to this article from Tim Grahl about Amazon reviews, scroll down to the bottom and get his free download because of the tools you will get to help you gather reviews.

Second, study this article from Jim Cox, editor-in-chief at Midwest Book Review. Notice the article is 16 pages of information and I encourage you to print it and study it. I am on Jim's email list and found this interview with Shelby Londyn-Heath was filled with insights. Jim has been in his position for 40 years and provides an amazing free service to help people discover books. I want to make several points from this article:

* They receive an average of 2,000 titles a month to review and select 600 to 700 a month to actually review.

* Books are rejected for possible review for several reasons including not following their submission guidelines, poor covers and serious production problems.

*Midwest Book Review emphasizes self-published books and books from small presses. Cox explains his reasons in this article. He also encourages authors to produce excellent books—edited and designed well. These foundational elements are missing in many books and some of the reasons for books not to be reviewed (rejected in this process).


Third, learn about how to get book reviews. I interviewed Dana Lynn Smith on this topic and have a free teleseminar teaching authors about how to get book reviews.

With the sheer volume of books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for authors to get book reviews. Write a great book. Produce a great book (design and production is important) then finally take action to get your book reviewed. I've seen a number of books that have well-done production, great endorsements and zero or few reviews. The details are important and I encourage you to take an active role on this process of getting book reviews.

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Monday, May 15, 2017


The Value of Consistent Book Marketing


From my years in publishing, I find many writers expect to have instant success. While they may not say it verbally, they show this expectation in other ways. It makes sense since we live in a fast-moving, instant message world. One of the ways I see this expectation is in contract negotiations with new authors. In the details of the contract sometimes writers try and narrow the length of the contract to two or three years. I understand their desire but I often end up explaining that books sometimes take several years to take off and reach the public. At Morgan James Publishing, we've had a number of books with modest sales in the beginning, but the author consistently works at marketing and spreading the word about their book. These authors try multiple approaches to reach their audience. Then almost without explanation, their book begins to consistently sell in large numbers—month after month.

It is one of the truths in publishing that consistent regular action is the path to success. Whether it is trying to write a 100,000 word novel or a 60,000 word nonfiction book or a book proposal or sell a magazine article. The process of taking consistent action will eventually pay off.  You will complete the novel. You will finish writing the nonfiction book or book proposal. You will find an editor who wants to publish your magazine article.


Marketing a book is not a sprint but more of a marathon where slow and steady rules the day. Penny Sansevieri is a marketing expert who runs a book marketing company. 5-MINUTE BOOK MARKETING FOR AUTHORS is filled with practical, easy to apply information. Sansevieri gives the straight scoop in the opening page, “With more than 4500 books published every day, unless you’re a big name, you can’t afford to set it and forget it. It’s true that the success of a book doesn’t happen overnight; the biggest constant in the publishing industry is that consistent, regular exposure of your books is the best way to reach your book marketing goals.”

Each chapter of this book is designed to encourage authors to take action. As Sansevieri writes, “You only fail if you fail to try! So dig in with me, and learn some great marketing efforts that you can begin in around five minutes!” (Page 11). There is a wide range of action in this book from Goodreads to Amazon to ebook pricing to website to newsletters to social media (Facebook, twitter and Pinterest). Whether you are a brand new author or an experienced author, you can gain valuable insights from 5-MINUTE BOOK MARKETING FOR AUTHORS.

Author insights are embedded into each chapter. For example, the chapter on how to get the best Amazon reviews begins, “Reviews can really help to drive the sale of a book. In fact, several marketing survey companies have cited that 61% of online purchases were made after reading a review.” (Page 45)


Sansevieri is an author but also works with authors all the time. She designed this book with short chapters and each one concludes with a “5-Minute Marketing Action Item” For example, “Join a Giveaway Group (on Goodreads).  Groups are quick and easy to join. You can see what members are excited about and get them excited about your title. The more you engage with potential fans, especially in your genre, the better!” (page 21)

Why are a variety of actions and strategies included? Sansevieri explains, “It’s important for you to remember that there’s no one marketing strategy that will help attract and retain fans. Instead, marketing is a series of actions and consistent engagement over time that will help you to grow your following and keep them engaged.” (Page 88).

As a long-time member of the publishing community as an author and editor, I learned a great deal from reading 5-MINUTE BOOK MARKETING FOR AUTHORS. I highly recommend every author get this book then start applying it to their own book marketing.

I want to return to where I started this article: consistent, steady action will pay off. Remember the parable of the race between the tortoise and the hare. It was the slow and steady tortoise that beat the hare. From my experience, it is the same in publishing. Too many writers quit too soon and never get their work published or achieve the book sales that they dream about. It is critical to keep going and not give up. 

Have you had this experience ? If so, tell me in the comment section.

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Monday, May 08, 2017


In Praise of the Educated Writer


While I've been in the publishing community many years, I continue to learn new information all the time. I'm committed to a life-time learning process. I've watched several of my writing friends who stop learning and figure they have reached their level in the market. 

From my experience, this attitude of arrival is self-fulfilling for them as I also watch the stall of their careers. Authors with this attitude only get to workshops when they are teaching and don't read how-to magazines or books. I encourage you not to fall into this attitude trap—no matter where you are on the spectrum of published authors.

There are many ways for writers to get educated and here's a few of them:

--conferences
--online groups
--writer's groups
--critique groups
--books
--magazines
--one on one mentoring or coaching
--blogs and other online articles
--online courses like my Write A Book Proposal course

From my experience, I know a great deal of publishing is about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right material—timing is crucial. As someone who has reviewed thousands of manuscripts and book proposals, I can read a few paragraphs and know whether the writer is educated about the market and publishing.

The opposite is also true. I can tell whether the writer has sprayed their proposal far and wide without any thought about what our publishing house is producing. Recently an author mailed a self-published book to the Morgan James office in New York City. A little online research would tell you quickly that I work remote and live in Colorado. Our office forwarded the book to me and I opened it. First, I was amazed at the size (over 700 pages) then I looked at the title and the contents (targeted to the New Age market). While Morgan James publishes some Christian books (about 30 each year), they are not a “Christian” publisher yet this view is across the board in the published books (i.e. our fiction has no sex or curse words and the publisher would not publish a New Age book). While I admire the enthusiasm of this writer, he had not taken the few minutes to get educated and targeted with his submission. I read numerous books outside of what I do at Morgan James and often write book reviews. Yet this book would not be one that I would even read a few pages.

What steps are you taking to get educated as a writer? 

Literary agents and publishers receive thousands of submissions. The standout ones that get published come from thoughtful, educated writers.

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