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:

--online groups
--writer's groups
--critique groups
--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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Monday, May 01, 2017

Why Writers Need to Manage Their Information

Each of us moving quickly but are you carefully managing your data? We meet people at conferences and exchange business cards. As a practice, if you don't get a card, ask for one. You return home from an event, what do you do with this information? Do you throw the card away or into a drawer? Do you follow-up or keep the information?

1. Follow-up exchange emails. Shortly after a conference, I reach out with a short email to the people who I've exchanged cards and met during the event. The exchange shows validates that I've put the correct email into my system and gives us a brief connection.

2. Get the information into your computer or phone so you can locate and use later. I put the information I've collected either in my computer or some of it on my phone. Then I can easily locate it and use it later if needed.

In recent weeks, I've been working on the audio book version of my Billy Graham biography.  At first I was going to read the book myself, but I realize reading an audio book is a skill and one I would need to learn. Others can read the book.  I selected a short sample for auditions and the audio book was put out for auditions. We received a record breaking 28 responses. I listened to most of the samples and working with my Morgan James colleagues we selected one excellent reader to record the book.

I listen to a number of audio books. One of the ways to set apart the Billy Graham audio book is to add a short clip from the hymn Just As I Am. Searching online for a recording, I found a beautiful rendition from the Gaithers. You can watch this short video here:

To use any of this recording in my audio book, I needed permission. Thankfully over ten years ago, I met Gloria Gaither and exchanged emails with her back then.   Now with a current need, I looked in my files and still had her contact information (which I had not used in ten years).

Because I still had Gloria Gaither's contact information, I wrote a short email, reminding her of our exchange years ago, then asking for permission for the short audio clip. Within a few hours, I got a response—and royalty-free permission to use the clip. To be clear, this audio book is still in process and I don't know yet if the short audio clip will be used in the final product--but at least it is being considered and possibly may appear in the final audio. The experience showed me again the power of information and the need to keep this information in a format you can easily access when needed.

This basic skill is something I've been doing for many years as I travel to conferences and events. You can do it as well—whether you are just beginning as a writer or you are a seasoned professional. The information does little good in a stack of business cards. It should be put into some computer system where you can access it later and even transfer it from computer to computer. Yes every now and then we upgrade and change computers. Create a system for collecting this information that will transfer from machine to machine.

Another resource in this area is LinkedIn. I've had a profile on LinkedIn many years and have many connections with primarily editors and others in the publishing business.  Like any field, publishing is filled with continual shifts and changes. Yet if you have a connection with someone on LinkedIn, they will take that connection with them—even if they change companies. Sometimes when I do not have the information in my address book, then I go to LinkedIn and see if I have it there.

It is rare that I reach out to many of my connections, but because I do it judiciously and in frequently, I find often they will respond to my requests and needs. By the same token, these responses are a two-way street.  If I am asked to do something for them, my default answer is “yes” if at all possible.

Do you gather and maintain this type of contact information on the different people who you meet and cross your paths? How are you using it? Tell us in the comment section below.


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Monday, April 24, 2017

Take Action in the Midst of Your Writing Fears

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

I've read this quotation in a number of places and many different contexts.  It is a solid action step for every writer. 

Why? Because from my experience, fear can prevent us from taking action and moving forward with our writing. Will anyone want to read what I'm writing?  Will it sell? Can I find a publisher or literary agent? Is my writing good enough to publish in   a magazine or book? The questions in our minds can appear endless.

While I've published a great volume of material over the years, if I'm honest, I have a number of fears that I face each day. The key from my perspective is are you taking action with your writing in spite of those fears.  I have my ideas and pitches rejected and don't hit the mark—yet I continue pitching my ideas and looking for opportunities.

Years ago as a new writer, I was at a conference sitting around with several more experienced and published authors. It was late at night and I was learning a great deal from these new friends. One author who had published a number of books mentioned how every time he begins a new project he had huge doubts and fears in his mind. He wondered if he could do it and if the book would succeed. In the same breath where he mentioned these fears, he explained that he pushed ahead and beyond the fear to write the book. It's the key distinction between those who want to write and those who actually write: they push ahead and take action in spite of the negative thoughts and fears.

Possibly today your manuscript or book proposal is getting rejection letters from agents or editors. From my experience, you have not found the right place for your book when you get rejected. It means you have to keep looking for that right connection or champion. When the rejection arrives (even if that rejection is through no response), you face a critical choice.  You can either take action and seek another opportunity or you can quit and not respond.  Many authors will send out their material one or two times, get rejected and figure no one wants to work with them and publish their submission. Their writing fears have stalled them into no action.  

When you have writing fears, there are several things:

1. Everyone has these fears. Whether they admit them or not, you should understand it is part of the process.

2. The writers who get published, understand timing and the right connection are a critical part of the process. You have to be proactive to find the right connection with your material.

3. Rejection is a part of publishing. Everyone gets rejected—beginners and long-term professionals. The key is what do you do with the rejection. Do you quit or do you look for the next opportunity?

I believe the world is full of opportunity—yet as a writer you have to make the right connection and have to be facing your fears and continuing to move forward with your writing. One of the most published series of books in English is Chicken Soup for the Soul. What many people forget is Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected on their proposed series 144 times. Now that is a lot of rejection. I'm sure they had fears to face, yet they continued moving forward. You can get some of their story in the foreword for Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Just follow this link to download the foreword and free sample chapter (no opt-in and you can download immediately).

For your encouragement and inspiration, remember this saying. If you need to do so, I would write it out and put it over your computer and read it often:

It will not fly, if you don't try.


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Monday, April 17, 2017

Be Knocking on Doors to Find Opportunity

In the publishing community, I've discovered a basic principle: If you want something to happen, you have to be knocking on doors to find that opportunity. For example, as an acquisitions editor, I've found some of my best projects meeting with authors face to face at a writers' conference. I understand the value of this personal contact with writers. 

While I've been speaking at different events for many years, the invitations to speak at these events does not happen organically (without any action on my part). From my experience, the directors of conferences are pitched many times from many more qualified people than they could possibly use at an event.

What is the difference maker so one editor is picked to be invited and another is not? I believe it is a combination of things—a personal relationship with the director or decision maker at these events but also knocking on the doors in a gentle way but letting them know of your availability and willingness to speak at their event. In the last few days, I've pulled out some resources on my bookshelf that list forthcoming conferences, then I've sent emails to these leaders. In a few cases where I know the people but haven't been to their event in several years, I've picked up the phone and called them. Will my actions pay off? I know many will fall flat and never garner a response.  I'm a realist with my expectations—yet I also know that some of them will succeed and garner an invitation to their event—maybe not this year but next year.

While I've been writing about getting speaking opportunities, the actions for a writer are exactly the same if you are looking for writing opportunities. What types of writing opportunities are you looking for? In recent days, I've been working on some book proposals and writing projects. Yes I've written a number of books over the years but most of my efforts have been in my work as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. I've been knocking on some doors of opportunities with agents and editors to find some writing projects. Like my knocking on doors for speaking opportunities, many of my emails and calls have not been returned and feel like they are going into a black hole. Yet I persist and continue to pitch and look for new opportunities. 

Why? From my experience, I know some of these pitches will actually turn into writing assignments and future work.

Here's several actions for every writer:

1. Learn how to write an excellent book proposal. Get my free book proposal checklist or my Book Proposals That Sell or take my Write A Book Proposal course. It will take effort but it will pay off in getting more attention from literary agents and book publishers.

2.Learn how to write an attention-getting query letter. Every writer can learn this important skill of writing a one page pitch letter. It will be a valuable lesson for writing for magazines or getting the attention of literary agents or editors.

3. Continually work at fostering and strengthening your relationships with others in the community. Help them in any way that you can—and you never know where that help will lead to future opportunities.

In general, the world of publishing is busy with lots of activity, emails, manuscripts, proposals and pitches. If you wait passively for someone to reach out to you, then most likely little will happen. Instead I encourage you to be proactive in your approach and be knocking on different doors to find the right opportunity. I believe these opportunities are out there—but you have to be knocking to find them.


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why You Should Try Ghostwriting

Years ago, I decided there were a finite number of stories and articles and books that I could write from my own experiences. I've written personal experience magazine articles from my own life and published in various publications.  Also I've written many different types of books such as devotionals or biographies or how-to books.

For any writer, there are many different types of writing. In fact, I list the variety in the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. The first chapter is free with this extensive list.  If you are looking to diversify your writing, I encourage you to look at this list and try a different type of writing.

Today I want to highlight one of the most overlooked types of writing called ghostwriting. When you write a book for another person is called ghostwriting. Cec Murphey is one of the most skilled writers in this area with over 140 published books to his credit and a number of New York Times best-selling books. Many writers have never attempted ghostwriting or co-authoring or collaborating to write the story of someone else. Murphey has tackled this type of writing over and over. He has recently published a new book called GHOSTWRITING.

Through a combination of his own personal experience, he takes the mystery away from this area and helps writers learn the value. He gives them a vision for how they too could earn good money but also help others birth stories which would never be written.

Murphey covers the gamut of topics in this well-written book. He defines the terms like book doctor or collaborator or ghostwriter. He goes into ethical concerns and where you find subjects and answers a critical writer question: how do you make money and what do you charge for this service.
I’ve got shelves of how-to writing books and only have one other book on this topic (written years ago). This new book is fresh and engaging. Also Murphey has tapped his wide network of other ghostwriters for their experiences and added it to enrich his book. The key application points for the reader are distilled at the end of each chapter into a series of bullet points called a Takeaway.

As I read GHOSTWRITING cover to cover, I found myself nodding in agreement at the wisdom in this book. I’ve written more than a dozen books for other people as a collaborator and rarely a ghostwriter. I highly recommend GHOSTWRITING for anyone who wants to learn the inside story about this much needed area of the writing world.

Many writers are trying to figure out how to make a living with their writing. One of the most lucrative and needed ways to earn a living and tell the stories is in this area of ghostwriting. I encourage you to get GHOSTWRITING to learn how to open up this possibility.


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