Sunday, July 15, 2018

Why I Lost 15,000 followers in 24 hours

Last week I lost 15,000 Twitter followers in 24 hours. For many people that loss would have been devistating and possibly wiped out their following. I went from 220,000 to 205,000 followers. I've been on Twitter since 2008 and actively working every day to increase my following.

What happened?  An article in the New York Times explained Twitter is battling fake accounts and has slashed millions of these accounts. As the article explains, “Twitter’s decision will have an immediate impact: Beginning on Thursday, many users, including those who have bought fake followers and any others who are followed by suspicious accounts, will see their follower numbers fall.”

I applaud Twitter's actions in this area but it has had impact on many users. At one point years ago as an experiment, I did buy some followers and my followers increased over a 24-hour period. Now those followers were fake accounts and I would not expect them to engage with me or be interested in any of my tweets.

Last year one of my writer friends launched a book with a New York publisher (in fact one of the big five). She had a modest Twitter following but in a short amount of time her followers increased to over 100,000–-which looks suspiciously like she purchased those followers rather than growing the following (as I have done). I just checked her followers and now she has 14,500 followers for a dramatic drop.

I want to make several key points from this experience to help you:

1. While Twitter continues to be an important social network, do not try and game the system with buying fake followers. I have written about the five actions I take every day on Twitter. There are good reasons I have a large Twitter following.

2. Don't forget Twitter is “rented” space. I don't own or have any connection to the Twitter company. They could cancel or block my account at any time eliminating my presence. I don't expect this elimination to happen and to my knowledge have been obeying their rules (key for everyone).

If you don't understand this concept of rented media, I encourage you to study Mastering the New Media Landscape by Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton.  I regularly speak with authors who have built their entire platform on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn or Twitter. Yet these authors have never considered the risk of such efforts.

3. Diversification is important as you plan your presence in the marketplace. Henricks and Shelton talk about this in the final chapter of their book giving six ways to “futureproof” your media presence. The advise is wise and worth your following it. Make sure you have media that you own: your websites, your blog and your email list.  If you haven't read my free ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author, I encourage you to get it here.

There is one safe prediction I can make about the social media landscape: it will continue to shift and change.

What steps are you taking to master the new media landscape?  Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 08, 2018

Your Submission Must Be Electronic and Easily Readable

Every editor needs an electronic submission.
Every writer should have the need to keep growing and looking for new avenues and ways to market. As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, we receive many submissions—over 5,000 a year for only 150 books that are published. Yes that is high volume but as editors, we are always looking for the right authors and right material.

About a month ago, I received an author contact from one of my colleagues. That day, I sent an email to this author letting her know exactly what I needed and how to submit her material. A few days ago, I got a text from my colleague asking about this author. I said she had never responded to my email. Something many people forget is email sometimes does not get through. I reached out to this author again on email and picked up the phone to call her (rare for an editor or agent to call).

Later that day I began to receive her submission in hard copy on my phone—which I could not read. It was pages of a manuscript texted to my phone. I asked her to email it to me. The email came one page at a time with the hard copy attached—-many emails. I went back to this author and explained I needed a single file in an electronic form as an attachment. 

In conversation, I learned this author had an electronic file for her manuscript and then her computer crashed. She lost the electronic files with her computer crash. She only had a hard copy of her manuscript. With this explanation, I understood why she was trying to get me the hard copy.

I told this author how for years, every publisher requires the author to send an electronic version of their manuscript or proposal. It is the only way to get your material into the consideration process with an editor or agent. Your computer crash and the fact you don't have the file is a barrier to getting your submission considered. If you have this problem, you can:

1. Retype your manuscript into a Microsoft Word file.

2. Hire a student or transcription service to type your submission into Word.

3. Forget about this book and start another one. This last point is not what I would recommend since the author has invested hours into creating her book.

I have no idea what this author is writing and whether it has any merit or not—since I did not receive it in a form where I could read it. I've reviewed thousands of submissions during my years in publishing and never seen this particular situation. I point out several lessons from it:

1. Get your manuscript to the editor or agent in a format they can read. I've met authors who do not type. If you don't type, then take a typing course or get a book or figure out your way around this barrier.

2. Before you complain to the company or editor, make sure the format of your submission is not the issue. The reality is every editor and agent receives many submissions. Sometimes things do get missed and we are not perfect in this process. Just make sure it is not your issue before you reach out to someone else.

3. Follow the editor's or agent's guidelines. If you don't follow directions, then you can't get considered.

4. Follow-up to make sure you are giving the editor what they need. We receive volumes of material and want to help but have limitations on our own time and resources.

As a writer, you are searching for the right fit for your submission. It will take effort on your part to find this fit. Good communication is important every step of the way.  It took some digging on my part to figure out why I was not connecting with this author and her manuscript. I'm encouraging her to retype her lost manuscript and get it into the market for consideration.

Have you been skipping a publishing basic as an explanation why your submission is not hitting the mark? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 01, 2018

Two Ways to Write A Magazine Article

Two types of Leaves & Two Types of Articles

If you want to reach readers with your writing, one of the most effective methods is to write magazine articles. As your articles are published, you will reach thousands (if not millions) of readers. Through my years in publishing, I've written many different types of articles on all sorts of people and topics. The variety is endless in the print magazine world.

In the beginning of my magazine writing, I would be inspired to write a personal experience article or a how-to article.  I would sit down and write the article with no magazine or market in mind. After I wrote this article to the best of my ability, I opened up my writers' market guide and searched for some place to send the article or write a query. The process took a lot of searching and energy—and often involved getting rejected because I didn't send it to the right editor or right publication.

This type of writing is known as inspirational writing. You are inspired to write something so you sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard and write the complete article. It is one way that many people write and eventually with enough persistence, find the right publication or editor and get into print.

There is a second way to write a magazine article: write for a particular publication and what the editor wants or needs. As a writer, you learn about these needs as you read and study the submission guidelines. Almost every magazine has a set of editorial guidelines on their website. Some of these guidelines are more detailed than others. Sometimes the guidelines will say the percentage of freelance work they publish. The higher this percentage, the stronger the need of the publication for freelance writing (as opposed to something they write with their staff).

In addition to their guidelines, some publications include a “theme list.” These publications have planned specific themes they want to publish and they are solid indicator of what the editor believes their readers want to know. To get published, you can either write a query letter or write the entire article and send it to the editor (follow their guidelines). The second way to write a magazine article is a more targeted yet also involves meeting the needs of the editor and reader. Because it is targeted, it has a higher probability of publication and less time for the writer to search for a market and then get rejected and search for another market.

Inspirational writing is fun and something I still encourage you to do—particularly with personal experience articles. Each of us have unusual personal experiences in life but the successful published writers will take these personal experiences and use them as grist for their writing and craft their article. Almost every magazine uses personal experience stories (large circulation and small circulation).

My purpose in writing this article was to show you a more targeted (and potentially successful) method to get your writing into print publications. Writing for magazines is a solid way to build your platform or presence in the market, reach readers and build your reputation as a writer. After many years in publishing, I continue to write for magazines.

What tips do you have for writing for magazines? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Ever-Changing World of Publishing

Last week I learned one of my regular writing assignments was disappearing. For every issue of the publication, I've been writing a column for the last six years. It was sad to receive such news but in some ways it was not unexpected. One of my key relationships at the magazine was leaving. With this change, the staff took the opportunity to revamp their publication through this revision my column was no longer needed. I responded to the editor with a gracious and understanding way with the hopes I can write articles in future issues. My response was well-received and possibly I will be able to write more in the future.

This experience reminded me that the world of publishing is always changing. During my years of writing, I've seen publications start and fold (cease to exist). Publishing companies are sold to other entities and as a writer I get a letter saying my book is going out of print. These are only a few of the variety of changes. Sometimes your work is a part of that decision and other times, the decision has nothing to do with you or the work and everything rests within that company.

In the ever-changing world of publishing, here's several key principles to keep in mind:

1. Change is always a part of this business.  Some of the changes you can control but many of them you can't. Your attitude in the middle of change is critical.

2. Never assume your writing opportunity will continue. As you submit your material and it is accepted, each time express gratitude and flexibility. These attitudes will go a long way with your publishing colleagues. 

3. Diversify your writing and your income streams. Look for other opportunities and be knocking on doors. Your skills have many different possibilities. If you need to explore other possibilities I have a free list in the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. You can download this chapter here (follow the link).

4. Persevere with your writing. I've watched many people give up on their writing over the years. The ones who get a publisher and continue in this business are the writers who persevere with the work. Admittedly some days it is hard but each of us need to keep our fingers on the keyboard and keep writing. 

What are your tips for handling and thriving in the ever-changing world of publishing? Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to hearing from you.


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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Four Actions After A Conference

The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College

This weekend I traveled home from Write To Publish, held on the campus of Wheaton College at the Billy Graham Center. Off and on, I've been going to this event for many years but had not been for two or three years. Throughout the event, I spent time with old friends, met many new ones and spent several intense days talking about publishing and writing and books. 

Often these events are filled with writers attending their first conference. Others attend each year to give a boost to their writing. These writers come with their writing and their dreams and plans to speak with editors and agents during the event. As an editor, I taught a few classes during the event but also met with numerous writers one-on-one listening to their pitches and helping from my years of experience.

I heard some remarkable stories and pitches. From others I heard about their heart-wrenching stories about their struggle to get published and find the right place for their work. Throughout the event I listened and spoke with them. Admittedly these events can be overwhelming when you return. The world of publishing contains many different opportunities and a wide variety of publications and publishers. When you are overwhelmed, one response is to spin and do nothing. My encouragement is for you to take action and here are four steps:

1. Take time for reflection. Which opportunities did you hear about which you want to do? Make a list of these publications or publishers, and then reconnect with the editor.

2. Review the editor's guidelines or theme list. Are you writing something that they want or are seeking? If so, read through your book proposal or query and send the editor what they requested. Throughout the event, I heard about some great book ideas—nonfiction, fiction, Christian, general market, and children's books. Some people handed me a paper copy. In each case, I asked them to email the material to begin the process. A few writers emailed the material during the event (very few). A number of them will go home, revise and improve their material, then send it to me. Others will never respond. 

3. Organize your business cards and contact information. Get it in a form you can access quickly. We work with people who we know, like and trust. A business card with an email and phone is a great first step, but add the information into your address book. You might not need it now but you may need it several months from now and want to be able to easily access it.

4. Apply what you have learned to your writing life. Throughout the conference, I taught three different workshops (social media, book proposals and Goodreads). It is wonderful to learn about these topics and listening to the information is the first step. Yet your actions after the conference are critical to your writing success. In each of these workshops, I gave specific action steps for the writers to do. The writers who take these actions steps will move forward with their writing and be closer to achieving their dreams and plans.

During the conference, I met several editors and learned about publications that I want to write for in the months ahead. I am taking my own action steps to move ahead for these dreams to become reality.

5. Bonus action. Reach out to some of the people you met at the conference and write them right away via email or even snail mail. It will do a great deal to foster and build your relationships. 
What steps to you take after attending a conference? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to learning your action steps.


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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Importance of Sending Good Content

Are you learning from others online? Excellent. Are you passing along this content to others? For me, this process of sending good content to others is an important part of the writing life. In this article, I want to give you some ideas how you can pass along what you are learning or reading to others.

I have been on twitter since 2009 and tweeted thousands of times. If you look at my twitter feed, you will notice the majority of my posts are pointing to articles from others. I follow a series of blogs from experienced writers and receive these blogs in my email box. If you have a blog, it is important to add this feature to your blog so others can read your content on their email. Over and over email has been proven as one the most effective ways to reach others.

If you want to send out good content to others, you need to develop a method or system for taking consistent action. The regular action is important to establish your reputation in the market as someone who helps others—not just once but over and over.

For example, I use Hootsuite to schedule my social media posts then I tweet about 12 to 15 times a day but these posts are spaced throughout the day and each one is different (with different words and a different image). Each day I have developed a pattern with my posts. This pattern is something I've created with different spots on my posts for different types of content and from different people. For example, I post content from a writer about once a day and not multiple times. I begin each day of social media posts with an inspirational quotation and image. The fact that I have a pattern makes my repeat actions easier. I don't have to create something and instead I am simply filling in the designated positions.

Your social media posts will be different than mine and in a different pattern. My key point is encouraging you to develop a system that works for you and your writing life. After you have such a system, your actions will be routine. Each week I take about 30 minutes to finalize my social media posts. I say “finalize” because the grid or slots for my different posts is not finished until I finalize—but I have much of that grid filled in because I take a few minutes each day looking for great content and adding it to my posting plans in Hootsuite.

Reading about my actions are a good first step but here's some action steps for you to take:

1. Decide to send good content to your audience on a regular basis

2. Create a system (possibly using Hootsuite) to make your actions regular and consistent.

How are you sending out good content to your audience? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to learning from you.


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Sunday, June 03, 2018

Why Every Writer Needs Persistence

Publishing is an imperfect process with many variables and much which can go off the rails in the process of making or marketing a book. For example, one of my authors launched a one-day only giveaway of her book on Amazon. She had sent emails, Facebook posts and all sorts of other means to spread the word about this one day event. The author had worked with our team at Morgan James and gotten it all set—so she thought. Then Amazon did not reduce the price.

Early in the morning, I got a call from the author about this potential disaster to her marketing effort. I reached out to a colleague who reached out to someone else to get Amazon to quickly adjust the price to zero for the day. In an hour or two, it was resolved and the author was able to continue to market her one-day special event. Morgan James does not control Amazon but we work with Amazon to make such campaigns happen and the author persisted to get it going.

Today I tried to call an author using the app which I use for my Morgan James work. The app shows my New York phone number and why I consistently use it for calling authors. In my case, the app did not work or dial the number and only gave me an error message. This app had been updated overnight and something was not working. I persisted to get it working, deleted the app on my phone and reinstalled it. Then it worked again. For this author, I only had her phone number. I did a quick search and found her website—which had no email address or phone but did have a contact form. I filled out the form so she would have my email and know what she needed to do to reach me with her submission. I persisted rather than giving up when I could not get my phone app to work. These types of actions are what we have to do as writers and professionals. Normally there is a way around the challenge—if you persist.

Or another example, I have almost reached the limit on my Facebook friends and throughout each day I post material related to publishing and writing. Facebook continually makes changes to their system and recently I noticed the images on my posts from twitter were not showing up. I figured out how to edit those posts and add the images so I made that adjustment.Then a day or so ago, Facebook removed the ability to add images to such posts when you are editing them. I had to make another adjustment to get it to work. Persistence is key to this process for every writer.

There are many strange technical things that happen every day in the process of my work. Do I let it derail me and keep me from working or do I persist and find a way around it? These challenges often have nothing to do with me but it takes persistence to accomplish the work.

How are you applying persistence into your writing life? Let me know in the comments below.


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