Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When You Feel Like Giving Up

If we are honest, not every day in publishing is fun. Sometimes it feels like we are on one of those climbing walls and the way forward looks impossible. Yet even in those difficult days, I continue hitting the keyboard and cranking out words and stories. Other days I spend on the phone with authors or answering emails and questions about contracts or other issues.

Yet in the midst of the opportunities or challenges, I continue helping authors create new books through my work as an acquisitions editor. I continue to write for new blogs or magazines and working on my social media and growing my own measure of influence in the marketplace.  I continue the work because I believe in the life-changing effects of books. I know that first hand as I explained in this short video several years ago:

Often we can't see the results of our writing and how it is affecting others. Recently I was listening to actress Lauren Graham's memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. I enjoyed this story she told about bestselling author James Patterson. Graham was in Atlanta and about to begin filming Middle School, based on the books by Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. At the cast dinner, Graham was seated next to Patterson. She turned and asked him a question that he had probably been asked many times, “How do you do it?”

“He turned to and said, “Keep going, keep going, keep going.”

I found this story encouraging that even  mega-bestselling author like James Patterson has to use this mantra of keep going. Each of face different curve balls along the publishing journey. Maybe your editor leaves the publishing house and you have to work with a different editor. Maybe your publishing house closes or gets sold to another publisher. Maybe you face an unexpected family crisis of health or any number of other situations. The challenges of life are plenty for everyone and enough for some people to throw in the towel and not move forward.

From my experience and listening to numerous stories from bestselling authors, the people who succeed and write their bestseller or find their best publishing opportunity, are the ones who keep going.  Many authors give up too early in the process and do not keep looking for the right publisher at the right time and the right place.

As someone who has been studying about publishing for many years, admittedly there is a lot to learn for every writer. You need to learn how to craft a pitch to an editor or a literary agent. You need to learn how to write excellent stories and then do the long-term work of telling people about your book (marketing).

I love the advice best-selling author Harvey MacKay gave in this recent article called Never Give Up. MacKay gives terrific specific details in this article and then he always has a summary statement that he calls a MacKay Moral: The hardest sale you'll ever make is to yourself.  But once you're convinced you can do it, you can.

When you face the bump in the road of your writing life, I encourage you to keep going.


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Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Self-Publishing Is NOT "Easy"

Publishing a book has never been easier. Almost everyone has a keyboard and a computer with the ability to crank in words and produce a manuscript—whether nonfiction or fiction. Authors struggle to find a literary agent and a traditional publishing deal. They get tired of crafting an excellent product, the waiting, and the rejection letters. Instead they decide to self-publish because that direction looks easy.

For over 20 years, I've been reading about publishing, writing and working in this business as an editor and writer. I encourage you to read this recent article from Jane Friedman, former editor at Writer's Digest and publishing expert. I want to quote a brief section of Friedman's article:

“Back in 2012, there were many headlines about the tremendous growth in self-publishing output as demonstrated by the increase in ISBNs used by indie authors.
Since then, Bowker—the agency that issues ISBNs in the United States—has continued to release annual stats that still show growth in the sector, but these numbers always come with important caveats, including:
  • Bowker’s figures don’t reflect all of the self-publishing activity out there. They can’t count books that don’t have ISBNs, and a considerable volume of self-pub titles are published and distributed without ISBNs.
  • Bowker’s counts are for ISBNs, not book titles. A single book title may use several ISBNs (e.g., one for the print edition, another for the ebook edition, and so on).
According to Bowker, ISBNs for self-published titles in 2015 reached 727,125, up from 599,721 in 2014, representing a 21% increase in one year. The increase since 2010 is 375%.
But I think more important is where the growth occurred. Bowker’s numbers indicate more authors are using Amazon’s CreateSpace, which is free to use; older, fee-based self-publishing services are falling out of favor. Here’s a selected glimpse (again, remember these are ISBN counts coming out of each service per year):
  • CreateSpace titles in 2010: 35,693
  • CreateSpace titles in 2015: 423,718 (+1,087%)
  • Author Solutions titles in 2010: 41,304
  • Author Solutions titles in 2015: 23,930 (-42%)
The only area of Author Solutions’ business that saw an ISBN increase in 2015 is WestBow, the Christian self-publishing imprint marketed through Thomas Nelson. Note that Penguin Random House, which used to own Author Solutions, sold it off in January 2016, unloading what was probably seen as an albatross.”
Are these statistics a surprise to you? 

The increase of over 1,000% percent on CreateSpace was startling.If you publish through CreateSpace, your book is only on Amazon and not available in other formats.
If you decide to self-publish, understand several facts: First, you are establishing a world-wide sales record of your publishing efforts. Traditional publishers and literary agents look at this information to decide if they are going to publish your next book or take you on as a client. Second, you are in complete control of your work which may feel easier but also you are responsible for all the details of the book creation (excellent cover design, well-written writing, distribution and sales).
Yes the creation of books has never been easier. Here's the reality that few people will tell you: making the book is easy but getting people to purchase the book will take hard work and persistent effort. If you have developed relationships with people in your target market and connect with them often. More specifically if you connect to your audience through an email list and speaking to them face to face, then yes you can sell your book.
No matter what I write, a number of you are going to take the leap into self-publishing. Here's several action steps if you go this route:
1. Work with an experienced editor to create an excellent book.
2. Work with professional cover designers and people to format and produce a book where every detail looks like something from one of the big five traditional publishers. This means including elements like endorsements and words on the spine of the book (including a publishing logo on the bottom of that spine).
3. Keep working consistently to grow your audience. Get my free ebook, Platform-Building Ideas for Every Author and trying new avenues to market and sell your book.
4. Continue to learn all you can about publishing. Get a copy of my Book Proposals That Sell and study the publishing insights in this book.
5. Never give up on your book. As the author, you have the greatest interest and passion for your book. This statement is true no matter whether you are traditionally published or self-publish. Always be looking for new opportunities to write or speak about your book.
This last point is something that I try and model with my own books. For example, in the header of my twitter profile, you see my Book Proposals That Sell book which is only available from me. My Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams book is in my bio for my recent Southern Writer magazine column. And finally, I continue to do radio interviews for my Billy Graham biography which came out over two years ago. Just follow this link to see some of the recent interviews and listen to them.
Have you self-published? Was it a good experience and “easy?” I look forward to reading your comments. 

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Three Reasons to Find and Join a Local Writer's Group

Writing is a solitary profession.  You sit down at your keyboard, put your fingers on the keys and write words which turn into stories. As I've written about in the Writing Life, getting published can be fairly easy. You can publish the material online in a blog or any number of other ways such as wattpad. The challenge is far greater than getting it out into the market. The real challenge is finding readers who will rave about your work and tell others.

Many years ago, when I was beginning my days in publishing, I saw the value of connections to other writers. I lived in Southern California and was one of the founding board members of the Orange County Christian Writers. At the time, I worked in the U.S. headquarters for Wycliffe Bible Translators and the group met twice a year in our building—so it was convenient for me to attend the meetings. I helped set up the room the day before our Saturday session. Also through this group, I got involved in a writer's critique group.

Every writer's group needs volunteers. These groups are run on a shoe-string budget and volunteers are critical for the group to succeed and continue.  As a volunteer, I was able to contribute to the group, but I also received and learned more from the experience. It's the first reason that every writer needs to find and join a local writer's group: increase your personal growth as a writer.

A local writer's group also provides the opportunity for inexpensive training (the second reason). For many of the large conferences, you have to travel on a plane, pay conference fees, etc. in a local setting you can learn a great deal and lower your expenses.  While it was years ago, many of the speakers I met at those Orange County Christian Writers meetings are still active in the publishing world. The foundation of my relationship with these individuals started in a local writer's group.

Also in a local writer's group, you have the opportunity discover what others are writing and where they are finding opportunities to get published. As you meet new people and listen to what they are writing, these experiences can open new doors of opportunity in your own writing life. Maybe you've never thought about writing an opinion editorial for the local newspaper or writing for a compilation book like Chicken Soup for the Soul or ______. Yet as you hear what others are doing, it opens your mind and heart to new possibilities.

In the bold type, I've highlighted three reasons to find and join a local writer's group. There are many different types of local groups. If you are not in a group, I encourage you to look for one (use google) or look for a local chapter of a national writer's organization.

Last year, I learned the Nonfiction Authors Association was expanding their local chapter program. When I looked at the various locations, there was no chapter meeting in Colorado (nothing). I filled out an online form and volunteered to start the South Denver Chapter (really the only Colorado NAA chapter). I found a place to meet and we've had about half a dozen meetings. If you live in Colorado, I encourage you to check our home page—but especially begin attending the monthly meetings (the third Wednesday of every month). Each meeting will have a speaker on a different nonfiction topic.

No matter where you live, I encourage you to join the Nonfiction Authors Association. The basic membership is FREE.  Every writer can profit and grow from being involved in a local writer's group. Are you active in a local writer's group? Tell me about it in the comments below.

If you don't have a local writer's group, you can always start one—like I did last year.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Why Attend a Writers' Conference?

Every year for the last 25+ years, I've been going to writers' conferences. Sometimes I'm teaching at these events and other times I am an attendee. No matter whether you are on the faculty or attending, conferences are key events to grow as a writer and meet new people. Why is this important?

We work with people that we know, like and trust--have a relationship. Relationships are formed and developed at conferences. I've written over 60 books and for more than 50 magazines. The roots of those books and magazines came from meeting an editor or agent at an event. My first book--a children's book with David C. Cook--happened because I met an editor at a conference.

From my perspective, there are several important aspects in going to a writers' conference:

1. Commit to attending a conference (large or small) on a consistent basis. I have had great experiences at small events and also large events.The bigger conferences have more editors and agents and more opportunity but also the competition for these people's attentionis also greater. There are many terrific events and you can follow this link to get more details about specific conferences.

2. Come prepared. You are investing time, energy and money to attend so you can meet an agent or a publisher. You can make it worth that investment if you do some homework ahead of time such as studying the faculty and their photos. Being aware of their photo and background will help you as you interact with them. Also bring lots of business cards to exchange with everyone you meet. Also as you study the faculty, you will be able to create specific pitches with your ideas. Your efforts to prepare will show to the faculty members and help increase your possibilities of getting writing work from the event (a common goal for many writers).  

3. Throughout the event, meet as many people as you can. You will be able to meet people at meals, coffee breaks, waiting for a class to begin and any number of other places. Introduce yourself and ask questions about what they write and what they are learning.  Make a point to exchange business cards with everyone and offer to help them. You never know who you are going to meet at these events. I encourage you to make the first move and reach out to others around you. Remember, many writers are introverts (and you may be as well). You will have to push yourself but it is worth the effort. 

4. After the event, this step is one of the most important: follow-up and follow through on the requests and ideas. If someone asks you for something (magazine or book), get them the material as soon as possible while your meeting is fresh in their minds. 

You may wonder how I've written all the material that I've done over the years. It's not any secret. I go to conferences, listen to the editors and agents, then do what they asked me to do. In other words, I send these professionals the requested proposal or article. Also I follow-up these submissions with solid writing. It's not that I'm the best storyteller or the best writer in the room. I am one of the most consistent in my follow-up and determination to meet the needs of the editor.

No matter whether you are writing your first magazine article or book or whether you've written dozens, the teaching, insights and relationships from conferences are critical to propel your writing life forward. Now as an acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, I go to conferences to make new connections and find new authors. If you haven't noticed, Morgan James Publishing had their first fiction book on the New York Times list (#12 right behind The Shack at #11) On The Clock, by Tim Enochs and Bruce Tollner. Be watching for this book and I encourage you to read it.

Plan your action steps today to get to a conference. It can be a life-changing event for your writing life.


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Monday, January 23, 2017

Every Writer Needs the Right Connections

According to Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, there are three basic types of people: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. I believe each of us have characteristics of each of these types. If you don't have these characteristics, then you can learn and acquire them as a writer. In this article, I want to emphasize the importance of connections and talk about how you get connections in the first place.

For writers to succeed and get published, they need to send the right material at the right time to the right place and the right person.  You are searching for a champion to communicate with you and guide you to that right place. Admittedly you have to take action to find this place and experience some mis-steps and rejection in the process. The persistent search for the right connection is a key part of the writing life.

Whether you've been in publishing for many years or are just getting started you have connections. For each relationship, you need to collect information and preserve this information in a format which you can use. For example, I have an email list and for each email, it includes my mailing address and phone along with my email address. The information makes me easy to reach. A week ago, when I spoke at a writer's group, I brought business cards and made sure each person who attended, got one of my cards to reach me if needed.

As a writer you want to exchange information with others and carefully put this information where you can easily access it. I put much of it into my iPhone because the contact information is backed up automatically and preserved. I also collect it through my email account and online address book. I do not use the information carelessly—i.e. calling people and wasting time chatting on the phone.  I call or email when important to reach the other person—admittedly a judgement call on your part.

Last weekend, one of the websites that I use went down for the first time. The website is a critical piece in a teleseminar event. This particular site collects the questions from the participants in a teleseminar. I've been using this site for years and it has never gone down—until this weekend. I tried sending email messages for help to their support address and anything else that I could think of to reach the site. The bill that I get each month had a phone number attached to it—so I called that phone number—yet it was no longer a valid number.I was stuck. My event was stalled because of this missing piece. No one could register for the event because the site was down. What else could I do? As typical, this situation happened on the weekend and not during the week.

I recalled that the owner of this site was good friends with another one of my contacts. For this particular contact, I had his cell number in my phone. I sent a short text to this friend about the situation and asked if he knew how to reach the owner. It turns out this friend was in North Carolina in a mastermind meeting with the owner of the downed website. 

Since they were in a face to face meeting, they were away fro m their email and computers. Because I reached them, the owner immediately looked into his down website and in a short amount of time it was back up and running. My event can go forward since everything is working now.In fact, if you want to hear the event (which is now on replay), you can have immediate access to it—just follow this link.

I'm certain there were many others who were stuck with this down website. Yet through my contacts, I was able to creatively reach the right person and get it resolved. There are several action points from this story:

1. Always be working on increasing your connections with different types of people.

2. Keep their information in a format that you can easily access—on your phone or on your computer. I'm using tools which are internet based and can be accessed any place. If it only on a printed business card, then that information doesn't help you away from your office. You want the information in a format you can access any many different situations.

Last week I met with one of my new authors at Morgan James Publishing. He was in Colorado since his son was in a hockey tournament. Even though on the weekend, I drove up to his hotel and we spent some time together, talked and exchanged business cards.  As a writer, you always need to be working on your connections and relationships. You never know when a particular relationship will be important to you.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Place to Get Publishing Answers

It is a challenge for writers to get answers to their publishing questions.  While there are many opportunities, editors and agents are often overwhelmed with email and physical mail—so they do not respond. Your submissions go into a black hole (no response) or you receive a form rejection letter which basically says “thanks but no thanks” or “your submission was not a fit for us” (no information or insight about the reasons). I understand the reasons for these form letters but they don't give you the specifics that you need.

I want to tell you about a place to get answers. One place I blogged about last week, the Christian Writer's Market Guide. For more than 25 years, The Christian Writer's Market Guide has been the most comprehensive and highly recommended resource on the market for Christian writers, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, and writing teachers. In addition to providing a wealth of ideas and tips for publishing in the Christian industry, The 2017 Christian Writer's Market Guide also includes up-to-date information on more than 200 book publishers, more than 200 periodicals, and 70 literary agents, contests, conferences, editorial services, niche markets, self-publishing services, and more. This is the ultimate reference tool for Christian writers. I blogged more details about this book here.

Have you heard of Steve Laube?

To refresh your memory, Steve Laube is a literary agent and the president of The Steve Laube Agency. He has been in the book industry for over 35 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the year by the Christian Booksellers Association. Then Steve spent a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year. Later he became an agent where he has
represented nearly 1,000 new books and was named Agent of the Year by the American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition, Steve is the publisher at Enclave Publishing, an imprint of Gilead Publishing, and also serves as president and owner of The Christian Writers Institute.

Why am I telling you this?

I'm telling you this because I have convinced Steve Laube to grill him during a LIVE  70-minute telewebcast on Tuesday, January 17th!

* * * Here's Our Small Request * * *

Rather than have the “content” to come out of my head (or Steve's head) for the January 17, 2017 telewebcast at  5 p.m. PDT / 8:00 p.m. EDT, I have decided to let you ask Steve a question.

Sound fair?

So, if you could ask Steve ANY question you wanted about publishing for the Christian writer, what would your question be?

Here's your chance to ask Steve directly and get registered for the call on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 (starts promptly according to www.Time.gov).

Click the link below:


* * Get a FREE Ebook, Book Proposal Tips & Tricks * * 

You will receive a 47-page Ebook, Book Proposal Tips & Tricks. It's FREE if you ask a question and
register for this telewebcast.

Click the link below:


After your question gets submitted, you'll find out how to get phone access and webcast access to Steve Laube and I for the LIVE telewebcast,  January 17, 2017.

If you can't make the time of the call, please go ahead and sign up anyway. The entire teleseminar will be recorded and EVERYONE who signs up will receive an email with the replay link. Also if you sign up, you will be able to download the FREE Ebook right away.

I look forward to speaking with you on Tuesday as we answer your questions about writing for the Christian marketplace.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Four Ways To Use An Essential Reference Book

For over 20 years, I’ve been actively writing and publishing in the Christian market with magazines and books. The professionals (editors and agents) are constantly changing. New publications enter the market and old long established magazines fold. For many years, one of the best resources for keeping track of these shifts was THE CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE. This annual publication contained the latest information packed into one book. Sally E. Stuart was the creator of this resource for many years. Then several years ago, she sold the market guide to bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins. The last guide from Jenkins was dated 2015 to 2016—which means the last time the information was updated in late 2014 or three years ago.

I’m delighted to see THE CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE 2017 from Steve Laube. A well-known Christian publishing professional, Steve has brought this new version back to the market with new tech innovation—a monthly subscription to get the latest updates online. I’ll admit to being old school and love using the printed book resource.

As Laube writes in the introduction, “While it may seem like the industry is shrinking, in reality, it is simply changing. Thus you have to research more to find the best place for your work to shine. One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to ignore the guidelines of an agent, a publisher or an editor. Some publishers even dropped their listing in this guide due to writers failing to follow the instructions posted on their website or in here. Editors are looking for writers who understand their periodicals or publishing houses and their unique approaches to the marketplace. This book will help you be such a writer. With a little time and effort, you can meet an editor’s expectations, distinguish yourself as a professional, and sell what you write.” (Page ix)

The volume is divided into five sections: book publishers, independent book publishing, periodical publishers, specialty markets, and support for writers (agents, conferences, writers groups, editorial services, publicity and marketing services and contests.

As the back cover proclaims, “Over 1,000 listings including more than 200 book publishers, 200 periodical publishers, 70 agents, 100 freelance editors, and much, much more!” This annual volume and current update is a goldmine of information and opportunity to the Christian writer—but only if you get a copy and follow the information in it. I highly recommend this new resource.

Besides giving you some information about the book, I want to conclude this article with four ways you can use this reference book.

1. Discover new magazine markets in the section called Periodical Publishers. As a writer, you need to follow the guidelines. This refrain to follow the guidelines made repeatedly throughout the book. Why? Many writers ignore the guidelines, then they wonder why they got rejected. If you follow the guidelines, you will stand out in a positive way—and be successful as a writer. When the magazine requests “query only” then learn to write and send a query. If they want the complete article, then send the article. Besides discovering new magazines, you can also be reminded about other publications where you can get published. This section is packed with possibilities for every Christian writer. 

2. Locate a book publisher. Other authors are looking for a book publisher and this section of the guide has the latest and up to date information about publishers. Some publishers require a literary agent while others do not. Use this section to make sure what you are sending is what the publisher is asking to get from you.

3. Select a writer's conference. The Market Guide includes a comprehensive list of conferences, dates, location, number of attendees and much more. Again this resource is valuable for every writer to attend the conference which best fits their particular need.

4. Locate a literary agent. The Market Guide includes a great list of agents with their contact information and what they are looking to represent.

The key for these different ideas is to use the book. If you get the book (first step) and it sits on your bookshelf without use, then you don't propel your writing life forward.   


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