Sunday, August 19, 2018

Who Believes in Your Writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Use A Writer's Work Around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, August 05, 2018

Why Every Author Needs Amazon Reviews (Including Me)

Book reviews is one of my on-going concerns with authors. Maybe they don’t care about book reviews and never put any effort into getting them. Their book has been available for months or years yet they  have zero or one or two reviews.

Other authors put effort into getting reviews when their book is first launched (which is admirable). Yet after the initial launch, they press on to other areas and never do anything additional about book reviews.

My focus in this article is helping you understand the on-going importance of book reviews. Whether your book is just launching or has been out for years, you still need reviews. A new review whenever it is posted is something you can tout and promote on social media.

I encourage every author to get at least 25 reviews when their book launches. It will take work from the author for you to get these reviews. Ask people if they are willing to read your book and write an honest review. Send them the electronic or print book, then keep track to follow-up and see if they have completed the review. From my experience you need twice the number of people to reach your goal for reviews. For example, if you want 25 reviews, then you will need to get commitments from 50 people. Why?

Life is busy and full of interruptions and many people don’t carry out on their commitment to review your book—unless you follow-up and ask about it—and even with follow-up some people will  not do it.

At first, you should have a goal of 25 reviews on Amazon. Then when you achieve that mark, your goal should shift to 50 reviews. Why?

When your book has 50 or more reviews, Amazon let’s the author (or your publisher) do some special advertising that was not available with less reviews. And when your book reaches 50 or more reviews? Then you have a new goal of 100 or more reviews.
Last week in Nashville I talking with David Hancock the founder of Morgan James Publishing, I learned when your book reaches 100 or more reviews, Amazon begins to do some behind-the-scenes advertising to promote and sell more books. The benchmark made sense to me since many books never reach that 100 or more reviews but the ones who do, indicate books which are actively selling.

Have You Read My Book?

The Audiobook is also available.

As of this writing, my biography, Billy Graham, A Biography of America’s Greatest Evangelist, has 83 Amazon reviews. I’m 17 reviews short of reaching 100. If you have read my book, I’d appreciate an honest review (hopefully four or five stars but honest is important).

When I learned about this 100 review benchmark, I wrote several friends and asked them to review the book. I’ve also been working to find more people to read or hear my book and write a review. If you are interested and don’t have my book, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to get you a copy in exchange for the review.

If You Get a One or Two Star Review

Sometimes an author will ask me what can be done when they get a one star review. I tell them to rejoice and they look at me like I’m crazy. You rejoice because that one star review has just validated your other reviews. If you see a book with all five star reviews, then it is like the author is orchestrating all of the reviews. If thre are one star reviews, then you know the reviews are real.
Don’t reach out to those people because it only feeds the trolls. Instead let it go.

Getting Reviews Is On-Going

My key point of this article is the process of getting reviews for Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes & Noble is ongoing for every  author. It is not a seasonal or one-time type of process. I would compare it to any type of marketing for your book. The process is on-going rather than hit or miss.

There is no single path to make your book a bestseller. If we had a formula then every book would be a bestseller. Instead each author has to try many different things to see which actions bear the greatest sales or results. It is much more of a marathon effort than a sprint. My intention is to help every author see the on-going necessity to encourage others to write reviews about their book.

Several times a week, authors reach out to me and ask me to review their book. I’ve written over 900 Amazon reviews and over 500 reviews on Goodreads. This experience makes me one of their top reviewers. People know if I say I will read the book, there is a higher probability that it will actually happen. To be honest, I receive stacks of books every day and can’t read all of the books I receive. It would be impossible. I do write reviews on any book that I read or hear. Sometimes it takes me a day or two to get the review written but it does eventually happen.

Are you continually working to get reviews of your books? Do you have other resources to get reviews? Then let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 29, 2018

3 Ways to Read More Books

Thousands of new books are published every day.  No one can keep up. Yes, you can take speed-reading courses and other things but even then, the sheer volume of new books makes it impossible. In this article, I want to give three ways that I'm using to add more focused reading into my life. I'm always learning about books. I use these methods to acquire and read books.

1. Learn to Use Your Public Library

It is not practical to purchase every new book. I find many people forget about or don't use their public library. Get a library card then when you see an interesting book, get on your library website and see if that book is available. In my area, I often find the library has acquired the book and I can ask them to hold a copy for me. When I put a “hold” the library sends me an email when the book is available to check out. Also my library sends me an email when my book is about due to be returned (and possibly I can renew if I haven't read it).

Also ask questions to the librarians about using the library or locating a book you can't find, then listen to the answers. These professionals are helpful and knowledgeable about books. Check out the services of your library and begin to use them.

2. Listen to Audio Books in Your Car

My library has an extensive collection of audio books on CD.  Browse the section and select a couple of different titles. Try the book and if it isn't exactly what you wanted, then try another one. I've heard incredible audio books using this method in my car.

In the last few weeks, I've learned to listen to audio books on my car's speaker system that originate on my smartphone. My car has bluetooth so I'm able to continue listening on my car speaker system to the same audio book that I'm hearing on my smartphone. Listening in my car as well as on my phone, helps me move through the audio book even quicker than normal. For example, recently I got on the hold list for Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. I only had 21 days to hear this audio book but using my car and my phone, I finished it in less than a week. The book was fascinating but uses the F-word throughout so use caution if you get it.

3. Learn to Use Hoopla or Overdrive on Your Smartphone

Hoopla or Overdrive are are free services from your library. Download the apps on your smartphone and learn about these opportunities. There is a bit of a learning curve to use them. Throughout my day I have some time at my computer when I'm setting up my social media. I've found I can be listening to an audio book on my phone as I do some of this busywork. In the process, I'm consuming more books. I also listen to the book while I'm exercising.

I've written about this before (follow this link). After I read (or hear) an interesting book, I add a review to Amazon, then paste the same review on Goodreads. And often (not always) I tell my social media connections about the review. This entire process takes only a few minutes but it is my way of supporting and telling others (quickly) about what I'm reading and learning from good books. Every author needs this type of support—and you will build goodwill with other authors—and help the entire community with this simple and consistent action.

I hope you will use these three ways to read more books. If you have other ideas or methods, I'd love to hear it in the comment section. May the days ahead be filled with more reading and learning from time well-spent.

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

What Fills Your Daily Schedule?

There is one resource in the possession of everyone: time. Also everyone spends time doing some activity. As you take control of your schedule or time, you can increase (or waste) your day.

As a writer, how to you fill your days? Do you have a plan or schedule? Or is it random and uncontrolled? I work as an acquisitions editor and a writer. I'm grateful for the flexibility of my daily schedule. Yet to some, this empty calendar can be a concern. How do you fill your time?

As an acquisitions editor, I have some writers and literary agents who reach out to me and want to schedule time on the phone or a meeting in person. Other times I attend or speak at a conference and travel away from my office. Yet overall these types of events or meetings are rare to fill my daily schedule.

In this article, I want to give you some of the tools and action steps I take on a regular basis with my life in publishing.  The steps you take will be different but I hope these words will give you some new ideas for your own writing life.

For years I've been active on Twitter and every day I grow my audience on this social media platform with five actions (detailed here and still being done). There has been admittedly hours of time spent in small chunks to achieve this following. It is a regular part of my day whether I am at home or traveling.

Here's some basic principles to help you:

1. Create a system to handle any action you take on regular basis and keep moving forward. For example, if you are writing a book, set a word count goal. This goal can be for the week or even daily. Then consistently write enough words to meet or exceed your goal and you will keep the project moving forward toward completion.

2. Be aware or actively look for tools to help you automate and meet your goals. For example, with my Morgan James Publishing phone calls to authors, I use an application called DialPad. When I call someone using this program, my direct dial New York phone number shows on the recipient's caller ID—even though I live in Colorado. It is a company branding tool that immediately says New York publisher. This tool also keeps a running list of any of my phone calls listing the date and length. It give me a systematic place to keep track of my phone calls. You may or may not use DialPad but find a way to keep track of such information (if it is important to your work).

3. Consistently work on different stages of the work. For example, some of my work is calling authors who have a contract and answering their question.  Another part of my work is processing new submissions to see if they are the right fit for Morgan James and if so, then I champion these authors to my publication board and colleagues. I'm regularly working on brand new authors and also answering email and phone calls from current authors.

My phone has a feature called Reminders. When I have a deadline for my writing or anything else that I need to accomplish, I will often create a reminder. As I use these tools and check off my tasks, I move forward with a productive day.

Your process of filling your schedule with productive activity will be different from mine. Hopefully I have given you some ideas. If you have another tool or tip, please comment below.


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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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