Monday, July 24, 2017

Review Your Business Card for Key Basics

I've become an expert at skimming business cards on the spot with writers. My actions spring from my own frustration with missing information. Over the years, I've exchanged thousands of cards with people at writer's conferences. When I did not glance at the card on the spot, I would tuck it into my pocket, take it home, then discover missing information like a phone number or email or mailing address. As an editor, it would force me to email this person and gather the missing information (wasting time and energy).

The best time to gather this missing information is when you are meeting face to face with this person. Recently I was in Nashville for a Morgan James Publishing author event. I met a number of authors at this event and exchanged business cards. One of these authors, a medical doctor-turned-writer-podcaster, lived nearby in Boulder, Colorado. When we exchanged cards, I glanced at the information and it only contained his website. There was no email address nor phone number. He said, “My email address is on my website and I want people to go to my website.” It was good to know he had a rationale for the missing information—but I still collected it on the spot and wrote his email and phone on his business card. Others might not have his information from his business card but I gathered this important data on the spot.

When I attend events, my business card is one of the key tools that I use. Some of my long-term friends are amused at the changes in my business card over the years. I've added and improved my cards. Each time I reprint, I evaluate the information to see if it contains what I need. Because I work for a New York publisher, I have a business card which contains my photo, direct dial phone number, work email, and other information. Here's my Morgan James business card:
Whalin Morgan James business card - Front

Whalin Morgan James business card - back
Yet I live in Colorado and I'm also an author with my own blog, local mailing address and books. In recent years, I've been carrying two business cards. The local card shows off this information. Here's the front and back of my personal business card:
Whalin Personal Business Card - Front
Whalin Personal Business Card - Back
Since I've shown you what I'm using for my business card. Now take a minute to review your card and make sure it includes the basics:

*a current photo

*your phone and email address

*your physical address (or at least your city to give the receiver your time zone)

*twitter name

*blog website

*giveaway to build your email list (one of the most important author tools)

How did you do on the basics? Are you missing something? The most difficult element to proofread is something that is missing. That's why we need a checklist to make sure you cover everything. If you are missing some element maybe it's time to reprint your business cards.

Let me know your experience with business cards in the comments below.


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Blog Milestone:

With this article, I've gone over 1400 entries in the Writing Life. I've been writing this blog since 2009 and posting only one article a week, takes time to reach such a mark. There is a massive amount of information in these entries. If you have never used it, I have a search tool in the right hand column of the blog (scroll down to locate it). You can use it to find information on different topics—and I often use this tool to find past entries.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Beyond the Radio Interview

Last week I was in Nashville with some of our Morgan James authors for another great event. It was similar to the event I detailed in March (follow the link if you didn’t read it). It was another distinct event to help and train our authors (a scarce activity across publishing from my experience).

I met a number of authors that I’ve brought to Morgan James for the first time which was fun after speaking with them on the phone and email for months.

One of these authors had done over 40 radio interviews—which is fantastic and to be commended. There are thousands of radio stations which are eager to interview authors and it is another terrific way to promote your book and give it exposure. If you don't know or use radio, follow the insights in this article about radio.

This author was saying the interviews barely made any impact with his book sales. I asked if he had saved the audio recording of his interview for on-going promotion. He looked at me with a blank stare and said no. It showed me that I’m taking an additional step with my radio interviews that some authors are missing. In this article, I want to show you how to preserve the interview for on-going promotion. You've invested your time and energy into the radio interview. How can you maximize and repurpose the interview for even more use than the single station?

The first step is to book an interview and give a solid interview. When you speak to the radio host, you need to pour a lot of effort into the interview. Stand up and walk around your office if this helps you have more energy. Answer every question with enthusiasm as though you are hearing it for the first time.

Radio hosts are busy and often work from  a list of questions that the author or the publicist provide them. I’ve answered the same questions over and over yet each time I act as though it is the first time I’m hearing the question. It is a basic that you need to provide a great interview.

To move beyond the interview, ask for a recording of the interview. Sometimes the radio station will put it on their site after the interview. Other times if you ask, they will email the audio file to you. You have to ask for it or search for it and preserve this audio file.

With this audio file in your possession  the next step is to  listen to it. Is it a solid recording? Do you need to cut out local commercials or anything to make it universal and just your interview? 

I use an audio program called SoundForge for this editing process.  Just like Microsoft Word edits words, you can use SoundForge to edit audio files.

I create or check to make sure I have a solid recording of my interview. Next I upload the audio file to my own hosting site. If I just link to the interview from someone else's site, they are in control and I've had these links disappear. When I put it on my own site, I know the interview is always going to be available online and never disappear. You have to make sure you preserve the interview on a site that you control.

The final step is to  incorporate this interview into your on-going social media efforts (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn). Here’s an example from one of my radio interviews about my Billy Graham book (click on the photo to see the real links in this tweet and try out the interview):
The interview was recorded months ago, yet because it was a morning radio show, it sounds like it happened yesterday. The listener doesn’t need to know the real date.

Because I reuse these interviews, people will regularly email me saying they heard my interview and compliment me. I respond with gratitude and never say when it actually happened (not relevant information for that listener). These recordings continue to promote and drive book sales and exposure for my book—long after the interview.

It does not happen  without the author taking control and action. Are you preserving your radio interviews for on-going promotion?

Tell me about it in the comments section below.


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Monday, July 10, 2017

Steal This Book Marketing Idea

Imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery. I've been observing different book marketing ideas for years and never seen this idea.  I wanted to write about it and give you the details so you can use it (or improve it and use a variation) with launch your book.

Evan Carmichael is a brilliant entrepreneur and marketer. His first book is called Your One Word. It includes an interesting subtitle which stresses a benefit to the reader: “The Powerful Secret to Creating a Business and Life That Matter.” Notice several actions with this bookmark:

First, he asks, “Did you get your free bonuses?” The answer is “no” and you keep reading. Every author needs to offer some sort of bonus that ties to your book. Then Carmichael explains how to get the bonuses: “Email a picture of you and the book to oneword@evancarmichael.com and we'll send them to you!” He has set up a special email address for receiving these photos.

Many people are using a smartphone so taking a self-photo with the book is easy then emailing it to this address. In this process, Carmichael captures the email addresses of his readers—which is something every author should be doing—and adding to his email list in this process. I'm unsure what he is going to be doing with the photos, but I guess I will learn because I emailed my photo.

Second, he includes a little Amazon logo with five stars (clearly suggesting readers to give him a five star review). Then he asks for the review saying, “If you're enjoying this book it would mean a lot to me if you could review it on Amazon so others can discover it too!” Evan is following a key principle: if you don't ask, you don't get. Also with a color, he emphasized the words “a lot.” Followed with gratitude of “Thank you!” and his signature.

The overall effect is to touch his readers, get an email address and encourage them to write a book review. This little bookmark certainly caught my attention and I suspect will be effective for other readers. Carmichael's book released on December 6, 2016 and as of this writing has 76 Amazon reviews (way more than your typical nonfiction book). It looks like this strategy is effective.

One other key if you use this idea: write an excellent book. Carmichael has a well-crafted book with solid insights, stories and great interior design (use of bold and sub-heads for example). The foundation of every book is exceptional writing. The book is a hardcover business book with an attractive cover design—and published by Tarcher (an imprint of Penguin Random House). The publisher tells me that lots of energy has been poured into the creation of this book with excellent endorsements and broad bookstore distribution. Your One Word is a well-made book.

In my years in publishing, I've never seen such a bookmark but believe many others can replicate this idea with success. It's why I wanted to show it to you.

What do you think about this bookmark and idea? Is it something you could use? Tell me in the comment section.


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Monday, July 03, 2017

What Writers Can Do With Bestseller Lists

There are many different types of bestseller lists—New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly then every major newspaper has a bestseller list. Also the bestseller lists are often broken into different categories like nonfiction (hardcover and paperback), fiction (hardcover and paperback), children's books (hardcover and paperback), etc.

Book authors need to be reading these bestseller lists and keeping mental track of the books on them. Some authors are put off with bestsellers. When they read them, they don't resonate with the writing and wonder how it got on the list. There are many different ways that books get on the list.  Whether you "like" the book or not, I believe authors need to be aware of what is on the list for several reasons:

First, these list show you what the reading public is buying and reading. It also shows what publishers are creating and launching into the world.

Second, I encourage you to read or listen to these bestselling books. You can learn from them. You don't have to purchase these books but can often get them from your public library. If the book is not available, then learn how to get on the hold list for the book. Even if the book is very popular, eventually you will get the book.

Third, every writer needs to be aware of their competition and what is going on in your area of publishing. As an editor, I will speak with many authors. Some of these authors want to publish a romance novel while others are working on nonfiction and yet others are writing a children's book.  Often during the conversation I will ask if they read in their genre or area of the market. Their response is revealing whether they are in tune with their market or not. Some authors don't want to be “tainted” by the work of others so they are not reading. My contention is that you can learn a great deal about the reading public as you read and study your competition. This information will also feed into the competition section of your book proposal , your marketing plans and much more.

One of my bestselling author friends reads other books on the bestseller lists. It has been a part of his reading habit for many years.

Do you read bestseller lists and track on this information? Why or why not? How do you use them in your writing life? Tell us in the comment section. 


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Monday, June 26, 2017

Understand the Role of a Book Publicist

Whether a traditional and recognized publisher launches your book or a self-publisher, the author has to be engaged in the promotion and marketing of their book. One of the key players in this process is the book publicist. Many of these publicists have valuable connections and relationships with media and others to help you promote your book.

This past weekend, I finished reading a new book from publicist Claire McKinney, who has worked in publicity for major publishers for over 20 years and is a recognized expert in self-publishing appearing on The Today Show for example. DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES? is the name of McKinney's book with the subtitle, “A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns.” As the number of new books entering the market increases every day, authors need to understand the role of a book publicist and how to work with them in the process of book promotion. Managing expectations about what a publicist can do for a writer is great information and woven into the fiber of this book.

The promotion or sale of any book is tied to key connections and relationships—for example to the media. Book publicists like Claire McKinney have been building these relationships for years. Every author needs to understand their role in publishing. DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES? fills a critical role in this process with pointed insights throughout.

McKinney answers common author questions like what is a press release and what is a book launch and the best time to launch a book? The answers are packed with her years of experience in such tasks. 

In the section on Reaching the Media, McKinney writes, “I’ve found that “fear” is the one thing that holds most people back from reaching out and from developing good pitches. Of course, you don’t want to be insulting, use the words “extraordinary” or “dynamic” just to create hype doesn’t help either. If you are honest about your intentions and what you are looking for, you are more likely to get a response. It takes extra effort, but that is also how you will build a relationship with the contact that could benefit another book, or could enrich your experience in another way. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I’m sure you know that expression. If you get a snappy response, chalk it up to a bad day. What is the worst that can happen?” (Page 100-101)

Every book author can profit from the details in DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES?—whether it is your first book or many books. I highly recommend this book. Also I recommend you follow this link to McKinney's website and download her Guide to Social Media 101. Each of us can learn something and get some new ideas from this free resource. 

With increased understanding from reading DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES?, you can apply this information to your own writing life. One of my reasons for occasionally including reviews of books for authors in these articles about the writing life is to showcase the importance of reading and applying books to your life. While I've been in publishing many years, I learn new insights and tools from these resources. I hope you are taking action for your own writing life.

Have you used a book publicist like Claire McKinney in the promotion of your books? Tell me about in the comments section.


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Monday, June 19, 2017

Writers and AudioBooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Monday, June 12, 2017

Daily Word Count: A Key to Consistent Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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