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Friday, March 31, 2006


Unexpressed Messages from the Self-Published

One of the online groups where I occasionally participate raised a question about self-publish vs traditional publishing. I know there are many people who are not on that online group so I’m also putting it here. I want to be the first to cheer when someone self-publishes a book and eventually hits it big with a traditional publishing arrangement. I’ve read the stories of John Grisham selling a self-published book from the trunk of his car. Or years ago I met Richard Evans (the author of The Christmas Box) at a book show when he had self-published his book and eventually Simon and Schuster picked up this title.  But those two much touted examples are only two books in the midst of thousands of self-published books.

As an acquisitions editor, I see a number of self-published books. Writers will send me their self-published book in hopes I will acquire it for a traditional publishing house (Howard Books is where I acquire fiction).

 

My first question is why did this person self-publish? Often I find the motives of the writer are pure and passionate. They want to see their words in print. It’s very easy to get a book published these days--self-published. Now when you face the question of selling that book into the hands of customers, you are looking at a completely different (yet important) question. You can easily get a printed book to tuck into your garage but that doesn’t help people. The self-published writer longs to have a printed book. Most of the self-published books that I see are poorly crafted (not story driven or well-written) nor are they well-produced. The typography is poorly done and the cover is poorly executed. The overall impression is not positive and practically screams of inexperience. There are valuable reasons to self-publish--particularly if you can sell books through your speaking ministry or another way. You will actually make more money self-publishing--provided you can sell the books.

 

Earlier this week I wrote about the difference in books--traditional published books and self-published books after seeing them at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. One reader questioned my statistic about the six million manuscripts which are circulating at various publishers and with literary agents. I pointed out where I got such a statistic (which is a valuable page to bookmark if you need this information). In one sense, such a number is discouraging--and in another sense it can spur your own determination to become different. Call me a wild idealist but I work in publishing every day and I believe the writer can make their writing shine and believe they can make their proposal stand out from the others in the stack. It’s not easy but entirely possible. 

 

Whether you self-publish or publish through a traditional press, it doesn't matter. What matters to me is excellence--in the writing and in the book production. If you do decide to self-publish, realize you are sending unexpressed messages to the editor.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Card Exchange Opportunities

One of the great benefits of attending a conference is the opportunity to form new relationships.  Normally I sit in my office and quietly work on different writing and editorial projects.  At a conference, I’m away from my phone and in a completely different environment with the chance to interact with new people, hear their experiences and learn from them.  I tend to pick up a lot of information in these short interactions. Last week, for example, I met another speaker at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop where I had recently sold two magazine articles.  This editor told me about the massive changes in their magazine (not a good sign if you ever hear these words and you can almost anticipate what is coming next).  Then she said the special issue was potentially going to get pulled and not printed—and she quickly reassured me that I would be paid for the writing.  This bit of information is just a glimpse at what you can learn through face to face interaction—even with someone you have never met.  I’ve learned the importance of exchanging business cards at these conferences. Some times you don’t get a card from the other person and in that case it is a one sided transfer.

Most writers and editors have a quiet and introvert personality (and I include myself in this category most of the time). For some of you, the thought of creating a business card and exchanging it might be threatening.  If you are going to a conference, please get over it and create a business card to exchange.  As you exchange information, it gives you an opportunity to follow-up or at least know how to reach a particular person.

At these conferences, it always surprises me when someone does not have a business card to exchange.  It happens frequently and the person apologizes and promises to send me their information when they get home (and it rarely happens). If you are going to invest in a conference in terms of your money and time, do make the effort to create a business card and have it readily available to exchange. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Here’s the other irony when you exchange business cards: Some people don’t include enough information on their business card.  At the Bombeck Workshop, I exchanged cards with another speaker. Her full-color business card was beautiful and included her photo but didn’t have any specific contact information. I’ve learned the hard way to glance at the card and see what information it contains. If I don’t read the card, then to my chagrin I get back to my room or home and don’t have the specific contact information. This author claimed her contact information was on the card. The only bit of information was her website address. She explained at the website you could find all of her contact information—BPTS business cardand she was insistent about this detail.  Later that night, I went to her website and looked at her contact information (an email address). For whatever reason (unclear to me), this person was controlling who reached her after the conference. Especially since I’m an acquisitions editor and collect information, I thought the lack of exchange was interesting.

I have created different business cards for different settings.  At my workshop in particular, I passed out a card to each person attending. You never know how they will use it. Maybe they didn’t purchase Book Proposals That Sell at my workshop (even if I gave each one a great opportunity).  At a later time, they may make a decision. I’ve made certain my business card contains the information they will need to make such a decision. Also the information gives them a mailing address and email means to easily reach me.

Don’t miss those opportunities at a conference to exchange information. You never know when the information might come in handy.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006


All Books Are Not the Same

I’m always interested to look at the books when I speak or attend a writer’s conference. Each conference is distinct about how they handle this aspect.  Some conferences have huge tables of books and allow anyone at the conference to bring and sell their products. Books and Company, a local Dayton, Ohio bookstore, ran this aspect at The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.  The only books sold at the conference were from the speakers and I was thrilled to be included and have Book Proposals That Sell available to the participants.  This conference occurs every other year and sold out in a matter of weeks.

As a reader of books and someone involved in writing books and creating books, I’ve learned that all books are not the same. I’m an unusual consumer in that I look at the content but also the packaging of the book. Who is the publisher? How does the book appear in typography and is that type easy to read? How attractive is the cover design and does it draw me to purchase the book or make me hesitant to purchase the book?

Several speakers at this workshop were promoting self-publishing. Their workshops encouraged participants to walk down this possibility for publishing their manuscripts. I understand there are a variety of opinions in this area. Writers are frustrated with the estimated six million manuscripts and proposals in circulation at traditional publishers.  Publishers (and even literary agents) often take a long time to provide answers about these manuscripts.  Some writers grow impatient with this process and turn to self-publishers for their book. This decision gains them another set of opportunities (or problems) to reach their intended audience.  In general, bookstores don’t carry self-published books and it’s difficult to sell books if they aren’t in a traditional selling environment.

As I carefully looked over some of these books, it reminded me why I’ve written for traditional publishers. If you put the product side by side, you can see an instant difference. The cover design of these self-produced products looked more amateurish and almost instantly I spotted problems in the typography.  Sometimes even the name of the publishing house (author created in a self-publishing situation) struck me as purely corny.    I don’t want to come across as an elitist or book snob but when I’ve written a book, I want to be confident of every detail of the book.  I’m eager for my books to be available in every possible bookstore outlet.

At the same time, I understand how the publishing process is a purification of ideas. Traditional publishing involves finding a champion for an editor or an agent—who carries that process throughout the house and into the bookstore.  Not every proposal or every idea will find that place. Yes, it takes persistence from the author to write an excellent proposal and sample then locate a publisher.  Just looking at some of the books during the conference reminded me not to rush this process.

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Monday, March 27, 2006


How Do You Get There?

Yesterday afternoon I returned from my back to back conferences. I’m always amazed at the invigorating (and tiring) experience of going to these conferences. While almost no one believes it, editors and writers lead a pretty normal, quiet life. We sit in our offices and face the same struggles as anyone on the planet yet because of our connection to publishing, we are involved in writing books or magazine articles or other material. Occasionally I get to attend a particular conference or teach at a conference. At that time, I meet new people and form new relationships (some of which are only that time and others are lifelong). The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton was an exceptional conference. It has a maximum of 300 participants and is held every other year. This year’s conference sold out in a matter of weeks. Over the next few entries, I’m going to recount some things I learned from this conference.

While some people may ask the question, there is a common unverbalized question from experienced and new participants in a writers’ conference: how do I get to where you are in your writing life? It’s easy to see how people create this question. They are listening to published authors or syndicated newspaper columnist or others who have achieved a certain level and been asked to tell others about their experience. After many years of going to these conferences and listening to these stories, I have gained one common fact: the journey is different for every single person. Yes, there are insights and methods for you to try. There are ways to improve your craft of storytelling but the actual route is different for each person and let me include two fresh examples from this conference.

At the height of her career, Erma Bombeck’s newspaper column was syndicated in over 900 newspapers and reached an estimated 35 million readers. Because of this history, I met several conference participants who were newspaper columnists and interested in syndication for their own work. One of the workshop leaders was Craig Wilson. For many years, I’ve read the material from Craig Wilson, a USA Today columnist on the front of the Wednesday Life Section. I listened to Craig teach his workshop, It helps to be human: Tips for making your writing life-like! and it was excellent. Craig’s column appears in one of the largest circulation newspapers in the United States. Many people want to know how he became a columnist. He wrote a column for years at a smaller newspaper before coming to USA Today and during his workshop, he made clear his column is unusual for his newspaper. He was in the right place (a feature writer for USA Today) at the right time with the right editor (the editor of the Life Section). If you want to follow the same path, it’s hard to hear that advice but part of the key from my perspective is to be writing and be out there. Syndication of a column will never happen if you aren’t writing a regular column for a newspaper or a publication (any size). It has to begin at the beginning.Syndication secrets-book

Another speaker at the conference was Jodi Lynn who spoke about How to get syndicated … or self-syndicate. I wasn’t able to attend her workshop but I sat beside Jodi for several hours during a book signing. During this time, I learned about Jodi’s new book which has just been released, Syndication Secrets. This book looks packed with practical and seasoned information. I brought it home and look forward to reading it in the near future.

As for the answer to the question I posed with this entry? For me, it’s a matter of trying different types of writing to see which takes off for you. It’s a matter of continuing to grow in your knowledge about publishing and how the industry works. And most important, it’s a matter of learning your craft and working at it every single day.

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Friday, March 24, 2006


A Day of Contrasts

I’m still on the road traveling but thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you about yesterday.  For my writing life, it was a day of complete contrasts. I left home on Tuesday to attend two back to back conferences and they could not be more different in focus and nature. It’s part of what happens as you move into different situations.

The first conference as an invitation only conference on the Middle East called Sounds of Hope. An invitation only conference gathered about 80 leaders from North America with leaders from the Middle East. For two and a half days, the North Americans listened to speakers from the Middle East speaking about different current event topics. The format alone was unique. The speaker would talk on his topic for 30 minutes and the participants carefully listened. The room was organized into different tables of eight participants and one of those participants was from the Middle East. They spent the next 30 minutes discussing the topic. I found the interaction greatly enlightening and a lot of material that isn’t commonly told in the news media about that part of the world. These meetings were held on the campus of Wheaton College at the Billy Graham Center.

For example, yesterday morning, I heard His Grace Bishop Marcos, who is the Bishop at Large for the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt. Bishop Marcos spoke about how the ancient church views western evangelicals. The information was fascinating. Then since I had a flight, I had to miss part of the remainder of the conference. I slipped away from the conference and spent a few minutes inn the Billy Graham Center Museum. This exhibit is dedicated to documenting America’s Spiritual Heritage with a visual presentation about the growth of evangelism in the United States. You can spend literally hours at the museum and I’m thankful that I’ve been there before since I only had a limited time to see it again. It is a celebration of what God has done in the past as well as a look to the future.

I took a quick flight from Chicago to Dayton, Ohio yesterday and arrived for a completely different conference—the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.  It was my privilege to ride to the conference with Andy Bombeck, one of Erma Bombeck’s sons. After checking into a new hotel and getting registered, I attended the opening session of the conference. The keynote speaker was humorist Dave Barry. The conference has been sold out for weeks with 300 attendees. Tomorrow I’m presenting about Book Proposals That Sell tomorrow for two different sessions. Dave Barry could not be more different than Bishop Marcos.  I could not escape the contrasts.

My assumption is many of the people at this conference would aspire to be a full-time humorist like Dave Barry. His talk was full of twists and turns and loads of lines that elicited laughter.  Underneath the laughs, an unexpected theme ran through it. Barry told his personal story and how he became a humor writer. It wasn’t something planned.  In college, he majored in English and after graduation was hired as a reporter on The Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He wrote many stories for the newspaper and once a week began a humor column. After about the third week, Barry said you begin to think you aren’t as funny as you used to be.  Notice the insecurity that creeps into every writer. After about five or six years in journalism, Barry went to the Associated Press and didn’t like it because he didn’t write any humor at AP. Then he began teaching Effective Writing Seminars and working as a consultant and traveling around the country. He continued writing his humor column for the Daily Local News. He received a request from another newspaper to run a past column and slowly learned about syndication. Ultimately he and his family moved to the Miami, Florida area where he continues writing today.  It wasn’t an overnight success story but involved the discipline and perseverance of writing and writing consistently. Barry told us that he doesn’t believe in writer’s block or writing under inspiration.  Instead he writes with the discipline and persistence of the work.

That’s a glimpse at my day yesterday. It was definitely a study in contrasts.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Still Learning

In these entries on The Writing Life, I’ve been explaining a number of lessons about publishing. I freely admit that I don’t have every situation figured out and I’m still learning a great deal in the process. For the growing writer and editor, this process will never end and seems as natural as breathing to me.

Recently I heard Davis Bunn talk about writing a novel with bestselling author Janette Oke. He mentioned Janette continues to read how-to books about the craft of novel writing. Davis also mentioned his ongoing efforts to grow in his craft of fiction.

In the next few days, I’ll be hard pressed to add any entries. I’m headed to an intense conference in Chicago tomorrow. On Thursday I go on to Dayton, Ohio and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. I’m looking forward to teaching two sessions about Book Proposals That Sell.

If I find a spare moment or two, I’ll see if I can write something—but I make no promises because of the pure intensity of the schedule.

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Monday, March 20, 2006


Self-Investment

I’m always amazed at what some writers manage to slip into their pitches. Over the weekend, a writer asked if I would be interested in looking at a friend’s fiction manuscript.  In the brief email, she mentioned that the novel started slow (took a bit to get into the plot), was self published and needed some editorial help, and was a bit long. I’m sure this writer was being honest with her information about this friend’s work but it certainly didn’t score any points to encourage me to read it.   I consider almost anything (as least for a few seconds) as a fiction acquisitions editor.  I wrote a short email encouraging the submission—but some of my expectations have already been set from the pitch. This writer could have used some self-investment—before she self-published her book.

Many people have dreams and aspirations to publish a nonfiction book or a novel.  Are these people willing to do the self-investment to achieve those dreams? I find many writers lack self-investment.  This weekend I was reading the journey to publication for Austin Boyd. His first novel, The Evidence, released this month from NavPress. Boyd wrote about his experience on his website. For eight years, Boyd read books and articles about how to write a great novel. He mentioned reading nearly 30 Writer’s Digest books about novel writing.The Evidence cover

In addition to studying the craft of writing and working hard at a quality novel, Boyd made an additional investment. He hired a freelance editor for a developmental edit. From his story, you will notice Boyd sent through this process several times and involved paying someone else and 15 months of hard work. Then Boyd worked with a professional to develop a query letter and book proposal which was sent to 50 editors and 50 publishers. When the publishers rejected the submission, he concentrated on finding a literary agent. Notice Boyd’s persistence and perseverance in this process.

After six more months, Boyd signed with an agent. This agent advised Boyd to attend a writer’s conference and recommended two forthcoming conferences.  This conference was another self-investment step and a great career move because of the new relationships Boyd formed at the conference.

We live in this instant society where people want instant everything—including a published book.  Often these individuals don’t make the necessary self-investment to follow the two common themes Boyd mentioned: produce quality work and sell what the editor is buying.  This need for self-gratification leads many writers to self-publish before their work is ready for public consumption. Then they are disappointed with the lack of interest and results.

Where are you on the journey to publication? Are you making that self-investment to grow as a writer? Take some action steps today and tomorrow. I’m convinced it will pay off in the long run.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006


The Perils of Pitching

It’s a common activity for writers—pitching. You create ideas for books and pitch literary agents or book editors. Most of the book ideas involve creating a book proposal. Or you pitch magazine ideas to another set of editors. In the case of a magazine, you write a one-page pitch letter called a query.

Over the years, I’ve written for a number of different magazines. Gradually I’ve spent the majority of my time working on longer writing or books. I’ve taken a few magazine assignments but mostly from editors who approach me with an idea. When the editor approaches you, it doesn’t involve any pitching but simply doing what the editor has asked.

This past week, I’ve been working on a project where I returned to some of my older contacts with magazine editors. I’ve been reminded about some of the perils of pitching to dated information. Magazine editors are as mobile as book editors. Many people in publishing seems to move from place to place—not all the time but over the years. While I’ve tried to keep up with the changes in my magazine friends, I know some of the information in my Rolodex is dated and incorrect.

Before I pitched to several places, I made sure I was pitching to the right person. In one case, because I’ve known this editor for many years, I picked up the phone and called him. It’s not something I recommend new writers attempt because in general, you are better communicating through email or regular mail rather than the telephone. Intentionally I had a short conversation and found the name and email of the person to contact. In a matter of minutes, I had the correct person for a pitch to that publication.

For another pitch, I didn’t think I was pitching to the right person—and I said so in my pitch. This editor was gracious enough to pass my pitch on to the right person in their company—and he sent me the name, title and phone number of this person so I could follow up in an appropriate amount of time. In a sense, I made the wrong pitch, but it turned out OK.

Besides reaching the right person, you also need to make sure you spell that person’s name correctly—both the first and the last name. Writers pitch me all the time for my fiction acquisitions editor role at Howard Books. I received another pitch this week whMaking the Perfect Pitch coverere I just shook my head in wonder. This writer sent the email to my correct email address yet began her pitch, “Dear Mr. Whalen”—wrong. From those first words, you’ve set up question marks about the writer. If they can’t spell my name correctly, it casts doubt if they will be able to properly execute whatever they are pitching. Other people will pitch children’s books (which Howard Books doesn’t do according to their guidelines) or a nonfiction book (which I don’t handle since I only handle fiction for Howard books). I hope you see some of these perils in pitching because you want your idea to be fairly considered and receive a decision (hopefully a go-ahead to send the material).

Here’s another great tip from Making the Perfect Pitch by Katharine Sands. She writes, “Writing is solitary; publishing is collaborative. The key point to understand: you want to get others excited about what is exciting to you. If you don’t get them to read your work, you are not going to get anything else.”

Will I succeed in my pitches? I have no idea at this time. In many cases, the verdict is still out and I’ve not heard the decision from the editor. None-the-less, I’ve made some solid headway in the process because I’ve been proactively pitching my ideas. If you don’t throw the ball or pitch, then you can’t even get into the game.

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Friday, March 17, 2006


Manage Expectations

Have you ever managed expectations for a particular project? It’s often a wise management principle. Rather than promise something you can’t deliver, it’s much better to deliver an excellent product ahead of schedule.

I was reminded of this principle when I was listening to a series of tapes from a writer’s conference. I’m not going to identify this particular speaker but he’s been in publishing many years and has a high position within a well-known book publishing house.  I was impressed with his honest evaluation of publishers when he said, “Publishers are great at manufacturing product. You should act like they are only going to manufacture the product—not sell it. You should expect their sales potential for your product is zero—and all of the sales and marketing will be on your shoulders.” Now, this executive admitted, the publisher has plans and expectations to sell your book. Just imagine if every author had this perspective about their book and what a difference it would make—in their expectations and also into the energy they pour into personally marketing their books. 

Instead most authors have the opposite expectation. They expect to write a great book, send it to the publisher and depend on them for all of the sales and marketing efforts.  Then six months or a year after the book releases, the author receives his royalty statement and an accounting of the sales of this book. The author is extremely is disappointed and he is operating from the wrong expectation.  I’ve had to field those disappointed calls from authors when they receive their royalty statements. It’s no fun as you try to express empathy yet balance it with realism.

I like what Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry say in their book Putting Your Passion Into Print, “We often advise authors to pretend their publisher is their printer—and that’s all. That way, they won’t be disappointed when their publisher disappoints them.”

If you take this type of attitude, it will propel you into marketing your own book. You aren’t sitting back and counting on the publisher’s sales force or marketing team. Instead you are walking to a different beat. I guarantee this stance will make you stand out to the publisher because so few authors understand this element.  It doesn’t matter whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you’ve got to be involved in the marketing of your book.  Even Now

Several weeks ago I interviewed Karen Kingsbury for a Writer’s Digest article. On her own initiative, Kingsbury began to target a particular sector of the market—the retailer.  Her efforts were not a one time experience but repeatedly Karen Kingsbury has reached out to this retailer with contests and other means. Long before anyone was doing it, Kingsbury purchased some writing pens and had her name and website imprinted on these pens. Then at book signings and other events with retailers, Kingsbury made a gift of these pens. It wasn’t cheap and involved several thousand dollars of her own earnings.  I included some of this information in my magazine article and my editor asked me if it had paid off.  Has it? Yes, I shouted to this editor (not really but I felt like it). Even Now, Kingsbury’s most recent novel, released in December and has been back to press five times with over 200,000 copies in print.  (You can read my review to see what I thought about it.) Even Now has been perched on the Christian fiction bestseller list. It’s an excellent book. Kingsbury genuinely cares about these retailers but she’s also wise in understanding the necessity of marketing. Also about 70% of Karen Kingsbury’s sales are not in the Christian bookstore but in the general market.

It is great to be motivated and have goals for your own writing. But make sure in the overall big picture that you are planning to market your own books—and managing your expectations regarding sales. Then if your book takes off like a rocket, you will be pleased and surprised. Or if you book doesn’t have the level of sales you expected, you will not be disappointed—instead you will grow more determined to reach your audience for the book.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006


A Creative Idea Which Took Off

As much as I read magazines, newspapers and books plus follow other types of media, I completely missed PostSecret—until yesterday when it was featured in an article on the front page of USA Today. If you haven’t heard, blogger Frank Warren started PostSecret and individuals anonymously mail them to his Washington, D.C. home. To date, they’ve mailed over 30,000 postcards.

These Secret-Tellers have earned Warren what his publisher, Judith Regan, calls the title of “the most trusted stranger in America..” Some of these secrets are sad and some of them are funny. Warren reads every postcard then selects 10 to 20 each week which are posted to his blog—and millions of people are eagerly waiting to read these postcards with secrets. Postsecrets

Some of these postcards are admittedly “adult” rated in their content but I want to use the story to point out several things about the writing world.

First, Warren had a creative idea which took off in terms of popularity and audience. Millions of people wanted to read these postcards and even lined up for an art exhibit.  Because of the growing audience (which doesn’t hurt if you are on the front page of USA Today), a book publisher (Regan Books) brought out his first book in December. In three months, the sales for PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives have been brisk so they are planning four more. The book is a compilation of 400 postcards.  To validate the sales number, his Amazon.com number was #29 this morning.

Notice the book title is more than PostSecret—but has some extra words in the subtitle to draw you to the book.  Also I noticed the reader reviews for this book which has been on the market three months—over 100 of them.

To me, Frank Warren’s blog, his book and other aspects like the art exhibit, point out how a niche market can take off and be successful. Some days you may feel like there is nothing else to be written or proposed to an editor.  Can you tap a felt need for readers and put it into a magazine article or a book proposal? Can you go ahead and begin to reach those readers through a website or a blog or some other mechanism (other than a postcard) which will collectively show the publisher that a ready-made audience exists?

The opportunities are there simply waiting to be created.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Go Long, Go Short

It’s a simple statement which tends to pop in my mind and (according to my wife) my mouth when I’m in the middle of a book project: books are long.  I know it’s not very profound but when you need to write 80,000 words and only have about 5,000 words written, the road to completion looks daunting and almost unending.

When I am in the middle of such production, I clip along at a steady pace each day and write more words. I may set the goal of completing a particular chapter or number of words.  I don’t have any set rules and it is different for each deadline and project.  Maybe you’ve worked on one of these huge writing projects yet not landed a book contract for it. If you’ve written a novel, it makes sense.  Yesterday in my car I was listening to another publishing executive on tape from a conference. He repeated something I’ve commonly told writers: if you are writing fiction and it’s your first novel for a particular publisher, then you need to complete the entire manuscript. It means spending a lot of time and energy at your keyboard to produce an excellent 80,000 to 100,000 word story.  And you are working on “speculation” with the pure enjoyment of telling the story and the hope of seeing it in print some day. 

As you write the longer work, I want to encourage you to also invest some energy toward working on shorter forms of writing.  You will increase your satisfaction and keep motivated to continue writing with short magazine articles or short stories.  As these articles are accepted for publication and appear in print, it will motivate you to continue writing your longer manuscript.  In addition, when these magazine articles appear in print, you will be building a body of work—published work.  Book editors are looking for writers who understand the publishing process and have written the shorter magazine articles. These writers understand what it takes to write on a deadline (and meet that deadline). These writers understand what it means to write for a target length (and meet that word length).  In addition, these writers understand the necessity of pleasing the editor with their article. The magazine editor is constantly looking out for the needs of their reader. The editor may ask you for clarification on something in your magazine article or to rewrite it.  This experience provides valuable training and lessons for the writer. You miss out on these values if you only concentrate on the longer manuscripts.

While I’m working on some longer projects, I break up my schedule with shorter ones. I’ve recently completed two magazine articles for Writer’s Digest.  These articles will not appear in print for several months but they have been accepted for publication.  For each article, I had to answer a couple of clarification questions and for one article rewrite with some guidance from the editor.  Yes, if the editor asks, I rewrite because it’s part of the process of working with a particular publication.

In the short form of writing, I continue to work on marketing efforts for my own books. For example, this week I’ve created a simple bookmark to promote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success. In a previous post, I’ve mentioned my postcard campaign where I mailed over 600 postcards.  Marketing for any book is an ongoing effort. I’m planning on using these bookmarks in different places like conferences where I’ll be speaking and bookstores to encourage the sales.  The marketing efforts are a joint venture between myself and the publisher. I’m practicing the things I’ve written about in previous posts about the Writing Life.

As you are working on a longer book manuscript, make sure to include the shorter forms of writing. 

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Monday, March 13, 2006


Almost Doesn't Get There

I’ll often tell people about the slim odds of getting a fiction book contract. As an acquisitions editor, last year I received over 500 logged submissions—queries and manuscripts—from individuals and literary agents.  We contracted three or four books a year from that entire mixture of material.  Yet even with this volume of material, I am actively looking for quality writing which as an editor I can champion and show to my colleagues at Howard Books.

In past entries on the Writing Life, I mentioned the busy editor’s schedule and the little actual time devoted to processing these manuscripts. I’ve read other editors say it’s a matter of seconds for the editor to decide to read more or reject the submission. It’s true. In many ways because of the massive volume of material and the few manuscripts to champion, the editor is looking for a reason to say no. Your responsibility as the writer is to bulletproof your proposal and compel the editor to read your submission. It’s a rare author who understands this necessity.

In the last couple of weeks, I received an email from someone I met when I worked at a previous publisher. I recalled this writer and our meeting at a conference, then encouraged the writer’s submission.  This particular writer had mentioned reading my Book Proposals That Sell and how helpful it was to the process of preparing a proposal. I appreciated those kind words and when I received this proposal, I recognized the amount of work into it.  Book proposals that sell-cover image

Often when I receive a submission (if I can), I will open the envelope and take a quick look. At times, I will make an instant judgment whether to read closer or not. When I received this submission, it looked promising. The writer had worked on compiling the competition and a realistic marketing plan plus other valuable elements in the proposal. Then I flipped to the writing (some publishing executives read this material first), on the third page I noticed some “language” issues. I haven’t made a complete decision on this project and will return to it and read it carefully—yet I’m fairly confident it will be returned.  You can talk about realistic language all you want to in fiction—but in the Christian marketplace it’s still taboo. You can have a large body count in terms of deaths or murders—but don’t have your characters curse.  Publishers have experienced the returns from retailers (who have had the returns from their customers). You would be surprised at some words which will set off a negative attitude about a book.

My point with the submission is that it was a quality effort. The author put a lot of energy and thought into this proposal. The reality is almost doesn’t get there.  As an editor, I have limited opportunity to “develop” a project. If the proposal is very close to what I need, I may be able to push it the final percentage.  But I can’t educated and explain to an author about something as basic as “language” which is built into the core of their manuscript. It’s easier to return it than to fix it. It sounds pretty cruel as I write these words but it’s business and reality.

During the last few weeks, I’ve been reading Making the Perfect Pitch, How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye by Katharine Sands. The book includes chapters from 40 top literary agents and is loaded with valuable dos and don’ts.  For me, it is not the type of book you read from cover to cover. Because each chapter is from a different agent, it’s a pretty easy book to start, put down and read something else, then return to it. Katharine Sands in her chapter on Practicing Pitchcraft captured some of the challenge in this process. She writes, “If you want to understand and speak the language of bookselling, answer the question posed by Max Perkins (who discovered Hemingway and Fitzgerald), still being used by editors today, “Why does the world need this book?”” Many writers don’t want to face that question with an honest answer. If they did, I believe they would return to their proposal and reposition it so it gains a better hearing. Almost doesn’t count and ends up rejected.

In a few days, I’m eager to meet Katharine Sands at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.  We are both on the faculty at this sold out conference. I plan to haul my book to the conference for her autograph.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006


Ask the Right Question

I’ve repeatedly heard this question from writers, “I’m unpublished so is it better for me to keep submitting my material on my own or do I get an agent?”

This question is a good one with no right or wrong answer. Some times it’s more difficult to get a literary agent than to find a publisher. Some publishers don’t look at material from authors unless it comes from a literary agents.

Here’s some facts for you to consider:
 
--Every literary agent that I know is looking for the “right” project. What is “right” will vary from agent to agent but each of them is open to new clients--whether you are published or unpublished. The question isn’t about your publishing status. It’s about whether you are producing excellence. As an acquisitions editor, I work with many different agents and have personal relationships with them. Here’s a better question: Can you pitch your idea in the right way?
 
--At best, you will only have a few seconds to pitch your idea to the literary agent--or to pitch it to the editor. Will the first few sentences of your novel or your query leap off the page and grab my throw and compel me to continue reading? If not, then you will be rejected repeatedly with a form rejection letter. There isn’t time for me to critique or tell you why it didn't work or why it’s not right for my publishing house. It’s simply not there. And make sure you work with a “real” agent--not a scam artist.

OK, if every agent is approachable and looking for new clients, then how to you get their attention? One key way is to learn your craft and not send out half-baked projects. What captures the agent’s (and editor’s) attention is pitch, your idea AND your publishing credits.
 
You may want to write books but I’d recommend you hone your craft in the shorter form of magazine articles and short stories--in print publications. I do not recommend online publications as your credits with the editor or the agent. These types of credits are not considered as carefully--unless you are writing for MSNBC.com or Slate.com or a high profile website (read websites that reach millions of daily readers).
 
Let’s look at your book pitch from the perspective of the agent or editor. If you can’t get a simple idea for a 1500 word magazine article published, then how as an editor can I trust you will be able to produce an excellent, compelling 60,000 word book? You can’t. Learn how to write a one page query letter and pitch magazine idea. Write personal experience stories that appear in many different magazines. Then when you pitch your book idea, you will not be unpublished. Instead you can say to the agent or the editor that you have written for _____ publications. I guarantee the agent or editor will give you more credibility and attention. You have earned the right to a careful hearing.
 
I continue to write for printed magazines and as a writer, I know it’s a bit of a pain. The editor will ask for a rewrite or clarification. While I was certain I wrote it perfect the first time and I may grumble internally, what do I do when the editor asks for a rewrite? I provide the extra details. It’s part of the publishing process and I understand it. That magazine editor is looking out for their reader and they know it better than anyone else and you learn to meet the editor’s expectations--even on a short magazine article. In the last two weeks I went through this process with Writer's Digest magazine and I will do it again with other publications. It’s part of being a professional.
 
Every writer has to begin some place. We always need new writers. These new writers are welcomed and embraced into publishing. So often, I find writers who spend reams of time trying to write a novel or a book--and get constantly rejected. They are asking the wrong questions and working on the wrong material.
 
These new writers should be learning their craft on their shorter form of printed magazine articles and building a body of work--which will eventually meet that goal of getting a book into print. Just make sure the questions you are considering are the right questions for where you are in the learning curve.

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Ask the Right Question

I’ve repeatedly heard this question from writers, “I’m unpublished so is it better for me to keep submitting my material on my own or do I get an agent?”

This question is a good one with no right or wrong answer. Some times it’s more difficult to get a literary agent than to find a publisher. Some publishers don’t look at material from authors unless it comes from a literary agents.

Here’s some facts for you to consider:
 
--Every literary agent that I know is looking for the “right” project. What is “right” will vary from agent to agent but each of them is open to new clients--whether you are published or unpublished. The question isn’t about your publishing status. It’s about whether you are producing excellence. As an acquisitions editor, I work with many different agents and have personal relationships with them. Here’s a better question: Can you pitch your idea in the right way?
 
--At best, you will only have a few seconds to pitch your idea to the literary agent--or to pitch it to the editor. Will the first few sentences of your novel or your query leap off the page and grab my throw and compel me to continue reading? If not, then you will be rejected repeatedly with a form rejection letter. There isn’t time for me to critique or tell you why it didn't work or why it’s not right for my publishing house. It’s simply not there. And make sure you work with a “real” agent--not a scam artist.

OK, if every agent is approachable and looking for new clients, then how to you get their attention? One key way is to learn your craft and not send out half-baked projects. What captures the agent’s (and editor’s) attention is pitch, your idea AND your publishing credits.
 
You may want to write books but I’d recommend you hone your craft in the shorter form of magazine articles and short stories--in print publications. I do not recommend online publications as your credits with the editor or the agent. These types of credits are not considered as carefully--unless you are writing for MSNBC.com or Slate.com or a high profile website (read websites that reach millions of daily readers).
 
Let’s look at your book pitch from the perspective of the agent or editor. If you can’t get a simple idea for a 1500 word magazine article published, then how as an editor can I trust you will be able to produce an excellent, compelling 60,000 word book? You can’t. Learn how to write a one page query letter and pitch magazine idea. Write personal experience stories that appear in many different magazines. Then when you pitch your book idea, you will not be unpublished. Instead you can say to the agent or the editor that you have written for _____ publications. I guarantee the agent or editor will give you more credibility and attention. You have earned the right to a careful hearing.
 
I continue to write for printed magazines and as a writer, I know it’s a bit of a pain. The editor will ask for a rewrite or clarification. While I was certain I wrote it perfect the first time and I may grumble internally, what do I do when the editor asks for a rewrite? I provide the extra details. It’s part of the publishing process and I understand it. That magazine editor is looking out for their reader and they know it better than anyone else and you learn to meet the editor’s expectations--even on a short magazine article. In the last two weeks I went through this process with Writer's Digest magazine and I will do it again with other publications. It’s part of being a professional.
 
Every writer has to begin some place. We always need new writers. These new writers are welcomed and embraced into publishing. So often, I find writers who spend reams of time trying to write a novel or a book--and get constantly rejected. They are asking the wrong questions and working on the wrong material.
 
These new writers should be learning their craft on their shorter form of printed magazine articles and building a body of work--which will eventually meet that goal of getting a book into print. Just make sure the questions you are considering are the right questions for where you are in the learning curve.

____________________________________

Friday, March 10, 2006


Capture the Moment

Do you capture the moment? Some people attempt to do it with photographs. While I took a photography class in college (it was a requirement), I’ve never been much of a photographer. Instead I capture my moments on paper. It might not be pretty and perfect but the essence of it is on paper and will serve to jog my memories for the rest of it.

As each of us trip through this experience called life, we have loads of personal experiences. Our child may say something priceless that we will soon forget.  We may feel some emotion when someone cuts around us in traffic and screams something unusual. Or you may simply observe some moment between two people.  Pick up a notebook or some other means you create to capture those details.  Often I will go to my computer, open a file and type in a bit of dialogue or capture the incident. You never know when that experience will be valuable to include in a piece of writing.

Many magazines look for personal experience articles. For some of the large circulation magazines, you need a dramatic story but it is possible to find those stories.  For other publications, your dialogue and experience will drive the telling of that story.  Many years ago, our family was tied up in a crisis. Our child, Daniel, was dying and we were caring for Jonathan, then a three-year-old at home. I wasn’t writing much at that time but I did manage to capture some of the moments and dialogue.  I scratched out this bit of dialogue after Daniel’s death: “One day Jonathan and I were listening to the words of a chorus: “He Is Our Peace.”

“Jesus is our peace--right, Daddy?” Jonathan asked.

“That’s right, Jonathan. Jesus is our peace, and he is the One who is going to carry us through this new day.”

“Jesus carried our Daniel up to heaven.”

“Yes, Jonathan, today Jesus is carrying our Daniel in heaven,” I responded with tears in my eyes. Like us, Jonathan continues to miss his little brother.”

Now originally this bit of dialogue wasn’t as complete in my scratching—but ultimately it became one story in my personal experience called “Schooled in Death” which appeared in Decision and reached millions of people.

Was it easy to write those bits of dialogue? No.  I made a conscious choice and effort to do it.  No matter what is going on in your life, you can do it too. Some of these incidents may never appear in print while others will be something you can use in a magazine article, part of a chapter of a book, or any number of other uses.

This week, I’ve been traveling down memory lane for me with some of my older books. I’ve been flipping through them and pulling out a single story for the God Allows U-Turn blog where I’m a guest blogger. It’s been a means for me to return to some old captured moments where as a writer I captured moments for someone else. 

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Rooted In Our Humanity

The question was real and is something many of us think about but rarely express.  One of the emails from a submission form on Right-Writing.com asked, “How can I have full editorial control without self-publishing?”  The answer is pretty simple—you can’t.

In traditional publishing, the publisher contracts with the author to write the book. That contract contains certain rights to edit, design the book cover, copyright the book in the author’s name, pay a certain royalty rate and a certain advance along with a lot of other factors.  The author commits to sending in a particular manuscript on a particular deadline and at a particular length. At their expense, the publisher commits to producing and distributing the book. If you don’t know much about publishing, this commitment from the publisher is significant. It’s significant not only in their financial investment but their distribution into the bookstores and other sales channels. The publishing process is rooted in cooperation between the publisher and the author. Does this break down? Yes, on a regular basis. Authors have published books where they don’t like the title or the book cover. Publishers have manuscripts that arrive with some editorial problems which from their perspective need to be fixed before they print the book (which is the largest financial cost). It takes communication and cooperation for the chain of communication to be restored and continue.

Yet isn’t it just rooted in humanity to want to have full editorial control and not self-publish? I’d love to have the publisher use my book title. So I have a responsibility to select a great one which makes it through the many stepped review process. I’d love for the publisher to love my manuscript and not have to do much editorial work on it. So I have a responsibility to tell the best possible stories and write the best possible manuscript. I’d love for my published book to reach as many people as possible (sales). My publisher wants the same thing so it’s in my best interest to constantly work at marketing my book to my circle of influence (each of us have one).

It’s always easiest to go and become a hermit somewhere then crank out a lot of words, self-publish a book and stack them in your garage or storage room. Many self-publishers will gladly help you achieve this dream. It’s a much harder path rooted in a cooperative spirit to work through the traditional book publishing process. It takes an unusual measure of patience and persistence but it is possible. I’ve witnessed this process over and over and I’ve been a part of it a number of times. It’s a key part of why I wrote Book Proposals That Sell. I want writers to understand from the acquisitions editor’s perspective what it takes from them to get a book through the maze of publishing.

OK, that’s my little insight about the writing life for today. Don’t forget that throughout this week I’m also telling brief stories about different U-Turns at God Allows U-Turns

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Insightful U.S. News article about Books

One of the publications which I take is U.S. News & World Report. In the March 13, 2006 issue, Diane Cole includes a fascinating look at book publishing. The article is called “Publish or Panic. The credibility of books is in a million little pieces. The web is stealing readers. But publishers are fighting back.” Here’s the link.

Make sure you look at all the various pages and the sidebar about Print On Demand called “Bind It Yourself” (also by Cole). I found it fascinating and I hope you will as well.

If you want to get the essence of this article, skip to the sixth screen and read this summary: “the basic principles of reaching out to readers really haven't changed since Judith Appelbaum wrote the original edition of her author's marketing manual, How to Get Happily Published, in 1978. They remain the same, Appelbaum says: "Figure out who the book is for. Figure out how to get in touch with those readers. Figure out what to tell them about it so they know that they want it; and then make it easy for them to get it. The Internet may make that part simpler.” But first, you've still got to write the book.”

Yes, it’s easy to get a book produced. But selling it into the hands of readers? As they say, “That’s a horse of a different color.”

P.S. Don’t forget this week I’m telling stories from some books I’ve written and key change in the lives of those people at the God Allows U-Turns blog. Today I’m featuring Chuck Colson.

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Monday, March 06, 2006


The Power of the Printed Page

This week, I’m a guest blogger at the God Allows U-Turns Blog. I’ll be posting stories about the choices we made which change the story of our lives.

As an editor at a former publisher, I’ve acquired a number of children’s books from Allison Bottke. I’ve long admired Allison’s commitment to capturing people’s true stories in the bestselling God Allows U-Turns series. One of my stories appears in the volume God Allows U-Turns for teens which released this month from Bethany House Publishers. In fact, my personal testimony about a life-changing event is the final story in that volume.

I’ve got some exciting stories to tell this week on the God Allows U-Turn Blog. I hope you will check it out.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006


Watch at the Oscars

At the Academy Awards Ceremony, it’s always interesting to hear the brief speeches from the winners. From my perspective, it gives a brief glimpse into what these actors and actresses are like without speaking from a script (as they do in their movies). Who will they thank? Leah Hoffman analyzed 42 Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director speeches since 1992 and the results were fascinating. Here’s the link from the Forbes article.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006


Memorable Response to Rejection

Over the last few years, I’ve read thousands of pitches and proposals. Some of them come from agents and professional authors. Others when you open the package, you can tell it’s clearly a first-time submission. If it’s not a first time, then it’s someone who is clueless about how publishing works and what the editor expects to receive from an author. A-First-Response

In the last few weeks, I’ve received several query letters which arrived without the expected self-addressed-stamped-envelope or SASE. If they don’t have an SASE, then the query letter needs to have a free means for the editor to respond (such as an email address). As I’ve explained in previous entries about the writing life, it’s a completely false expectation for the editor (and publisher) to respond to a writer’s query and put their own postage on the envelope. Such expenses would amount to many dollars over the course of a year with extremely little return (other than good will).

For the few letters in this state that I receive, I send my standard form rejection but at the bottom I write something like, “It’s the author’s responsibility to provide a response mechanism such as a self-addressed-stamped-envelope or an email address. If you are wondering why no editor’s respond to your query it’s because the common response is to discard such queries. I had pity and stuck on this stamp.”

In yesterday’s mail, I received another first. Yes, I scanned it for this entry, blocked the author’s name and the name of the project. It included a real one dollar bill saying,

“Dear Brother in Christ,

Thanks for the kindness you portrayed by purchasing with your own lucre the stamp to send to me your letter of rejection. However, I am sending this dollar to reimburse you for the money you sacrificed. Keep the change for whatever stress that my careless oversight may have caused you to endure. I will be praying God’s blessing for you.

Matthew 5:39, 44–45

P.S. I wish you had at least read my manuscript. I’m a really good writer.”

I did carefully consider this writer’s query but it didn’t fit what we needed at Howard fiction. If he was a “really good writer,” why didn’t the first paragraph of his pitch letter leap off the page and compel me to pick up the phone and call him for his manuscript? It didn’t happen. Instead, I got a good laugh and the writer made a memorable impression.

Yes, I will remember this author’s name—but not in the way that he desires. It’s another example for you about how not to respond to editors. The world of publishing is small—something never to forget.

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Friday, March 03, 2006


For the Shy Best-selling Author

I know a number of bestselling authors who internally groan at the necessity of attending another book signing session.  If you’ve never had people pursue you or line up for your autograph on a book, it’s hard to understand why anyone would be reluctant to sign a book.

Many writers are introverts. We’d rather sit in a corner and read a book than stir a room into a game and become the life of the party.  I hope you noticed that I put myself into that last sentence as an introvert. It’s true but I often rise to the occasion at conferences or conventions or other such gatherings.

Best-selling novelist Margaret Atwood has created a new invention which will be used at the London Book Fair on Sunday. It’s called the LongPen and allows Atwood to sign books in London from her home in Canada. She avoids getting on an airplane and traveling to the event yet still has a personal touch with her readers. Using technology, she can interact with her readers and sign a personal note into their book—long distance.  It’s a different use of technology and if you want to learn more, follow this link.

It will be interesting in the days ahead to see how much LongPen will be used in the publishing community. I can see clear advantages for the author but also from the publisher standpoint where they have to purchase airline tickets and hotel rooms. If they want the author present, maybe they will use LongPen.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006


Waste of Time or Valuable Experience

 
 
I’m involved in a large online group of writers and someone said, “I want to address something, and I hope conference goers don't get mad, but I went to a grand total of one conference in my life and it was a grand waste of time.”
 
A number of people chimed into the conversation and I was one of them. Since many readers of my blog about the Writing Life are not on this particular forum, I thought I’d post my response:
 
For many years, I've been going to writers conferences and I've seen the extremes in different types of participants. Some people are conference junkies. They attend every year just to hang out with other writers and never grow in their abilities and skills nor have the ministry from their writing. Some of these people return year after year with exactly the same project--yes as an editor, I remember having read it. Others will never attend a conference or blow it off because of the expense and time or other expectations. I believe the bulk of us have a reality some place between these two extremes.
 
Ironically in the last few days, I've been listening to bestselling novelist T. Davis Bunn teach a continuing class about fiction from a writer's conference. On his tape, Davis mentioned that for many years he avoided conferences because he figured his writing had to be perfect before he could go to the conference and meet an editor.
 
I’ve watched many writers gear up and come to these conferences with the idea of selling something--particularly the first-time conference attenders. After a short amount of time at the conference, most of these first-timers learn they came for a completely different reason (unique to their writing life and experience). Some of them did come to sell a magazine article or pitch a book idea. Many of them came to learn how to pitch their magazine or book ideas. These people return home with new enthusiasm for their craft and better pitches.
 
As an editor, I've read literally thousands of conference submissions. I will be fortunate if I find one or maybe two projects during an entire conference. And the other submissions that I read? They aren't appropriate for my publisher or they aren't appropriate for any publisher. Often the writer needs to return to his manuscript and put additional effort into it.
 
It's true you don't have to attend a conference to sell a magazine article or a book project--but from my experience you can collect such great information and insight at a conference it will shorten your learning curve (maybe years shorter). I believe in the magic that happens at conferences and you can see I will be speaking at several conferences this year.  I've got a lot of information about conferences and some specific information about some conferences. All conferences are not equal and you will have different experiences at each one.
 
Often what happens for the individual depends on their conference choice, their attitude and their preparation. The other factor about whether a conference is a waste or valuable experience depends on those unique moments at a conference. I understand these conferences are an investment in terms of time and money and energy but from my experience, it has paid for itself many times over.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Check It Out

It’s always great to applaud innovation in the writing world. Here’s a new ezine called Christian Women Online. You don’t want to miss their inaugural issue which just went online. It’s attractive and varied—plus the writer’s guidelines provides an opportunity for you to participate in the writing. Really we want to flood the editor with submissions so she will quickly understand the fast-paced decision making which is a necessity for the editor.  If you missed it, I wrote the last sentence about flooding submissions in total jest. It’s a quality publication and I recommend checking out the writer’s guidelines and seeing if you can write something that will be a fit.

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Little Red Circles

I sold ten copies of Book Proposals That Sell to a single customer.  Reaching into my supplies, I was out of the right type of box.  It meant a trip to the post office. You may be thinking all boxes are equal but they aren’t when it comes to the U.S. Postal System. In the lobby area of my post office, they set out some of their available supplies but not this particular box. It’s kept in the back because of the cost effective nature of it.

Priority Mail Flat Rate boxesThe box has clearly marked red circles which indicate it is a flat rate box or you can stuff that container with any amount of weight for the same price.  There are other available boxes which are exactly the same size—yet don’t have the red circle.  The containers without the red circle are weighed and charged accordingly. I was surrounded with customers who were paying the postage according to their weight and not the flat rate.  The post office keeps these boxes behind the service counter in the back. I picked up a small supply but learned I can order them in advance online (they are free).  I’ve eliminated my waiting time at the post office and will simply drop off my pre-stamped packages. You had to know about the flat rate in order to use it.

While I hope that postage hint will save you some grief and money in the days ahead, the story can also be a metaphor for the writing world. Many people desire to get a book published yet they are clueless about how editors consider book projects. Others believe they have a solid magazine idea yet their pitches are ignored because they’ve never learned how to craft a query letter.  I see the passion in these submissions that come into my mailbox and electronic mailbox almost daily—yet their passion is misdirected.  When I wrote Book Proposals That Sell, a key part of my motivation was to receive better book proposals which were much more targeted, well-done and complete. To a small degree these results are happening from my book and I’m celebrating those results. 

Like the postal packages without the little red circles, there are many writers who haven’t taken the time to learn the system.  If you want to catch the editor’s attention, it’s worth that effort.