Friday, September 29, 2006

Is Chick Lit Over?

Will-Write-for-Shoes-coverIt’s a rumor which I hear and read from time to time—that Chick Lit is waning and on the way out. I have no idea where this particular trend is heading but one thing is certain—we can be uncertain. To look for an answer and insight, I’m going to turn again to Will Write For Shoes by Cathy Yardley (since she writes these types of books). Her book is fun to read and loaded with good insight and information. I loved her chapter on outlining and the subhead, “Cathy’s Insane Guide to Outlining.” Just the title gives you a hint at her unconventional (yet working for her) methods.

Toward the end of Yardley’s book, she has a chapter called “Questions I’m Asked All The Time.” Here’s one of those questions: “I read that the chick lit trend is over. Should I even bother writing one?”

I loved Yardley’s answer:

“People who say that the Chick Lit trend is over don’t understand what the genre really is. Chick Lit is a different way of viewing women. (Forgive me while I pull out a soapbox here.) Back in the day, women’s fiction was populated with either glitzy super-bitches a la Dynasty or ideal martyrs dealing with hardship after heartbreak, a la Danielle Steel novels. With Chick Lit, you saw women who were still dealing with hardship, but they weren’t “perfect” about it. They broke down, they cursed, they drank, they hung out with their friends and commiserated. And then they picked up the pieces and —with some hard work, humor, and an unsinkable attitude—they wound up on top.”

“And a lot of readers picked up these books and thought: these women are a lot like me. And consequently read a lot more of them.”

“Chick Lit is a recognition of today’s woman. You see a reflection of the changing roles of women in culture. The issues that Chick Lit addresses are relevant to any woman in today’s society: the fact that the age that most people get married is going up; the fact that women are in upwardly mobile careers and are buying their own houses; the fact that gender roles are changing; and the fact that women still want to get married and have kids, and face their own challenges around that. In addition, Chick Lit often reflects a change in societal structure. Today, most women’s “families” are built around a knot of friends, while their blood families are the source of both love and great tension (elements also covered in Chick Lit novels).”

“I can’t say if “Chick Lit” will continue as a marketing moniker. But relevant women’s stories are always going to thrive, no matter what genre name they’re sold under. Why?”

“Because women read.”

As I’ve written a number of times in these entries, good storytelling will continue and the issues underneath the storytelling in Chick Lit will continue—no matter what it is called in the days ahead. Your challenge is to write relevant and moving stories—and do everything in your power on the journey to learn this skill then practice it daily.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Not Your Typical How-To Book

Will-Write-for-Shoes-coverYou have to be a bit careful where you read this how-to book—at least if you are a guy. Otherwise you will raise some questions. It’s a solid pink cover and the title, Will Write for Shoes, How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley. It’s a good book from an experienced author with this genre of fiction. She explains the history of this genre, looks at some of the trends, provides specific insight for writing a chick lit novel, then provides some realistic details about the business aspects of selling such a book (under the heading “The Crapshoot That is Selling Your Novel).

I slipped off the cover when I was reading this book then it appears like a solid black hardcover.  It’s really how I read any hardcover. I hate to mess up the slip on cover so I remove it, read the book, then put it back on the book. It has nothing to do with the appearance of the cover.

Cathy Yardley has some great writing experience and solid teaching for writers of all levels in her book. Here’s a taste of it—and something that will help you even if you aren’t writing chick lit. It will help you for any novel writing. When it comes to creating the premise for your story. Here’s some questions to test your story:

  1. “Why do you want to write this book? What appeals to you about it?
  2. What makes it different from other books you’ve read or heard about?
  3. Who is your main character (or characters)? (You don’t need to know exactly; this is just a preliminary exercise.)
  4. What’s the story question? Why would a reader want to keep reading? What’s at stake?
  5. Do you have a vague idea how it ends?
  6. Do you have a message or theme you want to explore with this book?
  7. What do you want the reader to walk away with after reading this book?” (p. 31–32)

You have to ask the hard questions—to yourself—before you ever think about sending your book to a publisher.  It’s another bit of insight about how to get out of the slush pile and into print.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do Blogs Turn Into Books?

Occasionally someone will ask me if a blog can turn into a book. Yes, it happens from time to time but it is rare. There is a bit of insight into some books which have their roots in blogs in an article from Calvin Reed in the September 25th issue of Publishers Weekly. Read the full article at this link.

Notice focus is going to be one key to whether your blog will become a book or not. Many blogs are all over the map in terms of their actual content. Here’s a paragraph from Reed’s article: “We look for blogs focused on a single issue or theme,” Lasner [Editor in chief of Ig Publishing] said, “rather than just general commentary.” Basing each title on an ongoing single-issue blog serves to build an audience online. “Our marketing doesn’t start from scratch,” explained Lasner. “These bloggers are committed and are going to write about these issues anyway—so promotion doesn't begin with the book and it won’t end after the book is out.”

It’s some food for thought if you have a long-range plan of turning your blog into a book project.


Monday, September 25, 2006

More Writing Guides

In an unusual move for Publishers Weekly, the September 18th issue includes a page about how-to-write books under the heading Writing Guides. I was amused with Bill Goldstein’s first sentence, “Publishers who worry that no one reads books anymore can take solace in the fact that just about everyone wants to write one.” It strikes me as close to the truth from my experience. The article covers some recent and forthcoming books. From my years of reading these books, I know there is a steady stream of these niche books entering the market. I’m a part of it with my Book Proposals That Sell.

Writing-for-the-soul-coverThis PW article includes a snippet of advice from Jerry B. Jenkins, author of 155 books including Writing for the Soul, Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life. For many years, I’ve known Jerry and appreciated him. Writing for the Soul has been on my reading list but I had not opened my book until I saw this article. After hearing Jerry speak about writing a number of times, I knew his book must have much more valuable insight than a sign which says, “The only way to write a book is with seat in chair.”

I will have more to say about Writing for the Soul when I dig into reading it—but for a taste, here’s a brief section on page 91 which is part of a Q & A with Jerry:

You’re an extremely fast writer. Do I have to write fast to succeed?

“No, If you write quickly and your writing looks dashed off, you’ll regret it. Although I write fast (because I think, of my journalism training), I never want my finished product to appear rushed. I care about every word and want that to show. At a certain point, however, reworking something makes it only different, not better. I have friends who struggle over every page. Sometimes they labor for hours on a single paragraph. That doesn’t make them slow writers. They simply take more time up front; my tedious work comes at the other end of the process. I get that first draft down and see it as a hunk of meat to be carved. You have to find what works best for you and stick with that.”

You can see Writing for the Soul is packed with substance.

Wendy Werris’ book, An Alphabetized Life: Living It Up In the Business of Books isn’t a writing guide, but it is related to the book publishing business. Her book doesn’t release until late next month (October) and I have not read it. I was fascinated with the excellent excerpt in today’s Shelf Awareness Newsletter. If you aren’t subscribed to Shelf Awareness, the price is right—free. Make sure you sign up and receive it on a regular basis.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

On the Outside Looking In

RD-Oct-2006-pageI am continually fascinated with the details of the book publishing business.  In past entries about the writing life, I’ve written about the importance of book titles, why I work at titles and how to try out your title.  A week or so ago, I received and read my October 2006 Reader’s Digest magazine.  On page 24, they highlighted different ways to spend free time and instantly I was drawn to the book category.  They showed the book cover for The Book That Changed My Life, 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them edited by Roxanne J. Coady & Joy Johannessen (Gotham Books). In fact, I’ve scanned this single page from Reader’s Digest so you can see how it appeared. I know the little image in the lower right-hand corner is difficult to see but it talks about the book and includes the release date—October 19, 2006.

I received this book in yesterday’s mail and I plan to read it and write about it in mid-October, when the book should be easy to locate (or you can pre-order it with the link.). Each chapter highlights a different writer and a book which changed their life. I hope you can see why I was drawn to this subject. I know books change lives and I’m always interested in reading more about this topic.

The-Book-That-Changed--65When I went to Amazon, I noticed they have a similar cover but not the final cover. It’s because often publishers design and send these book covers in an early stage to get them into the Amazon system. Each publishing house has different internal deadlines and systems for getting these covers to online bookstores and others. Take a careful look at the Amazon cover.

The image and the main title remains the same: The Book That Changed My Life.

Now take a close look at the subtitle in this image: Discover the Must-Read Books That Transformed 65 Remarkable Authors. The book image on Amazon isn’t the final image but a pre-release book cover. I suspect it was created early in the process—often before the final manuscript arrived at the publishing house. These compilation books are difficult to pull together—especially with a series of bestselling authors like the ones included in this book such as Patricia Cornwell, Nelson DeMille, Dominick Dunne, Linda Fairstein, Frank McCourt and many others.  I have no idea how many authors they asked to contribute but from the finished book (shown in Reader’s Digest and I have one), they received 71 contributors instead of 65.

The-Book-That-Changed--71This additional material called for a change in their subtitle and a higher page count on their finished book.  When I saw that Amazon had the wrong cover, I searched for the finished book cover. I went to Google, selected image and searched for it.  The finished book cover didn’t show up, but I did learn there was another book with the same title (different subtitle) which was released in 2002 and covers National Book Award Winners and Finalists. I could find numerous versions of this other book, The Book That Changed My Life, Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists but Google image didn’t find the image for the cover that I need.

Since I didn’t find what I needed with my search—and since I had a finished book in hand, I scanned my own book cover and you can see this image with the correct subtitle: The Book That Changed My Life, 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them. Reader’s Digest managed to have the correct cover but Amazon has an earlier version.

I have no connection to this publisher so I know nothing about their internal process or when this subtitle changed in the book production process. Because books are produced over a series of months, it could have been in the distant past or in the near past. I do know these subtitles (or other elements of a book) can be changed until the book goes to the printer. Even when a book is at the printer, if something crucial needs changing, it can be changed—right up until the minute the book goes on the press and they begin printing.

Today, you may be wondering how you can get a literary agent or a book editor interested in your book proposal or your book manuscript. You may be on the outside looking in and unsure how to get anyone’s attention. First, recognize the importance of crafting an excellent book proposal and the importance of your book concept and the book title. I’ve been in acquisitions meetings, where the entire room of publishing executives are persuaded about the book and most of this persuasion comes from an attractive title. Everyone knows any book with such a title will be find readers.

Also recognize the importance of fostering and building relationships with editors and other leaders within the publishing house. Often you can build that relationship at a writer’s conference. I understand it’s an investment of time, money and energy to get to these conferences but if you want to get your book idea into the marketplace, you probably need to make this investment.  

If you keep your eyes open, any of us can learn a great deal—even if we are on the outside looking in.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Is It an Opportunity or a Threat?

I’ve observed many times that anything new is often downplayed for the opportunity or talked about as a “threat.”  It wasn’t too long ago that some people spoke against the darkness on the Internet. Now there are some dark places—if you want to go there—but there are many positive uses of websites and information online. It can be an opportunity and not a threat.  Your perspective is important.

1001-Ways-to-Market-Your-BoAs I’ve discussed a number of times in these posts, the area of book marketing has little certain about it. One time a publisher or author will attempt something new and it will work like magic catapulting the book on the bestseller list and the minds and hearts of many people. With the next book, they will take exactly the same steps yet with poor sales results.  Repeatedly I’ve seen there isn’t one single magic formula. Yesterday my mail brought the 6th edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer. It’s an excellent resource and I’ve read little of it so far. Flipping through the book, I was impressed with the first point of a talk Kremer’s given for over 20 years about marketing books. He says, “90% of marketing efforts are wasted. This is not a bad thing. This insight tells you that you have to keep knocking on doors, making calls, and sending our letters until your target audience answers.” (p. 696–-yes it’s a huge worthwhile resource and I’m eager to read every page in the coming days)

Here’s another example of this principle of perspective. Maybe you’ve heard about the talk among publishers related to some of their galleys getting out before the release date of a book.  Some books are tightly controlled and have “embargo” release dates where booksellers are penalized if they sell books ahead of the date.  I’m sure you’ve read about it for books like a Harry Potter title.  Also I’ve heard about it happening with advance review copies (ARC) or galleys of these high-profile books.  Sometimes there is a great anticipation and almost frenzy for these advance review copies to read them before it hits the market. I’ve heard of some publishers tracing an ARC which has shown up on an eBay auction to the highest bidding person. And the employee is fired for trying to personally profit from that effort.  Yes, it seems extreme but that’s the level of control which happens with some of these books.

In the September 18th issue of Publishers Weekly, Greg Stielstra writes about this issue in the Soapbox column. Greg is the Vice President of marketing for the Christian trade book group at Thomas Nelson Publishers.  I love Greg’s book, Pyromarketing (and if you haven’t done it yet, follow this link to download the audio version of the book). His article, “Don’t Fear eBay” begins, “When Rick Warren announced his “40 Days of Purpose” campaign to Zondervan’s executives in early 2002, they were intrigued and excited. But when he explained that it required them to sell 400,000 copies of The Purpose-Driven Life to churchgoers at $7 per hardcover copy, the blood drained from their faces. “Do what?!” At that price, those sales would mean zero profit. But Warren was able to convince the publisher to go along with the plan—and the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign eventually grew to involve more than 20,000 churches and millions of books. As it turned out, those “unprofitable” copies created an army of customer evangelists whose enthusiastic, word-of-mouth recommendations influenced shoppers who paid retail for the book, eventually pushing total sales past $26 million in three years. The incident was a classic example of a publisher mistaking an opportunity for a threat.” Then he continues talking about whether the eBay auction is a threat or an opportunity.

I love this subtitle for the article in PW, “Stop thinking about eBay as an auction site, and consider what really happens when someone sells a galley on the site.”

Ok, here’s my lesson for you from this information, the next opportunity is up to you. Yes you have to be out in the market submitting your excellent writing and learning your craft. You have to be rejecting rejection and moving ahead, continuing to craft your book proposal and/or query letter.  Create some unusual book and innovatively market it to the audience and put yourself on the bestseller list. 

An impossible dream? I don’t think so. It’s a dream repeated every single day from authors and publishers as their books enter the marketplace.


Friday, September 22, 2006

For Love and Doughnuts

How-I-Write-book-coverI’m always interested in how writers take care of themselves and their work habits. Each person is different and has their own routine for tackling the work. As I’ve written in these entries in the past, it’s a matter of balance—delicate balance.  Over the last few days, I’ve been drawing a few insights from novelist Janet Evanovich and her book, How I Write, Secrets of a Bestselling Author. Her humor shows throughout this book but here’s what she says about her workday:

“I drag myself out of bed around 5:00 A.M. and shove myself into the clothes lying on the floor. I eat a boring breakfast of coffee and yogurt. Then I shuffle into the office I share with a really rude parrot. I stare at the computer screen for about four hours, sometimes actually typing some sentences. I chew gum and drink diet soda to keep myself from falling out of my chair in a catatonic stupor. At noon I’m suddenly filled with energy and rush to the refrigerator, hoping a pineapple upside-down cake with lots of whipped cream has mysteriously appeared. Finding none, I make a tuna or peanut butter and olive sandwich. I go back to my office and visualize myself getting exercise. I play an amazing game of mental tennis. In my mind’s eye, I look great in a little tennis dress. Very athletic. When I’m done playing tennis, I stare at the computer screen some more. When nothing appears on the screen, I drive down to the local store and buy a bag of Cheez Doodles. I eat the Cheez Doodles and manage to actually write several pages. When I’m done with the Doodles and the pages, I wander out of my office looking for someone to whine at because I made myself fat. I alternate typing and whining for the rest of the afternoon until about 5:00 when I emerge from my office, once again hoping for pineapple cake.” (p. 194–195)

I believe the part about Cheez Doodles since this food is repeatedly mentioned throughout How I Write.  Next Evanovich answers what her workday is really like: “Okay. When I’m in a book. I like to keep the momentum going, so I usually work an eight-hour day, five days a week. I like to be at my computer by about 5:00 or 5:30 A.M. I stop writing around 2:00 and become a businessperson, answering phone calls, doing mail, and having discussions with my publicist and whatever. I take an hour or two out in the middle of the day for exercise. Five days a week, I work evenings answering mail and having phone meetings with my webmaster daughter, Alex. On weekends I work in the morning, but I use the afternoons and evenings for fun.  That’s generally how it goes unless I’m behind schedule. When I’m up against a deadline, I go continually day and night. And I really need to be left alone to get the job done. Just slide the Snickers bars under the door, thank you.”

Notice that “hour or two” for exercise? She clarifies this statement saying in a later section, “I have a treadmill in my office next to my desk and I run or walk for five-minute intervals to break the monotony of sitting in a chair. I also have an elliptical trainer and I spent forty-five minutes a day on that. It’s in front of a TV because I can’t keep myself going unless I’m watching a movie or listening to music!”

Admittedly writers sit at their desks for hours. I do but one of the keys for my own personal care (and it sounds like the same is working for Janet Evanovich) is to get some exercise.  For a long time, I was trying to do five days a week. I’ve found when I take a day off from exercise, it’s easy to take another day, then another day and before long I’m not exercising—which isn’t good for my stress level nor my physical appearance. I love doughnuts—I rarely eat them but I love them. I’ve always been someone who tracks the world and local news so I combine exercise and news—otherwise I would be sitting and watching the news. In the last few months, I’ve been going over three miles a day on my treadmill averaging 50 minutes. I’ve missed three days over the last month.

Writing anything involved discipline.  No little elves come out at night and write more pages on your book proposal or book manuscript. You have to sit at the keyboard and work at the words. Physical exercise is one more discipline worth the effort and something to fit regularly into your day—at least I fit it into my day. And the doughnuts? I continue to think about them but they aren’t around our house.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Insight for Rewrites

How-I-Write-book-coverAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m including some insight from Janet Evanovich’s new book, How I Write, Secrets of a Bestselling Author. Fairly untypical for the types of books I read, there are a couple of four-letter words inserted in her book examples yet overall this book contains valuable insight from a bestselling novelist. Today I’m going to include a taste of her information about rewriting.

On p. 116, Ina Yalof (the nonfiction co-author who wrote Evanovich’s book and includes her teaching in gray boxes scattered throughout the book) says, “There are many methods of rewriting. Some authors start their workday by rewriting the pages they wrote the day before. Others stop every fifty to one hundred pages and rewrite them. Some just read through the work from the day before to get a sense of continuity but do nothing until the end. Still others never pick up the earlier work until the book is completed. This is perhaps the best and most efficient way for first-time authors. It also is helpful to wait for several weeks before completing your book and going back to look at it again. You don’t have to wait, of course, but with some time away, the more objective your next look will be. Now you get to view your book through the eyes of a reader, not a writer.”

OK, that was a solid bit of advice about different methods of rewriting your work. Notice what she said about laying it aside to gain objectivity. It’s been true from my personal experience—yet on the next page, Janet Evanovich is asked if she practices this suggestion. “I’d love to set my manuscript aside for a while and then see it with a fresh eye, but I never have the time. I’m a little overcommitted, so I finish a manuscript and then immediately edit it and then edit it again (and yep, sometimes even again). Then it’s off to the publisher, and my editor does her edit.”

There’s a bit of a reality check for you. Bestselling authors have a lot of pressure to produce and some of the work gets more rewrite time and effort in the process than others. It’s how you can explain that some of your favorite authors seem to be a bit off at times—and when this happens I suspect the book has been rushed through the editorial process (to the detriment of the finished book).

Throughout this well-crafted book, Ina Yalof summarizes teaching points and they are set off in gray boxes. In this area of rewriting, the book includes this series of questions for the writer to consider about rewriting called A Rewriting Checklist:

  1. “Did you read your manuscript as if you were seeing it for the first time?
  2. Does your story grab the reader’s interest right away?
  3. Is it clear what the main characters want and what are their motivations?
  4. Is it clear someone or something doesn’t want your main characters to meet their goals?
  5. Will the reader be able to identify with the main characters and care what happens to them?
  6. Is the villain strong enough to give the main characters a true challenge?
  7. Did you edit out all of the parts of your novel that are bogging the story down or are unnecessary, especially in the middle?
  8. Do you need to add a scene to keep the stakes high and the momentum rolling, especially in the middle?
  9. Did you fix bad transitions and descriptive gaps?
  10. Does the dialogue sound realistic?
  11. Does the rhythm of the dialogue suit the character?
  12. Is your ending satisfying to your reader?
  13. Have you edited out words that serve no function? (Don’t use twenty words when five will do.)
  14. Does every sentence move the discussion or the scene forward?
  15. Is every action in keeping with each character’s nature and personality?
  16. Are all of your loose ends tied up at the end of the novel?
  17. Is it clear that the reader knows who is speaking?
  18. If you’re using a real city as your backdrop, did you fact check geographic locations, landmarks, street names, bus routes, etc.?
  19. Did you back up your work on two disks?” ( p. 120–121)

From my perspective, every author should ask these questions to challenge your work before sending it off to your editor or even if you want the editor to consider it. I see so many poorly-crafted query letters, book proposals and manuscripts. If you or any reader will use this checklist to raise the bar of your submissions, then your editor will appreciate the effort.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Story Structure for Novelists

How-I-Write-book-coverBestselling novelist Janet Evanovich has a new nonfiction book with a straight-forward title: How I Write, Secrets of a Bestselling Author. It’s always interesting to me when a bestselling novelist takes the time and energy to write one of these books. It reveals their desire to help other writers but also it’s a true labor of love since this type of book will not follow the blockbuster path of their novels. In other words, most of these types of books have modest sales.

Evanovich teamed with nonfiction author Ina Yalof for this book. Throughout the book, Yalof summarizes each section. I enjoyed this book but note it’s a general market book and in the examples from Evanovich’s writings, you may find a page or two which use a some four-letter words maybe not in your working vocabulary. As the author explains about why she writes mysteries saying, “I prefer writing action to relationships, because I suck at internal narrative. I also have more freedom of language with mystery. Okay, so I have a trash mouth. I’m from Jersey, what can I say?” (p. 69) OK, so now you have my single caveat but this book has some great insight for writers and I want to draw to some points from this book over the next couple of days.

When it comes to creating the structure for her stories, Evanovich uses a common screenwriting technique called storyboarding, which was created and fostered in the Walt Disney company among their animators. Here’s what Evanovich says in her new book, “It’s essential in any plot that you know where you’re going. Otherwise, you can paint yourself into a corner. My secret is to use a technique called storyboarding, which is what directors do when they make movies. I have a huge white dry-erase board that hangs on the wall in my office. I’ve already decided who the villain is going to be; I’ve decided what the crime is, and how the book is going to end. So now I map out in a couple of sentences what the physical action is going to be—that is, the action that is going to promote the crime line of the book. Every now and then, I’ll add what is going to happen in Stephanie’s romantic relationship and sketch in the secondary plot information as well. When you look at your storyboard, you can check your time line to be sure things are progressing in the right order. You can also track your character development, even your settings, to make sure everything is in conjunction with everything else and all of these are compatible with the storyline. Storyboarding gives me an overview of my novel.” (p. 85 & 86)

First-time novelists in particular have to have a completed novel before they write a query letter or book proposal and begin marketing. See her statement about writing or painting yourself in a corner? It’s why publishers require first-time novelists to have completed manuscripts—then they have that difficulty licked before the serious consideration gets underway from a publishing house.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Interesting Numbers

A number of people new to publishing have never seen Publishers Weekly magazine. At times I will find a few copies of the current issue on Borders or Barnes & Nobles. I’d encourage you to try and find it just to become aware of this trade magazine.

Or if you are at your local library, ask your reference librarian if you can see one of their recent issues. Librarians keep it behind their desk and not out where the public can access it. Why? Because librarians use PW to learn about forthcoming books, read the reviews of books and keep up on what’s happening in the book world.  Each issue of the magazine covers a different type of book. For example, the September 11th issue (the last one that I’ve received in the mail) has a large feature article about the new travel books entitled, ‘Where’s the New There? Travel book publishers have to keep up with changing tastes, Internet chatter and world events to know where to go next.”

I learn a great deal from my Publishers Weekly subscription and I’ve had one for many years. It comes like clockwork once a week and I try to make time almost immediately to read through it. I learn from each issue. 

As general background, you should know publishers tend to keep a lot of number information confidential. Unless you have a remarkable bestseller with soaring numbers, many numbers the publisher doesn’t want the public to know about them.  If you are working on a book proposal and looking for sales numbers related to your competitive titles, it will be a challenge (read difficult) to even find this information.  On occasion you can find it but usually you can’t locate the sales numbers.  Most of Publishers Weekly is about words and rarely they have something about numbers. In the Foreword section of PW, they have a column called By the Numbers. I enjoyed this iUniverse by the numbers article from May 2005.

Thomas-Nelson-logoIn the September 11th issue, they included Thomas Nelson By the Numbers. It’s a pretty amazing set of statistics and I thought you’d like to know about it. Notice how they’ve increased their number of new books released in fiscal 2006 compared to fiscal 2005–-by 50 books. I believe Thomas Nelson is the ninth largest publisher in the world (or so my memory tells me).  Also notice the number of books on their backlist (3,900) and also the percentage of publishing division sales generated from the backlist titles in fiscal 2006 (54%). Also look at the numbers of their accounts—while they have 15,000 retail accounts, they are also working with 18,000 church, school and other accounts.

I found it fascinating insight into one publisher—recognizing that it’s just a snapshot and not a detailed look at the numbers.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Biographies and Presidents

Some of the most prolific readers among young people are in the 8 to 12 year old category. Many years ago at this age, I spent hours reading biographies. I’d go to the library and check out a large stack of biographies, cart them home and read each one of them. I believe that experience was a key reason for my fascination with the stories of people. This experience has sparked my own work of writing profiles for various magazines. Also I’ve written a number of these types of books as biographies and also as co-authored books which are like autobiographies.

This weekend, I read a lengthy profile of former President Bill Clinton in the New Yorker magazine. Editor David Remnick wrote this excellent piece. You can follow this link for an interesting story about Remnick and his writing work. Earlier this year, Remnick’s book, Reporting released and here’s an excerpt from Reporting on NPR’s website. I was interested in this brief bio of Remnick and also this interview from the Boston Globe.

David Remnick’s New Yorker article, The Wanderer, Bill Clinton’s quest to save the world, reclaim his legacy—and elect his wife isn’t available online except in an audio format. I’ve pulled together a small portion of this lengthy article for you to see some of the pieces about biographies and autobiographies. Reading the entire article, it’s evident that Remnick spent considerable time with former President Clinton because he writes about some of the different settings in the article. It includes some insight about Clinton’s bestselling autobiography My Life. One bit of background which isn’t clear from the few paragraphs is about Clinton’s editor, Robert Gottlieb. He is the chairman of Trident Media Group, one of the top literary agencies in New York City. When he worked with President Clinton on My Life, Gottlieb was the chairman of Trident. Several times, I’ve been to Trident’s offices for meetings.


“Few modern Presidents have consumed biographies of their predecessors as voraciously as Bill Clinton. One afternoon when we met for lunch, he reeled off a list of some of his favorite Presidential books: three lives of Grant, David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln, and a novelty choice, “Jack: A Life Like No Other,” by Geoffrey Perret, “which sur­prisingly received no coverage, and it had a lot of, kind of, dirt in it, like, dishy gossip I’d never heard about—Kennedy and Jayne Mansfield, and Mansfield was pregnant, stuff I’d never heard!”

As he was leaving office, Clinton told friends that he hoped to write a great book of his own, something approach­ing Grant’s memoirs. He had admired Katharine Graham’s autobiography, and so he sought out her editor at Knopf, Robert Gottlieb, who once ran the house. (Gottlieb was also, from 1987 to 1992, the editor of The New Yorker.) At an early meeting to talk about the book, Clinton informed the editor that he was actually very easy to work for. Gottlieb interrupted, saying, ‘You’re working for me now.”

Clinton had help with research, and he dictated a lot of stories to the histo­rian Ted Widmer and to his aide Justin Cooper for later use, but he also wrote much of the book in longhand, in more than twenty spiral-bound notebooks. When he handed in the first hundred and fifty pages of the manuscript, Gott­lieb said, “This is a really good story, but let me ask you something: Are you run­ning for anything?”

“No, I’m done,” Clinton said.

“Good,” Gottlieb said. “You cannot put the name of every person you’ve ever met in this book. I do not care what happened to their children and grandchil­dren, and it bothers me that my Presi­dent had enough room left in his head to remember what happened to the children and grandchildren of every person he ever met.”

So, Clinton said, recounting the story, “I said, ‘Look, Gottlieb, I’m from Arkan­sas. That’s what we do, that’s what we care about—I can’t help it. That’s who we are.’”

It’s one of the dangers of autobiographies and biographies—filling the book with so many names the reader is either 1) bored or 2) definitely can’t keep track of the different people. A massive number of names pushes the book away from the story and shifts the focus for the audience. I can see Gottlieb tried to help the former President understand this basic principle but like with any author, the editor’s success depends on whether the author will listen and be directable. In general, I’ve found as you work with higher profile authors, then your challenge as an editor to get the changes necessary for an excellent book increase. We get a hint at this difficulty in these paragraphs.

Another challenge with biographies and autobiographies is to tell interesting and different stories—but not too different. It’s a tricky balance and shows in this incident in David Remnick’s excellent article, “Clinton sent another hundred pages or so, this time on the American South of his childhood. Gottlieb called and said, “I really like this.”

“Well, you got any questions?” Clin­ton replied.

“Just one.”

“What is it?” Clinton asked.

“Did you know any sane people as a child?”

“No, but neither did anybody else,” Clinton said. “I was just paying attention more than most people.”

The first half of Clinton’s thousand-page memoir is a cross between ‘Tobacco Road” and “Ragged Dick,” the Snopes saga and “All the King’s Men.” The early pages make clear just how far Clinton had to travel before he landed in the safe berths of the Ivy League and Oxford….Clinton played it safe in his memoir, and his reasons were almost surely political. Even the publication date was politically determined. Clinton and Knopf decided that “My Life” had to come out before the 2004 campaign entered its final stage. As a result, the book was rushed and is at times almost defiantly dull. The chapters that cover 1992 to 2000 often seem as cursory and reticent as the en­tries in a desk diary. Grant’s singularity as a memoirist is safe. But then the Gen­eral’s memoir ends before his Presidency begins.”

Our challenge is to tell excellent, fascinating stories for our reader—whether fiction or nonfiction.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Certain About Uncertainty

The Making of a Bestseller coverI’ve been reading The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors, and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them by Brian Hill and Dee Power.  This book contains some interesting insight about bestsellers. One aspect which is emphasized repeatedly is the unpredictable nature of bestsellers. Everyone would like to do something in particular and know for certainty that a book will become a bestseller.  You can be certain about the uncertainty of bestsellers.


Here’s a partial answer from Neil Nygren, Senior Vice President, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for G.P. Putnam & Sons to the question, “Have you ever gotten a manuscript from an unknown author that you were sure was going to be very successful?


“Absolutely. There is no such thing as an absolute sure thing, anymore in this business.; But there have certainly been lots of times when you see something and say, ‘Now this, this is commercial, this ought to work.’ Obviously Doubleday thought that when they signed up John Grisham…There are some writers who just have it. Many, many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, when I was a younger editor for a different publisher, I read a manuscript called Storm Island. It was a World War II thriller, and it, too, just had a sure command to it. There was something about it. We wanted a more distinctive title and changed it to Eye of the Needle (Ken Follett), and there you are. That’s what you’re always looking for, what you’re always hoping for.”


Is there any consistent factor to what becomes a bestseller?


One theme which resonates throughout this book is good story—and it’s extremely subjective what constitutes a “good story.” Or the writer’s voice is another factor. Jennifer Enderlin, publisher at St. Martin’s Press said, “it all begins with a strong voice. Voice is the one thing that can’t be taught. It’s the author’s own fingerprint, their unique storytelling style. Writers with a strong voice are the ones that emerge from the pack.” Or a few pages later, Karen Kosztolnyik, Senior Editor at Warner Books said, “It really comes down to the voice. If an author has a really strong voice, even if they are telling a story that has been told a million times before, it can draw me into that story. The voice is so fresh, new, original, I feel like I’m reading the story for the first time, even if it’s a classic story line.”


For a book to become a bestseller, it has to — sell. The task of editors and publishers is to attempt to predict those sales. As Daniel Halpern, Editor-in-Chief for HarperCollins says in The Making of a Bestseller, “The truth is, unless it’s very obvious, you don’t know what’s going to sell an what’s not going to sell. Some people have a good nose for the book that is going to sell, can ‘sense’ it has commercial possibilities. Others have a sense of ‘literary merit,’ which may or may not sell but has value beyond track. You can have a wonderful novel that sells 7,500 copies and another very good novel that sells 75,000 copies…There are so many elements, and a huge part of it is luck.”


If it was predictable and simple, then it wouldn’t be so hard to achieve. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, it comes down to a great book as the basis. While you may not be able to predict whether your book will become a bestseller or not, you can work on the craft of the storytelling and create excellence.


Friday, September 15, 2006

The Illusive Bestseller

In various entries, I’ve looked at the topic of bestsellers. I’ve had Dee Power’s and Brian Hill’s book on my shelf for several months and I’m currently reading it. What I like about this book is the realistic picture it gives about publishing.  Many authors approach book publishing with stars in their eyes and the assumption that audiences will immediately head to the bookstore for their work.  The authors include statistics to show the long odds and quotes from editors. For example, Neil Nygren, Senior Vice President, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for G.P. Putnam & Sons responded to the question about how a book gets to be a bestseller saying, “The main thing to remember is there is no one way to be a bestseller. There are an infinite number of ways to get there—not to mention an infinite number of ways to fail.” (p. 11) See the realistic balance?


Recently I caught up with Dee Power and she answered a few questions which I’m including in this entry on the Writing Life.


Dee Power, MBA, was born on the East Coast and grew up on the West Coast. She started her writing career in the second grade by writing a Thanksgiving Day play that debuted before many appreciative parents.  Dee has been interviewed as an expert on the publishing industry by The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press and various local publications.  She and Brian Hill are the authors of The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors, and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind ThemAttracting Capital From Angels, Inside Secrets To Venture Capital and the novel, Over TimeYou can reach her through her website, http://www.BrianHillAndDeePower.com  


It looks as if you had an in-depth knowledge of the publishing industry before you wrote and researched this book.  Still, did you learn anything new that truly surprised you?

 The Making of a Bestseller cover

Even though we had written two nonfiction books prior to The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them, I didn't know that much more about the publishing industry than probably any other author.  Besides having the opportunity to talk with my favorite authors, I wanted to find out the answers to such questions as:  How do books get on bookstore shelves? What factors are critical to a book’s success? What role does the literary agent play? How is buzz created?   What was surprising is that while writing is a solitary endeavor; book publishing is a team effort.    The effort just begins with the author and is carried through by the literary agent, editor, publisher’s in house production, marketing, and publicity staff.  And then of course, you must include the publisher’s sales reps, buyers at the chains and independent bookstores and finally the bookseller. 


How did you gain access to such a huge number of authors, editors, publishers, booksellers, etc.? Was it difficult?


We interviewed 24 bestselling authors, 6 literary agents, 8 editors, 11 publishing industry experts, and 8 booksellers.   We also surveyed over 120 editors and agents.  We went through 2 tape recorders, 65 tape cassettes, 140 hours of transcription and 3 bottles of aspirin, but who’s counting?  Was it difficult? No, it was great fun. We found the authors through their websites, publishers, agents and publicists.   Very few authors declined to be interviewed; they were very gracious about sharing their experiences.  


Do you consider authors who are not bestselling to be unsuccessful?


Absolutely not, just having a book published is a major accomplishment.   It’s a huge challenge for a new writer to become published, never mind get their book on a bestseller list.  It has been estimated that 25 million people in the United States consider themselves writers and only 5% have been published anywhere.  Agents have told us that they receive an average of 5000 unsolicited query letters or proposals each year and accept only 11 new clients.  Editors have said they reject 99% of submissions.  Having a book published by a commercial publisher is a major success in a writer’s life.  


A literary agent is nearly mandatory for a writer and one of the first steps towards becoming a successful author.  Below are several resources that may help.


Publishers Weekly  is both a hard copy weekly publication and an online site. It includes articles on the state of the publishing industry, interviews with authors, the bestseller lists, and lots and lots of book reviews.  PW is directed toward booksellers.  The books are reviewed three to four months prior to publication so you can recognize upcoming trends. 


Publishers Marketplace is one of the most useful sites to find out what’s going on in the world of publishing. It’s not free but the cost is minimal ($20.00 per month) and well worth it.  There is a searchable database of book deals, including the author, agent, advance amount, and contact information for both the agency and the editor of the acquiring publishing house.  


The Writer hard copy monthly magazine and online website, focused on writing, selling and publishing your writing.  Often has small press publishers directories, niche publishers, and regional publishers.  


Writers Market and the online searchable database at provides contact information for agents and publishers as well as what they’re looking for. 


www.agentquery.com searchable online database


Most writers will never become bestselling authors, what can they learn from The Making of a Bestseller?


The primary lesson they can learn is, never give up!  Perseverance is a key characteristic of those authors who have made it.  They didn’t just curl up and die at the first ‘no.’ 


Stephen King’s Carrie was the fifth novel he’d written. James Patterson’s first mystery was turned down by 31 publishers (but later won an Edgar Award). Mary Higgins Clark’s first story took 6 years and 41 rejection slips before it was finally published. Her first novel was, as she puts it, “a commercial disaster.”  Her second, Where Are the Children? was a bestseller. Janet Evanovich’s first three attempts were, in her own words “sucky un-sellable manuscripts.”   Time and time again bestselling authors have learned the same lesson: With great diligence, and unwavering devotion to the craft of writing, “sucky” can eventually turn into sublime.


Writers must have the discipline and patience to develop their craft and build their career through a slow, steady, climb that requires patience and discipline.   Bestselling authors are very active in the marketing of their books, whether it means calling on bookstores and introducing themselves, developing skills at being interviewed by the media, or interacting with their fans on web sites.  Writing a great book is only half the battle.  You have to energetically assist your publisher in selling it.


You’ve written two books on raising venture capital, a novel, and a book on bestselling authors.  Is there a common thread? If not, what's it like publishing in such vastly different genres.


The common thread is I write about what I know, or what I would like to learn about.   While we, I do have a co-author, Brian Hill,  will continue to write nonfiction, fiction is where the fun is at. 


Our first two books came about because our clients asked the same questions over and over again.


The Making of a Bestseller was born when we started researching how we could give our fiction the best chance possible for success. Who better to ask than those authors who had bestsellers? 


Our novel,  Over Time is a financial thriller.  The villain is a vicious venture capitalist and the hero, an entrepreneur.  Since our background is in finance we can add realism to the story.  The setting is Phoenix, Arizona and Green Bay Wisconsin, both places we’re familiar with.   


OK, that’s my session with Dee Power. I hope it was helpful to you. I recommend The Making of a Bestseller as another step toward a realistic education about the book market. 


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Find Your Niche in the Market

It’s the challenge of every writer: to find their place in the market.  You have to experiment and figure out what you like to read and what you are drawn to write. For some people, it will be children’s books while others it will be novels and others nonfiction books. Still others will not write books but will write reams of magazine articles or newspaper articles.

If you read these entries, you’ve learned that each month I read a number of printed magazines. A few weeks ago, I spotted this article in Forbes, which has a circulation of around five million: Publish or Perish by Susan Adams. The subtitle also drew me to this article: A passion for out-of-print mysteries gave birth to a small press that might just make it. Publish or Perish is a common saying among academic professors who are required to write so many professional papers to maintain their status in the university. And what does that have to do with mysteries?

New York City bookseller Maggie Topkis was missing some of her favorite books because they had gone out of print. Learning about a machine to take out of print books and print a paperback in 17 minutes, she wondered if she could become a publisher. In about a year, she released 42 titles which included one hit (always important if you ware going to continue in publishing). Here’s her target market from Susan Adam’s excellent article: “Topkis puts out paperbacks only, with 11-point type (you're reading 9.7-point type) and generous margins. “The market for our books is definitely over 35,” says Topkis, who is 46. “They've got older eyes.” She sells mostly to nonchain stores; her list is packed with books she adores. “My stuff is pitched to women, and 60% to 70% of the line is British,” she says. “Prose-driven, intricately plotted stuff.” 

Notice how Topkins has defined her target. The old saying is true—if you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it. This bookseller understands the wisdom of marketing to a particular audience. You’d be surprised at the book proposals which I’ve seen from writers who claim their book is for everyone.  It’s simply not true.

If you study this article, you can see some of the economic considerations if you launch your own publishing imprint: “List price for Felony & Mayhem titles is $14.95, yielding an average $7.47 to the publisher. The variable cost of a volume averages $4.32. For a 300-page book with a press run of 1,200, she pays about $2.70 for digital printing. That cost drops significantly with runs of more than 2,000, because Topkis can use an offset printer. The remainder of the $4.32 goes for sales commissions, shipping, royalties (80 cents for a recycled title) and fulfillment fees. That leaves Topkis an average of $3.15 with which to cover fixed costs. For each title she pays $700 for the cover and $1,000 for editorial production. Topkis invested $1,200 in a Xerox DocuMate scanner that allows her to convert an out-of-print novel into a Word document that gets proofread, typeset and sent to her printer. She budgets $37,800 in salary and benefits for an assistant and pays $12,000 for twice-yearly catalogs. All told, fixed expenses come to about $250,000 a year. Topkis figures she can cover that by selling 80,000 books. Doable if she can add another small-scale hit like Garden.”

Now this article in Forbes with it’s large circulation is a huge boost to this mystery book business. One of the elements not included in this article is the distribution for these mysteries. Because Topkins has a dozen years as a bookseller, she’s hooked into the realities of the need to have a distributor and how to get her books into the proper chains.  Some of you could look at this article and say, “OK, I’ll become a publisher and get books out there.” It’s possible but just make sure you have a full picture before you take the plunge.

I applaud Maggie Topkis in that she spotted a niche in the marketplace which she could fill. It’s the same challenge for every writer.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Power of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing or buzz is one of those intangibles to establish or orchestrate.  Many people would like to initiate word of mouth marketing. As people are talking about your book, it can lead to book sales and eventually getting on the bestseller list.  Some people take months to build this word of mouth experience. It’s why some books have been in print for several years before they show up on a bestseller list.  Some books have sold substantial copies and been in print for years—but have never been on any bestseller list. The bestseller list isn’t the only indicator of the book sales—but it is one indicator.

Buzz or word of mouth interest doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. Over the last few days, I was talking with an editor in another publishing house. I inquired about the sales of a particular author. Across the blogsphere, this author has been much touted for their visibility.  During a single day in recent months, the book was near the top of Technorati beating out some other popular best-selling books. Yet I’ve never seen this author nor his book on any bestseller list.  Is the book selling? It’s where the rubber meets the road for the author and the publisher.  This editor friend admitted the sales numbers for this book were lack luster—nothing to talk about or tout. So what made the difference? You had a great deal of buzz or word of mouth about a book yet few book sales. It looks like everyone spun their wheels if it didn’t translate into sales.

As I’ve talked with a few people about this situation, here’s my conclusion—the difference is in the craft of storytelling and writing a good book. Now some books beat this difference too. You get the book, read it and wonder how it managed to get published—yet there was huge buzz and word of mouth talk about the book.  In the long run, I believe it comes down to craft and quality of writing. The authors who can communicate, tell good stories and write good books, will last—provided they get the right marketing push and other factors. It isn’t just one thing that makes a book successful but a number of factors working in harmony.

Womma-logoDuring the last week, I’ve learned about the Word of Mouth Marketing Association or womma. (Thank you, Vicki) I’ve looked around this site a bit and noticed that some companies like Zondervan Publishing House are members. They have some interesting material and pages to download from their members. I’ve added their newsletters to some material that I read on a regular basis in hopes to learn something interesting. Here’s what I did not find in this material—how to translate the word of mouth buzz about a product into actual sales.  I suspect there isn’t a single answer to this question—just more learning ahead.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Work with the Middleman

Middleman-graphicSeveral days ago, I wrote about how many writers are attempting to get devotional books published yet publishers are using book packagers or book producers to make these books.   I’ve been doing some additional thinking about this topic because it’s my turn to lead a discussion on an online writer’s group (which isn’t as public of a forum as this blog).  Many writers are approaching a publisher for a devotional book or children’s book. They are trying to work with the wrong person.  In many cases, the publisher isn’t using individual writers for these products. They are using a middleman. If you don’t know about the middleman or book packager, then you can’t find the work. Packagers hire writers.

Publishers use packagers or book producers because these sources have earned their dependability and trust.  With a high level of confidence a publisher can give a packager an assignment usually based on a small sample of the design and writing. The publisher doesn’t have to use much internal energy from their editors or graphic designers (I say much because someone in house has to monitor the packagers work but it involves a small amount of time). And the publisher can depend on this packager to deliver excellence on time (and writers are notoriously late).

When I was doing some research for this online discussion, I learned about the American Book Producer Association which has been around since 1980. I should not have been surprised there is a trade organization of packagers.  These packagers hire writers and graphic designers to pull together these finished books for publishers. Their site includes some excellent articles including What Is A Book Producer and Why Publishers Use Packagers. Also notice a valuable resource for writers—a directory of their members including name, address, phone numbers and email addresses.

Hold up a minute before you flood their offices with submissions and paperwork. Do you want to get some of this writing work? The majority of it is work made for hire and some writers resist this type of writing but I’ve done a lot of it over the years.  If you decide you want to pursue some of this writing, then like any type of submission, you need to make a good first impression. What do you have to show these book producers that you can write and deserve one of their assignments? What types of books do they produce? Have you written the type of material the producer has done in the past? How can you show the packager that you will be an excellent choice to meet their needs? These questions are a few of the ones you will answer with your approach and it will increase their interest and your possibility for an assignment.

Even with a good pitch, you should be prepared to try out on speculation. A few times, I’ve tried out for some packagers and not received the assignment. That experience always feels bad for the writer because essentially you’ve poured creative work and energy into something which hasn’t gone ahead—or has gotten rejected. But I want you to know you can be rejected for your try out work with the packager. It’s another reality of the business of publishing. For whatever reason, they didn’t feel like it was a good fit—and it’s their call (which I respect). Other times, I’ve tried out and received the assignment, met the deadline and received fair compensation for solid work (all that anyone can ask for in this publishing business).

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are no short cuts or quick fixes. Just understand using a book producer could be another opportunity for you to practice your writing craft and build some more experience. In this case, you can’t cut out the middleman but need to work with this company.


Monday, September 11, 2006

When Your Experience Is Fresh

LHJ-Oct-2006-coverThis weekend, I received my October issue of Ladies Home Journal.  It was good to read the second part of a personal experience story from Lisa Collier Cool, one of my colleagues on the board of directors for the American Society of Journalists and Authors. If you don’t know Lisa, she’s a past ASJA president and a prolific writer for magazines. One of her books is How To Write Irresistible Query Letters (which is excellent).

Lisa’s article was a personal story called Rescuing Rosalie and begins, “We were overjoyed when we found our runaway 16–year-old after eight desperate days. Little did we realize that the tough part was just beginning.” Using the dates from 2005 as subheads, Lisa writes in first-person about this personal struggle.  I found this article was a delicate balance between personal information and education for the reader. This well-written piece is loaded with takeaway value for any parent. Now if you don’t know, Ladies Home Journal has a circulation of over four million and compensates their writers well for such work.  While I have no firsthand information about how Lisa wrote this story, I do know it isn’t easy to write these personal experiences and share them with the world.  Lisa was writing dialogue and feelings. I would encourage you to find these two stories—one in the September issue and another in the October issue and study them. Many of these mainstream publications use first-person stories.

I’ve written a number of these types of articles.  Unlike many writers, I’ll admit I don’t keep a journal. I’ve read where Mary Higgins Clark has kept journals since childhood and has all of this information (which no one other than her has ever read). A personal journal is a great place to capture the raw emotion, thoughts, dialogue and feelings of a personal crisis or situation. It doesn’t have to be a crisis. Whether you journal or not, make sure you take a minute to capture the raw emotion of the situation and get it down on paper. It is not what you send to the magazine, but it will give you a running start toward completion of a personal experience magazine article.

Many writers make the key mistake of believing they can take their personal experience story and weave it into a full-length book. To get a publisher interested in your book idea, you must have a high level of visibility in the marketplace (like Robin McGraw on the cover of Ladies Home Journal—which is an excerpt from her new book, Inside My Heart Choosing to Live With Passion and Purpose from Thomas Nelson). If you don’t have this level of visibility (and most of us do not), then you are spinning your wheels to try and publish a book. Instead, you need to be writing magazine articles because magazines use this type of material.

Why write these personal stories as magazine articles? First, because that’s where you have an opportunity. Many publications use these stories—but only if they are well-crafted with a solid point or takeaway for the reader. It’s a skill I encourage you to hone in the magazine world. Second, publishing in magazines builds credibility as a writer. You gain experience but you also gain credibility. I receive many manuscripts from people who have written a book yet never published. Your level of interest from the editor will dramatically increase if you have published in magazines. Why? Because the editor will know that you have worked at your craft and the validation of your craft shows with your ability to get into these magazines.  You are building publishing credits and also valuable experience.  Finally, never forget these magazines reach more people than the average book. The average book (not a bestseller) is fortunate to sell 5,000 copies. Magazines reach many more people with the message.