Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boost Your Determination

I don’t know about you, but I find it really easy to get rejected.  As an editor, I regularly dish out those rejection letters. I take no pleasure in sending them and I know it’s business. At the same time, I’m keenly aware the writer has poured their heart and soul into the submission (at least that’s the hope) and my form rejection letter will not be what they want to hear from me.  It’s small consolation but I try and process my manuscripts with professionalism and an actual response. Many times the editor never responds or responds months after the submission.  As an editor, I attempt to be polite and relatively painless saying “Not right for my publishing house.” Hopefully the writer can note the consideration and move ahead to locate a champion. I say “hopefully” because I know some writers are going to get stalled and possibly not submit their material for a period of time.   Whether we like it or not, rejection is a key part of the business of publishing and it’s here to stay.

How do you boost your determination and belief in yourself and find the courage to continue? I’m going to recommend an out-of-the-ordinary resource for you. This spring at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, I met Jodie Lynn who is an international syndicated parent/family columnist.  Like most writers’ conferences, for anyone teaching, they seem to pass in a blur of running from one event to another. I sat beside Jodie at the autograph session and got a chance to get acquainted.  The majority of the crowd was stuck in a huge line for bestselling humorist Dave Barry, who was only at the conference for his opening address and the autograph signing.  I believe you get the picture: Jodie and I had plenty of time to talk.

Syndication secrets-bookJodie’s book, Syndication Secrets, What No One Will Tell You! released at the conference. This book was perfect for the Erma Bombeck audience where people recall the millions of Bombeck readers through her syndicated newspaper column.  I’ll admit I’ve never had any desire to have a syndicated column. Why?  You have to steel yourself for tons of rejection because the people who can actually pull off a syndicated column and be successful are few and far between.  Here’s what Jodie writes in her opening chapter called “Prepare for a Bumpy Ride.” “Prepare yourself for rejection. It may even happen over and over. You can compare the feat of achieving syndication to that of a high school athlete going on to play for a professional team. Something like one out of every 50,000 make it. Not only is that incredibly hard to swallow, but most syndicated columnists have other jobs just to make ends meet because the syndicate takes at least 40–60 percent from the sales of their column. It’s hard to make big bucks until you get popular enough to get numerous speaking engagements and/or offers for lucrative book or endorsement contracts.” How’s that for real encouragement? You maybe wondering but hang on here: Jodie includes 10 Must-Do, Tried and True Secrets of Getting Syndicated and her first one is: Believe in what you have to say. Now there is something I can get behind—and something that every writer (syndicated or not) needs to hear.

The power in this book is the attitude and the professional teaching about not quitting in the face of rejection.  Throughout this book, Jodie uses this phrase, “Never give up.” I love her sample phone script. She calls a newspaper editor and this editor repeatedly says no. Despite the words, Jodie teaches writers how to maintain a professional attitude—yet a dogged determination. She keeps looking for the champion until she finds one.  I don’t care if you write novels or nonfiction books or book proposals or magazine articles or book reviews, you can learn from this book. I suspect it will be something to read and re-read when your determination as a writer needs a boost.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Unspoken Proposal Rules

Many aspects of life have unspoken rules.  When you bump into them, you begin to learn, then use these rules to your advantage.  The rules are different in each culture. For example, in the U.S.,  women in particular like to dress differently. If there is a formal event, no woman likes to arrive in exactly the same dress as someone else in the room. Years ago when I lived in Guatemala, the culture was completely the reverse. Each town in the country maintains a separate outfit of dress. In particular, the women have maintained their cultural distinctness. Yet every woman in the town dresses exactly alike. It gives the advantage when they are outside of their town context, you can instantly know their home town from their appearance.  For me, this cultural distinction was fascinating because it was completely opposite of my expectations.

BookProposalsThatSell-smallThese unspoken rules happen in publishing as well. One of my readers for Book Proposals That Sell wrote and raised some questions. I began to think about these rules which I had learned naturally yet I haven’t seen them explicitly in writing.  Within a publishing house, the different acquisitions editors are colleagues, yet each editor locates new projects, then prepares the paperwork to bring those projects into the editorial process. Often this editorial process involves a meeting where the editors meet together and present their different projects, discussing how they can be improved before they are taken to the publication board. If the editorial group agrees the proposal is something that should be considered, then it is taken to the publication board (which includes representatives of sales and marketing and the leadership of the publishing house). While there isn’t an overt rivalry between the acquisitions editors in the same house, there is a sense that each person is bringing unique book proposals into the publication process.  The writer is eager to have as many people as possible consider their book proposal.  Here’s the unspoken rule: you don’t want to have two acquisitions editors inside the same publisher enthused about the exact same book proposal.

Just imagine in your enthusiasm for the book proposal, you give it to two editors inside the same publishing house.  Because they present these projects at an editorial meeting, the duplicity will be discovered—to the detriment of the writer. It’s simply giving both editors cause to reject your project. More importantly than the single rejection, it will raise questions about your future submissions—as to whether you have blanketed the publisher with your proposal submissions.

Let’s carry this situation a bit further—and reveal a more subtle rule.  Often a single publisher will contain many different imprints. Depending on the publisher, some of those imprints are not even located in the same building or even the same city. It is not appropriate to submit your book proposal to different imprints of the same larger publisher.  Let’s imagine you have an excellent book proposal which could easily go in one company or the other company so you decide to send it to both imprints.  An acquisitions editor in each imprint gets excited about your contents and champions your cause to get it contracted. Even if it progresses through each internal system, eventually the duplicity will be discovered—and it will not go well for the writer in this process. Your “excellent proposal” risks rejection from both publishers and the questions will be raised with your future submissions.

As a writer, I completely understand your eagerness to get your proposal to as many places as possible—and submit them at the same time because the process takes a long time. Yet there are some cautions to observe in this process.

Here’s a final one that few writers seem to consider—and it happens primarily with fiction.  It’s almost universal that first-time novelists have to complete their entire manuscript—before they can receive serious consideration from a publishing house.  Admittedly it’s a great deal of work to craft an excellent story and sustain that excellence over 80,000 to 100,000 words.   You go to a large writer’s conference with your manuscript or your pitch or your proposal.  During the conference, you meet with a number of editors and literary agents. The editor looks at your work and asks you to send it to them. At the same time, the agent looks at your work and sees merit and requests a copy of the manuscript.  You return from the conference and follow-up with all of the various requests.  What if for a variety of reasons (there are many reasons), all of the publishers look at your material and decide to reject it. But the literary agent carefully reads your manuscript and decides they want to represent it for you. You love receiving this news from the literary agent.  If your agent is worth their salt, they are going to ask you, “Who has seen this manuscript?” You provide the list of these publishers who have rejected your work. Essentially you have tied the agent’s hands through your enthusiastic efforts to find a publisher.  You will have to transform the manuscript into a completely new work—new title and new emphasis for the literary agent to gain a repeat hearing with those publishers who have rejected your work. Why?  Editors keep logs of the submissions (I do) and if I see something which seems a bit familiar, I can pull up this file and search through it—for your name, your title and whatever details about the story that I wrote into my log. Unknowingly in your enthusiasm to market your manuscript, you’ve actually limited the possibilities—and mostly through some unspoken rules of the process.

It may strike you as unfair. You are new and didn’t know the rules. It probably is unfair yet take a minute a consider it from the editor’s perspective. There are only a few available spots—and a great deal of possibilities—in fact millions of possibilities. I’ll give you one frightening statistic in this area from Get Published! “Finished manuscripts for an estimated 8 million novels and 17 million how-to books are lying in desk drawers all over the country, waiting to be published.” (Here’s the source of this statistic). You may wonder why it’s frightening? It’s because of the large volume and intense competition.

Don’t allow this entry on the unspoken rules to get you discouraged. There are many ways to make your proposal stand out from the others. It’s key to look for the right publisher for your work—and continue to look. Perseverance is important. One of the principles of Pyromarketing is to find the driest tender. Over the weekend, I noticed a spot which would qualify when it comes to Book Proposals That Sell. Scott Waxman leads a top literary agency in New York City and has agented several of my book projects. Some time ago, I suggested that he add Book Proposals That Sell to his list of resources for writers.  His website is a “driest tender spot” because writers looking to get published will follow his counsel. It was great to see Book Proposals That Sell among these recommended resources. I continue to look for these “dry tender” locations to include this resource. It’s a step I also recommend to you with your book projects.

Finally, let me point out another first—the Premier Carnival of Christian Writers.  I joined forces with some other bloggers for this particular effort. Hope you enjoy the variety.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Use All The Senses In Your Storytelling

During the last week, I’ve been listening to novelist David Morrell who taught a special one day fiction class at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. If you haven’t heard of his name, David has 28 million novels in print including Rambo and First Blood.  He is also the co-president of the International Thriller Writers.  Last summer, I met David and heard him teach about dialogue at ThrillerFest, which was a terrific event.
When he taught at Glorieta, David told about working with screen and television writers whose prose came off as one-dimensional and flat.
Why? They were only using the sense of sight in their writing and when they added any other sense (including smell), it enriched the effect of their writing. As a part of his teaching, David read a page and a half from his latest book, Creepers (now out in paperback) which won the 2006 Stokers Award for the Best Novel from the Horror Writers Association. Here’s the first two paragraphs of Creepers--notice the words incorporated into this sample besides sight words:
“That’s what they call themselves, and that would make a good story, Balenger thought, which explained why he met them in this godforsaken New Jersey motel in a ghost town of 17,000 people. Months later, he still would not be able to tolerate being in rooms with closed doors. The nostril-widening smell of must would continue to trigger the memory of screams. The beam from a flashlight wouldn’t fail to make him sweat.”
Use all of your senses in the words you select (and especially nonsight words) to improve your storytelling techniques.
Also don’t try and pick up this conference recording, you won’t be able to do it.   Apparently David didn’t allow Manna Recording to record his fourth session--and only allowed those participants at the conference to purchase it.  It is not available to anyone else.  I’m going to be hanging on to my CDs from David Morrell—now that I know his teaching is rarely recorded. It was excellent and something I will listen to several times in the days ahead.


Friday, October 27, 2006

The Comic Truth about Books

The latest installment in Ed Briant’s Tales From the Slush Pile comic reveals an interesting insight into the book business.

Maybe you’ve had this experience (I know I have). I’ve walked into a bookstore (any bookstore) and looked for one of my books. Either it is not there (always disappointing considering how many different types of books that I’ve written over the last 20 years but my most frequent experience). Or I find do see one of my books, then it is located in some place that I do not want to find it—like way in the back of the store on a lower shelf with the only visible portion of the book (the spine) out or worse yet on the remainder table (where the discount books are sold).

Comedy always strikes us as funny because it strikes a chord or touches on some element of truth.  From my perspective, Ed Briant gets it right with this Tale. I hope you will check it out.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Amazon Shorts Connect With Readers


The Amazon Shorts program has been around for at least a year. Frequently I meet published writers who do not know about it.  Follow the link and get acquainted with this program. Why?  If you get a group of authors together to talk “shop” about their books, if they are honest, I can almost guarantee they will tell stories about a book where they poured their heart and soul, yet it never did much in the marketplace. In other words, this great book never sold or had minimal sales.  In other entries, I’ve talked about how publishers are looking for authors who will partner with them on these sales efforts for books. It’s the same situation with the editors. If they honestly discuss their books, they will mention books which were excellent, yet their disappointment in the author’s willingness to market and promote their own books.  I’ve listened to both sides of this discussion and I know everyone has challenges to reach readers and sell books.

Amazon Shorts could provide a means for you to connect with more readers. Can you write a short, original nonfiction or fiction piece which is related to your book? If so, you can get it into this system. If you explore the program, you will learn it includes a number of bestselling authors such as historian David McCullough or novelist Danielle Steel.  Explore their Frequently Asked Questions to learn how to begin the process. A minimum requirement is to have at least one product for sale on Amazon.

I believe there are many potential benefits for the author and the publisher. Here’s my story and you see how it will apply to your own writing life: Over a year ago, Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success  released.  The book continues to receive five star reviews on Amazon and impact the people who want to catch the attention of traditional publishers and editors.  Last summer I learned about Amazon Shorts, then purchased several of these books and studied them for their format, length and topic.  It’s a step anyone could take related to their own subject.

I wanted to create a related product to Book Proposals That Sell through the Amazon Shorts venue.  Over several days, I wrote an original nonfiction piece titled: Straight Talk from the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. It is a substantial length with numerous tips, stories and value for the reader.  When I purchased several of these Shorts, I discovered some of them are “short” or less than 2,000 words.  My Amazon Shorts submission is over 6,000 words. I sent it in late August then like any author, I waited for a response to my submission. When I didn’t hear anything within the four to six week period of their guidelines, I wrote the editor and gently asked if he received my submission and noted the time limitation of their guidelines. This editor wrote saying they had many submissions and asked for my patience (and affirmed they received my original submission). Yesterday, I received the Amazon contract and welcome packet. It will take a few more weeks (after I return my completed paperwork) for my submission to enter their program.

How will it work for me? The verdict is out and only time will tell. I’m eager to move ahead and explore it.  Think about it for your own writing. Can Amazon Shorts become another method to attract more readers?


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Good To Take Stock

Most of us are running pretty hard every day and all day. It’s rare—yet wise to occasionally pull back and take stock about why we do what we do (and how we got started doing it).

Blogging101_5questionsRecently I had such an opportunity when it comes to the topic of blogging. Cory Miller is running a five question series about blogging for pastors on his Church Communications Pro website.  It gave me a chance to briefly evaluate why I continue to write information into this blog and the value and focus.  Here’s my answers to Cory’s questions.

Each of us make daily decisions about what we will write and what we will leave behind. This process doesn’t have a single answer but the response will change from time to time.  There are many times in my life when I’ve taken stock and moved in a different direction with my writing or my editing.  There is value in taking stock, learning something new, then applying this new insight to your daily work. It’s a regular part of my writing life to make these types of adjustments. I’m off to work on some book proposals which need to be completed and pushed out into the marketplace of ideas.

Like someone told me many years ago: it doesn’t get written when you only think about it. The writing only comes from simply putting your fingers on the keyboard and keeping them on the keyboard until the words are written. It’s not very profound but true.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Surprised Again

Yesterday morning I headed across Phoenix to a breakfast meeting. When I arrived, I discovered it was a pastor’s appreciation breakfast and a local bookstore invited ministers across the city to provide some inspiration and encouragement.   I attended the meeting to interview one of the attendees and gather more story material for one of my writing projects.  The scheduled speaker was someone I heard at a writer’s conference probably fifteen years ago: Bill Butterworth.  An entertaining speaker, Bill gave a timely message to this audience from one of his recent books, Balancing Work & Life.  It was a surprise to have the chance to see Bill briefly after many years—but that wasn’t my real surprise.

Frequently writers will tell me about their struggles to reach editors and communicate with them.  From the editor’s perspective, I understand the challenges. Many editors are consumed in meetings from when they arrive in the office until they go home—and it leaves little time to answer email or phone or write authors or would-be authors. While we are in the communication business, communicating is a constant challenge—for everyone.

Whalin-name-in-bookAs a part of this pastor appreciation breakfast, each person (including me) was given a bag of books.  After I got home, I sorted through these new books.  One item was a “preview booklet” and a compilation from a well-known magazine who were joining forces with a Christian publisher. (I’m not going to include either in this entry so I can tell you the story.)  I’m always interested to see who is contributing to such a volume. I knew most of the names on the cover of the book and I flipped over to the index.  Like most writers, I checked to see if my own name appeared—and imagine my surprise when I found my name in the index.

I couldn’t think of what I had written for this compilation. It’s been a number of years since my magazine work has appeared in these publications (at least for the particular target audience of this book). I could have shrugged it—but I decided to take a proactive step and discover the details.  I crafted a short email (intentionally short because I know these editors receive stacks of email with limited time to answer). In my short email, I asked about the specific  project, asked about my contribution, if I would receive a copy of the completed book and if there was any additional payment.

As I expected, I received a short reply from the editor. I selected someone who I thought would respond to my question—but wouldn’t necessarily have the detailed answers.  The original editor forwarded my email to another editor with the answers. This morning I heard from the editor who handled the details of the project. She even attached my letter about the project (apparently mailed in March of this year).  My excerpt was for an article published in 1998 and the letter was sent to a company that I worked for in the late 90s which no longer exists (a dot com). My bio and some of the other details were updated without any of my input and it’s too late at this point since the book is either back from the printer or soon to be available. I’m not making any excuses for this company but I understand the challenges of pulling together such a massive compilation project. The details are mind boggling to anyone.  The letter was typical of these types of projects with the implication that we’re writing about this project and if we don’t hear from you, then we assume you have granted permission and everything is ready to move ahead.  If I had been the editor, I would have set up the response in the same way.

I’m delighted to have my writing appear in this new book. It’s a way to give new life to the how-to article which appeared in one magazine. I hope the recounting of this experience shows how surprises happen in the publishing business.  Also I gave you some inside scoop on how to gently (yet proactively) stir the communication with the editor.  My tone was cooperative and understanding.  These steps are important because you never know when one of these relationships will spring back into my primary focus.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Let's Talk About Book Proposals

Institute-of-Children's-LitOn Thursday, October 26th, I will be chatting for two hours at the Institute of Children’s Literature. The topic is book proposals and how as writers submit better proposals, then they will improve the results from their submissions.

If you can, join us for the chat. I recommend you go to the chatroom ahead of time to register (free) then participate. Here’s the times:

9-11 p.m. Atlantic/ Canada 8-10 p.m. Eastern 7-9 Central 6-8 Mountain 5-7 Pacific

Also you can email some questions ahead of time to Jan Fields at WebEditor@institutechildrenslit.com.

If you are reading this entry after October 26th, the transcript for this chat are stored online. These archives are a rich resource of writing information on a variety of topics from many different participants. In the past, I’ve been in this chatroom—in fact three times (one and two and three in two parts) but Thursday will mark the first time talking about Book Proposals That Sell. I hope to see you there.

Note: If you are a Feedblitz subscriber, it’s a “work in progress” and I hope to have everything looking perfect in short order.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Subscribe for Access

In the last few days, I put together another Right Writing News or the newsletter for Right-Writing.com. If you are a subscriber, I’ve not put one out in a while. If you aren’t a subscriber, then you are missing out. The price is right—free. If you subscribe, the welcome email provides a link with access to the back issues of the newsletter. Why is this important? It’s the only way to access this information. Today’s issue was #21 and almost 20 pages (a typical length for one of my newsletters).

For filling out the form and subscribing, you have free access to over 400 pages of how-to write information. I’ve not written all of the articles but like the articles scattered through the various sections of Right-Writing.com, various writers have contributed material. If you missed the issue, then go ahead and subscribe so you can catch up.

Today, I’ll be teaching about Book Proposals That Sell and the craft of interviewing at the American Christian Writers Conference in Phoenix. I’m looking forward to it.


Friday, October 20, 2006

PR Newswire's Free Teleseminar Series

If you want to write for publication, one of the best steps you can take is to listen to the various editors. As you understand the needs of these members of the news media you can pitch better ideas through query letters.

Recently I've discovered the free teleseminars from PR Newswire. For example if you want to write about healthcare (a popular topic), then you need to learn from the healthcare reporters how they cover their area of the market. Or if you are writing about family issues such as marriage or parenting then listening to these family-related editors could provide crucial information. Each of these podcasts are free and easy to download to your computer. They provide a new resource for you to study and learn more about the market.

Use the various tools on this page to subscribe and continue your learning. It's one of the most important steps you can take in your writing life. This type of information could prove invaluable as you make your next pitch.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Different Book Signing

While I haven’t done it recently, I have participated in several book signings at Barnes and Noble.  Few new authors seem to realize it but unless these events are carefully orchestrated and planned, they are about as much fun as going to the dentist to get some teeth pulled. It turns painful being set up with a stack of your newest book and no one interested in buying it. Yes, I do all the tricks—I bring candy to draw people. I stand on the other side of the table so I’m approachable and talk with anyone passing by the table.  Unless you are a bestselling author with a ready-made crowd of eager book buyers, my experience is pretty similar to other authors. If you try one or two of these types of unsuccessful events, then you are reluctant to do another book signing.

Now a book signing at a trade show is a different matter from my perspective. The publisher has brought the books to give away to the retailers.  It’s much easier to scare up a crowd and give away the books. In the case of the trade show, the publisher is hoping to stir interest in the author and the book with these retailers.

In the October 9th issue of Publishers Weekly, Judith Rosen writes about how book signings have been turned into profit centers.  It’s a good article to study for some book marketing ideas.  As an author, I’m eager to participate or even orchestrate events related to the topic of my book. It’s a different forum where the author arrives as an expert, talks about the topic of the book, then hooks people into purchasing the book. It’s a different twist on the book signing event.

Last week at the Glorieta conference, I signed a number of copies of Book Proposals That Sell. It’s always fun to write a few words of encouragement into someone’s book. Each of us have hopes and dreams and aspirations and I’m eager for readers to use my book to awaken those dreams for their own life. I’ve seen writers use the material repeatedly to gain a book contract with a traditional publisher. At the same time, not everyone wanted their book signed—or even thought about asking me to sign their book. I understand and I’m happy to sign them or not sign them. I was glad to simply get the book into the hands of readers.

David Morrell taught several hours about writing fiction at the Glorieta conference.  I have a couple of David’s books that I carried to the conference so he could sign them. As he signed my books, someone else on the faculty introduced me and said I had written Book Proposals That Sell then pointed out the book. The light of recognition passed across David’s eyes and he said, “I have a copy of that book on my desk at home, but I haven’t read it yet.”  I smiled and said I hoped he would read it some day soon. I knew exactly how he received his copy. Last summer I met David Morrell briefly at the First International ThrillerFest in Phoenix. I understand this author meets many people and has sold over 28 million books. Seizing my opportunity at ThrillerFest, I gave David a signed copy of Book Proposals That Sell. He’s the co-president of the International Thriller Writers.  I’m still hopeful he will eventually read my book.  become enthusiastic about the contents—and tell others.  This business of spreading the word about our books takes consistent work. We will not be successful with every single attempt—but you have to keep trying. It’s the same with other aspects of the writing life.  It’s key to continue growing and writing.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Professionalism and Passion

I’ll admit it’s a tricky balance: professionalism and passion.  When you present your book idea to an editor, you want it to come across as professional yet you also want to be passionate about your topic.  It’s the same way as an editor. When I teach at a writer’s conference, I want to fill my brief time with each person with a measure of help and professionalism. Some times you only have a brief time with an individual and other times you have a longer period to teach. In each case, I understand the financial and time investment that each person has made to attend the conference. I want them to feel like just attending my comprehensive class on the nonfiction book contained enough value for the entire conference. I’ve attended many workshops where I’ve not received much value and I don’t want to give that experience to the people listening to my teaching.

While I want to be practical in my teaching about books, also I want to be passionate.  I continue to recall the impact of certain books on my own life and I tell a few of those stories when I teach so the participants can tell that I care about what the printed page does in the life of the reader. Several people at Glorieta kindly wrote notes of appreciation and left them for the instructors.  During my plane ride home, I read these notes. One of the comments struck home to me—individuals thanked me for starting my workshop in prayer. It’s something I do at Christian writers conferences—mostly because I can—and I can’t take this step in many other settings where I teach. I consistently pray that God will use my words and time to inspire and help each listener to fulfill the dreams in their hearts. I believe the listeners could hear my passion for the way the printed page changes people. I know firsthand because it has changed me.

During my time at the conference, a number of people told me how they were using Book Proposals That Sell to improve the responses from editors. It was encouraging to hear the excitement in their voices and the reaction from editors when they used the principles and tools in this book to shape their book proposal. It was a personal encouragement to me because one of my key goals for this book is to improve the overall quality of writer’s pitches to the editor. It seems to be happening in a small way—writer by writer.

In these entries, I mentioned an online workshop that I taught over a week ago about Book Proposals That Sell. More than 60 participants gathered in this chat room for about an hour. I spent the first part of the hour giving some instruction and the remainder of the time answering individual questions. It was a good session but I didn’t think a lot about the possible results.  A week ago, I traveled to the conference and took a few minutes to check some email and online information.  While I don’t fixate on my Amazon sales number, I do look at it. To my surprise, my number was the lowest that I’ve ever seen it. Now these numbers shift throughout the day, so I quickly highlighted it and pasted it into a Microsoft Word file. Here’s what I saw on October 11th at about 6 p.m.:


Book Proposals That Sell

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #7,755 in Books

My encouragement to you today is to find that balance between professionalism where you give the best possible presentation to the editor—and passion about your particular topic. If you choose to show it, the passion will shine through to the editor.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Do You Notice the Publisher

If your work is associated with publishing (book or magazine), then you are probably aware of who published a particular book.   You join a small group of people who recall some of these details. It’s outside of the normal thoughts for a reader. I do not walk into my local bookstore and think, “I wonder what Doubleday has published lately. I’m going to look for their latest title.” Instead consumers buy books related to a particular author or a particular subject or a catchy book title.

I’ve been involved in publishing houses who spend hours in meetings talking about the distinctions of their particular imprints.  Over the last few years, publishers have worked hard to distinguish one imprint from another—particularly in the larger publishing houses.

Thomas-Nelson-logoWhile I was at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference, I heard Thomas Nelson had a company-wide meeting on Friday. A Publisher’s Weekly article showed one of the key contents of that meeting.  Effective April 1, the ninth largest publisher in the United States will be dropping all of their 18 imprints—including the three which were recently acquired from Integrity Publishers. As the Lynn Garrett’s article said from CEO Mike Hyatt, “The old imprint model no longer serves us well. It’s an inside-out way of looking at the market, self-focused rather than customer-focused. The only ones who care about imprints are publishers, and they are expensive to maintain.”

If you scan through the history of Thomas Nelson, you will see some easily recognized names are going to disappear including: WestBow, J. Countryman, Tommy Nelson and others. As the PW article details, books will all bear the Nelson name.  As I pointed out in an earlier entry about the writing life, this change will involve many books (3900 on their backlist and 500 new titles last year plus new ones entering the marketplace every day).

While some people may bemoan the loss of these distinguished imprints, from my view, it’s a healthy shift—and a wise one.  It’s a way to refocus on the basics—such as publishing well-crafted material from great authors.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Teach Out of the Overflow

Late last night I returned from the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. For over six hours, I taught the continuing class on the nonfiction book. I appreciated the opportunity to help others through this conference.  Besides the teaching sessions, I had dozens of one on one interaction with writers in addition to over 20 fifteen-minute editor appointments. It was a busy time.

GWC-LogoThey taped every session and if you’d like to tap into this resource (no matter whether you were at this conference or not), then check out this link. It has past years and soon the 2006 conference will be here. My comprehensive class is #201 and called The Truth Is Stronger than Fiction.  I had a plan of what I would teach and sent handouts ahead of time, etc. At the last minute, I decided to change the entire content of what I taught about nonfiction book proposals for the second day. It had many of the same points but I told them in a fresh way—at least for me. I’ve written a longer article called Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission.  I’m unsure if this title will stick or not but I’ve submitted it to possibly become a part of the Amazon Shorts program. This material is not available yet but I’ll let you know when it is available. In the meantime, I used some of the content of this article for my presentation at Glorieta about book proposals.  I’ve learned that I teach best from my overflow.  I’m not tied to my notes or my outline but I’m comfortable with my material and can simply talk from the heart—yet with many practical applications for the people in my session.  This experience was affirmed again at this conference.

Throughout my time at the conference, numerous people pulled me aside and talked with me about their book proposals. Several times I heard writers say they had used the contents from Book Proposals That Sell to help shape their own book proposals and improve the response from editors.  It’s why I wrote this book in the first place—so as editors we can receive better proposals. As I’ve written in the past, I’m consistently surprised at what writers will try and present to editors—either via email or the mail or at a conference. If you want to get your book published, then your responsibility is to make a good and lasting impression.

While it’s off my theme of teaching out of my overflow, I’m going to tell you one more lesson I learned from this conference. I ignored the advice of the conference organizers and booked my travel fairly late to this event. We were encouraged to book it early because of the Albuquerque Balloon Festival which was happening at the same time.  Last night my flight left Albuquerque about 9:30 p.m.—and changed planes in Las Vegas to arrive in Phoenix about 1 a.m. (2 a.m. on Glorieta time). I arrived at the Albuquerque airport well in advance of my flight and checked my luggage.  Early this morning I was standing in the Sky Harbor Airport waiting for my luggage—and it never came.  The airline located my bags and they arrived a short time ago.  Next time, I will plan differently.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

And the Quill Winners Are...


Several weeks ago, I encouraged you to raise your voice and vote for the Quill Book Awards. Tonight the results of the winners were announced.

I’m still on the road for a few more days—at the beautiful Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. The fall colors on the trees are vibrant. When you count the faculty, there are about 500 in attendance. It makes for a loud buzz in the little appointment room but the enthusiasm and energy which everyone has for writing is invigorating. At this point, I’ve taught the first session of my continuing class on the nonfiction book. I will have a total of four sessions and my first session seemed fairly packed with at least 60 people. It was an encouraging start to this conference.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Off and Running

Yesterday, I spent an hour online with writers about book proposals at an online writer’s conference (which continues this week). I sent ahead a brief handout, then used some of the time for lecture and other time to quickly answer questions. The conference director moderated my panel and also sent a list of all the registered participants. I followed up the session with a news release to each of them which stressed some additional benefits in Book Proposals That Sell. While this effort wasn’t a huge one on my part, I write about it so you can see the on-going necessity to tap into your core audience and tell them about your book or to be speaking on the key subject of your book.

With the number of available books sold (and it grows daily), it takes time and effort to find your audience. Some writers give up too easily. Connecting with your audience doesn’t have to consume your every waking moment—but I believe it is something you should be doing on a consistent basis (particularly if you are looking for a successful book). Over the last few days, I’ve been pulling my teaching notes and my books to head for the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. It begins tomorrow evening in New Mexico. For the first time at this conference, I’m teaching the continuing class on the nonfiction book (or about six hours). Part of that session includes information about book proposals but I will be covering many other topics during this time period. I’ve prepared 16 pages of handouts (my conference limit) which are crammed with additional information and resources for the people in my session. I’m eager to pass on my information and experiences. If you are headed to Glorieta or another conference, make sure you read these articles about the value of a writers conference, networking and the keys to a successful conferencebefore you go. It will help you take full advantage of your time and give you some solid reminders.BPTS-Bookmark

Finally today I want to tell you about a simple, cost-effective way to promote your book—but it takes careful planning and thought to put it together properly. I’m talking about bookmarks. For the Glorieta Conference I’m carrying enough bookmarks for each attendee and each staff member. At a trade show or bookstore, I’m always picking up these bookmarks and looking at them. Some are more effective than others—that’s why you have to plan. This entry includes my current bookmark (but a bit smaller than the actual printed bookmark). Notice I have a short simple headline to draw you into the topic. It says, “Achieve Your Dreams.” Then I include a color miniature of the book cover—but not too small that you can’t read the title.

Next I include an endorsement which stresses the benefits of my book from someone with credibility (an editorial director at a publishing house). While I put together this bookmark, the words on it are from someone else—which increases the effectiveness in my view.

Finally I include the critical information so people can use the bookmark to get the book. I include the retail price (which is also printed on the back of my book), the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). With this number, someone could carry the bookmark into their local brick and mortar bookstore and order Book Proposals That Sell. Then I include the name of my publisher (Write Now Publications) and finally a website address. When I launched the book a couple of years ago, I created this website and maintain it and keep it current. For example, this site includes my speaking schedule.

I see a number of bookmarks which do not include the necessary information. I’ve mentioned it before but one of the most difficult things for anyone to proofread is something which is not there. Before you run out and print several thousand bookmarks, make sure your bookmark includes the essentials which help your reader purchase your book.

For my writing life, I’m interested in effectiveness. It will be something that I will be challenging the individuals and participants in my workshop.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Blogs and Other Resources

I tend to read a number of books and print magazines but it looks like I’ve been a bit slack in some recent online reading. Until the recent comment from Heather Ivester on an entry about the Writing Life, I had never heard of Debbie Weil.  She’s got some great resources if you are blogging. I’d encourage you to follow this link and sign up for her newsletter and also the free downloads.  I’ve been reading and learning from a number of these resources. The strange thing about this material is one place leads to another to another. Just watch out or it could consume your afternoon. I’ve had to monitor my own reading of this material—in moderation like other things.

Also today I updated my Amazon blog. If you have books, I hope you are using Amazon Connect as a way to reach out and touch your readers. It is certainly working for me. If you aren’t using Amazon Connect and you have books, then follow the link and sign up to begin the process. For example, when I updated my Amazon Blog, it instantly updated on over 20 different Amazon pages. It’s a great tool and the price is right—free.

Finally, the November issue of Faithful Reader is online. Normally I’ve been reviewing fiction but this month, I was assigned two nonfiction books: Praying For My Life by Marion Bond West and The Unusual Suspect by Stephen Baldwin with Mark Tabb.

GWC-LogoThis coming Wednesday, October 11th, I travel to the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference. I’m looking forward to teaching the continuing class on the nonfiction book (about six hours) which I’ve called Truth Is Stronger Than Fiction (based on the actual 2005 sales numbers for last year). We’ll see if I get to add some entries on the Writing Life—but if not, you will know what happened to me.

I’m eager to help people improve their book proposals and pitches to editors through this conference. If you are going to be there, let’s make sure we connect. It’s a busy but solid writers conference with lots of opportunity and choices.


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Power of Books

I believe King Solomon had it right when he declared in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “Of the making of books there is no end.” One of my publishing friends said that verse should be carved in stone at the front of their publishing house. I’ll admit, it’s easy to get a bit skeptic and jaded about any new book. Because of the huge volume of material in print—new and backlist—you begin to wonder about the impact. And if you’ve forgotten that volume: 190,000 new books a year is the number that sticks in my mind from the 2005 Bowker press release.

You've-Got-to-Read-This-BooWith this preface,  my skepticism was overt when I saw this new book from Jack Canfield called You’ve Got To Read This Book! I saw it advertised on the Shelf-Awareness newsletter and wondered if it really delivered the promised benefit in the subtitle, “55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life.” During a recent visit to a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I picked up a copy of this book and flipped through it. It includes authors like Christiane Northrup, John Gray, Dave Barry, Debbie Macomber, Larry Jones and Stephen Covey.  I decided to get a copy and begin reading.  For anyone involved in publishing, this book is a solid shot of enthusiasm for our work. With each chapter, you clearly see the power of books to change lives.  Some of the people involved in this book have even created an online community in its infant stages called the Illumination Book Community. It’s something else for you to investigate.

I want to give you a few paragraphs from the introduction as a taste of what’s in this book. Each chapter contains a different voice and a different life-changing experience with a distinct book.  Some of the books are spiritual while others are not. It’s a broad mixture of titles which have changed lives. On page 17, “What is it that gives certain books the awesome power to change lives? Noted author Deepak Chopra once said that reading has a special transformational power because “it gives you the opportunity to pause and reflect.” Opportunity for reflection is a rarity in today’s world, dominated as it is by visual media such as television, which fires a constant stream of images at you point-blank. And even if you are nimble with the mute button, the silenced visual stream still requires continuous mental processing. This is not the case with books: When you hold a book in your hands, you’re in charge of the pace at which you read and the images you choose to form. You can stop and digest concepts and try on different perceptions and feelings.”

“But even that doesn’t guarantee transformation. As our friend Bernie Siegel writes in his story in this book, “To be honest, I really don’t believe any book can change your life—only you can. Look, two people read the same book: One is inspired while the other is bored. It’s the person—not the book—that creates transformation.” When time for reflection is combined with the willingness to be transformed by what you read, the possibility for real growth is created.”

This is why a book can have different effects if read at different points in one person’s life—and why two people can learn different things from reading the same book. In the following pages you will find stories that illustrate situations like these, as well as many other examples of that most powerful combinations of: books plus people open and willing to receive the ideas contained in them.”

I don’t know about you, but I love this type of book—because in each chapter, it affirms the transformational power of the printed page. Yes, that change will be different for each person but the reading experience should renew you to work harder at the craft of writing and book proposal creation.  At least that’s what reading this book has done for me.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Celebrate Innovation

As a writer, I try and celebrate and learn from the innovations of others. I hope you take this type of action in your own writing life. It’s what I’ve written about repeatedly in these entries.

At the moment, I’m facing some deadlines but I wanted to give links to several innovations and resources. First, today marks the final day of the first online book fair. It’s on a site called Love Of Reading so cruise over there, enter the raffles and learn from the author information. I signed up for their newsletter and applaud their creative efforts.

Here’s a second innovation where there is still time to participate. Next week Muse Online is launching an online writers conference. It’s been a huge effort for Lea Schizas. There are many people who for financial reasons or physical limitations, can’t get to a conventional writers conference. The response has been massive—something like over 400 people was the last number that I recall.  Because I’m teaching the continuing class on the nonfiction book next week at the Glorieta Christian Writer’s Conference,  there was only one day (Monday) which I could get involved in this online conference. I’m teaching a single hour about Book Proposals That Sell.  Don’t rush over to sign up because Lea tells me that she has cut off the registration for my class at 60 participants.  While I’ve done some online chats, I’ve never participated in this type of conference so I will learn something from the experience. I look forward to this new experience.

Finally, I want to tell you about Janet Switzer and her book publishing protocol. I downloaded this material about a week ago and have read it once—but need to process it again. Today I noticed she has a couple of MP3 audio files on this page. This morning I’ve downloaded both of them but haven’t had a chance to listen to the full program. It looked like another innovative resource and it might be something to help your writing life

I look at each of these innovations as a way to increase our learning about publishing and some of the things happening in the marketplace. If it works for you, great. If not, then please don’t email me and complain about it.  From my limited investigation, each of these innovations are designed to help you in your journey within the publishing community. I celebrate each innovation. From my experience within publishing, too many people are stumbling around trying to gain insight. If any one of these innovations, help people, then the entire publishing community is better for that experience.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Make Your Own Applications

Marketing-TrendsIf you read these entries very often, you know that I read a number of magazines.  People love to follow various trends. I appreciated this article in the August issue of Entrepreneur Magazine by Gwen Moran called Hot New Marketing Trends.

I found these trends interesting but here’s the real rub when it comes to reading these trends: they are only as good as the person reading them. The key is not just knowing about them and understanding them—the rubber meets the road in the application to your own writing life. For example, it’s all fine that the marketplace advertising is moving toward greater use of text messaging and mult-media where people will make purchases over their cell phones. Great information but how are you going to translate that information into your own marketing plans?

From teaching at writer’s conferences and participating in different online groups, I realize millions of people are eager to get their books published—yet many of them are stumbling around in darkness and unsure how to begin the process. Many of them have checked out publishing a tiny bit—enough to know there are scams and crooks and ways to lose their money. Few people seem to understand the necessity of consistently increasing their visibility in the market—through magazine articles and nurturing their relationships with editors and others in the writing community. Others don’t seem to understand the necessity of crafting an excellent book proposal.

As for me, I’m looking for applications to trends which yield results. I’m more interested in working smarter than working harder. I was fascinated some time ago with Mike Hyatt’s answer to the secret of his success: responsiveness. How can you incorporate this element into your own marketing efforts? Is there something from these hot trends that you can take into your writing?


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Choose Your Targets With Care

Some people would write it off to the impulsive nature of youth. I’m talking about some of the personal experience articles I wrote many years ago. I captured these events with snatches of dialogue or a vivid detail. Later I picked out a magazine for a target and wrote the story, worked with the editor and eventually it was published.

Personal experience stories provide a tremendous opportunity for writers and a wide variety of publications are looking for this type of material. Often it will involve writing a great query letter, then if you get the go-ahead from the editor, delivering a well-crafted article with a solid take-away or point for the reader.

Several weeks ago, I mentioned my colleague on the American Society of Journalists and Authors board of directors, Lisa Collier Cool. The heart-wrenching story about when her 16–year old daughter, Rosalie, appeared in two parts in Ladies Home Journal (circulation over four million).  During my last entry, this story was not online—but now it appears in two parts (part one and part two). When I saw Lisa last April, she and her husband John hadn’t decided whether they would use their real names in the article or not. The Ladies Home Journal editor was working with them to make this decision.  Sometimes these personal experience stories are published anonymously for various reasons. This family talked through the decision and each one of them decided to go ahead and use their real names. The results are a powerful example to help others going through similar situations.

From my personal experience as a writer, I know the difficulty of writing these types of stories. It’s hard and challenging. There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “He who writes, taste life twice.” It’s true that you return to these memories and have to relive them in order to get them on paper in an effective manner. 

Everyone that I know has difficult personal experiences. Some times they come through them in triumph and other times they come through them in utter failure. In each of these experiences, hopefully the person grows and learns from the situation. It does not mean that you have to write about it in a personal experience story or even disguise the experience into a novel. If you do write this material, it’s your personal choice and decision.

From my life experiences, I have written about some of them and I will never write about other personal experiences—and that’s OK. I think some times we get into this “reality” mentality where we think every experience is simply fodder for our own writing and has to play ouBookProposalsThatSell-smallt in the public eye. It doesn’t.

Often at a writer’s conference or another setting, I will see people who have invested a lot of energy into writing their personal story into a book manuscript.  The majority of these people have never heard of a book proposal and the necessity of writing this tool instead of a full-length book. They’ve jumped into the writing experience and produced a full-length work.  Last weekend, I met another would-be author. He and his son had teamed to write a book.  I asked, “How far along are you on the project?”

“Oh, I’m writing the final chapter, then I’m going to begin sending it to publishers,” he said with a smile.  Now I’m certain this individual learned a great deal through the writing process but he is going to struggle to find a publisher interested in his manuscript. Why? As I’ve written repeatedly in these entries, publishers are busy people and look at book proposals for nonfiction instead of manuscripts. The proposal contains information necessary for the publisher to make a decision which will never appear in your manuscript.

As you write, choose the potential targets for your writing with care. And give yourself permission not to write about every one of life’s challenges. Some times not writing about something is the right choice for you.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing

Yesterday I returned from a few days in Orange County, California. I picked up the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times and the front page included an interesting article about book publishing, Booked-Up Publishers Could Be in a Bind by Josh Getlin. (You can gain free access to the article the the Times requires registration).

Apparently this fall publishers will release the largest group of new books from brand-name authors in recent memory. It’s going to cause a frenzy of marketing approaches to gain attention and make them stand out for consumers.  As Getlin writes, “As Michael Cader, founder of Publishers Lunch, a book industry website, put it, “There’s a legitimate question whether this is too much at once, whether the market can handle it. There are just so many of them.” The situation has publishers trying novel marketing and publicity strategies as they struggle to get attention for their authors.”

If you follow the book market, you will recognize some or all of these names: John Grisham, John Le Carr�, Stephen King; Michael Crichton, Robert Ludlum, James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, David Baldacci, Danielle Steel, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Isabel Allende, Richard Ford, Mary Gordon, Charles Frazier, Bob Woodward, Frank Rich, Bill O'Reilly, Andrew Sullivan, John Ashcroft and Sen. Barack Obama.

With all of these authors (plus other markets not mentioned in this article), there will be a lot of media attention on books (which is a good thing). There will also be increased efforts from these different authors to reach their audience and generate book sales. As Getlin writes, “Indeed, publishers are betting that the sheer number of hot titles, many from authors with huge fan bases, will generate heavy bookstore traffic and online buying, which benefits all of them. But there are predictable dips in buying behavior for any book. Readers often rush to buy a title in its first week, but then sales taper off. The heaviest and most sustained buying activity traditionally takes place after Thanksgiving, making this season’s glutted market harder to gauge.”

There are several reasons to call this article to your attention. First, be aware that some publishers will try some different marketing strategies to make their authors stand out from the crowd. Can you learn something from one of these innovations? Will you be able to take the same strategy (provided it works) and incorporate it into your book proposal or your pitch to a publisher? It’s possible provided it’s not too prohibitive in terms of cost or effort. In the long run, I believe it will be a good thing for books because it will put increased focus on the printed page. And if you keep your eyes open, you just might learn a thing or two.