Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great Interview Tips

Through the years, I've interviewed many different people in various situations. Some times I've interviewed in a restaurant or in the corner of a busy room. At other times, I've been in the home of a particular person and interviewed them in this environment. Each interview is unique and calls on a different set of circumstances and skills, which I'm constantly developing and improving.

This week I found a great article loaded with solid tips for anyone who is interviewing someone else. That interview may be background for your fiction novel or the interview might be for a magazine article that you are crafting or numerous other writing projects. Eric Nalder at the San Jose Mercury News has valuable insight into this key area. While you are reading the article, also follow Bill Stoller's various links at Publicity Insider. He's another solid resource to check out.

If you've not subscribed to Right Writing News, click over there and sign up for my FREE Ezine and you will receive three FREE Ebooks valued at over $100 with your confirmed subscription.

My entries about the writing life will be a challenge over the next few days. Tomorrow I head for Los Angeles and Mega Book Marketing University. It looks like a tremendous learning experience.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Controlled Success

Some days as I slug along in the trenches of publishing, I believe I could enjoy a bit more success if it came my direction. I know success is all in how you define it. Through my years in publishing I've been fortunate to work with some great people and have some terrific opportunities. The projects continue to come and I'm grateful for each experience.

In past posts, I've mentioned the final page of Publishers Weekly called Soapbox. They have different industry people give their perspective on some part of book publishing. Often I learn something and find it fascinating. February is African American Month. Several years ago I wrote a book which released in this month called Running On Ice by Vonetta Flowers, the first African American to win a Gold Medal in the Winter Olympics. In the February 19th issue of PW, Curt Matthews, CEO of Chicago Review Press Inc wrote the Soapbox column titled "A Killer Bestseller."

How could a bestseller be a killer? It's one of the rarely explained aspects of publishing--at least to authors. Every author assumes they finally write a great book and it lands on the bestseller list (which is often an orchestrated miracle). Then the author figures their book sells and sells. As Matthews explains in this short article, the publisher has to control their enthusiasm and success. I'm talking about the print runs for your book. If the publisher grows heady and unwise about how many books are moving out of their warehouse into the bookstores, they print too many copies. What happens when these books don't sell after a certain period and are returned? The returns can be a killer to a publisher--even from a bestseller. While it’s not reported in the press, it happens. The supply chain is a delicate dance. You want it to be full so no one runs out of books yet you don't want to print too many and get stuck with the returns.

These types of book controls are happening throughout the publishing industry and someone in each publishing house is monitoring these numbers--at least if they want to have a killer bestseller on their hands. Most authors are oblivious to this important part of the process.

In April, the American Society of Journalists and Authors will have our annual conference. Jeanette Walls, author of the bestselling memoir called The Glass Castle, is our keynote speaker for the large Saturday gathering at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. As usual, I've ordered Walls' book and plan to read it before the event. Checking different sources on Bookfinder4u.com, I bought my book from Wal-Mart (a first time experience for me with books through their online site). This morning I received an email informing me The Glass Castle is backordered and they are trying to get this situation resolved as soon as possible. I admire that Wal-Mart had a system in place to tell me this information but as a first-time customer, my experience isn't going too well for future orders. It depends on how quickly they are able to resolve it. I suspect this backorder has something to do with the exact subject discussed in A Killer Bestseller.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Cliff Hanger

I love a good pageturner. Years ago when I lived overseas I appreciated listening to Radio Personality Paul Harvey. For part of his broadcast, he called The Rest of the Story. At least one book was created from these stories. He began telling some details about a particular person and the hook drew you into it. Except you didn't know the name of the main subject wasn't revealed until the next to last sentence. After speaking the name of the subject, Harvey ended with the trademark phrase, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Last week I was reading The New Yorker magazine and noticed a special advertising section from Lunesta called The Art of The Story. The title alone caught my attention. The ad includes a story from former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart. His story was interesting on the topic about some of the first days in his new job when he traveled with President Clinton to Moscow. Visiting an old friend, he stayed up all night and returned to his hotel at 5 a.m. Here's how the printed story in the magazine ended:

"So I got back to my hotel and made one mistake, which was to sit down on the bed. And, obviously, I fell asleep. I'm telling you, you don't know anxiety until you've woken up as the White House press secretary on your first foreign trip at 6:15 a.m., in Moscow, without a passport, knowing you've missed Air Force One. Now, the only good thing that I could think of was, the day couldn't get worse. I was wrong …" "Then it says read the story in entirety at www.themoth.org/artofthestory"

You can see why I had to read the rest of it. Thankfully the full story was online. It was an effective cliff hanger technique.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Drinking the Koolaid

I've been challenged to get another entry written this week. It's been wild with activity—good activity.

Yesterday I traveled to a lunch meeting but it consumed the entire work day. I had more than a little concern about how this commitment was going to throw off some of my writing production. I've signed up for some steep deadlines recently and need to be producing each day to meet those deadlines. It's one of those necessities in the writing life.

While my non-technical wife thinks I have a bunch of gadgets, I'm a relatively gadget-free person. I don't have a blackberry or an ipod or some the other more common gadgets. Several years ago, other writers were telling me about their great accomplishments on their AlphaSmart. I went to ebay and purchased one. I tried it a few times but never invested enough energy to learn how to transfer the material to my computer or any of the simple features in it. That barrier changed this week.

For my day trip, I pulled down my AlphaSmart and tucked it into my travel bag. During each flight when they sounded that bell to allow electronic gadgets, I reached under my seat and pulled out my AlphaSmart and began to pound the keyboard. The keyboard feels better than my laptop and it's a funky-looking thing with only four lines of type--but oh, can you crank on it!

This morning, I transferred the material to my desktop computer in a matter of seconds. It's a matter of taking off my printer cable and plugging it into the hole on the AlphaSmart. Then I open a document in Microsoft Word and hit the send button. Each file pulls right into my desktop. I created several different ones and combined them into a single double-spaced document which was nine pages. My initial draft isn't perfect yet this entire project is much further along than if I had not written anything--which is normally the case for me.

It looks like something out of the stone ages but who cares? I went over to ebay and typed in a search for "AlphaSmart" and you can purchase these machines for very little money. My AlphaSmart has done little for me tucked on a shelf in my closet. It's like many other things that only pay if you use them. I'm a convert and have drunk the koolaid on this one.

In less than a week, I head to Los Angeles for Mega Book Marketing University. Instead of a bunch of books, I'm going to slip my AlphaSmart into my laptop bag and use it on the flights. I'll have my laptop along on the LA trip. Now I can see why my writer friends have been raving about this gadget.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Agents and Charges

I've been reading the Street-Smart Writer, Self-Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World by Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven. This book is loaded with wise advice. Glatzer is the creator of Absolutewrite.com and has been around the writing world for many years.

Unfortunately a number of people have figured out how to scam and profit tapping into the intense desire that writers have to get published. Because of the numerous rejections along the journey to get published, writers tend to gravitate toward anyone who gives them hope. Yet some of these people are only dispensing this hope to get into their pocketbook.

The first chapter is called Agents and Managers: Hone Your Shark-Spotting Skills. It tackles questions like Do You Need an Agent?, What a Good Agent Can Do for You, How a Bad Agent Can Hurt You, Deadbeat Agent Warning Signs and How to Research an Agent.

One of those telling signs to sound off internal warning signals relates to agent charges. When an agent charges a reading fee, this expense should make the writer turn and run. The Association of Author's Representatives has strong statements about these fees in their ethical guidelines and membership rules. Also understand not every good agent is a member of the AAR.

It's not a black and white rule like, "No agent should charge anything." That's not true because depending on your agency/ author agreement, the agent can invoice and recover standard business expenses--provided you’ve agreed to this process in the beginning of your relationship.

I loved the simple chart Glatzer and Stevens have included in their book because it helps writers sort through the hard-working legitimate literary agents from the scam artists. I've scanned this chart from page 12 and included it here.

The agent's relationship with their authors is based on trust and good business practices. While the writers can be fooled with these scam artists, the publishers and editors are not. Glatzer and Stevens include discussions about screenwriting as well as books in this chapter and write, "The thing is, publishers and producers aren't fooled by bad agents. They know which ones send them garbage or, at best, completely inappropriate submissions. And having that bad agent attached to your name can only hurt you, because it looks like that's the best you could do." Ouch.

It should give you something to think about in this area of the marketplace.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Someone To Believe

My wife and I love to go to movies. It's one of our fun weekend recreations. This weekend, we caught the new Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore romantic comedy called Music and Lyrics. Grant plays a washed up 80s pop music star named Alex Fletcher who is looking for his next hit. His life has spiraled downward until about his only course of action is to play small events for his group of aging fans. Then a new pop sensation Cora gives Alex the chance to write a new song for her next mega-hit album. Yet Cora does not make an exclusive offer. Alex is one of seven different songwriters competing for this single opportunity. Barrymore's character, Sophie Fisher enters into his home helping out her friend who waters plants. Alex sees something in Sophie that makes him believe she could be the lyricist that he needs to write the hit song. Through Alex's encouragement and persistence, the pair work together on a song. (Yes, Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore really do sing during the movie.) I loved how Sophie clicked her ballpoint pen while she was trying to create her lyrics.

The longer I'm involved in publishing, the more I've found that every writer or a creative artist of any type needs someone to believe in them--and to spur them to greatness in their craft and work. In this movie, Alex Fletcher could see something in Sophie Fisher that she couldn’t see or even if she did see it, she discounted her talent. It's more than having a person who cheers you onward, it's a matter of the other person believing that you can do it--even if at first you don't believe it yourself. Some times it's a spouse and other times it's another writer or an editor or a literary agent who will perform this function. As an editor, I've often drawn these qualities out of others. In my life, my wife, Christine, provides me with the lion's share of this function. At times, some of my writer friends provide this belief for my life. I've seen it called different things but it's a talent to spot valuable skills in others then draw these skills into action. You want to have someone who believes you can get it done and provides verbal encouragement.

If you don't have this type of person in your life, can you take some steps today to begin looking for this person? I liked what Mike Hyatt said in his post about how to boost your energy--particularly his final point. If you have energy depleting people in your life, then you need to be aware of it and take steps not to let them drain your energy. And if you are looking for a great way to spend a few hours in the movie, I recommend Music and Lyrics.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

A Dose of Reality

Writers are creative people who are dreamers. Now there is nothing wrong with dreams and I've got them as well as the next person--and I'm working toward achieving these dreams every day.

In the midst of your dreaming, every now and then it's good to get a dose of reality to spur you in the right direction.

I actively participate in a large online group of writers. This morning one of the writers in Florida put out some figures of a presentation from a small publisher (who was not identified and that's OK because the information is widely applicable). Here's a bit of what was written:

"They get an average of 35 book submissions every week. Agented and otherwise. That's at least 1500 per year and they publish only 5-7 every year. That's about 99.5% rejection rate. We asked about criteria for rejection. They take first 30 pages of your manuscript and give it to at least 5 independent "readers" who then suggest to the publishers which manuscripts to read in full. They also give advances, which means you sell them your book. When they decide to publish they go with traditional printers and print 5000 copies or so to have a very low cost and leave as much margin as possible for promotion and marketing costs. They announce a new title at least 6 months before it is scheduled and then send up to 100 copies of book to reviewers."

In today's post, I'm going to include most of what I responded to this post and maybe it will give you a healthy dose of reality and encouragement toward excellence:

As someone who has read these over the transom, unsolicited submissions sent to a publisher, I can agree with these percentages. It can be pretty discouraging--yet you need to understand that most of these proposals are untargeted, unfocused and incomplete. As an acquisitions editor, I can only help you if your proposal is about 70 to 80% perfect. Most of them are about 20% and a few are in the 50% category. They are missing some critical element like the word count or the vision for the book or the competition or the author's marketing plan (yes every proposal whether fiction or nonfiction needs a marketing plan from the author--and don't tell me you will appear on Oprah and are willing to do interviews--people actually write that into their proposals and it's their marketing plan). As a result, these proposals are sent back with a form rejection letter. It is not the editor's responsibility to fix your incomplete proposal--that' s your responsibility as the author. Book proposals are hard work--plain and simple--and most people aren't willing to do that hard work. They'd rather dream about their fiction getting published yet they've not done the hard work of learning their craft and practicing their craft in the PRINT magazine world (and building publishing credits). Why print? It's a much more demanding form than online--anyone can put stuff online.

I guess the question is whether you will be one of those people who write a riveting proposal that gets publishers climbing over each other to get your project. Yes, it's possible. I've had those proposals in my hand--and I've even written a couple of them. I'm eager for writers to be successful and that's why I put the energy into Book Proposals That Sell. Now if only more people applied the information to their own work... And if you need any more reality about this business, then check out this publishing quiz from a great book called Putting Your Passion Into Print--and in particular notice the answer to question #9--which is another truth you should recognize. Sorry to be a bit cynical, folks. Maybe it's the material that has crossed my desk recently. It IS possible--if you put it together in the right way and pitch it in the right manner at the right time. As I've said before--and it's worth repeating here--every agent and every editor is actively looking for these top proposals.

Here's a little challenge which was not included in my post to the other writers. It's terrific to read these how-to-write books or attend a writer's conference yet will you be in the small percentage of people who will actually take the information and apply it to their own project. Many people at the conference will be inspired and encouraged. Yet this encouragement is temporary until they receive the next rejection or get home to face their own challenges. The key is to practice the craft and do the hard work of writing with such excellence that your work is irresistible.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Don't Be Caught Cardless

It happens often. I'll be attending a convention or a conference and ask the person for their business card at the same time I offer them my card. The other person will rummage in their briefcase or bag and not be able to produce the card. Sometimes they will take an extra business card from me then scratch out their name, email and phone number on the back of my card then hand it back. Other times they will make a note and promise to send me their information--which sometimes happens and sometimes never happens.

Why should I care? I have a broad network of friends, acquaintances and people who have crossed my path over the last 20 years in the publishing community. After I've been in one of these settings, I return to my office and add their information into my database. If I've known them for a while, I check that business card to see if any of their information has changed--and often it has changed so I fix my records. Our society is incredibly mobile. I don't use the information often yet these business cards provide a means of access. You don't want to be caught without a business card.

Another frequent situation is where I meet an editor toward the end of a conference and we talk for a few minutes. I ask for their card and they say, "Oh, I didn't bring enough and what few cards I brought were gone in the first day." When this happens, I have to do something proactive to write down their information or some other means to get it. A number of times, I've been one of the few people in the room to receive this contact information from a speaker.

Several of my long-time friends have told me they collect my various business cards. I'm sure they have quite an array of different companies and locations. You want to make sure your card gives a physical mailing address, a phone number and an email address. You can be selective which address or phone number or email address that you include but it should have all of these elements. Also I have different business cards for different purposes. One card touts my writing credentials while another card promotes a particular book or another aspect of my work.

In preparation for my forthcoming conference season (check this link for my various speaking opportunities), I've made a business card for Whalin Literary Agency. For the first time, I used Overnight Prints and was impressed with the quality (and low cost) of their work.

With a bit of preparation, you will be able to make sure you aren't caught cardless.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Role Reversal

Usually when it comes to interviews, I'm the person interviewing someone else. Usually at writers conferences, I meet people who have never done a single interview. They are petrified to ask those first questions and complete their first interview. I've been conducting interviews related to my own writing since I was a sophomore in high school--more than a few years back. After high school, throughout the first couple of years of college, I worked on the campus daily newspaper. As a part of writing my stories, I conducted many more interviews. Throughout my magazine and book work, it's been a constant skill which I use in my work. In fact, if you use the search tool in the right-hand column of The Writing Life, type the word "interview" then search my blog (not the web), you will find many pages with different articles.

It's rare for me when the roles are reversed and I'm the person interviewed. Recently MaryAnn Diorio interviewed me for her blog, Musings That Matter. She has just posted our interview. Long-term readers of these entries, will probably see a few of my stories they've heard in the past. Others will learn some new things about my life through this interview. To my surprise it ended up over nine pages. I hope you will check it out and find some encouragement for your own writing.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Resource for Book Marketing

Early next month I’ve been invited to participate in Mega Book Marketing University in Los Angeles on March 2, 3 and 4. I’ll be meeting with participants and listening to their pitches and reading some of their book proposals as a literary agent. I’m looking forward to this opportunity and what I can learn from the experience. Also I’m eager to help the participants with their various book ideas.

If you look at the various speakers and read their backgrounds, you will see each of these people are heavily involved in selling millions of books.

Whether you attend Mega Book Marketing University or not, you can take advantage of their Free Preview Teleseminar Series. After you register for the calls, you can listen to these calls either live (the next one is Thursday, February 15th or you can listen after the call. The various calls are stored on this page and include the notes. Each one can be a valuable part of your personal education about book marketing.

As you listen to these calls, look for the transferable concepts. The speaker may be talking about a business book or something else which is completely outside of the type of book which you want to write. How can you take the principles and methods then apply these aspects to your own situation? If you approach these calls with the right mind set, then you can gain more than the normal listener.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Build New Business

The article addressed booksellers but I was instantly interested in the topic: Booksellers: Tips for Building New Business by Janet Switzer in the February 5th issue of Publishers Weekly. I knew Switzer's name associated with marketing Chicken Soup for the Soul.

While this article is addresses to booksellers, much of the information can easily be applied to writers--at least writers who are working at their craft more like a business than a hobby. Switzer is a skilled marketer who has sold millions of books. Next month she has a new McGraw-Hill book, Instant Income. Notice the planning that went into this article. It's targeted to a niche audience for Publishers Weekly and it appears immediately following one of the most read sections of the magazine (the various bestseller lists).

The online version of the article includes an active link at the end of the first paragraph along with this sentence: Switzer also has developed an entire book signing promotion kit for bookstores, at http://www.instantincomebooksigning.com/. I clicked the link and when I reached this landing page, I signed up for her Instant Income Book Promotion Kit. It is a fascinating study in a smart campaign with great tools for any retailer to use and promote her book which releases next month. Notice how each item in the package considers her audience (retailers) and is targeted to them with useful tools.

I've seen too many book authors not enter the process until too late or with too little energy. Then they are surprised with the lack luster sales results. It will take consistent work on your part--just like you've had to work at learning to write a book proposal or other parts of the writing business. I appreciated this post from John Jantsch, the author of Duct Tape Marketing who asks, "How Long Should It Take For My Marketing To Work?" It's not a one time event but something you work at for the long haul.

Let's return to Janet Switzer's article for the writer and I’m going to ask a few probing questions for you. Are you targeting your book proposal to a specific category and niche of buyer? Are you working to create media events around the launch of your books or your travel plans to other places? In Switzer's materials, she's open to scheduling a teleseminar for a "informative virtual booksigning." I'm sure she qualifies these teleseminars to make sure the audience is going to be substantial.

The other key points of her article can also be developed for writers with a little creative spin. Are you working to open new doors and build new business for your writing? It's more of a lifestyle mentality than a one time event.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

A Matter of Focus

Are you stuck some place with your writing life? Maybe you've started several novels but not managed to finish them. Or maybe you have a half-baked query letter and haven't completed it and sent it out to various magazine editors. Possibly you've started a book proposal yet not submitted it. Years ago, one of the people in my writing critique groups had a whole desk drawer full of manuscripts. He had not submitted any of them. Or maybe the array of writing choices overwhelm you and you wonder which thing to tackle first.

In some ways it's a matter of focus and getting out of stall then forming a plan to move ahead. This past week, John Kremer included a short article about Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone. [If you don't subscribe to John's free newsletter, take a second to do so because it's packed with great information]. The current issue of Reader's Digest includes an article from Ferrazzi about how to achieve your dreams.

Then Ferrazzi created a simple online quiz so readers could follow through. Check out this tool and it may help you get out of stall and on to the next level in your writing life.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Publishing Switch and Bait

Over the last fifteen years Greg Stielstra, author of Pyromarketing, marketed hundreds of Christian books including The Purpose Driven Life. During that time he noticed a disturbing trend. Some Christian authors sought fame because they believed only celebrities could influence culture. What's more, they thought selling lots of book required hiding their Christian content. In a sort of publishing bait and switch, some authors thought that if they must achieve a platform with secular books--or at least books that minimized faith content before they could use their new platform for good. The formula was, "First become famous and then make a difference."

Greg saw things differently. He saw authors like Lee Strobel achieve tremendous success by writing books that helped people with clear biblical content. The formula was reversed; first make a difference and then the platform will follow. "Aim at Heaven," C.S. Lewis correctly noted, "and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you'll get neither."

Greg wondered how to alert authors to this insidious deception and decided to copy a tactic first used by C. S. Lewis in a book called The Screwtape Letters. The book was a collection of fictitious letters from a retired demon named Screwtape to his young nephew Wormwood on how best to manipulate the human he was assigned to tempt. The book provides a look at temptation from the devil's perspective and can help us see the battle with new and often clearer eyes. As you read Greg's modern-day warning to Christian authors remember that because it is written from the demon's perspective, phrases like "the enemy" actually refer to God.

I wanted you to see Greg's letter with you in case you have ever struggled to overcome a similar temptation:

My Dear Bookwormwood,

I note with great excitement that your patient has become a Christian author. This is splendid news. Your last letter was a disappointment as you indicated your patient had shown great devotion to the Enemy and a sincere desire to meet other people's needs. I feared you might fail at your assignment and be subject to the punishments such failures require. But this new development presents an unequaled opportunity for you to change his course. In fact, the temptations now at your disposal are so numerous I feel compelled to apologize, in advance, for the length of this letter.

It is with trepidation that I suggest what you must do first, for it requires a subtlety you may not possess. You must slowly and deliberately turn your patients mind from one kind of thinking to another. Each step along this process is itself a small victory and brings us closer to accomplishing the whole thing. As I mentioned at the start, it appears your patient desires to meet other people's needs, and in so doing to bring glory to the Enemy. This is where we must begin, but perhaps not in the way that you might think, for we do not aim to change his desire to help, but rather to alter his view of people. Our record of success with this method is impressive. It has been the undoing of many whose names you might recognize. That is why I am confident that you can make it work with your patient as well.

Plant in his mind the idea that thinking of people as individuals is limiting. Better to think of those who may buy and benefit from their book as groups of people instead. From groups you must expand his thoughts to large groups and from large groups to masses, and so on. Each successive step increases people's anonymity and further insulates your patient from the reality of the reader's situation. If your patient is allowed to think of them as individuals, then he may accurately imagine the reality of their need, or of their family's concern, or, worst-of-all, the Enemy's love for them, and determine to help at any cost.

So long as your patient is thinking of masses he cannot consider individual needs and will search instead for a characteristic common to the group. At this moment you must suggest the idea of money so that your patient thinks of the masses as a source of revenue. Then, before he has the chance to question this thought or consider it further, lead him on to the idea he should divide the masses into groups called Christians and Non-Christians. Done properly, this will all seem quite natural and your patient may even congratulate himself on a brilliant market analysis, or something of the sort.

Now, once your patient has divided the masses into Christians and non-Christians, he may begin to wonder about the relative size of the groups. At this moment you must be ready with a lie your patient is eager to believe. Persuade him that Christians are few and non-Christians are many. "Since non-Christians are the larger group", he will reason, "I must concentrate my efforts there."

It is best if you can shelter him from research studies that show how 142 million Americans attend church weekly, or that 187 million Americans attend church with some regularity, or that 252 million Americans consider themselves Christians. However, it may not matter if he discovers these truths, since, thanks to the work our brother Mediawart has done with the national press, he is not likely to believe them. He is more apt to think that, since stores like Barnes and Noble or Wal-Mart are not overtly Christian, that the millions of people wandering their isles cannot be Christian either. This error of logic is precisely what you must reinforce. Don't let him ponder the idea that the customers in those stores are a cross-section of America and must, therefore, reflect the nation's religious affiliations and practices to the same degree.

Once your patient believes his book must appeal to "non-Christians," then you must move him quickly to a second conviction--that it is necessary to dilute, or disguise, or otherwise hide the biblical underpinnings of their message in order to appeal to this audience. Encourage him to imagine this is somehow evangelistic by using terms like "crossing over." Crossing over feels like progress, since, he will reason, taking even a diluted version of the gospel message to those who haven't heard is better than nothing. Once he has "crossed-over," he is ready for you to suggest the idea of "pre-evangelism" which goes beyond crossing over to crossing out. The fools are ready to believe the ridiculous notion that the most effective way to recruit for the Enemy is to avoid talking about Him whatsoever.

Diluted Christian content leads readers to believe there is no real difference between the Enemy's approach to finances, or sex, or marriage, or parenting, or business, and anything else in life, than the approach favored by our master. With no apparent difference, readers are free to imagine Christianity irrelevant and to happily ignore it.

When the difference is startling and clear, however, so are its benefits. What's worse, the reader may conclude that because the Enemy's perspective helped them with one life problem, the Bible's advice may apply to other areas too. Before you know it they are living successfully by its principles and recommending it to others. Need I say that it would not go well at your performance review were this to eventuate?

To solidify the separation between Christian and non-Christian, you must cause your patient to discount the affirmation they receive from other believers and especially "average people" who have found help and comfort in their book, and to covet instead, the approval of those least likely to give it. Our most proficient tempters have used this strategy with great success in high schools for years. It goes like this: A young girl has a group of good friends and the love of her family. They tell her she is beautiful and adore and respect her just as she is. We, however, convince her that this is not enough--that her friend's familiarity somehow invalidates their love and praise--that to be truly significant, she must win the admiration of "the popular boys." And so she abandons her friends, compromises her convictions and sacrifices her virginity in the vain pursuit of their acceptance. They, in turn, take her purity, and then toss her aside when she no longer suits them, and all without granting the acceptance she sought in the first place. It's really quite brilliant.

Be especially careful not to let your patient realize that the "average people" are loved by the Enemy and that when his book helps one of them, it is as though he is helping the Enemy himself. Such a realization could cause him to concentrate on eternal rewards and lose sight of the temporal acclaim which we want as his focus.

In the same way, it must not be known that the "popular boys" work for us. For with this realization, our strategy may become apparent. Distract him instead with the pursuit of popularity. Popularity is un-tethered to eternal truth and thus we are free to change its qualifications just as your patient seems about to achieve it. In this way we can lead him about, willy nilly, wasting his whole life, while averting the serious threat he might otherwise have presented. Not only is this strategy effective, it can be quite fun.

Popularity makes an excellent goal for the additional reason that no one is ever quite sure when they have achieved it. Its pursuit, therefore, can occupy their every waking hour and persist without end. Use this to your advantage.

Return again to your patient's mind the desire to help and make it stronger than ever, but with the additional conviction that he cannot make a difference until he has achieved a great degree of popularity--especially among non-Christians. This has the effect of making his pursuit of popularity seem noble, further bolstering him against advice to the contrary.

At this point his conversion is nearly complete for you will have turned his focus from individual people's needs, to the masses, and then to non-Christian masses, and finally to himself. Your last task is to make your patient forget that his worth is secure in Christ, and to think instead that it is determined by his performance which, in turn, is measured by bestsellers lists, or appearances on Oprah, or book sales, or the size of his book's marketing budget, or best-of-all, depends entirely on the affirmation of the masses whose individual needs we have convinced him to ignore. Do you see the brilliance of this plan? It is a trap from which few escape, especially if you can arrange for him to be surrounded by, and receive counsel from, others whom we have already tricked in this way.

Oh, Bookwormwood, I have painted the picture of an entire campaign, though I realize you are still at its beginning. But, let me encourage you that it is possible. If you are successful then your accomplishment will be double, for you will have prevented your patient and his book from doing any real damage, while giving him every opportunity to unwittingly exhibit the kind of hypocrisy which has caused so many to turn from the Enemy and join our ranks. Such an achievement would not only remove the stains from your past record, but may even warrant a promotion. How does, "Director of Televangelists" sound?

Your affectionate uncle


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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Start at the Beginning

It's not very profound to tell people to start at the beginning--yet you'd be surprised how often people want to jump over several parts of the writing world process and start some place in the middle.

I thought about this simple fact when I received another phone call from a writer with a 65–page manuscript on the Lord's Prayer.  I have not seen this manuscript. From an inspired feeling, this writer sat down and created a manuscript focused on a particular topic. Now she was trying to figure out how to get it published.  You have to admire her diligence and discipline to have completed something--and I did--yet I also tried to gently point out her need to understand the publishing world and the intense competition (and expense) to get the book properly launched and into the marketplace.

First I explained the majority of these types of books are produced as gift books.  The majority of these gift books originate from packagers. [I've written about packagers before and if you don't understand this term--use the search tool in the right-hand column of these entries.]  It's less likely an editor will seriously consider a single gift book than a series of gift books from a packager. The writer needs to get publishing experience writing for the packager. Many writers don't understand the need to show the editor publishing credentials--magazine and newspaper credits are a great place to start. Yet even to write for the magazines, you have to learn to write a query letter and pitch ideas that interest the editor. There is a learning curve for everyone who enters the realm of publishing.

Where are you on this curve and are you willing to learn the ropes? Some people are and some people aren't. For this writer with the Lord's Prayer manuscript, I recommended that she get Christian Writer's Market Guide by Sally E. Stuart.  Now she may rush out and order this book. Will she read and study this book and follow the seasoned advice about learning the market which is woven in-between pages and pages of names and addresses for various markets? Some people will and some people will not.

One of the best ways to short-circuit the learning curve in publishing is to attend a large writer's conference. There are some terrific conferences around the country, I list several of them and will be speaking at a several of them over the next few months. Notice I said "large" conference and there was a reason.  As a first-timer, it's easy to be overwhelmed, yet you also have the possibility to increase your learning from the experience.

My own journey in the publishing world has been years in the making. I've made my fair share of mistakes along  the way (and still make them). I wrote for the newspaper in high school then majored in journalism while in college. I wrote in college yet little of my material was published beyond the college newspaper (one of the top ten daily college newspapers in the country). Then for ten years, I left the commercial writing world and spent time in academic writing and linguistics. Those years provided some valuable lessons when I returned to the writing community and started at the beginning--writing for magazines not even attempting to write a book. Your journey will be different from mine. 

Whatever you are trying to write today, take a moment and see if you are starting in the right place. It may save you a lot of rejection and get you moving in the right direction.


Monday, February 05, 2007

A Universal Online Library

Name the visionary or person with the dream to be realized--and you will find detractors. Some way or another the people who accomplish their goals and dreams put aside these naysayers and push ahead to achieve their dreams. It comes with the territory and we need to be prepared for it.

Make sure you read Jeffrey Toobin's article in the February 5th issue of The New Yorker magazine about Google and their quest to create a universal library of books titled “Google's Moon Shot.” Toobin provides fascinating background and the issues related to Google's goal of scanning all of the books in the world. Here's some of the details which caught my attention:

*"No one really knows how many books there are. The most volumes listed in any catalogue is thirty-two million, the number in WorldCat, a database of titles from more than twenty-five thousand libraries around the world. Google aims to scan at least that many."

*"As Laurence Kirschbaum, a longtime publishing executive who recently became a literary agent, told me at the conference, 'Google is now the gatekeeper. They are reaching an audience that we as publishers and authors are not reaching. It makes perfect sense to use the specificity of a search engine as a tool for selling books.'"

*"'What they are doing, of course, is scanning literally millions of copyrighted books without permission,' Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Authors Guild, said. 'Google is doing something that is likely to be very profitable for them, and they should pay for it. It's not enough to say that it will help the sales of some books. If you make a movie of a book, that may spur sales, but that doesn't mean you don't license the books. Google should pay. We should be finding ways to increase the value of the stuff on the Internet, but Google is saying the value of the right to put books up there is zero.'"

It's a lofty goal to scan the world's books and put them online. The copyright and legal issues are also explored in this article--and how the program is pushing the previous ideas of what constituted fair use of books. When the current laws were created, no one imagined a scanner to digitize the content of a book.

In this realm of exposure for books, John Kremer has launched All Books Free, a site dedicated to giving away novels, children's books, short story collections and poetry. As Kremer says, "The toughest challenge for a newbie or an unknown author is to get readers to sample your book. The best way to get people to sample your book is by giving it away as a free PDF download. This website is designed to make that easy for you to do. Most people won't read an entire novel on their computer, but they will sample it. And, if they like it, they will go to Amazon.com or their favorite local bookseller and buy it. Then they will read your book. And, if your book is any good, they'll begin to tell other people about your book. That's how word-of-mouth begins. And, please note, 80% of all books are sold by word-of-mouth." Part of what I'm doing through my affiliate program for Book Proposals That Sell is to open the opportunity for more people to know about and use this book.

There are many different ways to get out the word about your books. In the 6th edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, Kremer has over 700 pages of ideas with specific contact information to spur you in the right direction.

What dream is in your heart? What plans are you making today to move in the direction of fulfilling it?


Friday, February 02, 2007

Open Every Door of Opportunity

As an author, I want to knock on lots of different doors of opportunity, then be prepared to march through any of them when they open. It takes courage to often knock in the face of rejection but the opportunities will never come if you don't continue trying. I know those last statements are not real profound. You would be surprised how many would-be authors give up during the journey. They should continue growing in their craft and ability to write. Plus they need to continue knocking on the doors of opportunity.

As an illustration, I'm going to use my Book Proposals That Sell. This proven book continues to help various writers with their dreams of getting a traditional publisher for their book. Last week I heard from another author who had used the information in this book and received a book contract. I'd much rather have someone pay me to write a book through writing a book proposal than self-publish (or pay someone else) to get the book into print. There are many reasons to take this route yet many have not found the right keys to open that door.

If you read these entries, you know I've worked hard (and continue to work hard) to get the word out about the results from Book Proposals That Sell. I continue to sell and promote the trade paperback through different channels. This promotion will continue as I speak at different conferences in the months ahead and other means. Many of you who read these entries have encouraged your friends to purchase the book, held it up at other conferences and used other means to spread the word about this product.

This week I've opened another door of opportunity for this book. Now anyone reading these words can promote Book Proposals That Sell to your own Ezine or your own audience--and profit from it financially. I hold the exclusive electronic rights for this book. I've created a new electronic version of the book and created an affiliate program. You can see my new promotional page for this book at this link. You can join my affiliate program here. The affiliate program is a simple registration form (three minutes or less to complete). You will have access to various promotional tools such as advertising you can slip into an email or your Ezine or banner ads you can use in HTML newsletters or on your personal website. Why would you do it? I'm going to send you 50% of the profits for any sales from it (much higher than Amazon.com's Associate program or almost any other means).

In the past, I've attempted to get publishers and literary agents to include the book as a recommended resource. A few people (not many) have taken this step and included the book on their websites. Now I've increased their motivation because they can actually earn money from the recommendation. I was trying to appeal to their noble nature and get better book proposals--which I know firsthand comes from someone reading and applying this information. If you have an Ezine or a website or an email list of people who dream of getting a book published, go over to this link and sign up for the Affiliate program, then apply the information wherever you can do it.

I want to knock on every door of opportunity and help as many people as possible. The results can be better book proposals and increased success for everyone.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Grounded in Substance

When I first heard about this program, it sounded like hyperbole to me.  Over the years, I've heard a number of these get-rich-quick schemes. Maybe its my years as an editor and writer that cause me to be a bit skeptical.

My friend, Bob Bly, one of the top copywriters in America, told me about earning $4,000 a week with a simple strategy which takes him twenty minutes a week. From almost anyone else, I would have immediately dismissed it. Instead I wanted to tell you a bit about it and encourage you to try his risk-free guarantee. Bob and Fred Gleeck have produced an excellent audio CD program called The Internet Retirement Marketing Plan.  I've listened to almost this entire presentation. It is grounded in substance and perfect for anyone who writes or anyone involved in the publishing community.  It takes work but focused work in a limited amount of time which yield results.

One of the key elements of the program is producing content. If you write or are learning to write, then you have the ability to produce information products.  The entire plan is simplified for anyone. It's worthy of your attention and exploration.

A second key to achieving the results in this program are actually doing it. It's unfortunate and I've seen it often. People have great dreams and goals--yet they are unwilling to do the work to achieve them. In this case, it will mean getting the program, listening to the CDs, taking notes, then applying it to your own writing life.