Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A New Resource for Writers

For the last several years, I've been on the road about once a month teaching at various writers conferences. If you look at my schedule for this year, I'll be at a number of forthcoming events including three conferences next month.

I know it takes time and financial resources to attend a writer's conference and isn't available for everyone. I've collected several of my resources and bundled them into a three-CD audio set called Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets. This product is available and you can learn about it on the website but I wanted to do something more to launch it into the marketplace.

Whether you've heard me teach at a writer's conference or not, do you have a question about the creation of book proposals or the publishing process? I'd love for you to ask that question and have created a place for you to do it. Go to http://www.askterrywhalin.com/ and register for my free live teleseminar next Tuesday, June 5th. If you are away from your computer, you can call into the teleseminar on your phone or if you are near a computer, you can listen to the free webcast. I'm eager to receive your questions and the contents of the teleseminar will answer your questions.

It's almost impossible for the average writer to get an editor on the telephone--and if they do get the editor or the agent, they are probably making the wrong impression (a negative one). Why? The bulk of publishing doesn’t involve an oral pitch to an editor but comes from your written materials--your actual manuscript and your book proposal. Yes, you have appointments at writer's conferences where you give a short oral pitch, but in the end, it will be the words you've written on the page which will make the difference between receiving a book contract or a rejection letter.

As an additional incentive for you (and others) to register for the free teleseminar, on the confirmation page (where you receive the phone number for the teleseminar and the website for the webcast), you will receive a link to a free hour-long workshop that I taught called Straight Talk from the Editor. This workshop material relates to my new audio product.

I hope to speak to you during next week's live teleseminar.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

For the Sharp-eyed Reader

Some people are natural proof readers. They are the ones who read with a pen in their hand and correct the typos and missing words that they find in books. At small gatherings, these people always have some horror story about a printed book which was missing something.

I know the publishers attempt to be as careful as possible in the creation process. The majority of publishers have a series of checks and balances in this part of the process with the attempt to catch every error before the book is printed. Yet still mistakes slip through the process. Maybe the words are spelled correctly but something is missing in the context.

What action do you take (if any) when you spot such an error in a printed book?

Most authors and publishers are keeping track of such errors. When the book comes up for reprint. You can write the author or the publisher with a helpful tone saying, "Next time you reprint your book, you might want to fix…" During the rare times that I receive such a suggestion, I appreciate it and always thank the individual.

This morning I'm thinking about this element because I noticed an error in a printed book. It’s not necessary to tell you the book but it's a beautiful hardcover which will hopefully go through many printings. It is a shame when it happens but the good news is that if you let someone know about it, it can be fixed. The choice is yours. Are you going to continue grumbling about the state of book publishing or be a part of the solution? For the error I spotted, I chose to do something proactive about it and write a kind and concerned note to someone in the publishing house who can get it fixed on the next reprint.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

The Importance of Gratitude

Many people in the United States are kicking back today, enjoying a day off and the beginning of the summer season. It's a holiday called Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day to celebrate our freedom and honor the men and women who died in military service protecting our freedom. Many of us can think of a relative or a friend or an acquaintance who has died in the service of their country. Take a few minutes to pause and remember that person today and celebrate their sacrifice. It’s a step that I'm going to take in my own day.

More than a holiday event, also consider the importance of gratitude in your own life. How are you practicing it? Are you looking for ways to express gratitude and thanks? For me, I'm better at certain times of my life than others. Last week I called an editor friend and left a short message expressing my appreciation for something but then I took it an additional step. I physically wrote a brief thank you note and mailed it to the editor. My handwriting is a bit challenging to read (even my printing) but I'm certain she will note my appreciation.

How are you facing your writing work? With thankfulness or drudgery? Can you make an attitude adjustment and face it with gratitude? Instead of looking at the glass as half empty, look at it as half full. Instead of obstacles, ask for a new vision to see them as opportunities. This perspective combined with an attitude of gratitude will help you have joy in the midst of the deadlines.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Forgotten Story Continued

In yesterday's entry, I wrote about the forgotten story of Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code and some of his not-too-long ago days in the publishing business. I included a short quotation from a court document. Just ahead of the quotation is another element in the story and points to a common situation within book publishing--change.

Authors are trusting of their publisher that they will carry out all of their promises for promotion. These marketing plans are nonbinding since they are normally not included in the actual book contract yet are used to show the publisher's intentions for your book. These plans are offered in good faith but many things change within a publisher between the signed contract and when the book is actually released into the marketplace. Editors leave. Marketing people change houses and financial priorities shift. Many years ago I signed a contract with one of my books and the editor told us about plans to market the books in airports around the country with distinct displays and other such ideas. In between signing the contract and the release of the book (often separated by as much as 18 months), my editor left and none of those plans occurred. Yes the book was published but in a much more modest fashion.

For Brown's earlier novel, Angels & Demons, he changed publishers from St. Martin's Press to Simon and Schuster. Here’s the promised plans from his publisher, "Simon & Schuster said they were extremely excited by Angels & Demons. They promised to give the book considerably more publicity and support than my previous publishers. Their proposed publicity included a much larger print run (60,000), advertising in major newspapers, web advertising, a 12 city tour, an e-book release, and other exciting prospects."

For a writer like Brown who was financially struggling, such a promise was a major encouragement. Yet the court document continues and reveals what happened: "Unfortunately, when the book came out, my print run was slashed down to 12,000 copies with virtually no publicity at all. I was once again on my own and despite enthusiastic reviews, the novel sold poorly. Blythe and I were heartbroken as we had put so much work into this book. Once again, we took matters into our own hands, booking our own signings, booking our own radio shows, and selling books out of our car at local events."

You have to understand this incident took place in 1999 or 2000. Angels & Demons has gone on to become a bestseller. After the success of The Da Vinci Code, readers purchase Brown's other books.

OK, what do you gain from this little historical trip? First, it's a reminder of the ever changing nature of publishing. Also it's encouragement for every author to take a pro-active stance with their own marketing and reaching their own grassroots audience. It's not easy for anyone but if you are consistent (and have a book which is compelling and excellent), then you can eventually find your audience and success. Hold on to the dream yet realize it may take years of consistent work and effort to reach it. Everyone is looking for the quick way and more often than not, there is no quick way. If publishers understood it, then they would use it on the next book and the next book (which so often doesn't work on a regular basis).

Authors need to keep working on building the audience for their books through forming relationships and the dozens of tools out there. If you need any inspiration in this area, pick up a copy of John Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books and start something that you haven't been doing. In this area, I've been learning about virtual book tours and teleseminars. Last night my first teleseminar was successful. After the teleseminar, I edited the tape some at the beginning and the end using Sound Forge which is a terrific piece of software. You can get it from Mike Stewart, the Internet Audio Guy. Then I uploaded the file to the replay page using audio generator. I selected the "snazzy player" which allows you to fast forward or rewind the teleseminar. It was not complicated and I believe I created a great result--and learned a bit more about marketing books through teleseminars. Also I helped people learn about a great resource for authors, Author Law.

My encouragement to each of you is to continue forward--learning the craft of writing, forming new relationships and crafting better submissions for the editor.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Seven-Year Difference

Yesterday I mentioned listening to iUniverse CEO Susan Driscoll when she spoke at Mega Book Marketing University 2006 in Florida. During this talk, Susan mentioned the difference that seven years can make in the life of a person. I found it fascinating and tracked down the specifics. She was talking about The Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown. No matter what you think about the book, it found tremendous success.

Susan encouraged listeners to track down a court transcript where Dan Brown was defending himself against accusations of plagiarism in the London Court (and Brown was successful in his defense). With a little work on Google I located the transcript which is 77 pages.

In the transcript, Brown talks about his journey as a novelist and here's the quote which Susan highlighted for her audience, Dan Brown said, "This was not an easy time financially. I remember that we were forced to literally sell books out of our car at low profile publishing events. The few readers who read Angels & Demons had gone wild for it."

Brown and his wife were traveling to small events and selling books from the back of their car in 2000. What a difference seven years makes in the life of a person. Last year (2006), Brown landed in the tenth spot on the Forbes 100 list of earning an estimated $88 million or up from 12th spot the year before.

Where are you in the process of pursuing your dreams about publication? It is hard work to make the right pitch with the right book proposal. Many people don't put the energy and effort into their proposal to craft the right pitch. Or they send it to the wrong places. Or they give up on the idea too easily. It's a subjective business and you have to tell your story over and over to build enough enthusiasm for it that it succeeds in the marketplace of ideas.

Why is it so difficult? The statistics repeatedly show that each year reading statistics are on the decline. Each year about 190,000 new books are published with millions of backlist books already in print (published in the past seasons or backlist). If you are feeling low, take some of the smaller steps.

Begin to build a newsletter list. Everyone has to start some place so launch a free newsletter and continue building that group of subscribers, feeding them great content on a regular basis. The back issues of my Right Writing News have over 400 pages of how-to information which is free but only available to subscribers. If you don't now what you would write for a newsletter, then go to this link and read every article and follow the advice.

If you are getting rejected, make sure you are building your relationships and learning your craft at writer's conferences. Learn how to craft a basic magazine article or short story. It will take you down the road to achieve your larger dream because you are learning the process and building your publishing credits. I've traveled the country teaching about book proposals. As a home study tool, pick up my new product, Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets and listen to it over and over.

Most of all, keep holding on to your dreams and working each day to make a difference. You can do it and if you need the encouragement, consider the seven year difference in Dan Brown’s life--selling books in the back of his car to #10 on the Forbes 100 list.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Soak In The Information

These days I don't spend much time in my car. Because I don't have a long drive to get to my workplace, my time in my car is often limited to a few minutes each day when I drive to my mailbox and return home. That time amounts to about 30 to 45 minutes a day or not much time. I've been in jobs where I've had a much longer commute in the car but even on a short drive, there is an opportunity to soak in information--if you choose to take this path.

I could be listening to the radio, music or something else. Instead, I've been listening to the Mega Book Marketing University 2006 tapes--a conference which I did not attend but I know many of the speakers personally. I've met Susan Driscoll, president of iUniverse on several different occasions but until I reached her presentation at Mega I had never heard her speak to a group. Her insight was fascinating. You can catch some of her information about publishing on her iUniverse blog and I liked this entry about returns (something most book authors never think about but is a critical part of the overall process in traditional publishing).

My idea for you with this entry is to look for short bursts of time when you can soak in some burst of information. For example, follow this link for Mega Book Marketing University 2007 in Los Angeles yet look at the special offers in the top right column. Some of these sessions are several years old yet the insight and information is still valuable--yet substantially discounted. I continue to learn a great deal from these older tapes and hope you will as well.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Take Your Best Shot

Next Tuesday night, May 22nd, I'm hosting a teleseminar with two literary attorneys. You will have a chance to take your best legal shot at asking them a question--and using some different technological tools in the process. I'm learning about these tools and this teleseminar will be my first experience to host such a seminar. Hopefully the first of many times.

Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia are two of the top speakers in the area of the law for publishing and intellectual properties. In their newest book, "Author Law A to Z, A Desktop Guide to Writers' Rights and Responsibilities," they reveal straight-forward how-to advice in an easy to understand manner for anyone in publishing. I'm telling you this because I've convinced Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia to allow me to grill them during a LIVE 70-minute teleseminar on Tuesday, May 22, 2007! Here's the different twist: Rather than have the "content" come out of my head (or Sallie's or Anthony's head) for the May 22, 2007 teleseminar 5:30 p.m. PDT / 8:30 p.m. EDT, I decided to let you ask them a question. Sound fair? So, if you could ask Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia ANY question you wanted about the legal issues related to writing and publishing, what would your question be? Here's your chance to ask Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia directly and get registered for our call on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 (starts promptly according to www.Time.gov). Just use this link to ask your question. If you register for the teleseminar, you will get a sample chapter from Author Law, A to Z." You will receive 45 pages of invaluable information on publishing matters such as copyright, collaboration, confidentiality and copyright in cyberspace. It's all FREE if you ask a question and register for this teleseminar. There's more: I've convinced Sallie and Anthony to give away autographed copies of "Author Law A to Z" for three fortunate teleseminar attendees. You have to attend the FREE teleseminar to find out WHY Sallie and Anthony are doing this or WHO is eligible, so go ahead and ask Sallie and Anthony your question now.

Click on this link. After your question gets submitted, you'll find out how to get phone access and webcast access to Sallie Randolph and Anthony Elia and me for our LIVE teleseminar, May 22, 2007.

One more detail: Whether you attend the teleseminar or have to miss it, a complete professional transcript from the teleseminar is available for $19.95. Just use this link to purchase the transcript.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Mysterious Bestsellers

If you have not seen it, make sure you catch this article from the New York Times several days ago called The Greatest Mystery: The Making of A Bestseller.

The article is interesting because reporter Shira Boss interviewed a number of key players in the book publishing business. My conclusion after reading it remains the same: while you can point to different variables and factors, it is impossible to predict how a particular book will land in the marketplace. Yes the author can be active and make considerable effort but the results are unpredictable.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dodged Another Error

Some times I will get a book from a publisher or a book proposal from an author. Because I’m looking at their product or manuscript or proposal for the first time, I see something they have completely missed like a typographical error.

People wonder how in the world someone could let something so basic slip out of their hands into the world for others to see. It happens fairly often. My encouragement with this post is for you to check something then check it again before sending it out.

Yesterday I dodged another error for my own product and I wanted to use my own story to illustrate this point.

For the last several months, I've been developing my first audio CD product teaching about a topic which I am passionate about--book proposals. With the first product, it was two CDs or an hour of teaching combined with a bonus CD. I've been receiving proto-types of the product and testing it. In the first attempt, the files on the CD had not been converted. They played on the computer but not in a regular CD player. The goal is for the product to be as flexible as possible and play in both areas. The second version of the product arrived recently and it worked great in my regular CD player. When I ran the product by a mentor, he told me that I needed more value or content for the product. I returned to my wealth of teaching files and added a third CD to the product. Now it is over three hours of teaching about book proposals and a tremendous value for anyone who wants to gain my insight into the publishing process.

Because my product changed from a two CD package into a three CD package, I had to look at another proto-type of the product. I tested all three CDs and they ran perfectly in the computer and in the regular CD player. I checked the copy on the package and everything looked great. Earlier this week, I gave the OK to go into production and I’ve been making plans to launch this product next week.

As I've been writing the materials to launch this product, for inspiration, I've had this three CD package on my desk. Then yesterday afternoon, I re-read the spine of the product. Beneath the title, it says, "Presented by W. Tery Whalin" Hopefully you spot the typo in my last sentence--a common word--especially for me.

After I saw this typo, I checked the other two proto-types. They contained the same typographical error. in this case, the product hasn't gone out to any customer and I was reassured this morning via email that it will be fixed in the production process. Whew, I dodged another error. And when someone puts this new product on their bookshelf, what do they see? The spine which contained the typographical error.

My encouragement to you today: whatever you are working on--a query letter to a magazine, a book proposal, a book manuscript, a product to launch into the marketplace--take a second, third and fourth look at it. If you don't, then you risk launching something that needed that one additional touch.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Act On These Offers

Here's two resources that you should know about. If you don't take action on them, they will disappear.

First, PR Newswire is holding a free webinar with three top business editors who are discussing the kinds of stories that catch their attention and the best ways to contact them. Here’s the editors:

Lisa Vickery, Day Editor, National News Desk, Wall Street Journal Polly Smith, Deputy Business Editor, Chicago Sun-Times Steve Trousdale, Deputy Business Editor, San Jose Mercury News

If you have a business book or a business book in the works, then this information will be helpful to you. The Webinar called "Inside the Business Section" will be Thursday, May 17th at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Follow this link to register.

The second resource is a new revision of The Radio Publicity Manual by Alex Carroll. Over the last 15 years, Carroll has booked himself on over 1,400 radio shows and sold over 250,000 books as a guest. He has an ebook and until May 22nd you can get it for free (and after May 22nd he will be charging $49 for it). It's 177 pages of tested advice and I picked it up. Here's the link. You will have to complete your name, email, phone and address (required fields) but DON'T enter your credit card information since this is a free offer. After completing the order form, you will be taken to a page where you can download the book.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Take Marketing Responsibility

Communication snafus are everywhere. It happens for many reasons and most often it's a lack of communication or the assumption that something is happening when it is not happening. For example, in the book publishing world, it takes a lot of work for a writer to get a publisher interested in their idea and concept. The writer has to learn the craft of writing and build credibility through writing magazine articles or ebooks or other media to build their credentials and abilities. Finally they craft a book proposal and get a publisher to issue a book contract. Their book is released into the marketplace. Because the publisher has invested a large amount of money and energy (and the writer has as well), the writer assumes the publisher will market the daylights out of their book and sell many copies. Now my last sentence is full of wrong assumptions. Publishers do want their books to sell and be successful but they count on a partnership with the author to get the word out about the book, build buzz and sales for each book. Some times it happens in the early stages and other times it builds to a loud clamor in the marketplace.

My encouragement for every author is to take responsibility for their own marketing. Let's assume the traditional publisher will have good distribution (which in some cases is an assumption). Your book has entered the market and is widely available through distributors, sometimes in the bookstores and can easily be purchased at the major online places. It is not a time for the author to sit back and work on their next book (well maybe some of the time but not all of it). The author needs to continually take responsibility for their own marketing--even if they have had measures of success in the past. The public quickly forgets.

Last week I received a book proposal from an author who is eager for me to represent the project. The marketing section is two paragraphs and all fluff with the major responsibility on the publisher. I groaned the minute I looked at it because this author will need a huge amount of education on my part before this person can put together an attention-getting marketing effort. Yes, this person has had mega sales in the past but it will not necessarily transfer to this new direction and this new proposal. To believe it will transfer, the author is operating on a false assumption which may fall completely flat.

I'm personally limited about what I can put in these entries about the writing life. I have the same 24 hour constraints that you operate under. I’m going to give you some resources and places to turn. First, make plans to attend a Mega Book Marketing Event. They are coming to many different places around the country and the next one will be in New York City later this month. Unfortunately I am not going to be able to attend this event but it looks great. If you can't go, then make sure you listen to the free preview calls and gain the insight of the speakers. Either listen to them live when they happen or listen to them after the fact through the replay buttons. This training is absolutely free and valuable to any writer no matter where you are in the journey. You can learn from these experts.

Also John Kremer, the Book Marketing expert, is having a free teleseminar this week. It's another free and valuable resource.

In other entries, I've written about Debbie Macomber, one of the leading romance novelist and someone that I know personally. There is a fascinating article about Debbie in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Here's a writer who has over 70 million books in print and is on the current New York Times bestseller list. She has not assumed her publisher will market her books and is taking a continual active role in this process. Notice the article points out that Debbie has a mailing list with 75,000 readers--and not a list she has purchased but people who have contacted her personally. I'm one of these readers and I get emails from time to time from Debbie. Every writer should be working on developing their list of readers. I've got my free Right-Writing News. Several times a month, I will email this list with single letters around a particular product that I am recommending. Then once a month, I will send a regular newsletter which is full of how-to-write articles. In the back issues (which are only available to subscribers—and free), readers have access to over 400 pages of information. I am continuing to work at growing my list and expanding it. If you have no idea how to write a newsletter or what to say, I'd encourage you to follow the links and learn about it, make a choice and get started. It's another way for you to take responsibility for the marketing of your own books.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Break The Ice

Have you ever entered a new group of people and wondered, "How in the world will I begin a conversation? What's a good question to ask?" There is an old proverb that goes something like: The man with many friends must consider himself friendly. At least you've got the Terry Whalin spin on this saying since I don't recall where I picked it up.

A week or so ago, John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, wrote on his blog about Scott Ginsberg, who is known as the name tag guy. He pointed out several free ebooks on Ginsberg's website. I downloaded the PDF files to my desktop and promptly did not read them. Today I got around to reading them. One or two of them, I didn't find valuable but several of them I've actually printed and read. I don't agree with everything but they have some good ideas and are worth your attention in my view. Let Me Ask Ya This has some good ideas for breaking the ice and starting a fascinating conversation with a new person. It's a good resource to help you build some relationships.

Over the last few days, I've been listening to a recorded message from John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book. John says that one of the keys to selling your book--at any stage of the process is to continue to build and foster relationships. Each of us need all of the tools we can get in this process so if reading Scott Ginsberg's ebook of conversation starters helps you to build relationships, then you need to use it.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Than A Memoir

The writing community has been stirred and drawn to "memoirs." It's given writers great hope they can find a traditional publisher for their personal story. Such hope is filled with danger because many of those personal stories don't have the national pull to become a bestseller. The majority of them are rejected almost immediately and if they appear in print, they are magazine articles. To all of these "regular practices" and "unwritten rules" within the publishing community, there are exceptions. I wanted to tell you about one of these exceptions and why you should rush out to read: If I Am Missing Or Dead, A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation.

Behind the scenes, I've been gently cheering for this book and I’m glad to be able to tell you about it here--and other places such as my Amazon review. Janine Latus is a long-time friend and fellow member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. From a distance, I've watched her hone her writing craft in many mainstream magazines and excellent journalistic writing. In October 2005, O magazine ran an intense personal story called "All The Wrong Men." Janine's article was selected as an award winner at the ASJA 2006 conference. This article was the springboard for Janine's book proposal for her first book. The proposal set off an intense bidding war which Simon and Schuster eventually won.

Janine wrote the book at a nearby coffee shop. In my view, the writing process of telling such a personal story must have been difficult and draining. The process of reliving the experiences captured in this book must have been tough. For a first-time author, I was interested to learn S & S printed over 120,000 copies, which indicates their expectations for this book. Publisher's Weekly gave the book a starred review (scroll down to see it from this link). Other reviews have appeared in People and Entertainment Weekly. If you go to Starbucks (I'll admit not to being a frequent customer), then I understand If I Am Missing is selling a flash drive with the first chapter of the book and part of the money goes to Amy's Courage Fund. The book is a tool to spur the movement against domestic violence. It is much more than a moving memoir. If you get the book, you should know besides being riveting, it does include some graphic language. Because I don't typically read or write these types of books, I just wanted you to be aware of what's inside the pages and not be shocked at my recommendation. It's true to life so the material is included. After reading the book, my admiration for Janine has grown. Her desire is for the book to be an integral part of a movement against domestic violence. I celebrate the creation of things like Amy's Courage Fund as a means to help women who are trapped escape these abusive relationships.

I will probably write more about If I Am Missing Or Dead in the future. For now, celebrate this new book and go to your favorite bookseller and pick up a copy.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Use the Power of Personalization

I'm learning how to use a tool called Audiogenerator.com to add the sound of my voice to different web pages. Here's an example that I recorded last night:

Yesterday I recorded a welcome message for the subscription page of my newsletter. I'm experimenting to see if more people will subscribe with this additional boost.

Also you can send postcards with Audiogenerator such as this one. The tool is flexible and easy to use. I’m not very skilled in the technical area and I figured it out. If I can do it, almost anyone can give it a whirl. I see it as a powerful method to personalize your message.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Look For A Mentor

Throughout my writing and editorial life, I've learned a great deal from many different sources. About twenty years ago, I had no idea how to focus my magazine articles for the marketplace. It was through the patient teaching of a more experienced writer that I learned the skill of crafting a query letter and writing the assigned magazine article. The learning process wasn't easy. Often my manuscript was returned with many editorial marks and I could have grown discouraged and given up. Instead I pressed on and continued writing. It's a lesson I hope you will do as well with your writing--press on in the midst of rejection.

One of the biggest authors in the thriller writer area is James Patterson. I've read several of these books and enjoy Patterson's crisp style and fascinating plots. I've wondered he has been co-authoring some of his books and how that process worked. You can gain a bit of insight from this Soapbox column in the April 30th Publisher's Weekly by Andrew Gross titled, The Patterson School of Writing. I found several fascinating elements of this article. First, his connection to James Patterson came from his publisher talking with his agent. Catch that little detail in this article.

Next look at the different lessons Gross learned as he worked seven years with James Patterson. He gives five specifics (you can read the article for the various lessons) but here's the truth which struck me: "In sum, I learned how to write for one's audience, not the people you want them to be." It's a common flaw in writers. They are writing for themselves and not the audience.

Another key lesson that I've been learning is to focus on the people and the relationships instead of trying to figure out how to speculate what will happen from an income or financial standpoint. Yes, we need to have the financials in mind but it's the relationship which will hopefully continue long into the future. I've had many mentors in my life and I continue to be mentored. I'm grateful for each person who continues to teach me either through a book or an audio program or face to face.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Unknown City

Several years ago at an ASJA luncheon, I had the opportunity to meet lifelong New Yorker Pete Hamill. Whether fiction or nonfiction, Hamill writes about New York City.

I love the feeling in New York City with its rich heritage and diversity. It's fun for me to melt into the crowd and ride the subway to different parts of the city. I often purchase a seven-day unlimited pass to ride to different parts of the city. It's normal for New Yorkers but it stirs a sense of adventure for me to go uptown or downtown on the local or express trains.

Later this month, New York will be the host for Book Expo America. In honor of that event, Publisher’s Weekly included a stirring piece from Hamill about his city. Hamill writes, "Nobody truly knows New York, not even most New Yorkers. The city is too large, too dense and layered to be intimately known by anyone. I was born here, the first son of Irish immigrants, during the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, attended schools here, and worked for more than 40 joyous years as a reporter and columnist on the newspapers of the wider city." I loved how the heritage and memories of the long tradition of the city are woven into this article. I hope you will read the entire article.

How can you weave this type of emotion and detail into your own writing? Can you capture the sense of place in your nonfiction magazine articles? Can you take me to the place with your fiction? It takes continual creative work for each of us to find the right words for each piece of our writing. Many people aren't willing to do this work. Today I'd encourage you to lift your head and rise up beyond the ordinary in your writing. You can do it with the right amount of energy and effort. Let's learn from the example from Pete Hamill.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Two Week Wonder

We had a great trip over to Las Vegas to hear Celine Dion and back. I appreciated each of the terrific comments about our anniversary.

On the trip over and back, I was reading through the May 7th The New Yorker. Typically when I travel, I've only been reading from takeoff until the plane reaches 10,000 feet so I've limited my reading time. On a regular basis, The New Yorker will include in-depth profiles of various authors. This week's issue includes an article about novelist Paulo Coelho. As of this morning, only the abstract is online. According to the article, Coelho has over 100 million books in print. Several months ago, my wife read The Alchemist for her local book group. Here’s the remarkable passage in the article about this book and is also in the abstract: "Life and letters about Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist in two weeks, in 1987. The book has been translated into fifty-six languages and has sold over twenty million copies." Now that’s what I call pretty good work for two weeks if you can get it. It's why I call this post the the two week wonder.

You may be asking, "What I do after they ring the little bell on a plane that they've reached 10,000 feet and the plane continues to climb?" I reach into the back seat pocket and pull out my AlphaSmart. They don't allow laptops in that pocket but no one has ever objected to my AlphaSmart keyboard. I get more weird looks from the people around me but I switch on the machine and begin pounding the keys. I admit that I'm a hard typist. It's a trait leftover from learning on a manual typewriter. I've managed to get a great deal of writing done in a short amount of time on these flights. For example, the flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix is only about 45 minutes. It's been a great tool--even if it is a strange-looking thing.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Value For Failure

Ever wonder what in the world you are supposed to be learning from this situation? It happens to me on a regular basis. I've been trying to add to these entries on The Writing Life but other events have crowded into my schedule. I've been on the road again and on a slammed schedule which hasn't allowed any time for blogging. I continue to learn valuable lessons and insight through different experiences. It's what I've tried to capture in many of these entries. I'm off on another trip today (the second one this week) but it's a special one--our 12th anniversary. While I am not real crazy about Las Vegas, it's where we're headed later today. It's the last year for Celine Dion and her show, A New Day. It should be fun and a quick trip--over today and back tomorrow. It's a glimpse into my life but I hope it helps you understand why I haven't been as consistent with my entries here.

One of the publications which I enjoy reading is Fast Company. This month includes a fascinating article called, "Failure Doesn’t Suck" about Sir James Dyson. I recommend the entire article but make sure you read this opening, "Today, Dyson makes the best-selling vacuum cleaner by revenue in the United States and is one of the richest blokes in Britain. But it took him 15 years and nearly his entire savings to develop his bagless, transparent creation. His latest innovation, a hand dryer that uses neither heat nor evaporation, took only three years, but Dyson says his grinding, error-filled approach hasn't changed.

You once described the inventor's life as "one of failure." How so?

I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That's how I came up with a solution. So I don't mind failure. I've always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they've had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative."

What an example of persistence! I've met many writers who have sent out their manuscript once or twice and been rejected, then they quit. They stick it back in their desk drawer and figure no one wanted to publish their work. In some cases, the proposal or manuscript wasn't good and should have been rejected. The rejection isn't always for that reason. There are many reasons for rejection and some of them are tied to the author's work and some of them have nothing to do with the author. As I've written many times, it's a matter of getting to the right publisher at the right time with the right manuscript. It's like every detail has to line up right for it to happen and many authors are not willing to fail or persist to find that perfect spot. Are you learning from your failure and growing from them? I hope today each of us can follow the example of Sir James Dyson.

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