Friday, June 29, 2007

Why Social Network?

The majority of writers are introverts. It's something that I've read as well as personally observed over and over. Yes, we dig down deep inside to write words and get them out to others. A few writers are extrovert in personality but the majority are not. An editor from a well-known Chicago-based company told me their entire office took the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory Test a few years ago. This company has many different print and online publications. Of the group of editors something like two of them were extrovert and the rest were introvert.

Even someone who is basically an introvert can rise to the occasion. It's what I do when I teach at writers conferences and in other situations. Yet selling books is about creating relationships. You have to reach outside of yourself to create those relationships. The more relationships, the more people who know about your writing and you as a person.

John Kremer at BookMarket.com included a tip about the Book Marketing Network in this week's Book Market Tips. I’ll admit when I read it my curiosity got the best of me—so I went to it and joined. John is the creator of this social network which is a growing network of people interested in the topic of book marketing. If you get real fascinated with social networks, you can even create your own social network. It's another free networking spot. I've not spent a lot of time on my particular page but I have added a few links to some of my resources. There are several hundred people on this spot--and it is growing all the time. I exchanged greetings with a few old friends and have been meeting some new ones. It's another resource to check out and become a bit more social.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quick! Listen to this Replay

I’ve been reading a lot of "buzz" about Timothy Ferriss' new book, The 4–Hour Workweek. The title alone is rather provocative (and inviting). I've had two emails in the last few days for teleseminars with Ferriss. I tried to get into one of them yesterday but it was already completed. I looked around for the replay--and couldn't locate it.

Then a few hours ago, I got an email with the link to last night's replay—but it will only be up for 72 hours (and the clock has already been ticking). While the replay includes a fast-forward button, it does not allow you to download the entire file--because Arielle Ford will be selling this interview as a part of a package. If you want to hear it, then you have to do it now.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Glimpse into Book Cover Design

After interviewing hundreds of book authors for many years, you'd be surprised how frequently these authors want to tell me how much they dislike the cover of their latest book. Or they will tell me how the book title wasn't the one that they would have selected. Inside when I hear these stories I shake my head and feel like shaking the author and saying, "Get over it and move on and be excited about what you have in front of you." It doesn't make a good impression on the journalist about this part of the publishing process.

Many years ago, one of my high-profile authors strongly disliked his book cover photo. The dislike carried into his eagerness to promote this particular title. Before too many months, this book faded out of print.

On the positive side of book cover design, Roy Peter Clark wrote "Judge My Book by Its Cover" in the June 18th Publishers Weekly. The article points out a simple truth: ideally the cover designer reads the book and gets in sync with the author and publisher about the vision for the book audience. It's a good piece and I recommend you read it.

What the printed article does not show is Clark's book cover for Writing Tools. I have not read this book but I'm familiar with Clark's work at Poynter Online. Here's a list of his 50 writing tools and articles. Here's where he podcasts about these writing tools. It's a rich resource and every writer can gain something from Clark's Writing Tools.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Follow Or Ignore The Ideas

This past weekend I was definitely in the minority.

Over 400 women were attending the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was one of half a dozen men who were around at this conference. Besides being in the minority as a man, I was the only literary agent at the event. This annual conference trains women in two primary areas--as speakers and as writers. During the conference, I taught an hour workshop about Book Proposals then met individually with over 25 writers in 15–minute sessions.

Because this group of women have been receiving training about book proposals and talking with editors, in general I was impressed with the quality of their submissions. The majority of them came prepared to talk about their book idea. Many of them were petrified because it was their first time talking with an editor or a literary agent. There were several other editors and publishers represented at the conference who were also holding these 15-minute sessions. The format alone is always a challenge for these meetings. The participants are anxious for my feedback and I have to listen carefully to their idea and ask some probing questions as I flip through their proposal.

Years ago I sat in the position of these writers and hung on every word from the editor. I made lots of notes as they talked then tried to go home and follow through on each of their suggestions. I learned the hard way--and I suspect these people from last weekend will learn it as well--that I take the suggestions as just that "suggestions" and not the absolute truth. No one editor or literary agent has this absolute truth perspective with a massive amount of wisdom to pass along to the writer who is pitching. Some of those ideas are right on target while others need to be ignored. That choice is up to the individual.

I've told this story in at least one other entry. Years ago I had a 15-minute meeting with an editor that I respect. I took detailed notes as this editor critiqued my book proposal. I returned home and followed each of the suggestions then sent the proposal back to this editor. He didn't recall that he had even talked with me about this idea. I was crushed and disillusioned and all sorts of other disappointed feelings. I thought I was receiving the total straight scoop about how to navigate the waters of publishing.

Now that I've had a few more years of experience in this area plus had the opportunity for the last few years to be the person who meets with writers, I return to the choice factor. The individual writer has to evaluate the advice, then decide if it's right for their manuscript or book proposal or not.

You can imagine that I was a bit whipped and worn after meeting with writer after writer. I'm unsure if my counsel had much value at the end of the day. Never-the-less, I gave it my best shot. It's all anyone can expect during these sessions. People forget the subjective nature of the publishing world. One person loves your idea while another person rejects it. One person believes your book is the absolute best thing they've ever read on the topic while the next person believes with equal passion that you're work is only for beginners and lacked "freshness" (whatever that means).

As you listen to the opinions of various writers, editors, literary agents and other professionals, don't forget to listen to your own internal voice about the writing.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

If It's Thursday Then...

I must be headed to the Phoenix airport for another conference. I'll be going out to the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina this coming weekend.

Several of my friends are road warriors and travel almost weekly or several times a month. It's not my normal travel schedule to have three weekends in a row in three different areas of the United States. In each place, I've had some good meetings and opportunities.

I'm excited about the potential in Charlotte and we'll see what happens. I've been learning how to be very productive during the long airplane trips. I'll have my AlphaSmart in my laptop bag. I continue to get some weird comments but it's been a lifesaver for getting work done on the airplane--yes even in the coach section when the person in front of you puts their seat in recline. Because the AlphaSmart has a much smaller screen, it doesn't have the difficulties of a laptop in that same situation.

My entries here will be scarce for a few days. If you ever wonder, just check my schedule and it may give you the answer.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Each Day Do A Little Bit

About ten years ago, I ghost wrote a daily radio program for a bestselling author. They were short pithy daily reminders for the listener which were one-minute in length. This author recorded the programs and sent them to radio stations around the country who played them for free since they fell into the Public Service Announcement category (PSA). I wrote over 300 of these programs and provided a steady stream of material going out to the radio community and reminding the listening audience about this author. It was a simple and effective strategy. I don’t know if the program continues today or not. This daily challenge is a powerful tool. My question today is: Are you incorporating some daily action into your life to build your writing career or boost your latest book?

The June 11th issue of Publishers Weekly used Christopher Lee Nutter's article in the Soapbox Column called Author, Media Savant. While his book is a year old (ancient in terms of most publicity), he is "still on book tour" and a smart author who understands the necessity of continual publicity about his book.

This section was particularly insightful about how magazines and newspapers handle galley copies of new books, "It is true that my 13 years working as a writer and editor at magazines and newspapers has made me savvy. I've been on the other end of the pitch, so I know how to craft one. I also know that most book PR departments simply hurl galleys blindly at the media, using generic lists of publications and dated lists of editors, letting the galleys fall where they may--which is usually on the giveaway table. Countless times I surveyed the cemetery of galleys headed to their early graves, and determined to avoid this destiny at all costs. So way before I ever even met my publicist, I decided to take responsibility for my book's publicity." (I added the emphasis on this last sentence.)

Later in the article, Nutter gives this great attitude, "It's a lot of work and uncertainty, no doubt about it. But it's worth it. I love my book, and I didn't write it for no one to hear about. While it's true that I can't make people buy the book, I can make sure they've heard of it."

With the sheer volume of new books entering the market daily, it's entirely possible that many people have never heard of you or your book. Nor have these people heard of me or my books. For example, my Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success has been in print for over two years. And new people continue to discover it and use it to accomplish their own publishing dreams. I'm grateful whenever they find it.

Each day, I continue to do little things which spread the word about my book. Here's a couple of ideas for you readers of these entries on the Writing Life:

1. Join my affiliate program which is free and takes minutes to fill out the form. But don't just join the program. You need to take the next step and begin using your own affiliate link in emails and banner ads on your websites. Why? Because as people click those banners or emails, if they come to my landing page and purchase the book, then you receive an email of notification (and I do as well). Here's the great news: after the 60 day guarantee period, I send you 50% of the commissions--for any of my products. For example, with Book Proposals That Sell in the ebook format, that means $19.50 each time someone buys it that you have led to the site. There are even greater payments with other products such as Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets.

2. Use my free articles in your own newsletter or website. I've got these articles for anyone to use them so feel free--and I do have plans to add to them.

Take your long-range goal and put it into smaller pieces and attack it every day. Some of your efforts will begin to reap rewards.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A Solid Resource for Chidren's writers

Last April, I participated in a several hour workshop on Perfecting Your Nonfiction Book Proposal as a part of the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference in New York City. One of the panelists was Liza N. Burby who is also an ASJA member. While Liza has written for many magazines, she has also specialized in children's books.

There are many misconceptions among writers related to children's books. Anyone can write these books is one of the predominant misconceptions. Particularly when my children were little and now for my grandchildren, I've read a number of children’s books. Some times you wonder how in the world such a book got printed. And other times, you read a book and think, I could have written that book.

The children's book market has equal challenges to the adult book market. Recently at the Frontiers in Writing Conference, I participated in a several hour critique session with a small group of writers. One or two of them had children's book manuscripts which were read then I critiqued on the spot. I mentioned the stiff competition and the difficulty of getting a children's book published. Of course this last statement was my educated and subjective opinion about this market from my long-term experience. Another speaker at this conference, Andrea Brown, head of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency spoke on "The Hot Children's Book Market." Two of the participants in the conference tracked me down later in the day to ask about the difference in viewpoint. I explained that it was my perspective and opinion and that other people bring a different perspective.

This weekend I read through Liza's excellent book, How to Publish Your Children's Book, A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes. I love the practical, tested nature of the material in this book. It gives wise approaches about how to look for available markets, how to approach editors, how to research the needs and how to shape an excellent book proposal. And if you get a bunch of rejection letters for your effort, then Liza has good advice about that as well in the chapter called “If It Doesn’t Happen.” In her final chapter she writes, "I absolutely believe that you can get your children's book into publication. The very fact that you've come to the end of this book shows that you have the drive you need to reach your goal. But, as you know know, there are no shortcuts to success. Hard work and dedication are needed to turn your dream into a reality. The rewards, however, are well worth the work. I strongly urge you to enjoy every moment of the process, from the time an idea first seizes you while you're standing in line at the supermarket or driving down the road. Even the anticipation of preparing submission packets and flipping through the daily mail delivery can be enjoyable. Then one day, when an editor calls and expresses an interest in your book, you'll feel an almost unbeatable thrill--unbeatable, that is, until the day you see your name in print on the cover of your book."

You will definitely increase your odds of success if you follow the advice in this book. Throughout her book, Liza has scattered seven rules, which are explained in detail. The first rule summarizes what any published author should feel, "Sometimes, you just get lucky."

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Great Writers' Archives

Do you ever wonder what happens to the manuscripts from famous writers? According to this article in The New Yorker, many of them land at the University of Texas.  I found the piece fascinating and maybe you will as well. 

I'm headed east to speak at the Outdoor Writers of America Conference in Roanoke, Virginia.  One of my classmates from my days in the journalism school at Indiana University is the conference director, Phil Bloom. Over the last year, we've talked on the phone and emailed but not seen each other in over 30 years. I'm looking forward to it.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

When Fox News Called

Yesterday afternoon I answered my telephone and it was someone from the Fox News Channel. It was the first time I'd ever talked with someone from this news organization. I'm familiar with many of their programs from watching the news during my exercise stints on the treadmill.

The reporter was compiling a database of people who personally knew Billy Graham. From my journalism training, I knew the reason for this database. As high profile newsmakers grow older, news organizations around the globe prepare to be able to access appropriate people to comment on these people. This phone call struck me as out of the blue since I worked for Mr. Graham over 13 years ago. Even when I worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, I could count on one hand the number of occasions where I either met Mr. Graham or sat in a meeting where he spoke.

As I spoke to this Fox News reporter, I was trying to figure out why they had called me. Five or six years ago, I wrote an unauthorized biography, Billy Graham, which is a part of the Men of Faith series. While the book was unauthorized, it was a close to being an authorized unauthorized biography as you can get. Through my personal connections to BGEA, I checked every word of my manuscript with a long-term, close associate of Mr. Graham who made some key last minute adjustments on my manuscript.

I figure this reporter did a google search and my name came up attached to a Billy Graham biography and they had quickly located my work phone number. It was not difficult to connect the dots of how they made this connection. I discouraged my inclusion on this list of people to call for comment since there are many other people with a much longer personal history with Mr. Graham. And this reporter told me that I could tell her “no comment” when they call me--which is definitely going to be my response. While I care deeply for Mr. Graham and the Graham family, it's not my place to be interviewed at the time of his death. As I spoke on the phone, I could hear the keyboard keys clicking and this reporter was not deterred but included my phone number in the database.

Later in the day I understood the reason for the call. Now this news is scattered across the globe that Mrs. Graham has fallen into a coma. Whenever Mrs. Graham or Mr. Graham die, it will be a major news story. Fox News is getting prepared.

Postscript: I wrote the above material early this morning. Late this afternoon, I heard that Mrs. Graham passed away. Earth's loss is heaven's gain. What a remarkable person.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Press Release Tools

Many writers have never written a press release. They figure that's something their book publisher handles or something they can delegate to someone else. In the normal course of events, your book publisher will prepare a press release for the book. This release is focused on the content of your book and a mixture of information about you as the author and the unique marketing position of your new book. It's a one time event then the publicity person moves on to another book.

There are almost limitless opportunities to promote your events, your forthcoming workshops, your new products and other aspects of your work--if you know how to write an effective press release. It's another critical skill that every writer should add to their base of knowledge. The first part of this process is learning to write the release, then you need to effectively get that release to the right media person (newspaper, magazine, Internet, radio or television) and follow-up. The key will almost always be in the follow-up.

Whether you've never written a press release or it's been a long time or you just want a tool to help you in this process, I've found this resource from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing. It's an online press release generator. You fill in the blanks and it generates a press release which you can receive via email and send out. You have to subscribe and confirm your subscription to reach the Instant Press Release link but then you can save this link in your browser and use it over and over. John is using this tool as another way to build subscribers and it's admirable. If you don't want to be on his list, you can unsubscribe at any time but I see he provides continual value to his audience and recommend you stay with his list.

Another resource in this same area (where you don't have to register for the tool) is the Press Release Builder. If you follow the various links here, you will gain an education in this aspect of the business, learn how to email reporters and much more.

A few readers are probably grousing about this post and wondering why they should even care. They want to get published in magazines. Or they have a novel that they want to get published. Or they have a nonfiction idea that they are putting together into a book. Here’s why you should care: you are the best person to promote yourself. Unless you write certain press releases and send them into the market and follow-up with the media, they will never be written. Yes, you can hire a publicist to write them for you but if your resources are limited, then you should broaden your skills and learn to write press releases.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Does It Sound Like Writing?

I've been reading Jurgen Wolff's book, Your Writing Coach. It's broad look at various types of writing from fiction to nonfiction from books to screenplays to magazine writing. I've appreciated his vast writing experience and his solid bits of advice. Because Wolff comes from a film background, he has included online bonuses for each chapter. Of course, you have to go to his website and register (smart) plus type a key password from the book to access the bonus film clip (also wise because it forces people to purchase the book to have access). I've only looked at a few of the bonus clips but plan to look at more in the days ahead. This book is loaded with practical and tested advice from a practicing writer who has helped other writers.

As an example in his chapter called Watch Your Language, he includes a brief look at novelist Elmore Leonard's ten rules for showing and not telling. I found the expanded list online at Leonard's website. They are fascinating and helpful rules. After these rules, Leonard writes, "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing." I loved that line: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. It's good advice from my perspective.

A bit later in this chapter, Wolff writes about how to master dialogue saying, "The most useful skill for someone who wants to write good dialogue is eavesdropping. By listening carefully to how a variety of people speak, you absorb a lot of useful information. There is a fantastic website for any writer who wants to get a sense of the voices of real people: http://www.storycorps.net/. It features more than 10,000 recordings of people talking to each other about aspects of their lives." It’s another resource for you to use in improving your dialogue. It makes it easy to eavesdrop.

I recommend Your Writing Coach as a solid investment in the future of your writing life.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Control What You Can

After several days on the road at the Frontiers In Writing Conference in Amarillo, Texas, I'm home before I take off later in the week for another conference. I'm using a beautiful new coffee mug that I received from the Amarillo conference. It's one of those Barnes and Noble Cafe montage with illustrations of different famous writers. Fun.

Best-selling thriller writer Barry Eisler was the keynote speaker at the conference. I had never met Eisler but enjoyed his messages to writers and I purchased his first novel, Rainfall and enjoyed my conversation with him. Eisler was driving across country promoting his latest novel which landed one week on the New York Times bestseller list. He told about arranging to go to 200 bookstores in 15 days. It was an innovative way to tour the country and stir interest in a new title.

A former CIA agent turned lawyer turned novelist, Eisler gave writers some solid advice and I wanted to repeat part of it. He determined that he would not be at fault for not realizing his dream of publishing his novel. Yes, the fault would arrive with someone else--publishers who didn't see his vision or agents who turned him down or ______ (you can fill in the blank here). Eisler encouraged writers to control what they can control and that they can not control if they will get published. He said the journey is not all about luck and it’s not all about hard work. Yes, luck and hard work are involved. While you can influence luck through some decisions, you can't control luck. His message was for writers to write their book because if they don't write their book, then they will regret it. He said, "If you can to it, finish your novel then you will have nothing to regret. And your mission as much as possible is to get it published."

He encouraged writers to break down their writing goals into weekly and daily and even hourly chunks of writing and to approach their task one day at a time. Each of us make choices about how we will spend our time. For example, Eisler doesn’t watch much television or even have a television in his home. Instead, he's committed to the task of writing. It was a solid message that I appreciated.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Weekend Traveler

For the next few weeks, I'm turning into a weekend traveler. I'm out on ether Thursday or Friday and back on Sunday. It's one of those schedules that looked good on paper but as the dates approach, I'm wondering what compelled me to agree months ago and some times well over a year ago. I'm committed to helping new writers and training other professionals.

Tomorrow I'm headed to Amarillo, Texas and the Frontiers in Writing Conference. I met some great folks there several years ago and look forward to seeing them again and making new friends. If you check the link you will see that I’m teaching a couple of workshops. I could have pulled out my old notes and handouts and used them with the group. It's tempting since it is in a different part of the country from where I've taught the information in the past. I've attended such workshops where it feels like the speaker has pulled out their shop-worn notes to try on a new audience. As an audience member, I don't like it so I'm not going to do that to others. Instead, I've put some extra effort into reworking my materials and bringing new information. It takes more effort but I believe it will pay off in the long run.

On a completely different topic, from time to time I read the Church of the Customer blog and enjoy their information. I found this post fascinating about how a blogger took a customer service matter and turned it into a PR nightmare for CompUSA.

If these entries about the writing life are some times sparse during June, just remember that I'm a weekend traveler this month--and on the road the next three weekends in a row.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Interesting Book Buyer Statistics

Some people are purely nonfiction readers. I will often ask people what they read and they will tell me. Other people are purely fiction readers.  Novels and stories are about all they will turn to during their reading time. I’m one of those people who attempt to follow a middle ground in this area. I read both nonfiction and fiction in a wide genre of categories.

From my years of reading, I know there is one dominant genre in the fiction area of the market: romance. In response to this domination, there are some strong writer’s organizations which have supported and fostered these writers like the Romance Writers of America, the American Christian Fiction Writers (originally called the American Christian Romance Writers until a couple of years ago) and other groups.

Several times a year, Publishers Weekly includes a cover story featuring romance writers. Their latest is called Love for Sale in the May 28th issue. While the article is interesting, make sure you scroll to the bottom of this article and notice the statistics. With 31% of romance readers purchasing their books from mass merchandisers, it certainly explains why the grocery stores and bookstores continue to stock their mass merchandiser display. Whether you read the romance genre or not, it’s information worth knowing in my view.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Book Reviews in the Newspapers

When I read my local newspaper, the Arizona Republic, I'm always looking for information about book publishing. Today the Living section included a terrific article about Books for Summer. It is increasingly harder to find these book reviews and in fact a crowded market is shrinking.

Yesterday I was talking with an author that I'm working with on a writing project. He has a new business book that is out and had been at the Book Expo America in New York City. He remarked his publisher was going to be working to get the book reviewed. I listened but I knew it would be a challenge to even get a few good reviews. If you want some insight into this area, check out Lissa Warren's excellent blog entry over at The Huffington Post. Her entry points out the difficulties for publishers and authors with these shrinking pages.

Lissa knows what she is talking about and has an excellent book, The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity. We met several years ago at the American Society of Journalists and Authors meeting in New York. I have a brief excerpt from her book on Right-Writing.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Your Personal Invitation Plus

Today I created a simple audio postcard to invite participation in Tuesday, June 5th, free teleseminar event. Check it out right here.

I hope you will come to the event yet I want to do more than that in this entry about the Writing Life. Some of you are going to look at this postcard and believe I have some hired webmaster who I'm working with to pull off this postcard. That webmaster doesn't exist.

Others will think that I have a high degree of technical computer skills with all sorts of programming training. No, that isn't true either. Nor was the process so complex that it consumed hours of time to create. It did not.

This postcard was created using the templates within Audio Generator. If you can use Word for wordprocessing on your computer, then you can use Audio Generator. It's all menu-driven or point and click. Anyone can use these tools. Find the courage and dive into trying it.

I'm personally inviting you to attend the Tuesday event. I hope to speak to you soon.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Gimmicks Can Work

The Weekend Edition of the Today Show was reviewing books to read at the beach and one of them caught my attention. It was a book called Poolside, or 14 stories from a number of well-known authors about their experiences around a swimming pool. The gimmick for this book is that it's waterproof. In fact, they had a little plastic pool and fished it out of the water on the show.

I have no idea how the short presentation affected other people but I went to my computer and ordered one. It worked to get me and purchase the book. It's definitely different and I'll be curious to see what it looks and feels like--then to read the book. The real test is not going to be the gimmick. It's going to be what is contained in the pages. If the writing and content is excellent, then I will probably be telling even more people about it.

With the proliferation of books, media and product in the marketplace, it is a challenge to get someone to purchase the book in the first place. The next step is to produce something so excellent the user becomes an evangelist for your product. You want to enable that person to actively spread the word about your book any chance they get the opportunity. It’s some of the principles of Greg Stielstra's excellent book, Pyromarketing. If you don't have it, get it and I recommend you read his introduction. I’ll be watching my mailbox for my copy of Poolside so I can check it out for myself.

One more thing: Numerous times in these entries, I've recommended snipurl.com. Their site has undergone a major overhaul. They say they are in beta mode but I applaud their improvements to the site. If you've never used it, register and log on to the site because then you can create your own private abbreviations for various links. It's a terrific resource that I use throughout my day.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

The Necessity: Ask The Right Question

I've watched writers over the years and know they are a creative bunch. The majority of them have some idea for a magazine article or a novel or a book, sit down and crank it out. Often they invest hours in the writing process and when it's completed, they turn and try to sell that manuscript to a magazine editor or a book publisher.

Because there are literally millions of these ideas, queries, book proposals and manuscripts in the jammed pipeline, the writer waits forever for a response from some editor or literary agent. They burn a path to their mailbox or their email box looking for some response. And often when that response comes, it's a rejection. That's when the self-doubts set in for the writer.

It's like the old chicken joke which has been around forever. What came first the chicken or the egg? Where in the creation process of the writing do you begin and write something that fills a need in the market? There are three large elements with this process: Messenger, Delivery System and Market. The majority of people believe they are the messenger, the book is the delivery system and they are trying to reach the market. It's a long-shot way of touching that market in my view because not enough research has been put into discovering the need of the market.

Yesterday I was fascinated with this transparent post from Thomas Nelson President and CEO Mike Hyatt. While the writer invests vast amounts of time and creative energy in their idea, the publisher has the real "skin in the game" (as some people would say) or financial investment. The publisher has created a product and most of that creation is based on their experience and some "gut" reaction. Mike makes a case for the publisher to do more research before they produce the product. I want to take this idea a bit further and encourage the writer to survey the marketplace before they write another book proposal or another query letter.

How do you survey your market? I'd suggest you use a tool called the Ask Database. Behind the scenes, I'm using this Ask Database to compile the questions and data for my free teleseminar next week (and other teleseminars that are in the planning stages). I hope you’ve asked your question about book proposals or the publishing process because I'm eager to gather your input. Each writer should be building a list of people they can survey. It's their market and they should be connecting with their readers to find out what they want--then write something that fills a need in that audience. You communicate to your audience on a regular basis through a newsletter like my FREE Right Writing News.

This process of asking the right question and meeting a market need is more important than ever for every writer. Why? We’ve been saying there were 170,000 new books published last year--and a very small percentage (something like less than 500 book titles sold over 5,000 copies--I've heard this statistic but can't lay my hands on it--so I'm hedging) actually sold. Here's the frightening detail: R. R. Bowker who compiles the statistics have reworked their method to compile the numbers. Now they estimate that over 290,000 books were published last year--a 120,000 jump from their previously published number of 170,000.

Whether the number was 170,000 or over 290,000, it's a huge number of new books--and many of those titles are entering the market but not selling. I return to my key point in this entry: Are you asking the right question and what are you doing to get your answers?

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