Sunday, June 29, 2008

For The "Unknown" Author

I have this experience over and over so I know it is common among many writers. They have a dream to get published so they write a book (fiction or nonfiction), then pitch it to me at a writer's conference or through an email query or a printed pitch that comes in the mail. Yet when you look at the section "about the author" you find they have little visibility in the public eye and if pressed they would confess to being "unknown." They may speak (every now and then) or write a magazine article (every now and then). Yet there is a disconnect because one of the keys to selling books into the marketplace (and to a publisher) is visibility. Yes, it is about the craft of telling a good story or shaping a good idea with a need in the market. If you have ten or 100 great stories in your office as an editor or literary agent, which ones are you going to champion? It's the ones from the author who has built an audience.

In fact, some of the writers who shrug the most about this topic are the fiction writers. In fact, some of them freely admit they are writing fiction because they don't have to have a platform or visibility to write fiction. Yes, storytelling is key with fiction but visibility in the marketplace and an audience who loves your writing is also important. That built audience is what drives readers to the bookstore when their favorite author has released another novel.

In this instant world, many authors shrug when I encourage them to carve out their specialty and build that audience in the marketplace.

"Too much work," some of them think.

"I don't know where to begin," others cry.

If you are looking for some insight about where to begin or need some more ideas for visibility, I recommend you get a copy of Get Slightly Famous by Steven Van Yoder. The book is not specifically targeted to writers but every author can gain ideas from it.

If you are overwhelmed with the competition in your area of the marketplace, how do you stand out and shine? Steven Van Yoder provides a cornucopia of ideas to move anyone from their anonymous unknown position to becoming a slightly famous stand out. He defines "slightly famous" as "Just famous enough to make their names come to mind when people are looking for a particular product or service, and let them reap the benefits. They get more business--not only more, but the right kind of business--and they don't have to work so hard to get it." (page 3)

While the marketplace may seem crowded (pick your market), there is always room for innovative communicators who will gain visibility, credibility and become a thought leader. Through dozens of case studies and stories, Van Yoder proves his points. The first section helps the reader think through their own distinctive, then the second portion explores different media strategies (for different types of media such as print, online, broadcast) and the final section gives a wealth of ideas for anyone to expand their own reach.

The book is well-written, easy to use and one that I'm certain you will use a highlighter and go back to review the concepts and apply them to your own business. I recommend Get Slightly Famous.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Secret Weapon of Great Books

With all of the hoopla and emphasis on authors, it's rare to find an author who will acknowledge the careful work of his or her editor. In my view, that active involvement from an editor for every part of the manuscript--but in particular the title and the text--is the secret weapon for great books.

There are some fiction authors where I've given up reading their material. Once I was a real fan and read everything they produced yet today I barely give their new titles a glance. I wondered what had changed and as I thought about it, I realized these particular authors had switched publishing houses and lost the strong developmental and editor touch. It's a shame in many respects because I suspect I'm not the only reader from these authors who feels this way. In fact, the authors that I'm thinking about have almost disappeared off the market.

I want to encourage you to read James Grippando's Soapbox called Untitled in the June 23rd issue of Publishers Weekly. It is a beautiful tribute to his editor.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Search For Your Key Insight

How persistent and passionate are you about the book idea that you want to get into print? If you want to succeed with your idea, you need to continually look for your breakthrough moment where you find that key insight.

I find too many writers try a few times then give up. If you are passionate about a particular topic, are you writing shorter magazine articles about it to build your publishing credentials? Are you writing online material? Are you launching a newsletter about it and regularly communicating with that audience (or even finding that audience in the first place)?

Last week when I interviewed Andy McGuire at Moody Publishers he said during the call that he reads the first paragraph and if that is good then he reads the second paragraph and so forth. Just that small discussion was keen insight about how to work toward excellent storytelling and the necessity of catching Andy's attention as an acquisitions editor. This interview is instantly available just follow this link.

Tonight I'll be answering real questions from writers about their book proposal creation in a free teleseminar. The call will be recorded and if you are reading this note after the session, you are not too late and can still hear it on the replay. Earlier this week I mentioned the free resource I created if you sign up for this session called BOOK PROPOSALS THAT SELL EXTRA SPECIAL REPORT. I showed you the cover of this resource but today I want to show you one of the inside pages.

This resource is 90-pages of insight about book proposal creation. I made certain when I created it to maintain the various links and websites to strengthen the value of it for any writer.

I have no idea which element will be your key insight. Maybe it will come from a question I'm going to answer tonight or something you will read in this resource. I am certain of one thing--you will not find it unless you are aware of it--and continually searching for it. I look forward to answering your questions tonight.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If You Are Going To Self-Publish

When I teach at a writer conference I often meet people who have self-published their book. Some of these people will meet with me and see if as an agent, I can take their book to a traditional publisher. It is possible but rare for authors to make this move. Other authors self-publish then write me as though they are a "published" author. And they are to a degree but if you've been in the business for any time at all you can easily see through it. In the last few days, a writer pitched a novel saying they were a published author. I checked the name of the publisher and instantly recognized it as the self-publisher, Publish America. If you want to learn a lot about this particular publisher and their reputation in the marketplace, simply go to Google and type in the words "Publish America" and in a few entries you can see a great deal of public opinion about this company.

If you have a market for your book or you speak often and need to sell something in the back of the room or any number of other good reasons, self-publishing is an option. I'll be the first to tell you that I've read a great deal of poorly produced self-published books as an editor or literary agent. There are also some success stories about self-published books. My books have been with traditional, easily-recognized publishers. Many writers will ask me about self-publishing and because I don't know all of the details about different companies, it is difficult to know where to refer them.

When someone has decided to self-publish, they often do not take the time or energy to research the reputation of a publisher or the distinctions between the various self-publishers. Here's a resource which you should consider because it provides a wealth of information and removes some of the "guess work." For the unskilled author, it is hard to sort through the self-publishing company ads and determine which one is right for them and their budget. I recommend you get a copy of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, third edition, The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies--Analyzed, Ranked & Exposed by Mark Levine.

In the second chapter, Levine gives the reasons to read this book: "If you decided to buy a television or a car, you might read Consumer Reports to find the best price and highest quality. Spending hard-earned money to publish your book should be approached with the same care. But, unlike buying a car, your book is an extension of you. If you choose any publisher ranked "Outstanding" or "Pretty Good" in this book, you won’t get stuck with a Lemon. This book is all about helping authors find and choose a publisher that offers a superior product at a fair price."

Also you should know that Mark Levine has started his own self-publishing company which is not included in the 45 companies called Mill City Press.

"Here are a few reasons why you need to read this book: • To know what you need to look and watch out for when choosing a self-publishing company • To understand what these self-publishing contracts really say and how to negotiate better terms with a publisher • To get the most value for your money by not overpaying for services or book printing and by getting the highest royalties" (p. 8)

What's fascinating about this book is Levine's editor took the same size book specifications to each of the companies, got their contracts, then studied and compared them. As Levine writes, "This time around, my editor contacted each publishing company discussed in this book as a prospective author--just like any of you would. The difference between you and her is that I armed her with the tough questions to ask, regarding justifications for 50%–200% printing markups, excessive publisher royalties, and more." (my bold on the percentage of markup)

Also Levine, a lawyer, provides a detailed explanation of a publishing contract and the different elements which an author should be concerned with and what to watch in the different clauses.

This book is eye-opening and educational for any author considering self-publishing. Why is it important? I want to include another key quotation from Levine's book, "The reason I keep putting out new editions of this book is because, now that I speak to writers' groups and at writers' conferences all over the country, I always meet people who got scammed--really scammed. In May 2007, I met a nice man who had been conned out of $35,000 to publish his book. His $35,000 got him 3,000 hardcover copies of his book that he couldn't sell, a lot of debt, and a series of lies from an unscrupulous publisher. I can promise you that, if you follow the advice in this book, you won't get ripped off by any self-publishing company and that you may, in fact, negotiate a better deal. If you don't follow the advice here you may find yourself out a lot of money and involved with an unethical publisher." (p. 9)

In the early part of the book, Levine cautions that every self-published author should have their book professionally edited. It's one of the main failures in many of the self-publishing books that come across my desk. These books are often filled with simple errors which any beginning professional editor would have caught and fixed. If you wonder which companies are covered in this book, follow this link. I was surprised with some of the companies that fell into the "companies to avoid." To show the depth of Levine's analysis, one of the companies, Bookpros in the outstanding category is online. This book doesn't cover every possible self-publishing company but many of them are included.

I applaud Levine for his careful analysis and research then serving the broader writing community with The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Third Edition.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Stumped On A Submission?

Most book authors don't like to consider this dose of reality: there are millions of book proposals, book manuscripts and book ideas that are in circulation. If you want a heavy dose of some publishing statistics, I recommend you check out Dan Poytner's page on Book Industry Statistics because he regularly updates it with additions.

Some days it feels like every one of those would-be authors has sent their material to me--but they haven't.

It's key to continue getting your ideas and proposals out into the marketplace. There are many stories about authors with perseverance who continued to pitch their book concept in the face of rejection. I love this quote from Charles Kettering that came across my email today from Cynthia Kersey at Unstoppable:

"It doesn't matter if you try and try and try again, and fail. It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again."

If you are continually rejected with a book proposal, then there is value in getting insight and help from others. You can get this help at a writers' conference which involved a commitment of time and money to reach it. Admittedly it's difficult because the editors and literary agents send out form rejections--not because they don't want to help you--but because of time and that's not their role. I use form rejections as much as anyone else in this business.

Where do you get help? Yes you can turn to a local or online critique group or a paid critique service. I want to give you another resource--and it is FREE.

In two days or on June 25th, I've scheduled another teleseminar where I'm going to answer your questions about book proposals or pitches to editors and literary agents. Just to go http://www.askterrywhalin.com/ and use the form to ask your question. I'm collecting these questions through the Ask Database. (Just click this link for a $1 offer if you don't know about this valuable tool).

If you can't attend the teleseminar at the time of the event, still sign up because the call will be recorded and you will receive the replay information then you can download it to your computer or iPod and listen to it on your schedule. It's the same tool that I used last week with Andy McGuire and a while back with Sally Stuart. Each of these past teleseminars are in "replay mode" so there is no need to ask a question because the live event is past. Just type no question along with your name and email address and you will reach the replay page.

Back to my live event on Wednesday, I wanted to create a new book proposal resource. Since I wrote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success, I continue to learn new aspects on book proposal creation--whether fiction or nonfiction. I've written about some of these aspects in these entries on The Writing Life. Yes, you can use my search tool in the right-hand column to collect and read this information in the archives. But do many people take this step? I doubt it.

I pulled together over 40 of my Writing Life entries about book proposals into a single Ebook called Book Proposals That Sell Extra Special Report. I removed the dates, created a table of contents and put it into an Ebook format. Every one of the links within the entries works and will take you to the resource that I mention in the text. It's 90 pages of powerful insight about the submission process--and it's free to every one who signs up for the teleseminar. You can download it immediately on the confirmation page, print it and begin studying this resource.

It's my hope that each of you will use this resource and the others that I create so you have better submissions. I'm a bit self-serving because I want those submissions to come into my mailbox but I'm also eager for writers to figure out the best way to pitch their idea.

I hope to be talking with you this week through the teleseminar--and answering your question.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Weapon For Your Book Marketing Arsenal

Any writer has a dual responsibility in my view. First, they have to learn the craft of writing and create a remarkable series of words. This "series of words" can take all sorts of shapes and forms--whether nonfiction or fiction--whether historical fiction or romance fiction or thriller fiction or _____ fiction--or nonfiction how-to material or a little gift book or something for children or dozens of other types of books. It takes a lot of craft and energy to put together the perfect book. Many publishers are great at guiding the author, editing their work and improving that storytelling (fiction or nonfiction) and creating a compelling title and design. Eventually after a lot of hard work, that book gets into print and gets into the bookstore.

Publishers (and many authors) are not good about marketing their book. I've heard the horror stories from authors and it doesn't matter if their book has been released from a long-established publisher or the newest small press. It's one of the reasons as someone who cares about books and getting them into the hands of readers, that I continue to encourage writers in their marketing efforts. It's not easy for any author (including me) but the marketing for your book is the second element that every writer needs to take on--especially if they want results. I mentioned this statistic in November 2006 and many writers don't even want to know this information--but they should--the average book in the United States sells about 500 copies. If you want to fall into this statistical average, then don't do anything to help spread the word about your book. If you want to be the exception and sell books, then you need to take back the primary responsibility for marketing your book and gather every possible tool for your book marketing arsenal. I wanted to tell you about another great resource called Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers by She Horowitz.

After reading thousands of book proposals and pitches from authors and would-be authors, the majority have no idea how to write a realistic marketing plan. The bulk of these proposals are written with the assumption the publisher will do the majority of the marketing. Instead Shel Horowitz, creator of FrugalMarketing.com, shows writers how to use easily reached resources to sell books. Valuable tips and insights are scattered throughout his book including areas such as endorsements, book reviews and awards. Tapping into your personal networking possibilities and even hooking the traditional media and how to give a great interview. Also in Grassroots Marketing Horowitz will teach you the straight story about how bookstores work then libraries and the online bookstores like Amazon. Finally in his advanced marketing section, he covers speaking to sell books, trade shows and book fairs, affiliate and joint-venture marketing, advertising and direct mail plus how to extend your brand and increase your profits. This book is another valuable resource for any book author or publisher.

In addition, I recommend you subscribe to Horowitz's book tips for authors. As you explore the tips and resources in Grassroots Marketing, you will increase your value to a publisher and most importantly--sell more books.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Good News For Book Lovers

After attending Book Expo America last month in Los Angeles, I continue to sort through the information that I carried home. While people are touting the demise of reading and the printed book, I found this Random House / Zogby Poll encouraging for book lovers. I picked up a news release about it in the press room at BEA. The headline declares, "82% of Readers Prefer Curling Up With a Printed Book To New Reading Technology."

The majority of people head to their bookstore with a specific purpose but they are often tempted into unplanned book purchases. Here's where you can read the full release. Also make sure you check out this link to the final report of the Book Buying Habits of Americans. This survey points to the importance of book covers and titles and how people make decisions about which books they will purchase. Here's a key line in the release: "When they find a book they like, the vast majority (89%) said they make a special effort to look for other books by the same author. Women (92%) are more likely than men (86%) to seek out books by authors they already enjoy."

Also while I'm writing about trends in book buying. Check out this 2008 survey from the Book Industry Study Group. It is loaded with good details about the book buying public.

In addition, the June 16th issue of Publishers Weekly included this article about Kids & Reading. The details from this numbers article came from Scholastic at this link. It's more good news for book lovers.

While some people like to tout the latest electronic tool for reading books, the demise of the printed book is premature. As I've mentioned in the past, the volume of books being produced continues to rise. What are you doing as an author to actively form a relationship with your reader? Every author (or would-be) author needs to continue to explore tools to reach out to their audience and be connected to them in fresh ways.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Did You Miss Last Night's Interview?

I know a few writers who are regretting the fact they didn't listen to my live virtual book tour last night with Moody fiction editor Andy McGuire. The exchanges provided a series of valuable information for any writer interested in writing children's books or in particular writing fiction for Moody Publishers.

Here's the good news: you can still listen to the full interview--even download it to your iPod or computer and hear it on your own schedule. Just follow this link. This session was recorded and late last night I made a few edits to the interview (mostly cleaning up some pauses) then I added a short music introduction for the beginning and the end. Next I moved the material into the replay page (see the illustration). It's not too late for anyone to hear this information so just go to the link, give your first name and email address. In the question box, you can mark "no question" since they will not be used because the interview is over.

It will take you to the replay page. Notice at the bottom of my illustration the little yellow "tell-a-friend" tool, you can use it to send a short email to others about this valuable resource. Why is it valuable? Through listening to Andy, you can learn specifically about the types of fiction books which he is actively looking for Moody Publishers. How does he process a submission? How much of it does he read? This information is in the interview and will help you target your submission to Moody Publishers.

Also in the children's market area, how can you gain a hearing for your manuscript? What does it take and how did Andy do it for his first children's book, Rainy Day Games? You can learn this information through the teleseminar along with other great insights.

The only way you will miss out on this information is if you don't go over there and get it. I want to keep learning and growing in my knowledge of the publishing business and the market. I learned a great deal during this session and you can too.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Watch Your Words

It happens to me from time to time. Thankfully less and less as I follow this insight. If some bit of information rubs me the wrong way, I try and be wise about the way I respond. If you fire off the wrong words, you can inflame the situation rather than calm it. I find this true whether I am sending an email or writing something for these entries about The Writing Life. It's important to watch your words.

I find this especially true with these entries about The Writing Life. I've quoted journalists from publications like The New Yorker and received emails from them later that day. I written about authors and their books where I had no personal relationship or connection and received personal emails (of appreciation) later that day. The world is small and interconnected so you need to be aware of this fact. I'm not involved in investigative journalism or heavy critiques that will rile folks and I'm thankful about it.

Many people have forgotten that I do have a journalism degree from Indiana University, one of the top j-schools in the United States. Admittedly it was years ago that I took communications law but those lessons remain ingrained in my writing life and practices. I was reminded of the importance of watching my words when I read an article in today's Arizona Republic from Caryn Rousseau (Associated Press). Here's the same article which appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Notice the links and other information in this helpful article. A little forethought may save you lots of grief down the road. In general I try and follow the saying my mother drilled in me--and you've probably heard as well, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

It's a good word to the wise when it comes to your writing--of any type.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

For Your Burning Question

There is no shortage of passion among writers and especially writers for children and fiction writers. It is obvious to me as I've read these questions from more than 100 people who have signed up at the moment for this event. If you want to ask a question about Christian fiction or children's writing for Andy, now is the time to ask it: http://www.askandymcguire.com/

Late last week I wrote a short, targeted press release about this event and sent it to three publications which have regular online newsletters that go out to their audiences. I know two of the three publications picked up on the release. Here's one of them from yesterday:

"Fiction editor/author answers questions in upcoming teleseminar. Moody Fiction Editor Andy McGuire will answer your questions in a free live 70-minute telewebcast this Wed., Jun. 18, at 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern. Host Terry Whalin will use the questions from various participants to grill McGuire about the publication of his first children's book, Rainy Day Games, Fun with the Animals of Noah's Ark (Harvest House Publishers). Anyone can ask a question at: http://www.askandymcguire.com/ and register for the free teleseminar.

Participants in the free teleseminar can also ask McGuire questions about his day job as the fiction editor at Moody Publishers. Each person who registers for the teleseminar at: http://www.askandymcguire.com/ will receive a free four-chapter e-book called Novel Curriculum by Andy McGuire. This 47-page e-book will help writers understand some of the basics related to creating and shaping Christian fiction.

Don't have time to listen during the workday? The event will be recorded and every registrant will receive access to the replay links, which can be downloaded to a computer or iPod."

OK, maybe you are not a fiction writer or children's author, can you learn something from this post for your writing life? There is no doubt in my mind.

First, notice the technology. Sign up and notice you can hear the author talking, then when you ask your question, you get to the confirmation or mirror page where you make sure you have your question worded as you want it. Once again you have a personal connection to this author. Finally when you ask your question, you reach the confirmation page where you will hear me talking and confirming your registration.

Check out this confirmation page and notice it's where you download the free 47-page Ebook from Andy McGuire about writing fiction. Also this page is where people get the call-in number for their phones or they can listen to the interview on a live webcast (free). Also this page has a countdown timer highlighting when the event will take place. Notice at the bottom of this page there is a tool so the registrant can tell a friend about the event.

There is a large button in the middle of the confirmation page which encourages people to purchase copies of Rainy Day Games. Does it work? I've already received an email from one participant who has purchased the book. My mentor on virtual book tours, Alex Mandossian has specific sales results from these events. With one book and one author, Alex can point to over 3,500 book sales. Now when you realize that many books don't even sell 500 copies in their lifetime, if someone sells over 3,500 copies of an authors book, that is a huge deal.

People who sign up for the event also receive two confirmation emails. Why two? Because of not all email reaches its original destination and the dual emails helps raise those possibilities.

I've prepared the author for this event, sent the questions from the participants and I will be sending another batch later. The author can be confident about the time on the telephone with me because they know what information the audience wants before the event.

Finally notice how easy this event is for the author. They don't travel anywhere or sit in a bookstore wondering if someone is going to come for a book signing. They have over 100 people gathered in a virtual event just to listen to them talk with the host on the telephone.

In terms of time and expense, a virtual book tour is one of the most effective ways to sell books as Alex says, "Quicker, faster and with less human effort." Yes some other people are touting other technology events like blog tours. No one has yet shown me that blog tours sell books with specific results. Yes it gives some exposure to the book but in terms of results I've found zero evidence that translates into sales. Call me a skeptic but I want to put my time and energy into events which sell books and are a winner for the author and the publisher. There is no better way than a virtual book tour--at least that I've discovered to date.

I want to point to the Church of the Customer Blog and their post about The Word of Mouth Manual. It's a great resource for you to get this book and learn about how the publishing industry should reinvent itself. Virtual Book Tours fall into this same area of innovation.

Finally I wanted to show you the back cover of Rainy Day Games and wonder who was Andy McGuire thinking about for a model when he drew that illustration. Maybe we'll find out tomorrow night. Hope you can make it.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Plan Careful Moves

Whenever I make a move (in any area such as the writing life or my physical location or my Internet websites), it's best when I make a careful plan then move. A careful plan allows for the best and most thorough outcome. It doesn't always happen this way.

For example, several months ago, I decided to move my Internet websites from Homestead.com to Hostgator.com. I have been a long-term advocate of Homestead.com and they host millions of websites plus have great "point and click" tools where you don't have to learn HTML or much computerese to operate them successfully. I've built about a dozen websites on Homestead.com and still have a number of my sites there.

I had some great reasons for switching to Hostgator.com including the additional technical capability, more space and a cheaper price. As I advanced in my technical skills for my sites, I constantly found things that I could not do on Homestead.com. In a sense, I had outgrown the "point and click" technology and was moving into a different area.

A couple of months ago, I began moving some of my websites to Hostgator.com. I started with some sites which did not have a lot of additional material associated with it and were easy to move. Then I moved my personal website http://www.terrywhalin.com/. I had been on Homestead for so many years that I "forgot" my main email address which people have around the globe: terry@terrywhalin.com was also connected to this account. For several days, I didn't get any email at this address (big clue). I had to make some additional changes to correct this issue.

This weekend, I moved my literary agency website from Homestead.com to Hostgator.com. If you searched for Whalin Literary Agency on Google, then you would find this entry:

Whalin Literary Agency
Whalin Literary Agency carries this experience in the marketplace. We help authors develop their ideas and then connect those authors to the best possible ...
whalinagency.homestead.com/ - 8k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

It is not what I wanted people to find for my agency website but was the top entry in Google. So...I made the switch this weekend and my new agency site is up and operational. I still have a few images to move and put in place but overall it has the same functionality as the old website.

Late last night I was pleased with this move. Then I remembered my agency email account was set up like my terry@terrywhalin.com Unless I made some additional technical moves, I would not be receiving those emails. I made the additional changes and that email is functional.

As I shift around my Internet websites, the work isn't finished. I have a number of my single product landing pages to move to my new Hostgator platform. With each site that I move, I learn something and become a little quicker at making this transition. I'm on my way as I carefully plan this transition.

Why am I telling you about it? I hope that my experience will be useful to you in your own moves and writing life. It's not simple for any of us.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Understand The Gatekeepers

Writers never cease to amaze me about their lack of understanding concerning the details of publishing. Many people will invest hours in writing their manuscript or story, yet not take the time to learn the basic details about the book business and even the typical elements in producing a book. For example they will write a full nonfiction manuscript instead of writing a book proposal. Or more frequently in the fiction category, they will craft a full manuscript which is not even close to being within the expected word limits.

When someone writes me a pitch for a novel or a nonfiction book which is substantially over or under the expected normal lengths, I take the unusual step instead of sending a form letter (which I also send), I will often write back a short response and point out their challenge with the length and reference this post I wrote several years ago. My post actually points to bestselling novelist Lori Copeland and her advice about length for novels in different genres.

Novelists unlike their nonfiction counterparts have to complete the full story before they shop it to the agents or editors. This requirement is particularly true for the unpublished novelist. As a writer I understand that they have gotten wrapped up in their storytelling and completed their novel. Last week I was pitched a novel with these specifications:

Genre: Contemporary Mainstream Fiction written saga style and spanning the time period from 1940-2013.

Audience: Adults 18-54 Word Count: 190,000

In my response, I encouraged this author that she was substantially over the normal word count. Her response to my note that I was going to pass up this opportunity, "I will take my chances with the length as I'm know it's a good story as is. Besides, editors have to have something to cut from...and if they can figure out a part that isn't needed for the story line, I'll be happy to make the adjustments."

This type of naive response shows the writer has almost zero understanding of the needs of the editor who is the gatekeeper within the publishing house. Imagine for a minute the massive amount of possible material that is coming your direction from respected and known literary agents, writers that the editor has met at a conference or in some other venue and other sources. Often I compare the volume to someone trying to catch a drink of water from a fire hose. If you have such volume of submissions coming your direction, how do you sift through the piles? One of the easiest ways is with the word count criteria. You glance at the story line and writer, then see the number of words in their story and if it is way over the top (as in this case), then you reject it. The editor never reads the story or even a few pages of it. Why? Because it is a tremendous amount of work to cut 70,000 words from a submission and there are better and more effective ways to spend your time.

The other element that this author doesn't understand is the challenge to get any novel published in the traditional marketplace. Why? There are limited opportunities--in fact--much more limited opportunities than in the nonfiction area. While there is great marketing hoopla made about some fiction authors,
nonfiction consistently out sells fiction. I can hear the protests out there saying things like:

*"But with fiction I don't need a platform or to be known like I do with nonfiction." True but you can build a nonfiction platform. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction you need to be building your own presence in the marketplace. I've given many ideas about these matters
in these entries on The Writing Life.

*"But with fiction I can just make it up and don't need to do research." No, whether you are writing a contemporary or a historical or a romance, you need to do research and have your facts right. One of my friends is a reader for several Hollywood production companies. They pay him a reading fee to review published (or about to be published) novels for possible films. Recently he was telling me about a forthcoming historical from a well-known Christian publisher (part of a series of books from this novelist) with a historical error in the first chapter. He discovered the error in a matter of minutes using Google. Because this writer failed to be historically accurate in her storytelling, she unknowingly missed an opportunity to be considered for a film project. Admittedly it is rare for a novel to be made into a movie (just check the statistical possibilities in
this post that I wrote in December 2005). The historical inaccuracy killed the opportunity for this novelist.

Instead of figuring "the editor has to have something to cut, they will fix it," make a commitment to crafting your idea as close to what the publisher needs as possible. Then the editor or literary agent can take your project to an even higher level of excellence.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Where Do You Buy Your Books?

To me, this week's cover on The New Yorker reached the heart of one of the book buying issues for publishers and consumers. It's hard to see on the little image that I'm including with this post but a shopkeeper is unlocking the door to his bookstore. Next door, the UPS man is delivering a box to a woman. In tiny letters which you can see on the actual cover, the box says, "AMAZON.COM."

The irony is evident that a woman lives next door to a bookstore yet purchases her books from Amazon because of the convenience (24 hours a day) or the price or some other factor.

Several years ago, a writer friend told me with great authority, "I never buy books online but only buy them from my local independent bookstore." Now that's an interesting comment but I suspect such a commitment to the local bookstore is rare.

While I purchase books, I treat shopping for books like I would any other product. I'm searching for the best possible price as much as the particular place where I get the book. When I purchase an airline ticket, I check a number of different online places before I make my purchase. I go through the same process when I purchase books. Normally I go to BookFinder4U and enter the book title or the author's name. This tool will search many different online bookstores and calculate the total price of the book--including the postage. Simultaneously this tool searches new and used books. You determine where you want to purchase your book and the condition of that particular book (new or used).

Also I buy books at the bookstore but much less frequently than I have in the past and I suspect this trend is true with many others.

My encouragement to you as a writer is to be aware of where people are purchasing books--and make sure your book is available in as many different venues and formats as possible. Some people prefer audio books while others travel and would rather have your book in an Ebook format which they can download and use on the road. If you discover that your publisher has not made your book available in a particular place (even to be ordered), then gently plan a strategy to resolve this matter. I say gently because you do not want to become a nuisance to your publisher--but you do want to be a proactive author who cares about selling books and knowledgeable about how books are sold.

For example, when the small press, Write Now Publications, did not have the search inside feature activated for my Book Proposals That Sell, I researched a tiny bit on Amazon and discovered the author can resolve this matter. It involved filling out a simple release form for Amazon and mailing them a physical book. Then it took a bit of time but eventually Amazon scanned the pages and activated this feature for Book Proposals That Sell. See how I was proactive to increase the sales of my book without being a nuisance to my publisher? Many people use that search inside the book feature on Amazon to make a buying decision so you want to have that tool active for your books.

The marketplace is ever changing in this area as publishers and authors look for new venues and ways to sell their books. It's something else you can also consider for your Writing Life. AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Rare Opportunity For You

Unless you travel to a writer's conference or a trade show, it's often difficult to reach an editor with your questions--especially if you are new to the world of book publishing.

There are several challenging areas of the book marketplace for writers. First, the children's market is a challenge. Many beginning writers read dozens of children's books to their own children and decide, "I could have written that book. In fact, I think I'll try." These writers throw down some words on a paper and begin sending out their materials to publishers. Before long they receive a nice little stack of rejection notices--which they don't understand. I'll admit that I didn't understand much about this market from the publisher perspective until I worked as an acquisitions editor and brought children's books into the publishing house. It is not easy and full-color printing is expensive. I've seen the financials for some of these children's books and to most would-be authors, the numbers are staggering. I know a number of writers who would like to have some inside information about how to get their own children's books published.

And what if you are an illustrator for your own children's books? It is possible but it is even rarer for a writer to make the words and the illustrations for their own children's book. I want to tell you about a new children's book called Rainy Day Games by Andy McGuire. I've read this book and Andy's artwork combined with his elegant words is remarkable.

Here's the rare opportunity for you: you will get to ask Andy some questions about this work through a live virtual book tour on Wednesday, June 18th. Just go to AskAndyMcGuire.com and ask your question and sign up. If you can't attend the event, it will be recorded and you will receive the replay link and be able to download it to your computer or iPod. Rainy Day Games is Andy's first children's book which he wrote and illustrated.

Andy has a fascinating day job as the fiction editor at Moody Publishers. Whenever I set up these teleseminars, I ask the author for something which we can give the participants as an "ethical bribe" or gift. It turns out Andy had four unpublished chapters of a how-to book on how to write a novel. I poured this material into an Ebook template to create Novel Writing Curriculum. Everyone who asks a question and signs up for next week's event, will be able to download this 47-page book on the confirmation page. In addition, at the bottom of the confirmation page, you will be able to tell your friends about this event.

As the host and creator of next week's teleseminar, I'm excited about the opportunity to interview Andy and learn about his children's writing but also about how he handles his fiction editor role at Moody Publishers. I hope each of you will sign up and take advantage of this learning opportunity.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Take A Re-Org Day

Late Saturday night, I returned home from the Write to Publish conference on the campus of Wheaton College. As I've mentioned in other entries on The Writing Life, I love to go to these conferences for several different reasons. They are an opportunity to encourage and give back to others in the writing community. Often there are many people new to the publishing community and it is an opportunity to encourage them. In addition, I always grow and learn new things which build into my own writing life.

The marketplace continues to change. One long-term magazine editor confided that she was working on the final issue of the publication which she had led for the last few years. Thankfully she still has a position at the company and is shifting to another magazine. My conversation with her served as another reminder about the continual ebb and flow of the magazine market--something that many writers don't consider. Just like the book industry changes constantly, change is a constant variable within the magazine community as well. While there are many new magazines introduced into the marketplace each year, many magazines fold and go out of business. For me, a number of years ago I gave up counting the number of publications where my work has appeared when I reached 50 publications. In a short amount of time, I could compile a list of magazines where my work has appeared and these publications no longer exist. Many magazines cease publication within the first five years yet I've written for a number of publications which have been around for many times longer than that benchmark and they have also ceased publication. It is difficult for these magazines to make the financials work on the business side of things--an issue that writers rarely consider.

If the magazine is going to cease publication, why continue to write for the magazines? There are many reasons for writers at all stages of their writing careers to continue writing for magazines. First, you write for magazines because it is an opportunity to practice your craft and continually be publishing in print. Yes, it's fine to write things online but in general, printed publications are held to a much higher standard of publication and writers should be writing for these publications on a regular basis. Also because magazine articles are much shorter than books, you can complete them in a shorter amount of time and most of the time reach many more people than with your books. I've personally reached millions of people with my magazine work where I have not had that experience (yet) with my book material. My encouragement is to not ignore the magazine market for your writing. Be writing those query letters and pitching your ideas on a regular basis.

After two back to back trips with little time in between (Book Expo America in Los Angeles and Write To Publish in Chicago), my office is a shambles with piles everywhere. I'm giving my self a re-org day (reorganization day) and it may take two days to achieve what needs to happen in my office. It gives me a chance to straighten my files and reorganize my office, sort and read through the various magazines and books which have arrived or I picked up in Los Angeles. Why is it important for every writer or anyone in publishing to take these steps?

Follow-up work and organization of information is key for any writer. I exchanged business cards with dozens of people yet if I can't access that data, then it is much harder to use. I'll be adding this information to my computer files for easier access. Instead of throwing the business cards into a drawer some place, how are you using this information to continually reach out and touch these people? If you aren't doing it, then you are potentially missing an opportunity to continue to strengthen that relationship. From my experience, the person who follows up and is organized has the greatest potential for success. I've found few people will follow-up and the people who do follow-up stand out in a costive manner. Also as I've written in other places in these entries, information is power. Do you have information, if so, what are you doing with it?

Finally, I wanted to point out a fascinating group of statistics in the June 2nd issue of Publishers Weekly. Every writer should be concerned about getting readers. Check out some of these recent statistics and see if they give you some insight for your own writing life.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

A Brief Interlude

In classical music, an interlude is a brief calm spot between two movements. I've been in the middle of a brief interlude before I take off on another trip. I drove across on Saturday evening from Book Expo America. Today I'm doing a bit of follow-up work from that experience before I plunge into another event--Write To Publish in Chicago.

I acquired a great deal of valuable insight into the book world during Author 101 University and Book Expo. If you build relationships, I'm convinced the best days are ahead of us in this market. Yes there are plenty of doom and gloom folks out there to convince you otherwise about the numbers of books being purchased, being printed and being read. As I've written about in these entries in the past, can you follow a different course of action as a writer? I'm convinced you can. For example, Saturday morning in the press room of Book Expo, I met a writer who has sold over three million copies of a book since 2003. Now this title has never appeared on a bestseller list yet he is getting his message into the marketplace. In fact, this author sells 15,000 copies of his book each month to the U.S. Navy. Can your book move to this level? I believe it can if you focus on developing these relationships. One relationship that I started last week was with a nonprofit company called First Book. If you write children's books, explore this site and learn about what they are doing to get books into the hands of readers. It was remarkable.

I want to give you one quick example of a new relationship that I made last week. During at break at Author 101 University, Ali Pervez greeted me and struck up a conversation. He has a new book called Marketing Is King which I'm in the process of reading. Ali is in the process of writing another book that he called Black belt Marketing. When we talked, he gave me one of his black belt moves: "Make friends when you don't even need them because when you do need them, it's too late." Now there is a true statement.

One of the more interesting gizmos that I picked up at Book Expo was a small Denver company called XMarxit. I was fascinated with this little device and I'm going to figure out some way to use it in the days ahead.

Finally, just to give you an idea of what I'm doing at Write To Publish, I'm going to include the paragraph summaries that I wrote about what I will be covering during the Freelance Career Track. Each of the people in my sessions have published at least one book:

Day 1 – Publishing in Today’s Environment – a Real Look

Today’s environment is challenging for any freelancer but you can succeed if you understand the market conditions and trends in the marketplace and meet the editor’s needs. This session will examine a series of trends and strategies. Also for a few minutes, walk in the shoes of an editor and understand the importance of relationship. Learn the 10 characteristics of successful writers.

Day 2 – The Importance of The Pitch

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, that first impression is critical and the editor will make it in seconds. Have you poured enough energy into your pitch? How do you get ready to pitch? What is the process? How do you build excellence into your book proposal (whether fiction or nonfiction to make it stand out)? Why do editors read proposals and not manuscripts? What are the critical elements in a nonfiction book proposal? What elements are critical for a six-figure advance?

Day 3 – Insider Information about Contracts and Agents

Where do you get reliable insight about contract negotiations or locating a literary agent? This session will provide you with some resources and insight. A distinguished and knowledgeable panel of literary agents and book editors will be grilled about contracts and agents. This session will help you learn the details of contract negotiation and also what it takes to attract and keep a top literary agent.

Day 4 – Diversity For The Ever-Searching Freelancer

During this session, you will learn how to diversify your writing life and the importance of building your own platform with a direct connection to your reader. You will learn techniques and resources to become a more visible author in the marketplace and attractive to publishers and magazines. If you don’t have a platform or have stalled on ideas for getting published, this session will show you about collaboration and ghost writing for others. Opportunity is everywhere. Are you taking advantage of the possibilities?

I hope to write more entries while on the road, but if not, you can understand what I have in motion. My brief interlude is almost over.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Book Sensory Overload

I returned yesterday afternoon from several days in Los Angeles attending the Author 101 University and Book Expo America. I met and exchanged business cards with hundreds of people and interacted with scores of other people where we simply talked about books. I haven't attended this particular trade show in at least 16 years. I intentionally planned few appointments and instead spent my time walking the exhibit floor, meeting people and looking at the variety of products.

It is impossible for this brief entry to capture much more than a flavor of what happened at this event. Book Expo is the largest trade show related to books in the country and has miles of exhibits from publishers. Because it is a closed trade show, you have to get a badge to get into the exhibit floor. Typically they have 25,000 to 30,000 people attending the event--publishers, retailers, authors, librarians, literary agents and many others associated with the publishing world attend this event.

The number of books which are produced annually only continues to increase. If you want to get an eye full of some current book statistics, then check out this article from last week's Publishers Weekly. If you are an author at such an event, it is easy to feel quite small in the midst of the hoopla and buzz. Because I drove to the event and had my car, I was able to bring home much more material than if I had flown to the event. Whether you were looking for something more traditional or bizzare, it was easily accessible at the trade show.

Yesterday for example, I saw three people dressed like they had stepped out of time machine in the Old West. Two women in frilly outfits and a man in a cowboy hat and dark suit with a vest. This trio was handing out fliers and wooden coins. The simple flier began, "WANTED Dead or Alive Publisher/ Producer/ Agent." This author was shopping a project--complete with her contact information and website. It wasn't for me but I applauded the creativity.

I was fascinated to pick up a copy of Merck's 1899 Manual. This slim leather-bound volume was all the medical information available to doctors and pharmacists in 1899 and only 192 pages.

Or the slim pocket-sized book, How to Survive Book Expo 2008. No matter what trade show event, this book was loaded with sound wisdom. It included seven rules from Rick Frishman and here's a few of them:

1. Wear comfortable shoes. Nobody cares what is on your feet.

2. This is a networking event: smile -- talk to people -- keep your head up as you walk the aisles. Be accessible.

5. Get to the floor early -- that's when you can really meet people.

I learned a tremendous amount of information and will be applying it to my literary agency and my own writing life in the days ahead. The follow-up will be one of the keys from the event.

I hope to have another chance to write more about some of the people and events from Book Expo but my time is a premium. I leave for Chicago and Write To Publish early Tuesday. At least this post give you a hint about some of what happened. The amount of energy can put anyone on book sensory overload.

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