Friday, October 31, 2008

The Roller-Coaster Ride

I've frequently mentioned the Soapbox column of Publishers Weekly and the October 27th issue stood out to me as an article which rang with truth. Richard O'Connor's article, Get Happy, gives tips for authors who are going through the publishing process.

He writes, "As a therapist, I've had several editors and even a publisher as clients and picked up a lot of useful gossip about the trade. That's why I know that selling a book proposal is only the start of the roller-coaster ride."

Until I read this article, I never hooked the publishing process into the metaphor or a roller-coaster but it resonates with my up and down, jerked around experience in publishing. One day you find out that some reader loved your book and it made a huge difference in their life, then the next phone call you learn a manuscript that you believed "should" be published at a particular house has been firmly rejected.

O'Connor gives three principles to handle the process (which I am including in bold with my comments):

1. Stay in control. Now you have to read the article but he's not talking about all the elements you can't control (and there are many) but only the ones you can do something about.

2. Don't Be Money Hungry. It's an area that I regularly talk about with my authors--particularly when we are negotiating the contracts.

3. Know How To Handle Too Much Information. You can read the article but I agree with his point. There are moments when your writing is out there and you have to plan in advance how you will handle the reaction or it will plunge your feelings a direction downward and you don't want or need to head that direction.

I love O'Connor's favorite tip: "When you go to bed at night, think of three good things that happened during the day."

Other people suggest creating a gratitude journal where you can record and celebrate those positive things which happen in your day. It will make a difference for how you handle the situations of the day.

Each of us do the things we can do in a day, then we have to let the rest of it go. Sometimes it's easier said than done but it's how I'm trying to handle The Writing Life.

Many years ago I moved away from publishing and my writing. In fact, I spent ten years in linguistics and academia away from the world of popular writing. While those years were character building as I look back, I know without a shadow of a doubt that my place in the world is within the publishing community.

I hope these words encourage you to persist and learn your craft in the midst of the roller-coaster experience.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Proven Success-Generating Habits

Where do you find proven success-generating habits? Most of us in the writing community seem to learn through trial and error. Most of those attempts fall on the error side of the equation if the recent queries that I have received are any indication. Like the one from a Canadian author who began, "Dear Ms. Whalin." It definitely caught my attention and I put it in the "no, thank you" category.

Last summer when I was at Book Expo in Los Angeles, I picked up Turn It Up!, How to Perform At Your Highest Level for A Lifetime by Dr. Jeffrey Spencer. This former Olympian, team member of eight Tours de France, chiropractor and Life Coach knows something about this topic of success. Here's the link to my review on Amazon. I used my highlighter a great deal as I read through this book because it contains wise and practical advice.

Toward the end of Turn It Up! Dr. Spencer covers a series of universal habits to help live a more fulfilled and successful life. These include:

1. Laugh daily.

2. Get enough sleep.

3. Stretch daily.

4. Recharge regularly. In this section he wisely writes, "The best time to take a break is before one is needed." I appreciated the practical nature of this book and how the principles are applicant to many areas of life--not just our writing.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Like Finding True Love

This week, Publishers Weekly Editor-in-Chief, Sara Nelson wrote about the making of a bestseller. She said, "Discovering a book that works is like finding true love."

If you are wondering about your book idea, you will receive some encouragement from this article. I've written in these entries about the subjective nature of publishing. If we knew how to create a bestseller, then it would "automatically" happen. Yet it doesn't. As Nelson says, "Often, the rules don't hold." Then she gives some current examples of books on the bestseller list which have broken the standard expectations.

One of the books Nelson mentions is The Shack. I've written about this book in these entries on The Writing Life. I talked about the book with a number of my editorial colleagues. Some of them loved it. Others could not complete it (a sign they didn't like it or the content or craft bothered them). Yet The Shack has caught the imagination of the reading public and continues to be a mainstay on the bestseller list. For every book like The Shack, there are many others which never catch hold.

If I could understand the reason and bottle it, I would make a fortune. One of the keys is to have an excellent submission in the first place. Many writers are missing a key element and send an incomplete submission. In the rush of looking at material, if something is missing or doesn't resonate, it gets rejected or set aside. Every writer has a responsibility to take the time and energy to learn the craft of writing and also how to create an excellent proposal. Even experienced writers will benefit from this teleseminar that I created.

Whatever challenges you are facing today, determine your way ahead. I loved Nelson's conclusion, "You take your risks, you make mistakes, and you start with your heart."

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Deliver A One, Two Punch

This morning I was reading Shelf Awareness. If you don't get this free enewsletter about the book trade, I'd encourage you to subscribe. You don't have to read every word (I don't) but I do take a serious look at each issue.

In today's issue, I read the review of this new book, The Customer Is Always Wrong. While I have not read this book since I just learned about it today. The provocative title drew me to read the review. Then I tracked down a sample of the writing at the publisher's website.

What I wanted to point out was the one, two punch that was orchestrated here. The first punch came from creating an excellent title. Too many would-be authors do not put enough energy into that title. It's the first element that a literary agent or editor sees when they begin to read your material.

I understand that some authors can't write the proposal without a title. In order not to get stuck, they throw some words on the page for that title and continue to write the rest of the proposal and sample chapter. If you follow this procedure, just make sure you circle back to your title and put some thought and attention into it before you send it out for consideration. It will pay off in the long run. Don't assume the publisher is going to title your book. Over and over I have seen a good title carry through the entire title process inside a publishing house. The author is the best person to title the book because they are closest person to the contents.

And the second punch that was delivered this morning? It was the review in Shelf Awareness. As I looked at the page for this book on Amazon, I see that it was also reviewed in Publishers Weekly (scroll down because it is there). A PW review isn't automatic. In fact, many books are sent to PW which are not reviewed in this trade journal within the publishing community. Yet, if the book is reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Amazon recognizes the importance of that review--and they keep those PW reviews on the top of the book page--forever. Book reviews are a great way to get the word out about your book. Reviews take effort to get out there--and obviously this author and publisher are investing the effort in this book.

Now let's think about your book and your writing. What are you doing today to deliver a one two punch or even a knockout. Are you actively working to tell people about your book? You'd be shocked at the relaxed role authors take with their book after it is released. If your book is still in print (even if it is not brand new), then you need to consciously be telling people about it. For example, my Book Proposals That Sell has been in print for several years. It continues to receive new customer reviews on Amazon and I continue to send out review copies to people who will recommend and talk about the book.

There are many books in the marketplace. Getting attention for any book is a challenge--and does not happen randomly or without planning. Take a few minutes to make a plan then execute your plan in the days ahead. It will pay off.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

If You Need A Dose of Courage. . .

There are many forces which threaten to undo our own resolve about writing and publishing. Maybe it's a rejection that you recently received. Literary agents get rejected more than most writers because we receive the news for our various clients. Maybe watching the news has discouraged you--and that's easy to have happen because the bulk of the news is about some disaster or crisis in our world.

This weekend, I read literary agent Terry Burns' speech which he posted from speaking at the Glorieta Christian Writers' Conference about publishing and the economy. If you read this material, it's not easy to take away an upbeat positive message. If you are in the middle of writing a full-length novel or trying to learn how to create a book proposal or write a magazine article, in the face of such reports, it's easy to lose heart.

For a great dose of courage for the heart, I suggest you get out and see High School Musical 3, Senior Year. Now if you are like me, you don't have fond memories of high school or know anything about High School Musical and High School Musical 2. We had no background about this mega hit Disney television movie--yet we went to see it yesterday. Even at an early showing, it was packed with many young people.

In a nutshell, Troy and Gabriella are facing a state basketball championship, senior prom and graduation. They are also wondering what to do with their lives. Like many young people, they are facing the decisions about where to go to college and what to study and next steps in their life. The music is fun and upbeat. Just follow this link to listen to little clips of some of the songs. With the G rating, you can take the whole family and enjoy the experience.

Every agent and editor that I know are actively looking for excellence--and after over 15 years in this business, I have a lot of contact with many different parts of the publishing world. Admittedly it is hard to find those excellent projects but we continue reading our submissions and working with writers because people continue to purchase books and read magazines.

If you need that dose of courage, then get to the movies. As they say in High School Musical 3, it's time to turn it up. Game on!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Sound Web Marketing Advice

When it comes to marketing information online, there are many competing voices. How do you know where to turn for sound advice? I often meet writers who do not have any presence online or they have not changed their website in YEARS and wonder where to turn.

Recently I read Web Marketing for Small Businesses, 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth by Stephanie Diamond. This book is packed with current insight and ideas.

Several years ago there was great suspicion about the Internet and websites because some of them were fake. While some fake sites still exist, this suspicion has largely disappeared and in fact, completely reversed. Now the web or Internet is often the FIRST place that people turn when they have a business need.

If you are a small business owner, you need to harness the power of the Internet to increase your own bottom line and visibility. Web Marketing For Small Businesses is an invaluable resource. With detailed and current examples, Stephanie Diamond helps every reader understand the changing roles and the necessity of a new mindset. Then she walks the reader through a seven-step action plan to discover your niche, capitalize on your brand, tell your story, jump higher in the search engines, write good content (persuasive landing pages, minisites and sales letters), social media tactics and finally tried and true tactics (newsletters, article marketing, white papers and much more).

Stephanie Diamond is a seasoned expert in this field and writes with authority about a subject that she knows intimately.

This easy-to-digest text is a book that I will use over and over. The worksheets alone in the back are worth the cost of this book. Small business owners who follow the wisdom in these pages will profit in many ways--and I mean much more than your bottom line. You will gain a presence and visibility which will only enhance your financials and increase your business.

I also recommend you check out the resources on her Squidoo page and her blog. If you'd like to download one of her free teleseminars, then use this link. Stephanie has many more details about the book in this Marketing Message Notebook. Also she's launched a free e-course related to the book.

From these various resources, you can see that Stephanie Diamond is someone who practices what she writes about web marketing.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Find Your Own Writing Niche

Where do you fit in the writing world? How do you discover your particular niche? One of the best ways that I've discovered is to continually read yet be sensitive to looking for your niche. Earlier this year, the second edition of Ready, Aim, Specialize!, Create Your Own Writing Specialty and MAKE MORE MONEY! by Kelly James-Enger was released. I read the first version of this book and reviewed it on Amazon. This week I dug into the second edition and love the principles and detailed information for every writer in it's pages. Whether you are beginning or advanced in your writing career I recommend you consider this book.

Why? Because even if you write fiction, you need to learn about the nonfiction market to help promote your book. Even if you spend most of your time trying to get your novel published, you need the exposure from the magazine world which is predominately nonfiction. You can learn this valuable skill in Ready, Aim, Specialize!, Create Your Own Writing Specialty and MAKE MORE MONEY!

Many writers flounder around trying many different areas of the market before they specialize and find their particular niche. Kelly James-Enger can help you cut down on the learning curve, evaluate your own background and discover your own place in today's market. Her seasoned counsel is priceless. Step-by-step she helps writers tackle the market and understand how to meet the editor's needs (and as a result their reader's needs) to succeed in publishing.

In the process, Kelly covers the top 10 hottest specialties. With each specialty, she gives you insider wisdom to succeed in these markets. More than writing for magazines, she provides the reader with a strategy and game plan to enter the full-time writing life. For example over on page 209, she writes about how specializing helps you build your "platform" (a much discussed word in the writing community). She writes, "Specializing in a subject helps you create a platform as you become an expert in your subject area. The other way to develop a platform is to become a celebrity of sorts, or to get as close to a celebrity as you can. Consider Dr. Phil McGraw. He was a moderately successful "life strategist" who became a household name after he started appearing on Oprah's daytime talk show. His own series soon followed, and now even his wife and son are best-selling authors."

When I read a writing how-to book, I want to turn to an expert--someone who had repeatedly succeeded in finding a specialization. Kelly is one of those writers. She knows about these different fields like health, diet, nutrition and fitness because she writes about them day in and day out. This book is loaded with tips and insight about breaking in then thriving in each specialty. You will want to read and re-read this book.

Most of this entry is the contents of my Amazon customer review. I tried to update it with a new date but Amazon preserved my original review date--even though I wrote it this week.

If you purchase this book and only read the final chapter, and then practically apply this information to your writing life, you will have received the full value (and more) from this book. Kelly gives practical advice for maximizing your freelance income and says, "If you want to boost your bottom line or simply work more efficiently, give these 15 strategies a try" (page 223--and my emphasis on the number of strategies). Just to give you a taste, here's several of these strategies without the important explanations: Negotiate for Higher Rates, Pitch Multiple Ideas, Come Up With Spin-Offs, Look Local and Forget The Muse.

If you haven't figured it out, I like this book and highly recommend it. Kelly knows her stuff and is a living active example of someone who helps others with these types of books.Go to her newsletter page and subscribe to her free publication. Every month I find great encouragement from this newsletter and I know you will as well.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Make Your Life Matter

If you've ever attempted to co-author a book or a magazine article with another person, you will quickly learn that it's not easy. I've had many author friends who tell me they tried it once--and never again. I can see their point. When I write something without a co-author, I don't have to try and capture their words or thoughts or voice or stories. It is less complex and the only push back comes when I challenge myself to be the best possible writer or communicator.

When you co-author or ghost write for another person, you come alongside as the writer to capture the other person's intent. Why do you write for other people? In the October 20th issue of Publishers Weekly Soapbox column I discovered an eloquent answer that resonated with my own experience.

Courtney E. Martin tells about co-authoring a memoir of AIDS activist Marvelyn S. Brown. I loved this sentence in the second paragraph: "She decided to make her life matter."

Next Martin confirms the complexity of such a task: "I have known, since I first sat in the green glow of my family's gargantuan IBM PC in the mid '80s, that writing would be the way I would make my life matter. I just had no idea how complex my chosen method would turn out to be."

As I have written books and articles for other people, I identified with the weight of her task as Martin said, "I was apprehensive at the profound responsibility of having someone else's story in my hands."

While I've felt the weight of the co-author experience, I've also experienced great joy and satisfaction in the process. Firsthand, I know that my co-author would probably never have managed to get their story on paper or through the maze of proposal creation, then getting their book into the hands of the right editor and negotiating a book contract--much less crafting a page-turning manuscript.

While many writers prefer to write their own books and their own stories, I've chosen a different path with at least a portion of my own writing. It's one of the ways I make my life matter and I hope you too will consider for your own writing.

The experience may surprise you. No, it will surprise you because there are always surprises in the publishing process. It will stretch your relationship ability to the limit but you will also experience incredible reward (and not just financial) in the journey.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Surrounded with Interesting Stories

Are you surrounded with fascinating stories from your family or friends? Or maybe the stories come from the magazines and books that you read? Reading or taking in the information is a key part of your own development and growth as a writer.

As an example of what I'm talking about I encourage you to read Jill Lepore's article in the October 20th issue of The New Yorker called Bound for Glory, Writing campaign lives. I love the vivid way Lepore captured some of the essence of historical presidential campaigns. It is the detail of the storytelling that captures the attention in this article and makes it flow and move in my view. The effort takes practice and may appear easy but takes a conscious effort on the part of the writer.

The beginnings of storytelling start with taking in good stories or reading. As an agent or an editor, I'm always surprised when I ask a writer a few questions about what type of material they read--and learn it is the opposite of what they want to write and publish. When I find these situations, the writer has thrown themselves into a complete disconnect. If you want to write romance (the largest genre of fiction), then you need to be reading romance. If you are a thriller writer, make sure you are reading thrillers. If you want to write American history, then spend time reading American history.

The experience will build something intangible yet important into your writing life. When people learn about my own writing, they are surprised at the number of biographies and co-authored books that I've written for others. It stems back in my mind to those days as a young reader curled up on a couch listening to the rainfall outside the window. I was reading another biography on a historical figure. I loved those books and continue to read a good biography from time to time. Those reading experiences have fed into my own adult writing. It will be true for your writing as well.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

A Thought-Provoking Article on Blogging

Andrew Sullivan is a senior writer for The Atlantic magazine. Often I will see Sullivan as a part of The Chris Matthews Show. He is a thoughtful and politically astute commentator and writer.

This weekend I was reading through the November issue of The Atlantic and enjoyed Sullivan's article, Why I Blog. I recommend this piece for your own education and reading pleasure.

Tonight I'm driving to the west side of Phoenix to repeat a workshop from last summer on Why A Writer Needs A Literary Agent. I'm looking forward to it.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Keep Your Eye On The Product

Sometimes I have been unaware of the product potential in my day to day work. I'm determined to increase my effectiveness in this area of my writing life. Otherwise you let time and money slip right through your hands--mostly through not being aware of it.

For example, over the last 15 years, I have taught at numerous writer's conferences around the nation. Typically the conference organizer will have the speaker sign a release form to be able to sell my recording also I'm able to receive a free copy of the recording. I've picked up these recordings, carried them home and tossed them in a desk drawer or a box--and promptly forgotten about them. In this process, I have left a potential product. I gathered several of my sessions about book proposal creation into over three hours of audio recordings and created Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets:

Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets

This past week, I chatted with about 80 participants on Book Proposal creation at the Muse Online Writer's Conference. I enjoyed answering the various questions and I typed furiously for the entire hour. I attempted to cram as much information into that hour as possible. In addition, before the session, I sent each participant a two-page handout with links to various resources.

I participated in this same conference last year. Here's the difference: last year I never asked (nor received) a copy of the transcript from that chat session. I've gotten wiser about such matters this year so I requested a copy of the transcript.

Now if you have never seen a chat transcript, it's not pretty. I turned on bold for all of my answers so they would show up well for the various participants. Here's a small portion of this seven-page transcript:

Are there different agents for different genres?

W._Terry_Whalin: absolutely. I would be a terrible agent for cookbooks or science fiction for example--since I know almost nothing about that type of book

W._Terry_Whalin: You need to find the agent who works in your material and pitch that person

Basically you write in short bursts because I quickly learned if I wrote too long, then part of my answers would be truncated and how show up for everyone.

I took about an hour today and cleaned up the transcript. I poured my answers into a single paragraph. I added working links throughout the transcript to highlight additional resources (beyond what I recalled off the top of my head during the session). I still need to sweep through it one or two additional times, but the finished transcript is attractive and the double-spaced version is 12 pages of information. Finally I changed my Word document into an Adobe PDF. It's a short report or product that I can use as a bonus item or any number of other possibilities.

Under my old way of operating, I would have pressed on to something else and left that transcript behind. I'm learning to use and repurpose everything that I've created. As you squeeze more products from a single product, you will be able to increase your own effectiveness in the marketplace. I like what Dan Poynter's The Self-Publishing Manual where he encourages you to create as many different forms for the same product as possible. Why? So you can reach the broadest possible audience. For example, some people will prefer listening to your book while others will want to read it in large print.

These types of actions will help you keep an eye on the product. It's something that I'm thinking about and acting on all the time.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ladies and Ships Never Tell

As a trained journalist, I've had the opportunity to ask authors many pointed questions over the years. These probing questions are not my first line of questions but often slipped into the right moment of an interview.

Probably at least fifteen years ago I interviewed Lois Gladys Leppard, the bestselling author of the Mandie book series from Bethany House Publishers. This gentle southern-breed woman from Greenville, South Carolina never failed to make a strong impression on me with her flowing shoulder-length red hair. When we exchanged business cards, Lois reached inside her purse and pulled out a small golden container. She selected one of her cards and handed it to me.

We met at her first Christian bookseller meeting and I gave her a bit of orientation to the structure of the floor and where to get a map of the exhibit hall. She never forgot those small actions on my part. In fact, I've got a copy of the first Mandie book on my bookshelf called Mandie and the Secret Tunnel with her clear script signature which says, "For Terry Whalin -- With memories of my first CBA and meeting you. Lois Gladys Leppard. July 24, 2002."

Originally, Lois wrote Mandie and the Secret Tunnel at age eleven--and it was published years later in 1983. In my first meeting, I could tell Lois was in the "senior" category but I had no idea of her age so I asked.

She smiled and told me, "Ladies and ships never tell their age." It was a bit of information which I never managed to uncover about Lois despite our numerous interviews and a number of magazine articles which I wrote about her.

I have personally witnessed the mobs of young readers who loved the chance to meet Lois Gladys Leppard. Her adoring fans will be shocked to learn the news which revealed an unusual detail about her life--her age: "POPULAR CHILDREN’S AUTHOR LOIS GLADYS LEPPARD DECEASED AT EIGHTY-FOUR."

While you'd almost never imagine it from the "juvenile fiction" of the Mandie books, they have sold over seven million copies. If you haven't read one, I encourage you to get a copy and curl up with the story of this young adventurer as she tackles mysteries. It will send you back to another time and place for a few hours. I love these books and can see how they stir the imagination of young people everywhere.

Earth's loss is heaven's gain with the passing of Lois Gladys Leppard. I wanted to give you several keys for your own writing life that I learned from Lois.

First, never give up on pursuing your dreams. As recently as several years ago, Lois was pitching full length adult novels that she was plotting and writing to move beyond her Mandie audience. Your writing dreams will change over the years but hold them in your heart and work every day toward accomplishing something on that dream to move it forward.

Second, never forget your beginnings and where you started your work in publishing. Lois understood the importance of relationships. She built and maintained those relationships in the publishing community. A long-time publicist at Bethany House, Jeanne Mikkelson told me that Lois remembered to send her birthday cards.

Also Lois continually promoted her books. You can see that evidence at her website and I can tell you firsthand because to my surprise I often would receive autographed copies of her books. Finally Lois was committed to growing in her craft as a writer. She was an active participant in mystery writer groups and other ways to learn about improving her writing.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Tired of Politics?

News organizations are in the final push of 21 days until the presidential election. In some regards, I've been tired of reading about the political scene for weeks. The printed election ads are stuffed into my mailbox and dominate the news media.

Political science was one of my majors (along with journalism) for my undergraduate work. I've had a life-long interest in politics and studied it for many years. I take many different magazines and groaned to see the thick October 13th issue of The New Yorker covered politics.

Yet I found the issue fascinating and read it cover to cover. The range of stories and depth of coverage was well worth the reading time. If you don't get the magazine, I encourage you to pick it up on your news stand and read it because the diversity will surprise you.

In particular, I want to encourage you to read The Oracle, The many lives of Arianna Huffington which is available online. Lauren Collins has written an in depth-profile of Huffington and the New Yorker does a masterful job of showing the diversity in her personality and experiences. Even the photograph of Huffington (also online) is revealing. Notice she's holding her Blackberry--and the article tells us that it is one of three that she uses constantly. I love the varied picture of Huffington that you gain reading this story. She's not perfect (none of us are). Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you can gain something for your writing life if you study these types of personality profiles.

Finally no matter who you are supporting for the Presidential Election, I encourage you to be praying for the results. I've started using the daily emails from the Presidential Prayer Team. My only objection is the small print they are using for their web page. Each day, I've been cutting and pasting the material into a Word document then increasing the size of the typeface so it can be easily read. I've appreciated the focus of the prayers and connection to Scripture--and hopefully you will as well.

Like many seasons, we will soon move into something different for the news media focus.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Poised For Success or Rejection

Last week I received a short query from a science fiction writer who had self-published his novel and was now looking for a literary agent.

If you know anything about what I do, do you see a problem with this pitch? First, I have never worked in science fiction and rarely even read it. This author had obviously pulled my agency and submission email from some place but was sending off a random email in hopes that someone would be interested in his material.

I responded with a couple of ideas and he wrote back his appreciation. Then he added, "You are the only person who has responded to me."

Once again this would-be author has pointed out the massive amount of material which is floating around in publishing offices for magazines and books. In one way, this author already has some strikes against him--and he doesn't even know it. If you are a novelist, your absolute last course of action in my view is to self-publish--unless you have a large platform or reach to be able to sell many copies of your book.

Why is self-publishing the last resort for novelists? Because to the editor or literary agent you appear impatient--and many of the self-published books in this category are not edited and poorly-written and poorly-produced. It is not impressive to an editor if you've sold 100 copies of your self-published novel. It's not even impressive if you've sold 2,000 copies of that self-published novel. My advice is to think before you leap in this direction.

Yesterday I sent out a tweet about bestselling author Steve Berry. I pointed out this recent article in Publishers Weekly and notice that Berry was rejected 85 times before his first novel was published. Most authors lack the patience and persistence to be rejected 84 times before finding a publisher. Are you poised for success or rejection?

Before you fire out your latest submission to a bunch of publishing houses, I have several suggestions. First, if you are approaching the publishers and the agents at the same time, then possibly you have eliminated yourself from getting an agent. Why? Editors keep records or logs of their submissions. If you get an agent, your agent will not be able to easily approach those same publishers. Yes, it is possible but you will need a whole new title, opening and many other elements to successfully make that pitch a second time.

I have a free list of over 400 agents that you can get here. But do not simply use this list to add to the glut of submissions. You need to create a plan of attack, then work your plan.

One strategy is to use John F. Baker's excellent book, Literary Agents: A Writer's Introduction as one education strategy. Baker, a long-time writer at Publishers Weekly profiles long-established literary agencies and includes information about the different specialties of each agent. A careful reading of this book will help you select some agents that you want to approach. Unfortunately this book is out of print but do pick it up on the used market or in your library.

For a second strategy look at what David Henry Sterry suggests in this brief video. (I put this out on twitter several weeks ago. I suggest you follow me on twitter if you aren't already). He suggests looking in similar books to your book for agent names. I met David several years ago and I love his co-authored book, Putting Your Passion Into Print.

Before you send anything to a publisher or agent, make sure you are sending them something they could potentially be interested in reading. Read their guidelines and see if your idea is in the range of possibilities. Just this step alone will save you lots of rejection.

Also download this free material from Noah Lukeman and study it before sending anything out into the market. As a writer, you have an obligation to learn everything you can about your craft and the business of publishing before you send your submission.

Finally persevere because at the end of the day, your submission still needs to reach the right person at the right place at the right time with the right idea. Plan to be poised for success.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Insight Into A Bestselling Author

Last week, Forbes released their list of the earning power of the top book authors. You can follow this link to learn more of the specifics. In this entry, I want to pick up on some characteristics of the 10th author on that top 10 list: Nicholas Sparks.

The October 10th issue of Entertainment Weekly arrived in my mailbox yesterday with a terrific article about Nicholas Sparks called True Believer by Karen Valby. The lead-in to the article says, "you don't write 14 best-sellers in 14 years by accident. Inside the relentless, romantic, exhausting, and critic-proofing plan of Nicholas Sparks.

I'd encourage you use the link to read the entire article about Sparks but in particular for this entry on The Writing Life, I want to pick up on one paragraph:

''I'm efficient,'' he [Nicholas] clarifies, with an amused smile. On his official website, the numerically specific description of the author — ''He's 5'10'' and weighs 180 pounds. He is an avid athlete who runs daily, lifts weights regularly, and competes in tae kwon do. He attends church regularly and reads approximately 125 books a year'' — squares with his similarly methodical approach to writing. A novel takes him a few months to conceive and then five months to write. He sets a daily goal for himself of 2,000 words. He writes for five to six hours a day and types approximately 60 words a minute, which he says leaves him with 54 minutes an hour to stare at the computer and six minutes to actually write. ''See,'' he says, with a friendly shrug of his shoulders, ''it's not an unbelievable pace.''

There is a great deal packed into this paragraph. Notice his commitment to regular exercise. This value is something that wasn't a part of my life for many years but now it is a part of my regular routine. Anyone who "follows" me on Twitter can see that I regularly get on my treadmill for exercise. It helps my overall health, brings new ideas and energy into my schedule. It's something I recommend for you to think about and commit to fitting into your own writing life.

Also notice Nicholas Sparks regularly attends church. In a similar way the spiritual connection is a key component of my own writing life--and again something I mention from time to time on Twitter.

In addition, Nicholas Sparks understands the value of reading. His website includes a reading list with some of his favorites. I'm also constantly reading fiction and nonfiction books in a variety of areas. This information feeds into my own writing and editorial work on a daily basis. It's another key element that you need to be aware of for your writing life. Are you committed to reading and absorbing new information or books?

Finally notice the discipline involved in his writing pattern and goal of 2,000 words each day. It's common when many writers are producing a manuscript or an article to set a word count goal for themselves. The old saying is true: if you aim at nothing you will be sure to hit it. What steps can you take today to move forward and achieve your own writing goals? I'd encourage you to learn some of these key lessons from Nicholas Sparks.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Score Positive Publicity

It's pretty easy to spiral into depression when you watch the news--at least it is for me. I want to keep up on my world but it takes some effort to watch what is happening out there.

You can be a difference maker if you take the right approach to the media. Over the last few entries, I've been telling you about I See Your Name Everywhere by Pam Lontos & Andrea Brunais. They have a chapter in their book titled, "Scoring Positive Publicity--Part 1: 7 ways to prepare, 7 tactics to try."

Why seven? They say, "People need to see things at least seven times to even remember it. When someone reads about you in an article, they may not have a need for your services or products at that particular moment. But by continually having your name out there, they will begin to recognize it, and when the time comes they will remember seeing your name." (page 76).

The advice about repeatedly telling people about you and your book make total sense to me. It's one of the reasons I regularly slip in a reference to my Book Proposals That Sell or my teleseminar called Secrets About Proposals. You may not have an immediate need for it but later on when you do need it, I hope you will remember that it's out there and can help you.

I am not going to giveaway their seven points but I'm going to give you three of them in hopes it will show you the excellent content in this book and encourage you to study it:

1. Teach yourself to recognize a good-news story.

2. Realistically assess the news value of the story.

3. Be Persistent.

The book includes examples and explains each point. For some of you who haven't thought about your product or your work in this fashion, it will take some adjustment in your thinking to come up with these ideas--but I'm confident you can do it--and it will help your own impact on the marketplace.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Leverage the Power of the Media

As a writer or publishing professional, you probably follow the national and local news scene. Can you leverage that experience for your own writing and publishing goals? I believe you can--provided you understand what the media needs and how to deliver it to them.

One of the tools to grow this understanding is a new book from Pam Lontos and Andrea Brunais: I See Your Name Everywhere, Leverage The Power Of The Media To Grow Your Fame, Wealth and Success. (Here's the permanent link to my Amazon review).

In the opening pages, they write, "Anyone can have his or her 15 minutes of fame, as Andy Warhol famously predicted. But it takes knowledge and persistence to leverage that 15 minutes into long-term media exposure. You want to become a trusted source journalists turn to time after time."

Later in the book, they ask the question, "Why should you care what motivates reporters?" Then they answer, "They will tell your story to the public. The public is more likely to believe them than to believe information from other sources, including information coming directly from you or your organization." (page 19)

This book helps you understand how to shape your message in a way and deliver it so the media will use it to help promote your own work. It's a developed skill that anyone can learn. There is a great deal of terrific information inside I See Your Name Everywhere so I recommend you get the book, study the material and apply it to your own writing life.

While there is only a surface bit of information in I See Your Name Everywhere about the Internet, you can learn these aspects from David Meerman Scott.

Recently I was on a teleseminar with David Meerman Scott and I recommend you go to his Ebook site and download these various Ebooks then study The New Rules of Viral Marketing. These resources may set your writing on a whole new path for exposure to the media and new readers.

In my view, it isn't just one method but it will involve many different methods to leverage the power of the media. It takes consistency and persistence--yet thoughtful persistence where you pitch your materials in the right and expected fashion. I hope these resources will help you position your message in a different way to the market.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Be The Exception Rather Than The Rule

Recently I read this post from the Book Editor at The St. Louis Dispatch newspaper about why they don't review every local authors book. Editor Jane Henderson has been working at the book review editor for 13 years. Notice in general they don't review self-published books--yet have reviewed them in rare situations.

She makes it clear they are actively looking for great books from local authors to write about in their newspaper. Also she clearly states why they turn down the books--besides the sheer volume of the books--saying, "Some reasons we (and most book editors) choose not to review a book: poor quality, poor writing, little new material, obscure or boring subject matter. For first novels, if a reviewer doesn't think much of it, we'll usually decide not to review it rather than smash a young writer's ego. Some local authors don't let us know about their books or don't communicate in a professional way, indicating that the publication may not be well done either." The author will never know but often it is a kindness to send them a form letter rather than deliver the honest truth (which often they are not ready to accept or want to argue with the editor--which means even more correspondence for the editor--and I have learned the hard way).

I do not live in St. Louis and haven't approached this editor with my book to review. If I lived in St. Louis, I would be trying to figure out the best approach with my book and certainly be trying to entice her to review my book. Why? Because that local newspaper is in touch with a large audience. Their Sunday newspaper circulation is over 400,000 and their daily newspaper (Monday through Saturday) is over 250,000. Now that is a lot of people to reach with your message--and worth doing.

If you have a book to sell, how can you reach your local newspaper editor with your message. Several things you can do:

1. Be committed to quality with what you are pitching. You would be shocked to sit at the desk of that book editor and see the poor quality material which comes in for consideration. Also you would be shocked at the volume or the onslaught of material. It's a constant challenge for any of these editors or reporters. Learn how to meet their needs through your own education.

Last night I was reading the new book, I See Your Name Everywhere by Pam Lontos and Andrea Brunais. The president of a long-running public relations form (Pam Lontos) teams up with a prize-winning journalist (Andrea Brunais) go give the inside story about how to work with the media--and attract them rather than irritate them (you'd be surprised at innocent mistakes people make--like sending out their press releases as attachments--which most newspaper journalist consider SPAM unless specifically requested).

2. Beyond quality for your pitch and product, be committed to smart marketing with attractive hooks to grab that editor or reporter or reader. It takes work on your part but you can do it.

3. Be committed to continued marketing and perseverance. The road is long and the struggle consistent to get out there in front of people with your idea or book proposal or your new book. It is not easy but you need to continue ahead.

4. Your personal connection with the editor or reporter is important and should not be minimized. You need to keep working at developing these relationships. They eventually pay off for you.

5. Finally I've got even more hints about how to become the exception rather than the rule in my Straight Talk from the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. It's a free Ebook so get this tool, download it, study it and apply it to your writing life.

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