Friday, December 19, 2008

Learn Something New

The easiest course of action is to continue doing things in the same old way that you have been doing them. Most of us resist change and growing and learning yet in the long run, I've learned that change will often lead to something better for my business, my writing and my life. I'm constantly recommitting myself to learning something new and growing.

That change can be something simple or it can be something complex. For example, this morning, I figured out how to use a little Word document to add my return address in the perfect spot for a Priority Mail label from the U.S. Postal Service. Several weeks earlier with experimentation, I created a document that I've been using for the regular label but I had not worked out the exact spacing for the return address.

On my first attempt the return address was not in the right place on the label. I returned to the drawing board and repositioned the label and tried again. After several attempts, I located the perfect position for my printer and equipment. I've saved this little file and will use it over and over in the months ahead.

Admittedly I would have been easier to continue in my old pattern and not change but because I made a little effort to get this detail right, I can use the changed file repeatedly.

Another example relates to my new book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of my most popular free Ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to A Rejection-Proof Submission. I wrote this Ebook before I ever conceived of writing my new book. At the end of Straight Talk, I include information about some of my other books. The easiest course of action is to leave that old manuscript and not change anything. Instead I took the harder course of action. I pulled up the document and rewrote several sections to include links to my new book. Then I changed the Word document into a PDF and put it into the right place online so people will receive the revised version. In order to successfully accomplish each step, I've had to how to handle these technical details. Yes, I could have a webmaster or a technical co-worker where I send such issues. I did that type of action years ago and I often waited around for them to handle something simple that I could accomplish in only a few minutes.

The projects that you will work on for your writing life will be completely different from my examples. My encouragement is to continually escape your comfort zone and keep learning new skills. It is not easy but I'm convinced in the process, I continually grow to be a more valuable member of the publishing community with each accomplishment.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Importance of Following

Some of you probably haven't started on Twitter. New people are learning about this tool every day. Catch my Mastering Twitter in 10 Minutes or Less if you haven't read this Ebook.

While Twitter lets you set a beautiful background to your page and add your photo and other such things. They have a rather ugly placeholder for your picture. It's often one of the first things that people remove when they set up their account.

Also people change that photo from time to time--like if you look at my page at the moment, I'm wearing a Santa hat for the holiday season.

One of my writer friends has kept that ugly placeholder in his Twitter account for months. I wrote and offered to change it out for him--something that I did in only a few minutes. When I changed it, I noticed he had over 5,000 followers. That means whenever he sends out anything on Twitter it reaches over 5,000 people.

I wrote and asked him how he gained such a following. He looked for others interested in his particular subject and began to follow them on Twitter. These people followed him back and his numbers steadily grew.

If you want to increase your presence on Twitter, here's how you can do it--and devote little time to it. In a spare moment, go to Twellow and register. For example, here's my profile on Twellow.

Use Twellow to search for different occupations or locations or whatever your interest. The search tool will return with different people. The people with the greatest number of followers will be listed on the first pages.

Check each person's twitter page. Is there a balance between the number of people they follow and the number of followers? Some people only have a few people that they follow--so they will be unlikely to follow you (that's what I have decided). In general, I do not follow those types of people.

Also scan their page to see if what they are saying and doing is compatible with your interests. Then if so, click the "follow" button underneath their photo.

You have taken a calculated risk to follow this person and hope they follow you in response. I've experienced a huge growth in my Twitter profile from this simple step.

Even if you aren't interested in Twitter, there is a basic principle here that you can apply to your writing life. It's important to follow the instructions. If you are going to write for the leading magazines, then you need to learn to write a riveting query letter. If you are going to capture the best possible book deal, then you need to learn to write a great book proposal. Following is important in many aspects of the publishing world.

If you have questions about how to get published or improve your publishing life for 2009, I'm providing a place for you to ask those questions and get my answer at: http://www.askterrywhalin.com/ If you can't attend the teleseminar, still register because you will receive an email with the replay information for the edited recording.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tips For Anyone Who Writes A Regular Column

On the surface many writers may look at The Art of Column Writing:Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists and wonder why they should read it. Immediately they will eliminate themselves because they don't write a newspaper or magazine column. Yet I believe the information in this book is much more applicable to a broader audience. If you blog on a regular basis, then in the broadest possible sense, you are a regular columnist and can profit from the skills and tips in this book. Newspaper columnists have an admitted challenge to draw their readers into their work and compel them to read their writing. If you write a column for a newspaper or a magazine on a regular basis, get this book. It’s excellent and packed with wisdom from many different well-known writers.

These columnists have drawn a consistent readership and any writer can profit from the study of this book. Why? Whether you have a growing readership in your blog or a column for a magazine or a regular spot in a local newspaper, you have to draw on the tips and techniques in this title. I liked what author Suzette Martinez Standring wrote in the Introduction: the Quest for a Column saying, “It is better to ask, ‘How can I make my work worth of being published?’ Let’s take a moment to deconstruct a newspaper column. It compels or captivates with a tale, a message, or a persuasive argument. Jam-pack those thoughts into, say, 600 select words. Create an engaging start, an informative middle, and ideally, a surprise ending, all written in a voice so signature any reader could identify the columnist even without a byline. ‘What we do is more like a short story,’ said legendary metro columnist Pete Hamill during a 2005 NSNC (National Society of Newspaper Columnists) meeting in Texas. Time, talent, and practice are required to do condensed writing well.” (page 11)

EVERY WRITER can profit from reading The Art of Column Writing because the universal nature of the skill of column writing.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Get Answers For Your Publishing Questions

It's a challenge to find answers to your publishing questions--especially in these days of form rejections.

On Thursday, December 18th, I'll be answering questions through a teleseminar. Besides asking a question, you can receive a sample of my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. This book is available in multiple formats and will officially publish in mid-March 2009 but you can get a pre-release copy.

With the right help, you can make 2009 the year to achieve your plans and dreams. I've built such insight into every chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams.

Head over to http://www.askterrywhalin.com/ and sign up for the teleseminar. Even if you can't attend, the call will be recorded and every registrant will receive an email to the replay of this free event.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seize The Initiative With Publicity

People who want to be authors, love to put words on the page. I understand because I'm one of those people who love to write and have people read my writing. Yet studies have shown that most authors are introverts and would prefer to sit in the corner and not talk about their book in public.

While you don't have to change your personality to work with publicity, you do have to show others your passion about your topic and figure out how to use publicity tools to gain exposure for your book or your subject area.

Over the last few days, I've been highlighting some of the contents of Guerrilla Publicity, The book contains much more than I can cover in a few entries about the Writing Life such as 15 things the media loves and 15 things it hates, how to create a media kit guerrilla style, how to think in headlines, how to design a seminar, how to become a public speaker, how to use radio, blogging, podcasts and much more.

Today I want to talk about a key area of publicity where many people miss the opportunity--follow up. Here's the quotation which begins the chapter, Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up: "What is promotion without the pro? Just motion. The pros follow up, follow up, follow up. - Rick Frishman." (page 58)

There is a technique which you if you don't know, you will need to learn to keep the door open and be persistent and not a pest. Like the authors write on page 61, "Tell those you contact straight out to let you know when you become a pain. Say something like, "Look, I know that when I'm pitching a story I can get to be a real pain in the butt, so tell me if I'm getting out of line." Ironically, when they see you as a potential pain, they tend to treat you better. Rehearse exactly what you plan to say and get it down. You want to be subtle, to get your message across without sounding threatening or obnoxious." Then the authors include many more specific insights about this area of follow-up.

The author conclude the chapter with a dose of reality related to follow-up saying, "Before long, following up becomes a skill that you've mastered, perfected, and made your own. As for the discouragement of rejection, focus on our version of the Rule of Seven, it typically takes seven calls or emails to actually get a booking. Expect six no's before you get a yes. Or, after seven unanswered contact attempts, it may be time to move on. Following up enhances other parts of your life. It teaches you patience, understanding and persistence. It shows you how to plan, position yourself, wait your turn, be professional and seize opportunities." (page 66-67).

It sounds like it cures everything but it is a critical part of any publicity strategy. You can learn much more in Guerrilla Publicity but the key from my perspective is not just to read the book but incorporate the principles into your writing life.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Effective Publicity Has Rules

At their own peril, writers ignore their need to use guerilla publicity techniques. Then when they have poor sales, the first tendency for any author is to blame someone outside of themselves. Over the years, I've heard authors tell their woes of poor results for every single publisher--large or small. It's almost a universal truth that authors believe their publisher isn't doing enough for them and the promotion of their book.

And if I'm really honest as an author, I understand that I take the primary responsibility for the marketing and publicity of my books. Why? As the author, I have the most passion for my topic. Do I want to do other things with my limited time and energy? Absolutely but my personal publicity needs to be a consistent part of my efforts--whether I have a book published or not. Many writers forget that they are the brand--no matter which product they are talking about.

In this entry about The Writing Life, I'm including more information about Guerrilla Publicity. They include a full chapter on how to introduce yourself with a sound bite. As they write on page 9, "If you want to get your message across, you need a great sound bite that will immediately capture the attention of busy people. When you get an opening to deliver your sound bite, you better make it good! You must deliver your sound bite quickly, clearly, and compellingly. The more briefly you say it, the better it is." Then the authors give much more detail about how to create this sound bite.

In the third chapter, Your Campaign Starts with You, they emphasize understanding your own area of expertise and how to emphasize the benefits of your expertise as you talk with other people. Then this chapter concludes with some solid wisdom for writers, "Publicity is a full-time 24/7 job. It never stops! Continually tell the world that you're an expert, and how you can help them. Good self-promotion can inspire, excite, and energize your prospective customers and clients as long as you believe in it . Become a walking self-advertisement. Learn to spot opportunities to toot your own and always be prepared to seize upon them."

The fourth chapter, Build Relationships To Build Your Own Empires, is really what I wanted to focus on with this entry. You can't have effective publicity if you don't understand the rules. These rules are fully explained in Guerrilla Publicity but they are worth including here just to give you a taste of the contents of this excellent book:

"Since the media holds all the cards, they make the rules. If you want to play at their table, you have to adhere to their rules. Ironically, there are only three rules and they're alarmingly simple:

1. You are a resource for the media.

2. It's never personal.

3. The media can always change what it wants, but you can't." (page 22-23)

Finally the authors give this sound conclusion, "By adhering to their rules, the media will consider you a professional, someone they can rely on and with whom they'll do business." I hope you can see Guerrilla Publicity is packed with useful information for every writer.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Be A Light in the Darkness

Have you listened to the news lately? It's pretty dismal and each day it seems to increase. I was interested to read my friend Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson has made a self-imposed media fast. I'm convinced there is another way you can take with your work and your writing.

Last night I was listening to Alex Mandossian teach the opening class of the Teleseminar Secrets course. Alex was talking about how this year has been one of his best ever in terms of sales. It's not a story that you hear often but you need to be listening for these gems of encouragement. Cynthia Kersey at Unstoppable.net recently wrote, "Unstoppable people don't believe in failure. They see mistakes as opportunities to learn and develop new skills and strategies, not as failure. Failure implies waste, that nothing has been gained. On the contrary, people can gain much from every mistake and setback along the road to success. Mistakes and failures are inevitable and even essential; they are evidence of action --that you are doing something. The more mistakes you make, the greater your chance of succeeding. Failures indicate a willingness to experiment and take risks. Unstoppable people know that each failure brings them a step closer to achieving their dreams." How can you be unstoppable?

I've got several plans in motion for the future which on the surface seem impossible. Often little voices seem to shout inside that I should not be working on such a project. Instead of listening, I plow ahead into uncharted waters because like Cynthia Kersey says, "It's through adversity and failure that we ultimately win. being able to see failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement is critical to becoming unstoppable."

In a series of entries, I'm going to pull some information and insight from Guerrilla Publicity. I recently read the second edition of this book and it's filled with applicable information for writers and anyone interested in publishing. Many people would like to delegate the whole publicity area to someone else. They hire a "publicist" for a season or set an advertising budget. With a different mindset and attitude, you can reach more people with less of a financial investment.

As the authors explain in the introduction of Guerrilla Publicity, "Most people don't know the value publicity adds to their businesses or how to implement it." You can learn the basic skill of relationship building from these authors who write, "Guerilla publicity works best for small- to mid-level businesses and provides the widest exposure at the lowest price--and it costs far less than advertising and can produce better results. Publicity lets you tell your story in greater depth than advertising, which is crucial for new and unique enterprises."

Each chapter of this book contains many insights and critical steps for anyone to build a presence in today's marketplace with the latest cost-effective techniques. Get this book and study each page because it will give you the edge that you need to stand out and succeed.

Watch for another entry about some of the information in this book--but in the meantime, be a light in the darkness. It will attract people to your message.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Move Past The Name Twitter

This past weekend, I was reading Twitter Means Business, How Microblogging Can Help Or Hurt Your Company by Julio Ojeda-Zapata. I gave the book a Five Star Amazon review.

As I read the book, it hit me that the problem that many people have with Twitter is the name. If you are struggling with this area, then I encourage you to move past the name and use it. You can download the free Ebook, Mastering Twitter in 10 Minutes or Less (use this link) and begin right away. The name of the social media tool, Twitter, sounds like a complete waste of time from the first blush. It's not. Millions of people are using Twitter 24/7 for business.

With fascinating detail, Julio Ojeda-Zapata in Twitter Means Business has created a page-turner with plenty of creative fodder to teach readers about the business uses of Twitter. As he explains on page 5, "Twitter means business. That is, a service initially meant for informal communication between individuals has recently become the darling of businesses, large and small. Such firms are finding the "Twitterverse" a fine place to keep an eye on their brands, and what is said about them."

If you wonder about the numbers, just look on page 9: "according to site-analytics service Compete, Twitter saw more than 2.5 million unique visitors as of August 2008, a 443 percent increase over the previous year."

Throughout the book, Ojeda-Zapata captures the various applications in "Twitter Lessons" which are scattered throughout the book. With little effort, the reader will easily be able to apply these Twitter uses to their own business.

I quickly highlighted and flagged my copy of Twitter Means Business. I want to use it as a reference which I will use repeatedly until the lessons in this book become second nature to my own business use of this valuable tool. The one missing piece in Twitter Means Business is a thorough index but this lack can be filled in with a later edition of the title. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to open new opportunities for their business through Twitter.

If you have been resisting Twitter and the importance of it, stop for a moment and think about your writing. Does it fall into a particular theme or topic? Like any aspect of marketing or promotion, your use of Twitter will involve consistency and focus. These microblogs are just like a regular blog. With each entry keep your overall purpose in mind--and the audience for that purpose. It will help you attract the right sort of "followers" to your tweets.

The predominate theme in the news media is often dark and discouraging. Don't let that news drive your decisions and your own attitude about what is ahead. Refuse to let that information pull down your spirit and focus. While financial success from Twitter isn't everything, it can happen as Julio Ojeda-Zapata points out in Twitter Means Business. One of the companies discussed in this book is Dell Computers. While it is a small percentage of their overall business, earlier this year, Dell reported their "Twitter activity accounted for more than $500,000--not bad for a bunch of tweets.: (page 36)

If you have any hang-ups with the name Twitter, get over it and move past it.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Where Do Readers Get Books?

Whenever I discover information in this area, I'm always interested to read it carefully. The cover story of the December 1st issue of Publishers Weekly is called Looking At Who Buys What Where, examining book consumers with Bowker's PubTrack.

Which groups buys most of their books online? Generation Y (ages 18-28).

Notice which group purchased the majority of their books in the chain bookstore teens (ages 13 to 17). On the surface you would not think teenagers would primarily purchase their books in a chain bookstore but that's the data in this article.

While Publishers Weekly included the various statistics in their article, I was fascinated with the graphic illustrations. I've included the one below which relates to Boomers (ages 41 to 59) and Matures (60 and up):

Let me call several of these statistics to your attention. These older readers had the highest numbers in the area of book clubs. While the overall numbers at book clubs have been declining in recent years, 13.5% of mature readers got their books from this source.

Last night, I was looking for the Writer's Digest Book Club, where I have purchased books on a consistent basis for over 20 years. I'm not a current member and was surprised to see the parent company has ended this book club since they are no longer accepting new members. What can you learn? They looked at their numbers and determined the profitability margin wasn't there so they ended that opportunity. Writer's Digest continues to publish a limited number of new titles but they have obviously cut this area of their business model.

What does this mean for you as a writer? You need to understand where your audience buys books then target those markets with your own visibility and publicity efforts. Also the message that I get from these statistics is diversity is more important than ever. You need to get into as many different channels or areas of the market as you can get. You can not depend on your publisher to cover all of these areas but as the author you need to actively be involved in as many different channels as you can. Why? You never know which channel or opportunity will lead to your break through moment. You can not count on one area but need to be diverse. Understand that more than half of the books sold are sold outside of the bookstore. It's why you need to be reading books like Beyond The Bookstore by Brian Jud--and not just reading it but studying it and using this book to stir opportunity.

The opportunities are there for you. Are you using them? If not, make a plan to move forward, then work your plan.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Plate Spinning 101

During my days in my office, I juggle many different tasks such as answering email, writing projects, getting out proposals for my agency, face to face meetings, teaching at conferences, online marketing and many other tasks. Often it feels like I'm one of the performers who are spinning a series of plates. As a kid, I watched the plate spinners on television and it was remarkable to see if they could keep the plates spinning without breaking anything. Occasionally a plate fell and broke.

Some times in my plate spinning something important gets missed, and then the plate falls and crashes. For example, several times a client has decided that I'm not doing enough for them and cancel our working relationship and troop off looking for a better deal. While I don't like it, I fully recognize that it's their choice. When it comes to book projects, I encourage and advocate for those who I can and let the rest go. From my years in the publishing business, I understand there are no quick fixes or solutions. The wheels inside these publishing houses often turn very slowly (at least to the outside observer).

Successful plate spinning is a developed skill. Just watch this YouTube video to see how a novice is at spinning plates:

Am I successful all the time at skilled plate spinning? No and in fact some days I wonder if I'm spinning any plates at all yet I continue to cross things off my to-do list. Are you crossing things off of your list? I hope so.

Today I picked up a 72 page free Ebook to help you with blogging called The Roadmap To Become A Blogger, Five Major Milestones You Must Cross to Become A Successful Blogger. I've not read it yet but it looks interesting. I hope it will be useful to you and your writing life.
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