Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Information Goldmine

Many times during the day, I am looking for different bits of information online. Like many people, I often turn use the easiest source (Google) instead of the best source.

While I've read the book, The Invisible Web (some time ago), Sam Richter points out on page 99 of his excellent book, Take The Cold Out of Cold Calling, "In my presentation, when I ask people what percentage of web pages that can be accessed by search engines like Google and Yahoo, the typical response I receive is 75 percent or higher. Would it surprise you that at best -- combined popular search engines probably index less than 20 percent of publicly accessible Web pages?"

Step-by-step Sam Richter gives specific tools for the reader to excel at research and information gathering. Why? As a writer, the more you know about a target publication or publisher, then you will be more equipped to target your pitch and submission.

In the introduction to Take The Cold Out of Cold Calling, Richter writes, "Knowing what's important to your prospects, what their competitors are doing, and what their industry trends are is imperative for proper meeting preparation. Information is the key for building your credibility, offering customized and relevant solutions, and providing ongoing client value. Understanding your client's world is ultimately what differentiates one company--and one salesperson--from another." (page III of preface)

This book is packed with incredible online resources to learn about different industries. For example, in the publishing community, this book highlights Publist which is a database of more than 150,000 magazines, journals, newsletters and other periodicals. It is free but registration is required.

Or consider this resource Richter highlights, "Imagine if you could use the Web to locate a company's employee directory? Unless the company made a big mistake and posted it online, you probably can't. Spoke.com, however, might be the next best thing." (page 169)

I've only used two of many examples with great detail in this excellent resource. The other tool that every reader can use is the resource center called "the Warm Call Center." Go to this sitewww.takethecold.com) , register with your email address and you will have access to a wealth of links and resources for any time of research. I downloaded the toolbar to my browser and it's been an amazing resource to use as I do research. (

Sam Richter has pulled together a remarkable resource. I highly recommend. AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Best Teacher

Throughout my time in the publishing community, I've had some unforgettable experiences--good and bad. I've written about a few of them in these entries on The Writing Life, which is one of my consistent themes.

When I've gone through some difficult or challenging experience, after it is over, I have often looked back and said to myself the common saying, "Experience is the best teacher."

In some ways, the saying is true because I've personally experienced it I will take measured steps to avoid going through that experience again. But is experience the best teacher?

Last week, I wrote about a new book, The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective by Andy Andrews. There are many valuable insights in this little book and in this entry I wanted to write about another one.

Jones, the central person in the book, is a noticer. During a difficult time in Andy Andrews' life, Jones makes a special introduction:

"'Do you read?' he asked. As I nodded, he added, 'I'm not asking if you can read, I'm asking if you do.'

'Yes,' I responded, 'Mostly magazines and stuff, but I do.'

'Good enough,' Jones said. 'Read these.'

I looked at what he handed me in the semidarkness. The titles were all names. Winston Churchill. Will Rogers. George Washington Carver. I glanced back up at him. 'History books?'

'No,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, 'adventure stories! Success, failure, romance, intrigue, tragedy, and triumph--and the best part is that every word is true! Remember, young man, experience is not the best teacher. Other people's experiences is the best teacher. By reading about the lives of great people, you can unlock the secrets to what made them great.'" (page 9)

I readily identified with this section of The Noticer. Why? I've always loved biographies and read many of them. I've learned so much from each one of them. It's part of the reason that I've written magazine profiles about more than 150 bestselling authors. In the process of writing those stories, I learn massive amounts of material about their experiences.

To me, it is a partial explanation why I've written numerous biographies such as Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Luis Palau, John Perkins and many more.

Have you unlocked the secrets to greatness as you read about other people's experiences?

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Adjusting History

Recently I was reading The Atlantic and came across this article, Making History, How Historical Fiction Went Highbrow by Jay Parini.

I found it fascinating and I hope some of you will as well. Historical fiction continues to be a stable part of the fiction community. It's something I enjoy reading--when I can--and my time for it is extremely limited. Just like my time to write entries on The Writing Life today.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

A New Guide to Social Media Marketing

I've resisted many of the tools of social media because they appear to be a huge time zapper. Yet repeatedly as I've experimented with the tools, I've found huge benefits and returns on my investment -- often in surprising ways. Paul Gillin is an expert in this medium and you can learn a vast amount of insight from the pages of Secrets of Social Media Marketing.

And my resistance? It is rooted in my resistance to change. Gillin writes in the introduction, "Embracing change is the only sure success strategy in a business world that is evolving faster than we have ever known. Students of the information technology industry know that failure to adapt to change can obliterate even larger and successful companies with blinding speed. In this book, I'll make the case that the changes now roiling the marketing world are the best thing that's ever happened to the profession. Start embracing these changes now, and you'll propel your company and your career to new heights. Deny them, and you'll watch as the skills that have served you well for many years move rapidly toward irrelevance."

That quotation rings true from my experience in the market. It's a small sample of what you will find inside this book. Throughout the book, various secrets are emphasized in simple words. He refers to many websites and tools to help you streamline and be effective with the various social media possibilities. For example, in the chapter Basics of Social Media Content, Gillin writes, "Keep it simple, make it personal and give people a reason to pass it on." (Page 189)

Make full use of this book and return to it over and over. Read it with a highlighter with flags so you can spot the relevant places to apply for your own marketing efforts. My book is lined with these markers from reading this well-crafted book.

I resonated with what Gillin wrote toward the end of his introduction, "Writing a book about a market that's changing so fast is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Any book about this topic is out of date the moment it is published, so I've attempted to distill the lessons learned from the early successes of social media pioneers." He has more than fulfilled this promise.

Throughout this book, Gillin refers to numerous websites and tools. He's made the process of using these tools simple with a website which captures every detail with clickable links and referenced throughout the book. If you can't tell, I got a great deal from reading this book which I will be attempting to apply to my own writing life in the days ahead. You can do likewise if you get and read Secrets of Social Media Marketing.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Effective Back Cover Copy

Even if you have never written the words on the back of a book cover, I bet you have purchased a few books after reading those words. I know I have done it. What draws you to certain books and not to others? Do you ever stop and think about it? The answers may help you put your own book together in a more effective fashion.
As a publisher, I’m involved in this aspect of creating the words on the back covers of books. It is not my first brush with this craft.
Years ago when operating my freelance business in Colorado Springs, I connected with the editorial director at Moody Press. As we talked, he told me that he needed someone to regularly write back covers for his books. I was looking for regular work so the relationship seemed like a perfect match to me.
The publisher would send a manuscript and give me a week to read some of it and write the back cover copy. I wrote dozens of back covers, delivered them on time and received $50 for each book and a printed copy of the book.
For this writer, the experience provided fabulous training and fulfilled my book habit all in one smooth operation. It is somewhat creative since you have to write words which draw the reader to the book, yet also a bit formulaic since there are elements which are expected on each book cover.
Recently for my work at Intermedia working with authors, I returned to this discipline of writing back cover copy. Searching for a tool to train authors, I found this article from Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru. I love that he explains the different elements on a back cover—plus includes a “work sheet” for you. I recommend you save this article on your computer and use it for every book that you write.
Why? You may question the need for writing back cover copy. Even if your book is published through a traditional house, your editor will appreciate your effort to put together this information. In these days of publishing where editorial staffs have been reduced, authors who write their own marketing materials such as back covers and press releases will be receive appreciation from the staff. The editor will still tweak your words and I suspect you will be happier with the finished product.
Learn to appreciate words that sell books. Then look for ways to incorporate those words into your book publishing.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Power of Observation

Between last Friday and Sunday, I spent nine hours on an airplane. That's what happens when you sign up to speak at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland and you live in the Phoenix area. Yes, I had a direct flight but any way you travel it is still 4.5 hours each way. It gives you a lot of time to work, catch up on some writing and reading while others are sleeping around you.

The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective by Andy Andrews is one of the books that I completed during the flights. Here's a quick read which could become one of the most important books that you read all year.

Andy tells about a man simply named Jones and his profound impact on his world around him through active observation. Jones doesn't just notice his world. He gets actively involved in the lives of different people that he notices--including a profound effect on Andy Andrews at a critical juncture.

When I read any book, I'm always intrigued with where they find the title for the book. Often it is early and other times it is buried deep in the book--like The Noticer when Andy describes an incident from years ago as a young man:

"Jones looked around at me and winked, then said to Jason, "I am a noticer. It is my gift. While others may be able to sing well or run fast. I notice things that other people overlook. And you know most of them are in plain sight." The old man cocked his head. "I notice things about situations and people that produce perspective. That's what most folks lack--perspective--a broader view. So I give 'em that broader view...and it allows them to regroup, take a breath, and begin their lives again." (page 130-131).

I recommend you read The Noticer but also I encourage you to follow Jones example and increase your personal power of observation and how you can impact the people around you.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Details of Making Books

Over the last few months, I've not added any entries. Several days ago, I started again and it will continue. Today I wanted to give you a glimpse at what has been filling my days as a publisher. I may have been absent from blogging but not from book publishing.

I've returned to working with authors on their books--all the details of their books such as their titles, their book covers and their words on the inside of the books. It is consuming and I have some great projects in the works. I want to tell you about one of them that is coming soon called Spiritual lessons from Wall Street.

Yesterday I was working with author Brandon Pope on a sample of the interior of his book. I am not designing the interior--but I am the connection between the author and the person doing that layout. Within our system at Intermedia, the author has more control over every detail of the process. I personally like it when an author takes a more hands on approach--because then I know they care about every detail of the book. As I've said in other entries, the details count in book publishing--and many people shrug or ignore the details. It did not happen with this author.

After about a dozen phone calls and even more emails, we finally got the sample of the interior. Toward the end of this process, I'll admit I was ready to get the approval and move on to something else which is screaming from my workload. Yet Brandon persisted on every detail of the sample until it was right.

Later that day, I was thinking about the process and I applauded this author for his persistence. From my experience, it is the difference between making something that is good and something that is great.

The essence of any book begins with an excellent manuscript. You can have a snappy title and a beautiful book cover. But if the words on the inside don't deliver on the promises of the cover and title, then you will not get that buzz going for the book. I'm talking about where readers rave about their reading experience and it is all they can talk about for several days. They tell everyone in their path -- whether through email or in person--about the book.

Yes there are many things you can do to stimulate that conversation or buzz--and as an author, you need to make that continual marketing effort.

Every writer needs to be concerned about creating an excellent manuscript and persist in getting the details right. I believe it will pay off for Spiritual Lessons from Wall Street.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Consistency Is Important

Saturday I will be introduced before I speak at Spread the Word in Baltimore. Often people are surprised at the volume of books and magazine articles which I've written over the years. I did not plan to write over 60 books or for over 50 print magazines. Instead I focused on developing a body of work.

As a writer, are you consistently working at learning your craft and writing? You may feel challenged to write anything (as I do many of these days as a busy publisher) yet that consistent habit of writing even 500 or 1,000 words will add up to a volume of material. Just look at these entries on The Writing Life which are now over 900 entries about publishing. This rich resource didn't happen overnight but through constant effort.

One of the areas where many writers struggle is to market their books. Writing is a solitary act. You and your pen and paper or keyboard curl up and produce words. Now marketing your book and telling others about it is a whole different process. As I've mentioned repeatedly in these entries, writers need to consistently work at the marketing for their books and telling others about it.

For the majority of bestselling authors, their book doesn't instantly rocket to a bestseller list. Getting on that list is the result of the author (and the publisher) beating the drum to tell people about the importance of the book. I compare it to a dripping of information. You have to tell a person over and over about the value of a book and finally if they hear it often enough, they will purchase the book, then read it and then hopefully tell others about it.

What are you doing today to tell people about your book? It doesn't have to be time consuming but it does have to be consistent. Maybe you send a few emails and that will comprise your marketing effort. Or a radio station interviews you about your book or a writer interviews you for a printed magazine article. I am regularly telling people about my Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and encouraging people to see what people are saying about the contents of the book. For example, check out what Stephanie Diamond wrote about Jumpstart. She worked eight years as Marketing Director for America Online.

If you don't have a book, then what are you doing to raise your own visibility in the marketplace as an author? Are you commenting on blogs or involved in an online group of writers where you are helpful and visible? Are you taking an active role in your local writers group or on the national level? Again, the consistency is important and will pay dividends over time.

Everyone is looking for the instant fix and the immediate. My experience says the consistent effort is worth it. For example, I'm answering questions today from a newspaper reporter who wants to write a feature story about my forthcoming keynote address in June at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference. I'm looking forward to these sessions yet I'm consistently working on some of the background work to help promote the conference through these articles in the local newspapers.

You never know what opportunity will come during a day. Are you ready to tackle it with consistency?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Perfect Substitute

It is no secret that these are challenging days for many people. Publishing isn't immune to the economic situation which is rocking many areas of our culture. If you are trying to get your book or magazine article published, you are probably hearing the word "no" much more often than you like.

Years ago I read the inspiring story of Ann Kiemel who wrote I Love the Word Impossible. No matter what came her way, Ann continued to hang on to her dreams and look for the open door of opportunity.

From my experience in the publishing world, the doors of opportunity are still there--but more difficult to find. One of the most wildly successful series in book publishing history is the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Yet few people recall the beginnings of those authors when they were trying to get their book published. If you need some encouragement or inspiration, I would encourage you to read the sample of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. In the foreword from Mark Victor Hansen, you will read about the many times, Mark and Jack Canfield were told "no" from publishers. When you read their experience, compare it to your own. How many times have you been rejected for your idea? If they continued, can't you continue?

Whenever you hear the word "no" associated with your book idea, I encourage you to make the perfect substitute--Next. Yes, the word is close to no but you can use it to propel you ahead in the pursuit of your dreams.

I give step-by-step encouragement for advanced and beginning authors in Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Rather than take my word for it, look at this independent review from a March magazine.

If you are struggling to get attention in the publishing world, here's several ideas for you:

1. Start with something less than a book. Write a magazine article and you can learn a great deal from that experience--even for a small publication.

2. Don't write alone but get feedback through a critique group. If you don't know how to find one, use this article.

3. Join a writer's organization and get involved and learn from the other people.

4. Get to a writer's conference to make new friends (relationships are key in this business) and grow as a writer. If you check my schedule you will see that I'm going to be traveling to a number of conferences in the coming weeks. I hope we can connect there.

More than anything else, keep going and persist. You may feel as though you are driving down the road and can't find the entrance to your dreams. It might be just around the next bend.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

A Return to The Writing Life

Have you ever been missing in action? You have built expectations to where readers expect to be receiving your material and it has suddenly stopped.

Since late 2004, I have been writing these entries about The Writing Life and various aspects of publishing. A simple goal of capturing a few words a day has built until it is over 900 entries on many different aspects of the publishing industry. If you haven't used the free search tool in the right hand column of these entries, you could be missing some valuable writing insight. In late January, I stopped writing and took a break from these entries.

The day after Easter and a celebration of the resurrection seems like a perfect day to begin again. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I have not left publishing or stopped pointing to different articles and bits of publishing information. My followers on Twitter has grown to over 13,000. In relation to Twitter, I have recently started using a free tool called Hootsuite. If you haven't tried it, I recommend it because it gives people an easy way to Retweet or pass along your tweets--something which can become very viral in spreading the buzz about something.

First, let me say something about taking a break from regular writing. It's OK to give yourself permission. I know the writing books talk about the necessity of writing on a regular basis and I applaud that consistent pattern. At the same, time life happens and you should not feel guilty for stopping a pattern or changing it.

I continue an active role in publishing and actually much more hands on than the last few years. I've closed my literary agency and become a publisher at Intermedia Publishing Group. I'm working with a number of different authors on their books--cover design meetings, editing their books and much more. It's limited my time for writing these entries but I'm determined they should continue.

I hope you will check my speaking schedule from time to time. In the coming weeks, I will be back out teaching and talking one-on-one with writers about their specific projects. I'd love to meet you and talk about your project and how we could work together.

This weekend I head to Baltimore and the Spread the Word Conference. I'm excited about the opportunity to talk about how a published book can be a great calling card for every writer. There is still room for you to register and attend this conference. Hope to see you there.

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