Monday, April 30, 2012

Adventures in Travel

If you don't travel much, some people believe it is all fun and games to go to different events. I'm glad for the opportunities and seem to end up on the road at least once a month. It seems like recently my trips are back to back where I'm home for a day or two, then back out again. If you want to keep up on my travel schedule, here is where I keep this information. I do hope our paths cross on one of my forthcoming trips and we can connect about your writing and how I can help you.
During a recent Saturday night trip, I checked my return flight home on Sunday and internally groaned. It left at 6:55 a.m. My ride to the airport would meet me in the lobby at 5:15 a.m. Calculating I needed 45 minutes to check out of my room, I called the front desk and asked for a 4:30 wake-up call.
“In the morning?” the operator asked.
“Yes,” I affirmed with reluctance.
It amounted to a short night. At that time of the morning, I expected the hotel lobby to be empty. When the elevator door opened on the first floor, people were everywhere. Young men and women gathered in little groups with animated talking, launching and some of them were carrying beers. I looked at my watch and it affirmed that it was 5:05 a.m. What was going on?
I spotted a young woman alone to inquire what was going on.
“It’s our annual marching competition and we come to this hotel every year,” she explained.
When a car pulled into the front of the hotel, she said, “That’s got to be for you since no one else will need a ride to the airport.” She motioned to her student colleagues who continued in their animated conversation.
Thanking her, I began to pull my bags to the curb. Yes, my ride was there and I headed to the airport.
Cross country travel is an adventure you have to be prepared for anything to happen.
While I had an unusual experience on the way home, I also had a unique experience on the way out to begin my trip. I changed planes in Charlotte, North Carolina which is often a very busy airport. That day was no exception.
I slipped into the restroom. To my shock when I zipped my pants, the zipper mechanism fell into my hand. Now what?
I had no change of clothing because the airline was handling my suitcase. There is nothing to be done. My zipper would remain broken. In years past before September 2001 and the security measures, you could travel with a safety pin in your bag but those days are gone. Safety pins are considered dangerous.
My only option was to pull the front of my pants tightly under my belt and walk quickly through the crowd to my next gate.
I checked the monitor and had arrived on concourse B in Charlotte. My commuter plane to my final destination was at the opposite end of the airport which meant quite a hike passing thousands of people. Terrific I thought. Oh, the joys of traveling.
I attempted to be casual about it and hiked to my next gate. The fight crew had not arrived so they left about 30 minutes late and I got to stand around—careful standing. I got on the plane which involved careful sitting. The blankets would have helped my situation but the airline gave up having those blankets years ago.
My bags arrived at my destination, I pulled them to the curb and my ride hauled me to the hotel. No one said anything about my zipper and I ignore it. What a way to begin this trip. The fun was just beginning.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Power-Packed with Ready-to-Use Information

If you are looking for a way to increase the visibility of your business and establish your authority or expertise in your field, then you need to get a copy of OWN YOUR NICHE. As Chandler writes in the introduction, "OWN YOUR NICHE is about getting visibility with the right audience online and offline in a high-integrity way. It's about checking in with your instincts, questioning the advice you've heard and communicating with your audience with authenticity, in a way that feels right to you." The book is a rich balance between how-to information combined with insightful examples and additional resources.

In the final portion of the introduction, Chandler identifies her audience saying, "The strategies in OWN YOUR NICHE are geared toward service-based businesses including consultants, coaches, speakers, authors, doctors, attorneys, financial professionals, creative professionals, freelancers and businesses of all sizes that provide a service because you have a unique opportunity to reach a niche audience online with great content."

Each chapter is loaded with details like how to establish your authority in your field (chapter 2), build your audience and engage community (chapter 3), turn your website into a client conversion machine (chapter 4), increase website traffic (chapter 5), hype-free internet marketing (chapter 9), internet revenue streams (chapter 12). Each of the 13 chapters includes a detailed example of a successful person practicing the methods for that chapter called an "entrepreneur interview." I found these interviews insightful.

Grab your yellow highlighter when you read OWN YOUR NICHE because you will definitely need it so you can apply this useful information to your business. I highly recommend this book.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Power of a Changed Life

Most of us are set in our ways and it is hard for us to change. Yet throughout life we make changes. We move in a different direction with our life or any number of important shifts. One of the most pointed examples of a changed life in my view comes from one of my biographies, Chuck Colson. Last weekend I learned Chuck passed away at 80 years old

Known as President Richard Nixon's hatchet man, Chuck Colson, went to prison for his involvement in Watergate. He discovered a relationship with Jesus Christ which changed the direction of his life. Chuck founded a world-wide ministry to prisons called Prison Fellowship. It was my honor to write a youth book about Chuck's life as a part of the Today's Heroes series (Zondervan). The book was published in 1994 and shows a different side of Colson's life and personality.

As I wrote Colson's story, almost every person wanted to tell me a funny story about his life. From his early years, Colson loved a good practical joke. Some of them involved serious effort to successfully pull off. I included some of these stories in my biography. 

Throughout the experience, Chuck carefully read every word of the book and gave feedback on the details. He questioned the inclusion of his first marriage and the divorce. I talked it over with my editor who responded, “Many of the young readers of this series will have their own divorce experiences. It's a part of Colson's life and should be included.” Chuck agreed and those few paragraphs remained in my book.

A short time after the book released, I was invited to appear at the Kentucky Book Fair. I had not published many books and Chuck Colson was one of my few books that I brought to this event. At this point in Chuck's life, he was traveling and speaking constantly about his changed life. He had appeared at Billy Graham Crusades and many other high profile events telling about his transformation. To my surprise, the skeptics remained. A number of people told me, “I can't buy your book because I don't believe Chuck Colson changed.”

If you haven't read the story of Chuck's changed life, I recommend you do so. I have some of the few remaining copies of this book in print and have set up a special link so you can get it.

Our loss of Chuck's presence among us is heaven's gain. We mourn his passing but celebrate the tremendous legacy and wealth of teaching and books which remain in our culture. While I had not spoken to Chuck in many years, it is one of the great blessings of my life to call him a friend and to have written the story of his life.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Capture the Experience While It's Fresh

The world felt small and connected last Friday. As a book publisher, I was on a call with a new author guiding a brief meeting to get his cover design started. I've led many of these sessions yet the timing and the connections were unique.

This author was in Tel Aviv, Israel. The designer was in Canada and I was in Phoenix. We took care of the business about his cover and the call was almost over.

Last Friday was Good Friday yet also the beginning of Passover. As we were speaking on the phone, he was driving through an Arab village on the way to celebrate Passover at his in-laws house.

We were speaking on a conference number and this author dialed in using Skype so there was a bit of a delay with his speaking but it worked. I felt connected to the world community and was amazed at the advances of technology to allow something that a few years ago could not be imagined.

Each of us have unique personal experiences in this journey called life. What steps are you taking to capture some of these experiences shortly after they happen?

Our personal experiences can be used in many different ways for our writing. I'm going to give you several of them:

1. Personal Experience magazine articles. Your personal stories can be used in many different types of publications. The category of personal experience articles is almost universal for the print magazine world. High circulation glossy publications use them as well as trade publications. I've written for both types of publications and you can too.

2. Personal stories in nonfiction books. Writing any nonfiction book involves a careful balance between personal stories and how-to information. Often I've included my personal experiences in my writing. I've also collaborated with more than a dozen different people. This experience has allowed me to write their personal experiences into these books. In those cases, I tell the stories through their viewpoint which is another spin on how to use personal experience.

3. Fodder for your short stories. Many novelists are focused on producing their complete novel. Yet it takes a lot of time to write a full novel. You can be practicing your storytelling craft and using your personal experiences as fodder for those stories through short stories. Many print magazines are actively looking for appropriate short stories. It's terrific exposure and experience for the writer. Some of that storytelling springs from your life experiences.

4. Fodder for your novel. Many novels are thinly-veiled personal experiences for the writer. It's a common statement that writers should write what you know. It's hard to make any fiction believable if you've never been to a location yet you can take those experiences and they can be the backdrop for the writing in your novel.

5. Stories for your blog. Your own stories can create some fascinating writing for your blog. As someone with over 1,000 searchable entries in my blog, I'm a big believer in writing your experiences in the blog. If you don't know how to monetize (make money) from your blog or maybe you aren't making enough money from your blog, I recommend you get my 31 Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks, then read it and take action on the many suggestions.

Some writers journal to capture their thoughts and feelings. Others open a computer file and write the raw emotions of a moment.

How do you seize the day and take advantage of your personal experiences? The key from my perspective is to take consistent action to gather these stories so you can use them in your writing.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

When Authors Need A Form

In my life as a writer, I need a legal form from time to time. For example, when I have to bill for a job, I need an invoice. When I work with a collaborator, I need a collaboration agreement. When I'm going to give an estimate, I need a form to give this estimate in a professional way.

Where do I turn? I can search online and maybe cobble something together that will work for the need. Normally I reach for Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford. In one convenient place, this book lists 25 different forms and includes the negotiation checklist for each form.

I'm not an attorney. When it comes to publishing matters, not just any attorney will do because the language and issues for publishing is a specialized area. You need someone skilled in this area. Crawford has worked in publishing law for many years and put together a terrific resource. I've actually purchased this book several times over the years because it has evolved into different versions. The most recent version includes the forms on CD-ROM in three different formats (Word, rich text format and PDF).

When I need a form, I will put the disk into my computer, pull up the form, modify it then send it to the other party. The forms aren't perfect and my long-term literary attorney friend doesn't like them because she believes each case is different and there is no one-size-fits-all form. Yet I also realize that boilerplate contract language is common throughout publishing. For my use, these forms work for my simple need. This resource may help you as well.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Use What Is In Your Hands

“Oh, no,” I groaned this week as I tried to start my car. There was a clicking sound and finally the engine started. I was in a grocery store parking lot several miles from my office and out running a couple of errands. Instead of going home and getting stuck with a car which didn't start, I drove to my car repair place so they could check out my vehicle.

Normally when I go to the repair place, I bring some work but in this case I was caught up prepared. I had a single package from a publisher. Opening it, I found a new marriage book.

If you don't know my background, I've reviewed thousands of books and for several years I was the book review columnist at two publications which don't exist any longer. I read and reviewed many marriage books. I also acquired marriage books when I was an acquisitions editor. Yet over the last few years, I can't even recall a book I've read focused on marriage. Yet I was headed to the waiting room while my car was examined and the only thing in my hands was this new marriage book.

The book included a cover letter where I was asked to endorse the book and post a review on Amazon and other similar places. I began to read the book and loved the contents. The author, Poppy Smith attended a continuing workshop I taught several summers ago at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Workshop. Those classes are structured to be small classes and I believe I had six people including Poppy) that summer.

I could have read the book and done nothing with it. Instead I wrote my review and sent the endorsement and posted the review on Amazon. I also review for a newer site called Lunch.com where I posted the same review. Lunch.com allows you to add links as well as select photos for the review. I selected the cover and Poppy Smith's photo. Then I took one more quick action: I tweeted about my review to my twitter followers which also goes to my Facebook friends and my connections on LinkedIn. Finally I wrote Poppy and told her about my review.

Admittedly it took some proactive effort on my part for these various steps to happen. I am committed to using what is in my hands.

What do you have in your hands? How can you use it in your writing life? I love what Napoleon Hill said, “What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

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Monday, April 02, 2012

It Takes More Than Good Intentions

Through the years, I've met face to face with many writers. I know they have big dreams and good intentions. Maybe they want to write a novel or a nonfiction book. Or they want to get published in a magazine and understand the value of perfecting their craft in a shorter form of writing before they try a longer book project.

During our brief meeting together, I listen to their pitch. I often give them some input or direction from my experience. Often I will encourage them saying, “That sounds like a good idea. Write that up and send it to me.” As an acquisitions editor, I only asked for the manuscripts that were a fit for my publishing house. My encouragement to send their manuscript was sincere.

Yet I never heard from them again. I believe there is a chronic challenge among writers. To get published takes more than good intentions. You must follow through with your intention and get your writing into the marketplace.

Here's five tips on how to have more than good intentions and follow through:

1. Divide the Work. Every task needs to get broken into bite size parts. If you are writing a magazine article, then set a word count goal for your production. If you are trying to get more magazine writing, then decide how many queries you are going to send this week. Or if you are writing a book proposal, then tackle the sections one at a time. Or if you are writing a novel, set a number of words you want to produce each day. Make the work or task specific and then move forward and get it done.

2. Make a check list and cross it off. Take your planned writing and write it down every day. Often I will make a list the night for the next day. Then I cross it off when it is completed. It feels good to complete something and mark it off the list—and I know I'm moving ahead with my intentions.

3. Keep taking action. Without a doubt, you will have interruptions and other things which enter your life to cause delays and capture your attention. Recognize these interruptions ahead of time and make an internal commitment to continue moving forward. It will take on-going commitment to achieve what you want with your writing.

4. Create your own deadlines. Editors give writers deadlines for their writing—whether magazines or books. I encourage you to create your own deadlines for your writing and commit to making those deadlines. It will keep your writing moving forward. And if you don't make your deadline for some reason? Set a new deadline and push forward.

5. Get an accountability partner. Verbalize your goal to some other person. It could be a friend, a writer friend, a family member or whoever. Ask that person to hold your feet to the fire and check with you about whether you are accomplishing your intentions or not.

If you follow through with excellent writing, you will stand out in the publishing world. Many people dream and the ones that get it done, follow-through with their good intentions.

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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Seven Insights I Learned About James Patterson

James Patterson is a successful and prolific bestselling author. Whether you've read all of his book or some of his books or none of his books, you can't help but admire his achievements in the world of publishing.

I love reading author profiles about other authors because of what I learn from it. It's one of the reasons I've interviewed and written about more than 150 bestselling authors over the years—I learn a great deal from the experience which I incorporate into my own writing life.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published the article: James Patterson Tells Us Why His Books Sell Like Crazy by Lauren A.E. Schuker. I hope you will read the entire article. I'm going to pick up on seven insights I learned about James Patterson from this article.

1. The 65–year-old author works seven days a week. I noticed Patterson had been on the golf course that day but he mixes relaxation and work. It's significant to me Patterson works at his craft every day.

2. He is not stuck at a computer but uses paper and pencil. The description of his office notes that Patterson prefers a legal pad and pencil for his work. He is not alone in that habit.

3. Patterson collaborates with other authors. When he explains the writing process, it is clearly collaborative with other writers. He writes the outline then assigns the writer their task. I've noticed his books have many different co-authors yet they sound like they came from the same author. Why? Because…

4. He takes firm control of his storytelling rather than turning it over to a co-author. Yes, Patterson has created a publishing empire but he is firmly at the helm of it and working on the different aspects of his stories.

5. Rewriting is an integral part of the creative process. As he explained, “I'll do any number of outlines or re-writes on the pages. I've done as many as nine drafts of a book after the original comes in.”

6. Patterson has chosen to stay outside of New York and Hollywood. While intimately involved in the publishing world and Hollywood (his movies and TV from his books), he has selected to live in Florida.

7. He has experimented with other types of writing (nonfiction) but sticks with what he does best—fiction. Toward the end of the article, Patterson is asked about other forms of writing like plays or musicals or nonfiction. He has written nonfiction but stays with what works—fiction.

These are my seven insights that I learned about James Patterson. Maybe you picked up on some other details in the article. Which ones?

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