Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Use Caution with Advice from Editors & Agents

Some times new writers will hang on my every word. If I think about what is happening I can be frightened with that responsibility. Yes I've been in the book business for many years and worked in many different areas—yet I do not always get it right. In fact, no one does. 

I understand that some new ideas are fragile and at a conference, a writer takes a risk to present their idea and get your feedback. At these meetings, we often have seconds to size up an idea and look over a few pages of writing, then give some feedback. I've been in this situation many times in the past and will be in this situation a number of times in the coming weeks at different conferences. I understand the serious nature of my responsibility in these situations yet I also know that I'm not always on target with my advice. 

At some conferences, I have a day full of back-to-back 15 minute sessions with different writers. I'm eager to help these writers with their questions and book ideas. As an acquisitions editor, I'm actively looking for the right nonfiction or fiction books that I can champion to my publication board at Morgan James Publishing and eventually bring into print. Other times I'm giving the writer some encouragement or insight into their proposal or their book idea.

As a writer, I can recall hanging on every word from a respected editor. I wrote down the feedback and went home then carried out each instruction. Then when I returned to this editor, he did not recall that he had ever seen the project in the first place. I appreciated his honesty but at the time I didn't understand it because that brief conversation meant so much to me. 

Here's some keys as you get advice from different publishing professionals:

1. Who gave you this advice? Are they new to the profession or have they spent years in the trenches of publishing?

2. What time of day did you receive it? If at the end of a long day of meetings, maybe it was not perfectly on target.

3. Are you hearing the same counsel from others? If you hear the same general advice from several people, then it may be worth taking and changing.

4. What is your own mind and heart telling you about the advice? Some people stumble around with a manuscript for years because they are blind or do not accept the advice they have been given about it. Others are swayed with every bit of advice to move in different directions and never get published because their perfectionist tendencies make their material “never good enough.” 

My overall insight is for balance. Sometimes you will take the advice and other times you shrug it. Every editor and agent is off the mark at times and you should not hold that over the person but understand and move on. You have to take the advice with a grain of salt.

Recently I received a lengthy email from a writer who recalled in great detail a fifteen minute session with me from at least six or seven years ago. As I read his description of the details, I didn't remember anything about that session—yet I could see that it was significant to this writer. My only response was to apologize and encourage the writer to move forward. To my knowledge, that book idea was never published. 

Every writer needs to follow their passion for their story and their writing—yet be open to learning something new along the journey. Continue to grow in your craft and storytelling, and be willing to shrug the advice from an editor or agent. It might be the difference between getting your book published or keeping it on your computer.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Learn the Basics

I've made my fair share of mistakes in the writing business. In my college magazine writing class, we had to write three ten-page magazine articles. I'm certain my professor taught us to research the target audience and the publication BEFORE sending in our submission. I was probably daydreaming or something when that lesson came across since I didn't follow it.

Passionate about my new faith, I decided to write for the Christian magazine market. I wrote articles like “A Christian view of Vegetarianism.” I had little understanding of the marketplace and I'm sure my submissions were not targeted properly since they were quickly returned with form rejection slips.

About ten years later, I returned to writing for the magazine world and learned the importance of studying the publication and the target market—before sending my article or query letter. Just this basic alone will give you a higher degree of success in your submissions.

Format Matters

Recently I read a couple of manuscripts before attending a writers conference. Each of these writers had large amounts of passion for their particular topics and it came through loud and clear in their writing.

Yet each of these writers had no understanding about the expected format for magazine articles. The format matters and is the basic building block of the article like a brick is the basic building block for a wall.

Every writer needs to meet the expectations of the magazine editor. If you don't learn about those expectations and meet them, then your work will not be carefully read and considered. It will instead land in the rejection pile and you will stumble along without without learning why it was rejected.

Each of these new writers that I critiqued had not met the basic expectations.

Because I've written for over 50 magazines and also been a magazine editor, here's some of these basics:

1. Submit your material in the basic format—and learn that format. The fist bit of information to include at the top of your manuscript is your word count.

2. Magazine editors are looking for publishable material of a certain length. If you haven't included your word count, no editor will count your words. You have to give this information. With this critical information, the editor can glance at your submission and see if you are in the range that is needed. If so, then they keep reading. If not, then it is rejected and they press on to the next submission.

3. Give your name, address, phone number and the rights you are selling t the top of the page where you have to word count.

4. Editors are busy and do not have time to look around for this information. The writer needs to make it easy to access.

5. Double-space your manuscripts with standard margins. Do not change the margins to cram more words on the page.

6. The manuscript that I was reading was spaced at 1.5 instead of double-spaced and the words were at the edge of the paper—on every side of it. It looked like the writer was trying to save paper and what she achieved was producing something that was screaming for rejection. Yet I still read it since I was going to meet with this writer face to face. 

If your format is uninviting and wrong, then your content will never be considered. 

If you want to be successful in the magazine world, then follow these guidelines. With an attractive manuscript, the editor can dive into your words and see if they will work for their publication.
I continue to be a proponent for writing for different magazines. The short form of writing is one of the best ways for writers to learn and practice their craft. 

What are you writing today that you can send to an editor for consideration? Is it in the expected format?

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

It Never Grows Old

After my recent move. I'm still working on changing my address with people. I called my old mailbox and learned I had a number of things they were holding so they packed it up and sent it to me. If you happen to have my old Arizona address, please change to my new California address because I'm no longer living there. 

This stack of mail included two copies of a Sunday School take-home paper called LIVE. If you are unfamiliar with Sunday School, it is still happening in many churches around the country. Each denomination is different and thousands of people receive printed magazines at their classes. These take- home papers are great opportunities for writers to get their materials into print. LIVE is a weekly journal on practical Christian living and a publication of the Assemblies of God, Gospel Publishing House.

As a publication, they work months ahead and the stack of LIVE that I received was from September 2, 2012 through November 25, 2012. I knew exactly what was in this stack of magazines—one of my articles. I skimmed through the papers and finally located the issue with my article—the final one on November 25. 

My story is on the the cover: Praying for the Bibleless People. It's a short article that I wrote many years ago when I worked at Wycliffe Bible Translators (where I spent 17 years). Over a year ago, the editor at LIVE and I were at a writer's conference. It had been years since I had been published in this magazine. Listening to the editor during the conference, I went home, dug through several of my old articles and updated them, then sent them to the editor for consideration.

Several of my articles were rejected (which happens to every writer). Several of my articles were accepted for publication. I received a short agreement which I signed and returned. LIVE pays on acceptance so I received my payment and the articles are scheduled for the future. Well, the publication date is finally near and as an author, I received a copy of my published article. 

I pulled out my 2012 Christian Writer's Market Guide and quickly looked up the listing for LIVE. The publication has a circulation of about 31,000 and is 100% freelance written. That means they don't have a large staff which writes a huge percentage of the publication but depend on submissions from freelance writers. It spells a great opportunity for every writer. They take reprints which means if your article has been published and you still retain the rights to your article, then you can sell it a second time to LIVE.

If you are not writing magazine articles or need to learn the basics, I encourage you to read this article where I go through the basics of writing an article. There is opportunity for every writer to get their work into print—but you must take action whether it is a brand new article that you are publishing for the first time or an article that you are getting out as a reprint. Are you taking action with your writing and getting it into print? I hope so.

The thrill of getting your stories into print never grows old for me. How about you? Is it old hat? After thousands of articles I still enjoy the feeling of holding a newly published article in my hands.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Propel Your Writing To A New Level

Writing is an isolated discipline. Each of us write alone then fire our submissions off to editors or agents and hope some sees something worthy to be published. Or we give it to our spouse or a friend who will only give praise and not wise advice for improvement.

Every writer or would-be writer can profit from the insight and information in THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITERS GROUPS THAT WORK. Author B.J. Taylor knows from many years of personal experience what works. In the opening pages, she writes about her motivation saying, "Out of desperation to keep my passion alive, I started a writers group. The members were all writers, sure, but I thought of them as cheerleaders. They were just what I needed to keep writing, keep submitting, keep doing what I needed to do in order to be published."

Whether you are meeting face to face or online Taylor has detailed information about Who, What, when Where and Why. These specifics are for every writer. She says, "In order to be successful at reaching a wide audience, you need to bounce your stories off others first. Your writers group can help you fine-tune your writing so that it hooks an editor from the very first sentence. Your writers group will encourage and motivate you if you're feeling down when you receive that seventh nonacceptance letter in the mail. Your writers group will listen to your second, third, fourth, and even fifth revision of the same article, and will applaud when they feel you've reached the point where it is finally ready to send out."(page 2)

If you are stuck with your writing and need a boost, I highly recommend you get THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITERS GROUPS THAT WORK. Then read the book and apply the information to your writing life. It could be your breakthrough moment if you take action.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to Increase Website Traffic and Why Links Matter

Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome my friend, author and business expert Stephanie Chandler who is a guest blogger today. Earlier this year, I wrote about her excellent Own Your Niche. Today you will read an excerpt from the book. If you hurry and click this link, you can get a FREE Ebook copy of Stephanie's book. It's a limited offer so do it today.

Links within your website and pointing to your website from other sites can have an important impact on your overall optimization with the search engines.

Inbound Links

One of the criteria that the search engines use to rank website pages is the number of inbound links pointing to your website from other websites. More importantly, they look at how many links from high-traffic websites are pointing to your pages. If a popular website features a link to your site, it shows the search engines that your site is relevant.

Other important incoming links are from industry-related sites. When another site in a related industry features a link to your site, it helps Google see your site’s relevance. For example, a website that covers news about the spa industry would be an ideal link to have pointing to a salon and spa site.

Government sites (with a .gov extension) and education sites (with a .edu extension) also have high priority with the search engines. If you’re able to get incoming links from any of these sites, it can help your ranking.

The key to success here is to make sure your link is listed in as many places as possible.

Where to Promote Your Website Link:
  • Update the free online profiles provided by any trade organizations that you belong to by including your website link.
  • Ask colleagues and business partners to swap links with you. They can publish your link on a “Recommended Resources” or similar page on their site, and you can do the same in return.
  • Publish articles and include your bio and website link. The more articles you push out across the internet, the more links you will have pointing back to your site. The same is true for guest blog posts.
  • Engage in social media sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity you can find to post your link online!
  • Some services offer to add lots of inbound links to your site—beware! Adding dozens of links at once can be viewed by the search engines as spam, and many of these services are scams in their own right.
  • It takes time to get your link out there, so always be on the lookout for opportunities to add links.
Anchored Links

An anchored link is a link to a web page that is embedded in text. For example, when “Click here for more information” is an active hyperlink to a web page, it is an anchored link.
Anchored links are a boon for SEO because they tell the search engines what content is found on the linked page. 

Because of this, links should incorporate keywords instead of the generic “Click here” example.

For example, a high-traffic site with a link embedded in the text to “Visit Happy Times Day Spa in Toledo, Ohio” would be an ideal anchored link.

The hardest part of this strategy is getting others to link back to your site in the first place, and then to do so with an anchored link. But because anchored links are so valuable, it’s worth your time to ask your link partners to do this whenever possible.

You can also weave anchored links throughout your own site to the different pages within your site. For example, from your primary services page, you could include a link that says, “Find out more about massage therapy services.” You can also incorporate anchored links on your home page in addition to your site navigation links.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Get Something Done for Five Dollars

Normally I am a pure do-it-yourselfer in the things that I do online. 

You may have noticed I have a number of websites. Unlike some of my friends, I do not outsource the building and related tasks to others. I’ve chosen to do it myself.

Like many new projects, I’m always learning something and at times I make a few mistakes in the process—nothing severe but some minor goofs. It is one of the results of doing the work yourself.

Yet every now and then I get stuck. There is something that I need like a banner or a header or something that I can’t make myself. I do reach out and get help in these situations. For any entrepreneur, the trick when you do hire someone else is to do it economically and make it cost effective.

Notice I call myself an entrepreneur? I believe every author should gain a bit of entrepreneurial spirit. That bent toward business will help you in your publishing life.

Recently I was stuck. I needed a graphic artist to make a minor modification to four different images. I knew exactly what I wanted to change but I’m not skilled to use graphic programs like Photoshop. I had to hire someone to move forward with my forthcoming project.
I learned about Fiverr.com. It’s a site where people offer to do a particular task for Five Dollars. Other people had told me about the site but I had never used it.

You can look around Fiverr.com without registering. I planned to use it so I “joined” the site and created a username and password.

I was searching for a graphic artist. Looking at the feedback, I selected four artists who looked like they could accomplish the job I needed. Also I selected people in the United States.
Fiverr has a system where you can send a message to the prospective graphic artist about your task. I used the system to write a simple email to four different people. 

In my email, I described what I needed done and asked if they could handle this task. Within 30 minutes, I heard from one of the emails that this artist could do my work. Two other artists responded that they could also handle it and I never heard from the fourth person.

I hired the first person and paid my $5 through paypal. The site holds the funds until the job has been completed to my satisfaction.

In the internal email to the artist, Fiverr only allows one attachment. I had to bundle my four images into a single zip file and attach them for the artist. In my instructions, I was specific about what I needed done.

Under the guidelines, the artist promised to complete the task within three days. 

I received the completed work in less than an hour after sending it. I looked at my files and they were exactly what I need. I released my funds to the artist with my positive feedback. I found the process amazing that I could get something done quickly and for a low price.

There are several keys to notice:

1. I had a specific task and had specific directions about what I wanted done.

2.If I had not been as specific, the results could have been poor.

3. I selected several different possibilities and gave the task to the first person who responded.

Have some of you used Fiverr.com? What type of experiences have you had with it?

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cut Down on the Publishing Learning Curve

If you have written a novel or a nonfiction book or just have an idea for one, how do you cut down the learning curve and get published?

There are a number of ways that I've learned but one of the most fruitful means is to get educated and connected to the marketplace through face-to-face contact at a writer's conference.

I've written about the details of why you should attend a writer's conference in this article. I've created a new free resource about publishing.

Next Monday, I'm going to be interviewing Rick Frishman who is one of the most knowledgeable publishing professionals that I know about why someone should attend a writer's conference. Rick Frishman is the founder of one of the largest PR Firms in the U.S. Planned Television Arts and now he's a publisher at Morgan James Publishing

Also Rick is the creator and host of the popular writers conference Author 101 University, which will be held in late October in Las Vegas. I will also be attending this amazing event. As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James, I'm working with Rick.

Rick is going to be answering your questions about why a writer should attend a conference and more of the details about what happens at these amazing events. You can ask your question and sign up for the event. If you can't make that time, don't worry because it will be recorded and everyone who registers will receive the replay information. I hope you will ask your question—and if you don't have a question, go ahead and sign up. You can simply put “no question” in the question area. 

Why sign up if you aren't going to attend? 

Every writer who wants to get published needs the free Ebook from Rick: Before You Contact An Agent from his book, Author 101 Bestselling Secrets of Top Agents that Rick wrote with Robyn Freedman Spizman. This valuable 36–page resource will help you get ready to meet with any agent or editor—whether you do it face to face at a conference or through email.

With straightforward information, every author or would-be author needs to read this Ebook and follow the seasoned advice it contains. I encourage you to get it—and to pass the information along to your friends.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Get the Entrepreneur Attitude

As you think about your writing life, do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur? For many writers, it is a huge step for them to wear the name of writer or author. 

Maybe you have written for years and are starting to get some magazine articles published but never written a book. Or maybe you have gotten your first book published but few people have purchased it. Or maybe your writing life is chugging along with a few articles each year and a few newspaper articles but not much else to talk about. Yes, you attend a conference or two each year but aren't earning much from your writing and you definitely aren't in a position to quit your day job. If you click this link, you will learn about six well-known authors who did not quit their day job.

How do you make this attitude adjustment? One key step is to begin to think of yourself as an entrepreneur and small business person—yes as a writer. Recently I read a great book on this topic, The Reluctant Entrepreneur by Michael Masterson.

In the first chapter, Masterson sets a new definition for Entrepreneur. He adds the modifier “Reluctant” and the combination makes for a fascinating and compelling book full of insights.

To begin your own business, you do not have to risk everything or quit your day job or feel like you have to parachute out of an airplane. Instead you can take limited risk and calculated steps which can lead to a successful new business.

Michael Masterson charts the course for every reader in this well-written book. Bring your highlighter because if you are like me, you will regularly be marking different pages to return to them for action. Each chapter has well-drawn lessons with experienced insights.

Many readers can gain from a careful reading and personal application of this material. I loved the critical question which begins the second chapter, “Most would-e entrepreneurs are motivated by an idea—an idea for some great new product. But they almost never ask themselves the big question: Is this the kind of product I can actually sell?” (page 21) Then he continues, “There is only one way to find out if your product is good, and that is to start selling it. The sooner you start selling it, the faster you will know. (Most products, it turns out, are not as good as the inventor—or her son—thinks they are.)” (page 23)

A careful reading and application of this material to your own business ideas will cut years of rabbit trails and failure from your life. Instead you can follow the well-worth path to success that successful business man and multi-millionaire Michael Masterson has blazed for readers through The Reluctant Entrepreneur

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Reach Beyond Book Reviews

Editor's Note: I'm delighted today to have my friend Sandra Beckwith with a pointed article for every writer who has written a book or plans to write a book. Read this valuable insight from this seasoned publicity expert. wtw

Why You Need A Press Release That Announces Your Book

I’m so impressed with so many authors promoting their books in today’s crazy publishing environment.

Many understand the importance of planning their marketing assault long before the book is published so they have the right connections in place at the right time – when the book is available for purchase. 

They know that like it or not, social networking is an important part of the marketing mix in today’s virtual marketplace.

And some of the most successful realize that book marketing is about more than snagging book reviews.

They’re the ones who realize that they need a book announcement press release not only to send with review copies, but to generate other kinds of important publicity and exposure. They’ve seen firsthand that the press release that announces their book is probably the most versatile book promotion tool available.

Author Marcia Layton Turner generated a great deal of publicity for her book Extreme Couponer: Insider Secrets to Getting Groceries for Free by paying a reputable press release distribution service to send her book announcement press release to online media, newspapers, and magazines. Turner also sent it directly to bloggers she knew would be interested in the book’s topic.

“I was thrilled that the press release generated a 100 percent response rate with the bloggers,” she says, adding that they either reviewed the book or asked Turner to be a guest blogger for the site.

5 ways to use your announcement press release

Here are just five of the many ways that successful authors like Turner are using that important book announcement press release in an increasingly competitive marketplace:

· They’re sending them to media outlets without review copies, knowing that most media outlets won’t review the book, but might use a short news item if the book’s topic is a good fit for their audience.
· Fiction and nonfiction authors alike are supplementing their paid press release distribution with free distribution services so their books get maximum online exposure.
· They’re sending them to their local newspapers and radio stations with a note suggesting that the outlets interview them for a “local author releases new book” article or segment.
· Like Turner, those scheduling virtual book tours (also known as author blog tours) e-mail their announcement release to bloggers as essential background information.
· They’re adding them to their own online press rooms to help with the SEO (search engine optimization) that brings them site visitors.
Don’t make these mistakes

You’ll get the most mileage from the press release that announces your book if you write one that incorporates the content and format that journalists want and expect. (Some can be kind of cranky about this, so it’s important to follow their “rules” so your press release isn’t deleted immediately.) There are step-by-step instructions in my e-book, Get Your Book in the News: How to Write a Press Release That Announces Your Book, but here are a few common problems to avoid in yours:

· Making grammar and spelling mistakes: We all make them, so we have to figure out how to avoid them. I print the release so that I can proofread a hard copy. I also e-mail it to myself before I send it to the press. For some quirky reason, I can see mistakes in the e-mailed version that I miss in the Word version.
· Focusing on the author instead of the book. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Joan Didion, you want to put the spotlight on the book.
· Being too promotional. Your press release should read like a news article, not a magazine ad. Avoid superlatives, exclamation marks, and statements you can’t prove.

Finally, make sure you e-mail your book announcement press release to the press the right way (yes, there is a wrong way). 

Join those authors who have figured it out: Write the best press release for your book that you can, and use it to promote your book as many ways as possible.

If your book announcement press release is online, please share the link here so we can learn more about your book!

Sandra Beckwith uses her background as an award-winning publicist to teach authors how to promote their books. Subscribe to her free bi-weekly e-newsletter, Build Book Buzz, for tips and advice.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

My Forgotten Twitter Quote

“Terry, your twitter feed gave me the perfect quote for my keynote,” Kathleen Y’baro Turner exclaimed to me this past Saturday morning at First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

Kathleen was the keynote lunch speaker at the Texas Christian Writers conference and we were on the faculty together. While setting up our books in the bookstore, she told me about my pointed quote that I put on twitter—yet she did not tell me which quote. As I listened, I wondered, Which quote are you talking about? She left a bit of mystery and didn't tell me the details. Later during her talk, she used my name and included the quotation. When she read it to her audience, I recognized it as something I sent to twitter last week.

Throughout my day, I read articles and other materials about writing and publishing. 

Through Twitter and Facebook, I have an easy way to pass along these articles to others. I see this tool as a wonderful resource. It only takes a few seconds to copy and paste the information into my twitter feed and send it into the marketplace. When I discover value for my own life, I quickly paste it into twitter and send it along for others to read.

Any of my posts to Twitter are automatically pasted into Facebook for an even larger reach. Also I have several places like on my blog and on terrywhalin.com where I have links from my Twitter postings to gain an even larger audience for those postings. If your tweets don't go onto to Twitter, I encourage you to look at the settings in Twitter and make that automatic connection to replicate your tweets on Facebook.

Kathleen as preparing for her keynote message and noticed my quote. “If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.— Ivan Turgenev” These words struck a chord with her and she included it in what she told the group in Houston. It was a surprise to me since I barely remembered doing it. When she read it, I recognized it but it wasn't like I labored over this quotation. It was something that flashed across my screen during a day and I shared it to my Twitter followers.

None of us know what simple actions can impact others. What simple actions are you taking today to share information and encouragement with others? It does not have to consume hours of time or attention. It can begin with a simple act on Twitter.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Empty Box (That Was Supposed to be Full!)

About a week ago, I ordered another case of Book Proposals That Sell. I speak about book proposal creation at various conferences and bring this book to the event. If you check the link to the Amazon page, you will see this book has over 100 Five Star reviews. The most recent review at this writing was on July 2nd. I'm thrilled so many people have used the contents of this book to gain a traditional publisher or a literary agent.

Right away my publisher sent the box of books into the U.S. postal system. It arrived and was supposed to be packed with books. Except it had a problem—the bottom of the box was folded and other than a small piece of Styrofoam, it was empty.

The Styrofoam I understand because it normally fills out the little space in the box so the books arrive in perfect condition. The people at my mailbox had never seen such a package arrive in this shape.

I called my publisher—and they had never had this type of thing happen. The publisher is going to try and recover the missing books and will be shipping me a replacement case right away. As you can tell from my forthcoming speaking schedule, I have a number of events where I will need these books.

If you want to quickly get the book and don't care if you read a paperback or the Ebook version, here's where you can get the Ebook. I wrote this book as a frustrated acquisitions editor to help writers produce the type of proposals that agents and editors need. Since I wrote the book years ago, not every detail in it is correct (such as some of the links) and some other information.

Several months ago I updated the contents of the Ebook version but the printed book has not caught up. I've offered the revision to my publisher when he reprints the book but I'm unsure how long that will take to happen—since to date he has not requested my revisions. If you haven't read the book, I encourage you to get the electronic version because it comes with my no questions asked guarantee and a variety of bonuses. Plus you can instantly receive it (no waiting for the mail). 

No matter how you read this book, I'm always thrilled to hear from people who have read it and taken action on the contents—-and gained a book contract or a literary agent. It's one of the key reasons I wrote the book—to improve the quality of book proposals and submissions. 

Writers, editors, agents and even readers of books gain from this activity. Here's to writing the next bestseller.

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