Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Simple Actions Still Count

For a long-time, I’ve had a simple yet effective practice. When someone calls me and leaves a message, I return their call or email them a response. It is almost a lost art in our culture or so it seems to me.

I meet many authors in my travels and offer to help them with their book publishing needs through our robust publishing efforts at Morgan James Publishing. We receive over 5,000 submissions a year and have a publication board where I champion books for authors. The process is selective and we only publish about 150 to 200 titles each year. I’m actively looking for great book proposals and manuscripts. As a part of my search for quality materials, I will email and/or call authors to find out how things are going with their book or ask about the update on their book project. Many times the person will never respond through email or phone. 

I understand we live busy lives but there seems to be a basic courtesy for returning calls which is missing from many people.

I’d like to know if the author has set their book concept aside for now or if something else has happened in their life. Without any response through email or phone, I’m left to wonder.

I recommend you use the tools which are available on your phone to make this process effective and efficient. For example, consider the feature of forwarding your phone number. Do you use it?

It is part of my standard practice whenever I leave my office that I forward my office phone to my cell phone. If someone calls my office phone it rings my cell. If I’m unavailable then the person can leave a message.

For example, at the moment I’m writing this article in an airplane and my cell phone is turned off. When the plane lands, I turn my phone on and any messages will show up. I will listen to these messages and return my calls. It seems like a straightforward business practice to me. Yet the longer I’m in business, the fewer people who seem to practice this simple customer service action. 

Maybe one of you can leave a comment and explain it to me since I believe it is the proper way to conduct business. These simple actions like answering email and phone calls make a large impression.
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Devour the Wisdom in this Book for YOUR Book

Life provides us with amazing experiences--some tragic and some joyful. As you go through these experiences, people will say to you, "YOU SHOULD REALLY WRITE A BOOK." Because almost everyone has a computer and keyboard, writers put their fingers on the keyboard and produce manuscripts. In fact, millions of these "books" are circulating inside publishers and agents. I wish each one of them could carefully read and apply the information inside this book.

I've got many shelves of how-to-write books which I have carefully read and written about for years. In a matter of a few pages, I knew YOU SHOULD REALLY WRITE A BOOK was a winner and rang with solid information mixed with what every writer needs--the truth about this complicated business of publishing.

The key reason for getting this book is highlighted in the subtitle--"How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir." This benefit for you the reader is substantiated on the second page: "People may have told you that the events in your life have been so dramatic that you should really write a book. The challenge, though, is not only how to write the story and make it readable, but how to sell and market it, too. While this book does not aim to give you line-by-line writing, editing, or structural advice, it is designed to show you how to turn your dream of writing a published memoir into a reality, from conceiving the story to selling and marketing it. "Writing," "selling," and ""marketing" are the operative words here. Most people assume that it's best to write a memoir first and then consider how to sell and market it. But these days, that's a counterproductive idea. Working through YOU SHOULD REALLY WRITE A BOOK can make the difference between producing a manuscript written to appeal to friends and relatives versus one that can convince an agent to invest energy and time on your behalf in trying to sell it to an acquisitions editor for publication."

This book is full of relevant insight for every writer (and especially writers of memoirs). The contents are divided into three major sections: an overview of the genre, details about the major categories of memoir and finally the publishing business aspects of working with a collaborator and contacting an agent.

Through reading this book, I learned the term RU or what the authors call "Relative Unknowns." As the authors explained, "It was designed for RUs, people generally not widely known or recognized outside their own circles. It is especially for those who do not have household names. Our aim is to level the planning field for those who are not super rich, or famous, or powerful. Written to give you a competitive advantage, this book will teach you to think like publishing professionals, so you will know what they will expect of you." (Page 13)

This book achieves this purpose. If fit their target audience (Relative Unknown), then I hope you will read this book cover to cover--as I did. Keep your yellow highlighter handy because it will call to your attention memoirs that you haven't read but need to and much more. YOU SHOULD REALLY WRITE A BOOK is a title I enjoyed and highly recommend because of the how-to information mixed with personal storytelling and current publishing insights.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Let's Meet This Fall

“What was I thinking?” I wondered when I took a serious look at my schedule for this fall. If I'm honest I can tell you my speaking schedule was not very well planned. 

People asked me to come to their conferences and events at different times over the last few months. Each time, I looked at the specific dates and if they were available, then I agreed to come to their event.

Here's the important step that I missed in this process. I did not look at how the dates fit into my other plans for the month or weeks around that event. My calendar has a feature of being able to look at the entire month at once. If I had looked at the month, I would have noticed the events were stacked close together.

With moving and other factors, I've not been traveling out of state to many conferences in recent weeks. That situation is about to radically change. You can see my speaking schedule (follow the link). 

This Thursday, you can catch my next teleseminar. Get Published Now Sharon Jenkins will be interviewing me. I will be answering your questions about the difference between traditional and self-publishing in this free teleseminar. Just follow the link to listen to the live webcast or dial this Phone number: (206) 402-0100 and PIN Code: 107325# As a printed reminder, you can download this PDF. This telesemminar will give you another example of my teaching.

September 21 and 22, I will be at the Southern Colorado Christian Writers Conference near Durango. I've glanced at their schedule enough to know they will keep me very active for those days.

Then I come home for a few days and the next weekend, I'm teaching at the American Christian Writers Conference in Spokane, Washington. I get the next weekend off to spend with my family.

In October and November, my schedule grows in intensity. In fact, I will be out speaking five weekends in a row.

October 11 and 12th, I will be giving a couple of keynotes at the Breathe Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I've never been to this conference so I'm excited to have this opportunity.

October 19th and 20th, I'm at the Fall Conference of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild. It's been several years since I've been to this conference and since I moved in mid-June, I'll be able to drive to it.

October 25, 26 and 27, I'll be at Author 101 University in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'm excited to be with other members of the Morgan James team at this terrific event.

November 2nd and 3rd, I will be back in Phoenix for the American Christian Writers Conference.

Yes, it is a busy time of year for conferences—and I'm excited to have each opportunity. I'm already planning on getting plenty of rest and taking care of myself in terms of exercise and eating right during this intense period of activity.

Some of you may read this list of conferences and wonder why I do it. Yes, I can be productive sitting at my computer and not traveling to different conferences.

I teach because it is my way to give back to other writers. When I look back at my own writing career, I've gained insight and information from the various instructors at conferences that I've attended. These professionals have built incredible information into my life and experience. Also I've made life-long friends at these events. We exchange business cards and contact information and it's a chance for me to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

At each of these conferences, I will have many one-on-one, face-to-face meetings with individual authors. I'll be listening as they pitch their book and I'll be asking some clarification and prodding questions about their manuscript or book proposal. Because of my role as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, I'm actively looking for great nonfiction and fiction books that I can champion to my publication board and help them move into the marketplace. I'm actively searching for new authors and I know I will find some of those authors on the road.

For the last few weeks, my suitcases have not received a lot of use. In fact, I've purchased new suitcases since my old ones were badly beat up on the road. 

Where will we meet this fall? I look forward to it.

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Weekly Inspiration for the Christian Writer

As you face the blank page and crank out words, you work in isolation and alone. Are you someone the Bible calls a "Ready Scribe?" If so, you will find encouragement in THE HEART OF A READY SCRIBE, 52 REFLECTIONS FOR WRITERS.

Melanie Stiles has picked a clear target audience for this powerful slim book. Each week begins with an inspirational quotation, a short devotional thought, a relevant Bible verse and some action steps called Reflections. I loved week 7 "No" Means Take Further Action. Stiles writes, "Too many of us quit at Rejection Number One. If you don't give up after the first round you could land in a prominent crowd. Let's review a short list:

* CS. Lewis is said to have been rejected some 800 times before he sold anything.

* A Time to Kill by John Grisham earned 45 rejections.

* A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle received 29.

* Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – a whopping 140." (Page 13)

I found inspiration in these weekly readings--and believe you will as well. For example, Week 38 is called "Follow, Don't Lead" about the necessity for writers who want to get published to follow the guidelines. Stiles concludes, "We, as writers, are given guidelines. When followed, they give editors one more reason to keep reading our work." (Page 75) If you are a Christian writer, you will profit from a careful reading and application of the pages of THE HEART OF A READY SCRIBE.

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Seasons of a Writer

“When is your next book coming out?” Someone asked me at a recent event. I had not seen this person in several years and they assumed I was still writing many books. While I still have my fingers on the keyboard every day, often I'm not writing for print or publication. 

I've learned there are different seasons of the writing life. Some days the words simply flow out of my fingers. When I’m in the throes of a book project and facing a deadline, I find the words and stories fly into my computer.

During this particular season, I was writing my own books but also writing books for others. It was a constantly juggling where I was working on a book proposal or two which I sent to an editor or agent. While these proposals were being considered, I was writing on a different book. When those proposals found a publisher, I lined up that writing and there was a steady flow of work headed my direction. During this season I was constantly writing for magazines which provided shorter deadlines and a different type of regular writing. 

Into this mixture, I began to collaborate on books with others. I wrote more than a dozen of these types of books with others. Some of these books were co-authored books and a few of them were ghostwritten. I have a complete list of my books on my website in the portfolio section. To some people, it is remarkable that I've written over 60 books but I tell people you do it just like eating an elephant—one book at a time.

In recent years, my writing life has shifted into a different season. Much of my work is helping others get their work published. As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James, I'm involved speaking with authors (or their literary agents) about their book projects. 

Also I'm reading sections of unpublished books or manuscripts or proposals and searching for excellent material. Or I'm crafting my reasons for recommending an author to my publication board at Morgan James. Or I'm explaining the details of a contract and answering author questions. It is a different aspect of the publishing business from producing my own books but I have discovered great joy helping others get their work into the marketplace.

I continue writing for several different magazines on a regular basis including a column called Book Proposal Bootcamp for Southern Writers.

My own writing goes in spurts. Yes, I’m committed to continuing to add entries to The Writing Life. Often I can’t write as frequently as I would like because of travel, speaking and other life events. You can see my fall travel schedule is filled with opportunities and I find it exciting. I hope to see some of you on the road and we can talk about your ideas and book projects.

My hope is these lessons provide valuable insight and encouragement to each of you as you face your own season in your writing life. Which season are you in for your writing life?

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Read My Author Interview & More

Several weeks ago on a small writer forum that I regularly read, one of my author friends announced her author interview was on Roads Diverged. She gave the link and mentioned that Kristine Lowder was looking for other authors to interview and gave her email address.

I don't know how others on this forum responded, but I seized the opportunity. I went to Kristine's blog and sent her an email to find out more details about how to be interviewed. She responded right away with a series of interview questions. 

If you follow my writing and life in publishing, I have many things in motion. I didn't craft my answers to her questions right away and ever the professional Kristine sent me a follow-up note wondering how I was doing answering her questions. That gentle prod got me focused on her questions and I returned them several weeks ago.

When I returned the material, she thanked me and told me that she had it scheduled for the first of September—which was four or five weeks away from our correspondence.
I'm writing about this interview so you can read it (follow the link or click on the image on this post). I answer a number of questions about writing and publishing. Notice that I wove a number of links into my responses—which lead to free resources and one or two resources that the reader can purchase. 

When the article came out this week, Kristine promoted the article to her connections and I also promoted the article to my over 40,000 Twitter followers, my almost 4,700 Facebook friends and my over 2,300 LinkedIn connections.

The Internet has an abundance of these types of opportunities. As a book author, are you seizing the day? For this interview to happen, I took action and responded to the questions. You can follow the same steps.

Over and over I see authors who believe they have done their work in simply writing their book and getting it into the marketplace. Yes, it is critical to craft an excellent book and that is foundational. Also the writer has to enter into the marketing and promotion aspects to spread the word about their work. It may not happen overnight.

Recently I read this article about bestselling author Wayne Dwyer. In the early days of his writing life, he sold books out of the trunk of his car. It is a story that I've heard many times about bestselling authors (not selling out of their trunk) but the fact that it took them years in the trenches to become an overnight success. 

What actions are you taking today to spread the word about your writing work? In writing this article, hopefully I've encouraged you with the possibilities. 

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