Sunday, January 20, 2019

Where to Begin Publishing

Publishing can be confusing and overwhelming. Where do you begin the process? Recently an unpublished writer contacted me for some guidance. For many years, she had been interested in publishing and writing in her journal. Once she sent something to a magazine and got rejected. Then she hasn't tried again. Yes she reads blogs and websites and has purchased the Christian Writers Market Guide (all good steps in the process). Yet she was overwhelmed and unsure where to start her journey.

While I've been in publishing many years, I still recall those early days in my writing life. I could identify with the overwhelming feeling and confused about where to begin the publishing journey. If you are in this situation with your writing, here's what I recommend:

1. Write articles for Sunday school take home papers. Almost every type of church has publications which are given out during Sunday School. These are called Sunday School Take Home Papers and are published 52 times a year. Editors have a huge need to fill these issues with quality writing and are always looking for the right material. Also their circulations are generally 100,000 to 200,000 which means lots of exposure for the writer. Also many of these publications have theme lists where the editor tells you the topics they need. If you write on those topics, then you increase your possibility of getting their attention and that they will publish it.

2. Write personal experience stories. Many publications including Sunday school take homes, publish personal experience stories. Each of us have these stories but are you writing them and trying to get them published? Can you write the story with a solid beginning, middle and end? Can you conclude with a single point called a takeaway for the reader? These articles are often 500 to 1000 words in length but before you fire off your submission, check the guidelines (normally online) and read some of their publication (online). You'd be surprised how many writers don't do this critical step in the submission process.

3. Regularly submission to publications. I'd like to be published in Reader's Digest. At the moment it is very unlikely that will happen because I'm not sending them anything. Notice in my opening story the writer send something once and got rejected. I know everyone gets rejected. Yes I get rejected in the process. That rejection isn't personal but simply saying it was not the right material at the right time for this publication. Maybe the material is right for a different publication. Persistence and consistency in your submissions will help you get published.

4. Understand getting published leads to more opportunity. The editors and literary agents are looking for people with experience. You get experience writing for magazines and it can lead to books and other possibilities.
Everyone has to begin the publishing journey some place. I suggest you begin with magazines because they are short, targeted and quicker than books plus you reach thousands of people with your writing. I understand why people want to write books and hold them in your hand. I encourage you to look for the broader possibility of magazines—whether you are brand new or have a lot of experience.

Where did you begin the publishing process? Does this resonate and raise some questions? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Cautionary Tale

Book publishing is filled with possible pitfalls and errors.  I witnessed another one today.

One of my best-selling author friends has a new book releasing. This new book was from a major well-known publisher. The book was designed well and edited and included endorsements and practical information. I've supported this author in the past so I was on the list of people who got a pre-release of the book. This pre-release included a personal handwritten note from the author and information about the date of the book release.

It was a push for my schedule but I managed to quickly write a review and be ready to post it on the launch date. Then I noticed the page on Amazon. It was not the typical pre-release page but the book had already released a couple of days ahead of the launch date. The book had zero Amazon reviews on the page. 

How did this happen? Someone at the publishing house set up the wrong Amazon date for releasing the book (my guess). This author has a launch team and other elements in place to promote her book. I was not surprised to learn this team wasd in place since she is an experienced author and knows the elements to launch a new book. It is important to have a launch team because there are over 4,500 new books releasing every day. Also most publishers are selling about 50% of their books through Amazon. Now that leaves another 50% for brick and mortar, other online retailers, and other places. Still 50% is a large number at Amazon for the book sales.

I'm writing these details about this story which contains a number of lessons:

1. Details matter. The release date of your book should match up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other places. As an author, you can check some of these details but depending on how you publish, they are mostly handled internally inside the publishing house.

2. With a launch or book. things can go wrong. When this happens to you, acknowledge it and keep moving forward.

3. Nothing is fatal in this process—unless you quit. Even when something goes off or doesn't happen, you can still recover from it and sell books. The only way for you to be stopped is when you give up and stop. Almost anything can be overcome with action.

4. Marketing is an ongoing process for every book. Last week one of my books got a new review. I was interested to read it. When I looked it was a one star review with hardly any information. I was disappointed but it was from a real person and when you get a one star review, it validates all the other reviews for the book. In other words, nothing to do about it but keep moving forward. I encourage you to do the same.

I wrote this article to help and encourage you with your own marketing efforts for your book. It is not easy for anyone—even people with a lot of experience in this area. The key is to keep going and keep moving forward no matter what happens

Tell me that steps you are taking to move forward no matter what happens in the comments below.


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Sunday, January 06, 2019

Do the Hard Work

Ideas like an anvil can be hard to execute

I understand my work in publishing is not easy or simple.  It is not. There are a number of things which I don't do easily—but I still do it and that is my encouragement to you.

For example, I'm not crazy about making phone calls yet yesterday I spent several hours on the phone making calls. The majority of the time I left little upbeat messages to authors. Why? Because from my years in publishing I know how rare it is to get a phone call from an editor at a publishing house. My intention is to stand out and be the exception. I understand this business has a lot of rejection—people saying no thank you and passing on your project.

Our model at Morgan James is different from others (something I spend a lot of time talking with authors and agents about). You may not like all the details of Morgan James, but we are providing opportunity for authors and making incredible books in the marketplace. Do all of these books succeed? No because we can make books but can't make them sell. In the process, I try and manage expectations for authors and tell them that 80% of the work is up to them. Yes Morgan James can sell the book into the brick and mortar bookstores—but it is the author who promotes and drives readers into the bookstore to actually buy that book (through many different ways such as social media, radio, magazine articles, public speaking and much more).

A number of the authors that I called yesterday have not returned my calls or answered me via email. In a number of cases, I've called them multiple times over the last few months and left these messages.  Each of the people I called have received a contract from Morgan James—but for whatever reason they have not signed or negotiated this contract. Maybe they are looking for an agent or a better offer or haven't finished their book or ??? (multiple reasons). The main purpose of my call was to let them know that I still believed in their book and wanted to help them get it published and into the world.

Let me tell you about two authors I worked with this past week. One author I met at least five years ago and haven't heard from in a long time. She reached out to me and asked if our contract had changed in the last four years. Her book has not been published. Four years ago the timing wasn't right but now she is ready to move forward. I checked with my colleagues and a new contract was issued and sent to this author. Will she sign and move forward and get her book into the bookstores? I don't know but she now has a new opportunity.

Also this week I spoke with another author who has a literary agent. A year and a half ago, I had lunch with this agent and he told me the author wasn't a good fit to publish with Morgan James. I listened and accepted this decision and moved on working with other authors. Then a few weeks ago, this author reached out to me. She has the same agent but the book hasn't been published and she wanted to explore Morgan James. I spoke with her and have now moved this book into the process where my colleagues look at the author and the book to see if they will issue a contract for this novel. I have no idea if Morgan James will publish this book or not but again I am providing the opportunity.

What is hard work for you? Are you doing it? Maybe you don't like social media or marketing or creating an email list or any number of other tasks. Are you doing these hard tasks? My encouragement is for you to keep moving forward every day. Your steps may be small but continue to move forward and eventually you will get it done. Keep growing in your craft and reading and learning more about new aspects. Keep broadening your connections and network and keep looking for new opportunities.

I understand that some of the process is not easy but you can do it. If I can help you in the journey, let me know. My work contact information is on the bottom of the second page of this link. My encouragement is for you to keep moving forward and that you can do it.

Let me know in the comments below, what actions you are taking to tackle the hard work.


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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year & Five Action Steps

Happy New Year 2019.  As Edith Lovejoy Pierce wrote, "We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

What pages will you write in the New Year?

I want to give you five action steps to take which will help you succeed in 2019.

1. Keep expanding your reach and your audience. Every writer (new or experienced) needs to have their own audience. If you don’t have an email list, start one and if you do have an email list, keep expanding it. Why? There is much in publishing you can’t control but you can control your own email list. I have a resource to help: http://thelistbuildingtycoon.com/

2. Continue to promote and tell people about your books and other resources. The author’s passion will continue longer than anyone else. I continue promoting my BOOK PROPOSALS THAT SELL which has over 130 Five Star reviews on Amazon and you can get the discounted book at: http://BookProposalsThatSell.com I wrote this book 15 years ago but it still has value whether you are publishing traditional or self-publishing.

3. Be working on new books or the expansion of a book. Can you create an online course associated with your book? I have another resource, the Simple Membership System. To help you, I’ve discounted it for a week from $47 to $37--just use the coupon code 2019START for the discount when you check out at: http://yourmembershipcourse.com/

4. Continue learning and growing, reading new books and applying the information to your life. I recommend you attend a conference because who you know is as important as what you know. (http://www.right-writing.com/conferences.html? ).Also subscribe to my blog and get it by email every week at: http://bit.ly/1F9r3Ro

5. Reach out to me if I can help you. One of the books I acquired last year for Morgan James got on the USA Today bestseller list (broad distribution). I know many people are self-publishing (over a million self-published books last year) but the average lifetime sales of a self-published book is 100 copies.  I would encourage you to go a different route and as an acquisitions editor, I send contracts to authors every week. My work contact is on the bottom of the second page at:

Be encouraged and keep going. Wishing you great blessings in the New Year. 

Finally You don’t have to buy my resources to succeed in 2019 but you do have to take action and I’m glad to help you in this process. Also Last year marked the passing of America’s greatest evangelist, Billy Graham. My short biography, BILLY GRAHAM has over 100 Amazon reviews. It is available in print, ebook and audiobook. Get more details at: http://BillyGrahamBio.com 

In the comments below, let me know what steps you are taking in the new year.


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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quitting Your Day Job

When can you quit your day job?
The question from a first-time author surprised me, “When can I quit my day job?” I loved the optimism built into this question from a brand new author. She had high expectations about her book in the marketplace. That she asked this question showed me that she wants to do be doing something else other than her day job.

I tried to answer honestly saying that many authors never quit their day job. Throughout history many authors have kept their day job as they write books. Also I told her this decision is different for every author. Since I had this conversation, I've been thinking more about it and believe it will make an interesting article for The Writing Life.

1. Make sure your day job is something you love and want to be doing. Some people have a genuine dislike for their day job and that to me spells the necessity to look for something else. It strikes me as a shame to spend lots of time at a job or position you dislike. I've seen the work surveys wich show many people are in this position. If you are one of them, I would begin looking to make a change to find something you love doing for your day job.

2. Take daily action to build your platform and audience for your book. Finding your audience and building a newsletter list and following takes time. The pathis different for every author but over and over, I've seen authors give up too soon in this platform building process. It's one of the things I admire about Morgan James Publishing. While some publishers give up on a book after six months or a year in the market (and move it to the backlist and eventually out of print). Instead Morgan James is more patient and understands that some books take a few years to find their audience and then sell 20,000 to 30,000 copies every year like clockwork. This long-term mentality is one of the reasons most of the books published over the last 16 years are still in print (which is a remarkable and little noticed publishing detail).

3. It's wonderful that my authors feel like they can ask any question and get an answer for it. I don't know the answer to every question but I know how to find answers to questions I don't know. There is no hidden agenda or holding back in this process. Questions are encouraged and every author needs to be asking questions and continuing to grow and learn about their craft.
Click the image for this resource

4. Begin working on your side gig or plan B or whatever you want to call it. From my experience this side gig has to grow and ultimately replace your day job. It will not happen overnight or instantly but you have to begin working at it. Maybe you will begin selling information products and building an emal list

Click this mage for the resource
Maybe you will develop other products related to your book and grow that aspect into your main business. There is no right or wrong way to achieve this dream but you do have to be taking consistent action for it to happen. Check out my free book for some ideas (follow this link).

As I write this article, we are about to end 2018 and begin 2019.l hope this article has given you some action steps for your writing life. I wish you great things for the new year and if I can help you, reach out to me (follow this link and my work contact information is on the bottom of the second page). May each of you succeed to your wildest dreams during the new year. In the comments below, let me know what steps you are taking to quit your day job.


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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Five Ways to Gear Up Your Writing

Gear up you writing with these ideas
Often within the publishing community, there is a noticeable shift right before Thanksgiving through the New Year. Emails don't get answered or returned as promptly. Phone calls and messages are ignored (unreturned). I'm continuing to work with authors, get new contracts and sign authors throughout this season. The overall pace has been slower.

For example, this week, I had several authors who have received new Morgan James contracts tell me they wanted to hold off and revisit it after the first of the year. I told them that would be fine and made a note to reconnect with them in January.

I understand everyone has a different mindset and agenda often during the holiday season. When I worked at a publisher years ago, I recall spending at least a day or two signing Christmas cards to authors. These types of activities interfere with the normal course of the publishing business yet are important.

If you are facing this type of response, what do you do? In this article, I want to give you five ways to gear up your writing.

1. Write query letters and pitch magazines for assignments.  It depends on the publication whether you write a query or the full article. Whatever your strategy, select some magazines and get your material out to them. If you don't know what to write, I would encourage you to write personal experience stories since almost every publication takes this type of article.

2. Create a new proposal. Use my book proposal checklist to get some ideas. If you have a proposal which has not been sold, pull that proposal out and see if it needs revision or updating then plan a strategy to get it back out to more agents or different publishers.

3. Work on a new information product or new online course. Information products continue to sell and it's a way you as an author can create something independent from a publisher and add an income stream. If you don't know what I'm talking about, listen to this free teleseminar from Bob Bly and follow his advice.

4. Get some new speaking gigs for next year. What groups tie to your book? Can you send email pitches or make some phone calls to get new bookings? Don't forget local civic groups like the chamber of commerce or these types of groups.They are always looking for speakers and need what you have for them. It doesn't happen  you aren't pitching so take this time to be pitch.

5. Beef up your social media conections. Do you need a new twitter header or a new blog header? Then go over to Fiverr.com and search for someone who can do it inexpensively for you and get it moving. In a recent article, I mentioned about expanding my connections on LinkedIn (currently about 600 more than my last writing. You can take time to expand your connections and see if it turns up some new writing projects. From LinkedIn, I've had articles published and met new authors. I encourage you to take this time teo expand your social media.

I know I promised five ways but I'm going to add a bonus sixth one: Read a how-to-write book then apply the information to your writing life. Whether you purchase the book or get it from the library, you can use this season to expand your writing through reading.

Did you notice something consistent about each of these suggestions? Anyone can do them. It does not matter your skill level or your experience. The key is to take action and move forward during this season. If I can help you in this process, don't hesitate to reach out to me (my email and phone is on the bottom of the second page of this link).

What steps are you taking with your writing during this season? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Unfinished Business

My work in publishing is like an unfinished puzzle.

I’ve worked at three publishers as an acquisitions editor. For the last six years, I've been acquiring books at Morgan James Publishing.  There is one key lesson that I’ve learned: You are never caught up—yes never. Unfinished business is a part of the work.

There is always more email to answer and more phone calls to make and more to be done. While I am never caught up, I continue to work on the priorities. For example, an author yesterday sent me an email objecting to some things about the Morgan James publishing program and essentially told me that she was going to pass on our contract offer. I wrote a detailed response, answering each of her concerns (that she mentioned) and offering a revised and improved contract. She appreciated the effort and is looking at it  again. Will it work to convince her to sign with Morgan James? That decision has not  been rendered but I hope so. At least I’m doing my part to persist and not give up.

Each author has to decide what they are going to do. Some authors make quick decisions while others look at many different publishers and options before they return to Morgan James and decide fo sign. The path to publication varies for each author. From my years in publishing, I understand our publishing model at Morgan James is different and part of my responsibility is to highlight those differences so the author understands the value. After they understand, they can choose to go elsewhere but I’ve served them with the information. We work hard at answering authors questions and helping them in any way that we can. From my experience no publisher does enough for their  authors but we certainly do more than many publishers.

The best publishing isn’t done alone. Yes more than a million books were self-published last year. The best publishing is a team effort—getting the best title and cover design and shape of the book then selling that book to the bookstores as a team. We show the covers to our sales people and get their feedback. The team is always able to make better decisions than an individual from  my experience.

As an editor, I have books in many different stages of the process. Some authors have signed with the publishing  house and their books are in production. Other authors have not signed but are considering signing. Other authors have just submitted their materials and I’m pitching or championing their manuscript to my colleagues to see if I can get them a book contract. While I am respected and build the best possible case with my colleagues, I don’t always succeed. Some of my pitches are rejected and do not receive contracts. The process is all part of that consensus-building process that I was telling you about.

Other times I get push back from my colleagues asking about the author’s connections and marketing plans. I attempt to gather as much of those connections and marketing plans in my pitch to my colleagues but sometimes my words are not enough and need more from the author. This week I went back to an author and asked for more details. They are working on those details and as soon as I have them I will share them with my colleagues. The back and forth is all part of the process.

As I tell every author, the publisher is investing a large amount of money in the creation, production and marketing of the book. If the author is not engaged in this process and selling books to their connections, then no one succeeds. The publisher and the author lose money in the process.

Book selling has several key components in my view:

1. The book has to have great contents and read well.

2. The book cover design and interior have to look high quality and inviting.

3. The book has to be properly distributed so readers can purchase the book. For example, Morgan James not only gets the book on Amazon but also on 1800 other online distributors. They not only sell the book online but also in brick and mortar bookstores.

4. Yet a forgotten key element is the author drives the readers to the bookstore to purchase the book. If the author doesn’t drive readers to the bookstore, then the books are returned to the publisher—and no one sells books.

As an editor, there is always more to be done—more to promote and more to pitch. Yet also as an author, I can always be doing more too. The work is never finished and it’s one of the elements that people like me who work in publishing have to keep in mind. We get up every day and do our best to complete the work and move things  forward in this process. 

Because we are imperfect humans, the process is imperfect. Occasionally we hear from our readers about the impact of our books and our work and how they have changed people’s lives. Far too often we never hear about the impact of our books and our writing. That’s where the faith element is publishing enters the picture. We do the best we can each day and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Do you have unfinished business as a writer? How are you handling it? Tell us in the comments below.


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