Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Reviews Count More Than You Know

I'm always amazed at the little energy that some book authors put into book reviews and comments from readers. Often it doesn't take much on their part but it can have some large pay offs in terms of visibility in the marketplace and book sales. One thing is for certain--book reviews do not happen whether online or in print publications unless someone works at it. Most frequently that "someone" is the author who has the greatest interest and passion for their book and the contents.

Here's a recent example for you with the largest online bookstore on the planet, Amazon.com. The Golden Compass movie has brewed a controversy and a ho-hum appearance in the box office despite millions of dollars of advertising and well-known actors. At the recommendation of an editor friend, I picked up Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware's book, Shedding Light on His Dark Materials. Follow this link and you will go to the page on Amazon. Scroll down and you will see the book released in mid-September. My review posted in early December was the first one about this book. This week another review was added but often my reviews are the only one on the page for a book and in particular if the author is not working at gathering book reviews. While I am not one of Amazon's top reviewers, I have posted over 170 reviews about many types of books.

I recommend you read Steve Weber's excellent guide Get your book reviewed on Amazon and boost your sales. You will learn some of the inside information about what can result from Amazon reviews. It will possibly stir you to action in this area.

Anyone can write one of these So you'd like to…guides on Amazon. I wrote one called So you'd like to…Publish A Book, Insight From An Editor. If you look at the little graphic that I've added from this page over 500 people have downloaded this guide since I created it in January--which equates to great exposure in my view. It's another marketing strategy to consider and add to your plans for 2008.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Gift Beyond The Season

Several years ago, I was the acquisitions editor at Cook Communications (now rebranding as David C. Cook) when the company acquired hundreds of book titles from Eagle Communications including the books from Honor Books. One of those many books was a beautifully packaged novel from Jim Stovall called The Ultimate Gift. If you look at Jim’s site, one of the things you will be hard pressed to learn is that Jim is visually impaired.

Tom Bosley approached me as the acquisitions editor about our publishing house producing an audio version of the novel. I listened to the entire audio CD as I commuted back and forth to work. The story is remarkable and I attempted to move this effort ahead but found little interest in audio from the key players in the publishing house. Almost everyone in a decision making position has changed from those days but from Jim Stovall’s site, it looks like they found a way to produce the audio version of The Ultimate Gift. I was pleased to see that Tom Bosley or someone didn’t take the rejection as the final word but continued pressing ahead to bring the audio product into existence. It’s a lesson many of us should learn as writers.

A week or so ago, my wife and I were wandering around in Blockbuster looking at new releases and spotted the movie version of The Ultimate Gift. The storyline stirred great memories for me and I picked it up and brought it home. What a terrific story and especially a good one to watch during this Christmas season. I recommend it.

For a taste of the movie, check out this YouTube version of the trailer:

Finally, in the spirit of the season, check out this Audio Postcard which I created yesterday and download the gift and listen to the teleseminar.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Possibilities Abound--If You Persevere

As we approach the end of another year, I've been thinking about some of the great things which happened this past year--and some of the things which I attempted and fell flat. Yes, each of us have things on each side of that situation. Can you major on the possibilities and look for new opportunities? They are certainly out there yet only if you keep your eyes open for the possibilities and persevere. Many people along the way seem to drop off, give up and quit. Are you one of those people? You can make a choice not to be one of their number.

One of the continual discussions in the publishing community is whether a particular piece of writing is publishable or not. With the variety of possibilities from Internet to print-on-demand to traditional publishing to magazine work, there is always a way to get something to the audience--provided you reach the right audience. Publishability is a question the publisher will always ask--because they are investing a large amount of money into your project--just to produce it and also to market and sell the book.

I see many projects which don't have the depth or substance to be a book--and instead they are a longer magazine article or a substantial magazine article.

Who will you reach with this particular book AND does this publisher have the ability to reach that audience? Some publishers are better equipped to reach into an audience than others. Some times a publisher will consider your potential audience and reject the project because they are ill equipped to reach that audience and know it would be a mistake and misguided use of their resources. The answer about your audience returns to the age old question of researching the market and knowing how you will reach that market.

For example, if you are a children's author and tell me your book is going to be for any child from 3 to 12, your project gets immediately slated for rejection. You have no understanding of the divisions of children's literature and how that is handled in the bookstores and libraries of the nation. Your project is way too broad in scope from the beginning. Keep reading if you are a children’s author because I have some resources for you in a minute.

The same concern is true in the adult market when you say in your book proposal or query letter that your target market is women from 25 to 80 (as one which came across my screen this week said.). You have not done your preparation as a writer to see the true possibilities. So do not be surprised when that idea doesn't hit too broad of a target.

Who are you targeting for the sales of your product? If it is the brick and mortar bookstores, then you need to work toward a traditional publisher for your product because no one reaches these stores better than the traditional publishers. I love traditional bookstores and try to spend as much time as I can in them--browsing the books and purchasing them in the store.

If you have read these entries, you will know that I have encouraged you to get a copy of Brian Jud's 304 page book called Beyond the Bookstore, How to Sell More Books Profitably to Non-Bookstore Markets. Most writers do not understand that more than half of the books sold each year are sold outside of the bookstores. Jud helps authors understand some of these out-of-the-box markets. Here's a rich resource of training for authors which I have not mentioned. Booksurge is an Amazon.com company and Jud has been holding a series of free webinars which you can watch--and learn a great deal.

If you can show a publisher a large market (even if outside of the bookstore) and you have the ability to reach AND energize that market to purchase your new book, then you have moved out of the rejection pile and into a publishable category worthy of a publisher's consideration.

And for the children's authors, as a resource, you should subscribe to the free newsletter, The Children's Writing Update. Late last night I was reading the current issue and to my surprise found my blog on The Writing Life mentioned. They have produced a new ebook called I Wish Someone Had Told Me That! ebook where 64 published children’s writers give inside tips about what they wish they had known before they made the journey. Here's a YouTube video about this resource:

I've learned the hard way to add this link for my Feedblitz readers. Otherwise they have no idea what I’m talking about unless they return to the Internet entry.

Finally no matter where you are in the publishing process, I want to encourage you to listen to this Mp3 called The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightengale. It is the only gold record ever achieved for the spoken word and absolutely free from Mark Victor Hansen. You have to enter your first name and email to get the link--and you can opt out at any time. If you are wondering about success and how to become successful, this recording is loaded with sound tested wisdom. I've heard it a couple of times. It will encourage you that the possibilities abound if you persevere.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Search For A Publisher Match

From speaking with writers about their book proposals and manuscripts, most of them seem to be eager to find the largest publisher for their project. They are operating under the assumption that the larger publisher will have more marketing muscle and influence in the marketplace. If you are a bestselling author with a long track record of success (and recent success), then that might be a good assumption.

For the majority of authors who are starting out, they risk getting lost in a major house. Many years ago, one editor told me about a particular project that I was shopping to them, “We can catalog your book.” Now he spoke those words with pride as though it was a major accomplishment but it meant they would add my proposed book to their catalog—and nothing else in terms of marketing. Yes, my book would be presented to the stores in the sales meetings (read seconds of presentation time), but nothing else. It wasn’t much of an offer in my view so I continued looking for another publisher. Depending on where you are in the publishing process, such an offer may be a good starting point for you.

What is your dream publishing situation? Do you even have a dream beyond getting a publisher? I hope you are dreaming something specific then looking for a way to find that publisher. A bestseller to one publisher will be a mid-list book to another publisher. Do you want to be a small book in a huge publishing house or do you want to be a large book in a small publishing house?

The key is to find a relational match and someone who understands your vision for the book. In general, a medium to smaller publishing house is more approachable. They don’t “require” a literary agent—where the larger houses rarely look at something over the transom or submitted from the author without an agent.

Last weekend, I was reading this article in the December 3rd issue of Publishers Weekly titled, “Northern California: A Publisher for Every Taste.” If you look carefully at this article, you will see the focus of each publisher is different. Also notice most of these publishers are touting books with sales over a million copies. For the majority of books I’ve never heard of them and they often haven’t appeared on any bestseller list. How did that happen? It happened through consistent sales which were slow and steady.

Each of us want our books to land on the bestseller list and earn steady income for years ahead. In the majority of cases, such an experience doesn’t happen simply from “wishing it” into existence. What are you doing to promote and help your book which has been out for a while? Can you take the long-range view and move those books steadily into reader’s hands? Look for new audiences. Look for print and Internet publications that you can approach with an excerpt or an article from your book—which points to the whole book. It’s not easy but it can happen—if you work at it.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

When The Hits Come

If a new song soars to the top of the bestseller charts, we call it a "hit." It's not the type of hit that I'm writing about in this entry on The Writing Life.

Currently football season is in full swing. When they snap the ball, the defensive linemen attempt to sack the quarterback and prevent him from passing the football. If they break through the offense and tackle the quarterback, with the intensity of the game in professional football, this quarterback will take a "hit." Then everyone waits to see if the quarterback can summon the strength and will power to stand back up and continue playing the game. Yes, he has been shaken but did it knock him out of the game?

While it isn't physical, the same sort of hits happen in the writing world. You have a connection with a particular editor and get an assignment, then something goes wrong some place. Maybe the person you are interviewing doesn't give you enough time. Or maybe you didn't put enough creativity and energy into the writing from the subjective editor's view. Or a dozen other things block the successful completion of that magazine article. Instead of payment and a printed article, you are sent a kill fee or you receive absolutely no compensation from it. You take an emotional hit.

Or you hold a book contract with a publisher. During the process of this contract, the publisher has a change of editors and others in charge of your project. This new group of editors don't like your book proposal or your book idea. It simply doesn't fit the new plans of the publishing house so they cancel your book. You get another hit.

The publishing world is full of these types of experiences. I was reflecting on some of the ones that I've had during the past few months. As I listen to other authors, editors and literary agents, I've understood that no one is immune from taking a hit.

Your hit may not relate directly to your writing life but it may be something else which affects your writing. For example, you have an ill spouse or an elderly parent who requires your undivided attention and takes away time from a writing project. There are many different variables that I could change in these hits but they come into our lives. You know your own hits.

Here's the critical question when you are hit: Do you have the strength and will power to continue ahead with your dreams? Or do they carry you off the field and you quit your involvement in the world of publishing? It's a choice to leave and some people determine they can't face the rejection or can't handle the uncertainty or whatever other reason. I've seen a number of literary agents, authors and editors pack it up and leave the business when they have been hit.

My encouragement to you is on several fronts. First, before you have a hit, determine that you will keep on in the publishing community. This decision will carry you ahead no matter what comes into your life. Second, make the daily determination to continue growing in your craft and learning about the business of publishing. Each element is important for your own personal growth. You need to keep growing in the craft of writing and you need to continue to understand the business aspects of publishing.

No one said that it would be easy or simple or without difficulty. Over twenty-two years ago, I had a small son who was in the hospital and fighting for his life. Our emotional pain as a family was at a very high level. I had written a query for a magazine article on listening through the Bible. If you listen to the Bible for 20 minutes a day, you can cover the entire text of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation in four months. Numerous publications rejected my query on this idea.

Then out of the blue, I received a call from a publication which had rejected my query. They had a new managing editor who was sorting through old queries. My idea caught her attention so she picked up the phone and asked me if I could write the article for their January issue. I explained that my youngest son was in the hospital but I would meet her deadline. Listening Through the Bible has been one of my most popular evergreen reprints.

Finally if you get a chance, check out my interview which was posted on HowToTellAGreatStory.com. It's another opportunity to learn and grow--and get prepared for those future hits.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Use Power Verbs In Your Writing

Each Wednesday, I listen to The Wednesday Minute from Alex Mandossian. I've mentioned this free program before but his information yesterday was particularly relevant to writers--of all persuasions. Whether you write copy for advertisers or nonfiction or magazine articles or fiction books, you need to pay attention to the number of adjectives you use in your writing.

Instead of sprinkling adjectives into your material, make sure you are using power verbs. Put the work of the writing on the verbs instead of trying to lean on the weaker adjectives.

First, I recommend you listen to yesterday's Wednesday Minute. It will take you less than six minutes.

Next, make sure you download the Resource and study these power verbs. They will strengthen your writing.

This little program includes some solid advice if you are struggling with writer’s block as well as improving your writing.

Finally, if you want to receive The Wednesday Minute, sign up on this website. I recommend you do it quickly and ignore the antics of Rick Raddatz who has turned this tool over to Alex Mandossian.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Free Traffic Building Tool

On a regular basis, I am asked how to build traffic for my newsletter or my blog or my website. If you read the material online, you will quickly realize there is no single way to accomplish this increase. In addition, the methods are constantly evolving with new ideas being constantly introduced into the marketplace.

I've read that one method to raise your visibility is to make meaningful comments on different blogs. If you include your website link in the comment, it makes sense that some people will follow those links and go to that particular place. There are millions of blog online and while it may be fun, how do you accomplish this method without wasting a great deal of time and energy?

In the last few days, I've been using a tool which may provide a partial answer to this need without taking hours out of your writing life. The key from my perspective is to do it efficiently and effectively in a short amount of time. It may sound like a pipe dream but I'd encourage you to consider this free tool called CommentKahuna.

First, notice the price--zero cost. Watch the video and see what you think about it. You have to download the software, and register to get it unlocked (using the same email for both functions). I like the simplicity of this tool and how it uses word searches for relevant blogs, then gives you a quick tool to make a relevant comment. Also the tool has a follow-up system so if the comments are moderated (which is common), you can return to your comment and see if it was posted on a particular blog.

I want you to know that I'm still experimenting with this tool and I haven't fully mastered it but I'm getting there. From what I've used it, I like CommentKahuna. Give it a whirl and see what happens to your web traffic.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Comic Relief About Marketing

I have always loved the comic pages of the newspaper. Also each week in The New Yorker magazine, I make sure and glance at each of the cartoons.

A friend just sent me this link and it cracked me up. When it comes to marketing on the Internet, you may feel like nobody outside your online buddies understand exactly what you do all day at home. And, sometimes you feel a bit like an alien trying to tell people stories about your day-to-day life.

Well, Jimmy D. Brown hit a home run. He's created 15 comics about what it's like to be an Internet Marketer. Some will make you laugh out loud and some will make you groan, but all are worth taking a minute to peek at.

Totally free and totally funny. Check them out here.

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