Thursday, July 31, 2008

Branding Or Waste of Time

Each of us have one commodity that we can't renew called time. For each additional task we add to our lives, we have to remove or let go of something else. I understand that's not very profound but I have people ask me these questions about whether to launch a website or not. Or they wonder if they should blog or not. Some of them have tried a blog and given up after a short amount of time.

Into this sphere of thinking comes something called Twitter. You have 140 characters to answer the simple question, "What are you doing now?" And you may wonder, "Does anyone care?" The answer may surprise you.

I've been reading about Twitter for several months. Mike Hyatt at Thomas Nelson wrote an excellent post, The Beginner's Guide to Twitter. Earlier he wrote 12 reasons to Start Twittering. Also notice what he wrote in this post about experiencing a social media that almost a million people are using and it's free. Admittedly it is down from time to time but that's what happens when you are using these free tools (so be aware of it and while you can complain, it does little good).

In the last week, I've started to use Twitter and here's my profile. I'm still learning how to use it (and I'm spending minimal amount of time on it).

Like blogging and other public forums, you have to use Twitter with an intention. For example, if you look at my profile, you will notice that I've changed the settings and template to highlight my Book Proposals That Sell. It was simple to change. I've been following several people and the people who are using it effectively have "branded" their appearance. These same people are using twitter as a way to inform people about something specific.

I do not have it figured out and it might be something to experiment with for a season then let go--like some people have let go of their blog. I do not have a large following on Twitter but I have a growing following and it's been fun to watch.

I was fascinated with the response of Internet Marketing Expert Joel Comm. When I started to "follow" Joel (something you do in Twitter), he wrote that because I was following him, he would follow me. His twitter posts have been interesting to read.

I've been following Michael Hyatt on Twitter and it was fascinating that he went through airport security this week with Vice President Al Gore. Mike introduced himself to the former Vice President. It was an exchange that I would not have been able to know about except through Mike's Twitters.

While many people think that I'm high tech, I do not read my email on my cell phone or have it connected to the Internet. It means if I'm going to Twitter, it will have to be when I am sitting at my computer--and no other time.

Here's a couple of other links to read about Twitter. David Hobson suggests that one of the ways you build a following on Twitter is to consistently deliver good content. That makes sense. Here's an analysis of the people on Twitter with large followings and they have built their following other places. Here's another good post about growing a Twitter following--and once again they are building value in their content.

I suggest you try Twitter and see what you can learn from it as another communication tool. Follow a few people and see how they use twitter and note what you can learn from it. Twitter can be one more tool in your marketing arsenal so you extend your brand or it could be a complete waste of time. The use and control is in your hands.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why Is This Oct Book Ranked So High?

I am not a huge Seth Godin reader but I did mention one of his Ebooks several months ago. I know many people who run out and get his latest book. I've never purchased one of his books--until Tuesday when I forked out almost $18 to Barnes and Noble for a book which will not release until mid-October. Why? Because I wanted to be a part of the tribe.

Godin writes one of the most popular business related blogs on the Internet. Tuesday I happened to read his entry which asked, "Are you in the tribe?" Then I went to the page for the new book, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us, on Amazon--and noticed that it was ranked #7.

Notice on his blog, Godin says he is announcing this exclusive group called a tribe on his blog and anyone who joins this exclusive group must be committed enough to advance order his book. If you purchase the book and email the information to a special address, then they will begin sending out invitations to this special place.

Godin is using his market wisdom to the max and building "a safe, well-lit place online where like-minded people can connect." Sounds like the height of social networking to me so I joined in and I'm looking for my special invitation and numbered badge.

I found Godin's Squidoo page, Are you in the tribe? and he begins, "INVITATION LIST CLOSES ON JULY 30 AT 11 am ET! After that, we'll have a waiting list, which we'll open as we think the tribe can handle the traffic."

Notice the exclusive nature of this group when he writes, "Members get a password and the privilege of meeting each other, posting thoughts, connecting to big ideas or projects and more. It will include excerpts from the book as well as a chance to contribute to a new jointly-authored ebook. The contents of the tribe forum won't be posted to the public until October, so it's really the only way to participate until then."

From the little I learned on Tuesday, this special page looks like it will be built on ning or the free social networking site that Marc Andreessen co-founded (and he's also co-founded well-known programs like Netscape.)

What intrigues me about Seth Godin's effort to get people into the tribe is that it involves the advance purchase of his book. The rank on Amazon mirrors the hoopla around the release of the last Harry Potter book which stood at the top of the Amazon rankings for months before it was released.

Can you learn something about book marketing from this effort? Is there a way to build advance enthusiasm for the release of your book?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Pain of A Writer's Fame

While reading my local newspaper, I spotted a story about mega-bestselling author Danielle Steel that I found fascinating. In the last few days, she's been out on book tour to promote her latest novel. If you check out this story, you will note that Steel has a strong preference to be sitting in her office working. Yet as a writer, she knows the importance of getting out to the public and telling them about the new book. This story paints an interesting look at Steel's feelings about promotion--yet notice that she does it anyway.

As I read this article, I noticed this author isn't chasing after the latest technology or using the newest program or gadget. Just look at her work habits as a writer, when Mark Kennedy writes, "Steel pounds out all her novels in a tiny office in her San Francisco home, where she lives half the year. (The other half is spent in Paris, where she refuses to work.) All the books are written on a 1946 Olympia manual typewriter, and first drafts are usually done in a punishing 20-hour shift while 'dressed in my nightie with my hair sticking up straight.'"

"'There are people who show up nicely dressed; they work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I can't do that,' she says. 'Sometimes I don't leave my house for two or three weeks.'"

"In person, Steel is far more approachable than the woman whose regal photograph appears on her book jackets. She's a mix of elegant and down-to-earth."

Looks to me like years ago Steel discovered a writing formula that works for her and she's sticking with it. That old manual typewriter works just fine for her writing habits and she's sticking with it. Of course other people can take those pages and keyboard them into the computer but they can't create the stories which come from her creative mind.

Also notice those 20-hour writing stints to get her first draft in place. Wow what an effort for each novel--and she does that three time a year--and year after year. Before you feel too bad for those choices we also notice the article tells us that she spend half of her year in Paris, France where she refuses to work.

Looks to me like this author is trying to have some measure of balance in her life and time to celebrate her success yet is committed to a strong work ethic and discipline.

I know now I did it--use that word discipline. Most of us want the rewards of a writer without the pain of discipline.

Just yesterday I was talking with one of my agency clients about a situation where a publisher is considering his work. In the middle of his conversation he said, "If we get an offer, that means I have to write the book? In what sort of time frame?"

It's a question that I've been asked repeatedly as an editor and now a literary agent. I can't answer that question about how long it will take you to write the book. I do know that whatever deadline this author chooses to take for the book is critical to the success of the book and has to be met (even completed ahead of the deadline if he wants to be a rare author).

Because inside the publishing company, whenever you sign a book contract with a specific deadline, it sets off a chain of events that the author doesn't know about. If you miss your deadline for turning in your manuscript, you potentially delay or at times sabotage your own possible success with the book.

For example, if you miss your deadline by a month, will publicity have your manuscript at the expected time to write their press releases and catalog copy and send out advanced review copies of your book? If you miss that schedule, it may never be replaced because of the pressure of other books. Then a year down the road, you wonder about some of the lack luster or missing publicity efforts for your book.

Once again the key returns to taking responsibility for your own writing life and efforts. You can certainly see the drive and regularity of it in this short article about Danielle Steel.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

A Key Success Principle: Ask

Last week I added a badge to the sidebar of The Writing Life. I selected a smaller size so maybe you didn't notice. The link in it connects to Alltop.com. Here's a larger badge:

Featured in Alltop

Here's the link if you want to see some of the other possibilities for badges.

I learned about this site from John Jantsch's Duct Tape Marketing blog. Alltop.com is a great way to follow some of the top blogs in your industry in a matter of minutes because this site pulls in the information from the best places (admittedly a subjective perspective from the people who put it together).

Now you may wonder, How did Terry get his blog about writing listed in the book section of Alltop? Here's the key success principle that I wanted to write about in this post: I asked. I looked around the site and figured out where to send a short email. In my email, I carefully touted some of the best features, results, consistency and content of my entries on The Writing Life, then I made my pitch to be included. Within a 24 hour period, I got a response back that I had been added.

It doesn't always go this direction. I get rejected and refused when I ask. There is no assurance the person receiving your request will react positively. It's your responsibility as the writer to make your request and take your best shot at asking.

You never know what can happen if you knock on the right door. It's like the old saying with your book ideas--and maybe you've heard this one--from me or someone else: It can't sell in your computer or in your file cabinet. You have to be out there in the marketplace.

If you are in the marketplace, you will be rejected. It's nothing personal and just business but it happens over and over. This rejection should not keep you from asking and moving ahead to explore if your idea is valid and will fly or not.

My encouragement to you is to dream bit, work hard as you craft your query or book proposal or email or whatever format you use to ask. How you ask will be critical to the process and then after you have worked at the format and words on the page, get it out there.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Author Conversations Worth Watching

I do not watch many YouTube videos. If you search these entries on The Writing Life, you will notice that I often refer to a book or a magazine or newspaper article--something which appears in a printed format instead of YouTube.

Recently I read a post from Mary Beth Whalen (no relation notice the spelling of her last name). She pointed out the vulnerability in a YouTube video from author Anne Lamott:

This conversation is almost an hour but well worth the viewing time in what you will learn about the author, her commitment to the craft of writing and other insights.

The experience stirred me to learn more about Dean Nelson and The Writer's Symposium by the Sea. Because I love the work of Eugene Peterson and The Message Bible, I also watched the conversation with Dr. Peterson, who is rarely interviewed:

Again this interview holds good insight for any writer about storytelling. I dug a bit further into this series and located the complete listing of various writer interviews over the 13 year history.

As a writer, I've learned a great deal from my interviews with more than 150 bestselling authors. After my sessions with each author, I've written many magazine articles about these writers and how they practice their craft. The experience has built a tremendous amount into my own life--much more than is reflected in the large body of work from these interviews.

You can pick up different hints for your own writing as you watch these conversations from some authors that you know and admire and others that you have never heard about or barely know their names. It will take you (and me) a long time to work through these various conversations. I point it out as a rich resource for your own growth as a writer.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Write, Publish and Sell Your Book

Last week I read Patricia Fry's book, The Right Way To Write, Publish And Sell Your Book, This book is packed with a realistic picture of book publishing. I wanted you to see my review: "As an author, a former book acquisitions editor and a literary agent, I want to know the straight scoop about the book publishing industry. It's often hard to find realistic information because even people in the business don't want to mess with the dreams and aspirations of writers and give them the straight scoop."

"Patricia Fry in The Right Way To Write, Publish And Sell Your Book helps every writer understand the business aspect of books. I love what she wrote on page 15 at the end of the first chapter, "Too many authors fail solely because they give up. Authorship is not designed to be a hobby. It isn't something that you can successfully manage as an afterthought. It demands your full attention. Your future in writing and publishing is almost completely up to you. If you do the necessary research and work--if you exercise persistence, perseverance and patience while maintaining realistic expectations--you will experience success."

"Whether you are looking for insight about writing a query or a book proposal or wondering about print on demand and self-publishing or looking for some innovative ideas to market your books to specialty shops or libraries or even how to keep a record of your expenditures or manuscript submissions, Fry has packed a lot into these pages. No matter your level of publishing experience you can profit from a careful reading and even re-reading of this book."

Besides this review, I wanted to give you a taste of the contents in The Right Way To Write, Publish And Sell Your Book. Patricia sent me this article with permission to use it.

The Post-Publication Book Proposal By Patricia Fry

Did you go ahead and produce your book without writing a book proposal? Maybe you simply didn't know what a book proposal was or you didn't understand its value. And now you regret your decision. I have good news. It may not be too late to benefit from writing a book proposal for your fiction or nonfiction book.

Yes, I'm suggesting the post-publication book proposal--a document designed to help you:

* More appropriately identify your target audience. * Discover how to reach this audience. * Create a more realistic promotions plan. * Identify your book's hooks. * Continue to build on your platform. * Re-evaluate the focus and slant of your book. * Find new ways to build promotion into your book.

The post-publication book proposal is especially useful for authors of ebooks or those who have used POD technology, because they can easily make necessary changes. But, even if you have boxes and boxes of unsold books stored in your garage, you will benefit from writing an after-publication proposal.

Re-evaluate Your Book

Start by writing a one or two sentence description of your book. Is this the same portrayal you envisioned when you first wrote the book? Or has your original purpose or intent changed?

Tip: Use customer feedback to help you define your book.

Once you have succinctly determined the purpose, scope and focus of your book, you can more easily identify the appropriate target audience.

Who is Your True Target Audience?

You may have written your healthy eating book for the fast-food restaurant crowd, but have since discovered that healthy eaters are purchasing it.

It could be that book reviewers and sales statistics show that your female fantasy adventure appeals more to the juvenile and young adult market than adult chick lit fans.

There's no law against changing your proposed target audience. In fact, it is important that you re-evaluate your audience from time to time. Determine who is purchasing your book. Reexamine the story or text with a critical eye to more accurately pinpoint your ideal audience--those people who will gain something from or enjoy reading your book.

If you have written a book that is not well-received by the very audience you hoped to reach, either shift your promotional efforts to another audience or consider a revision. A major mistake many authors make is to write a book for an audience who really doesn't care.

Where Are Your Readers?

Identifying your audience is just part of the path to successful authorship. Now you must locate them so you can reach them through your promotional efforts. Maybe you've discovered that the largest audience for your guidebook to vacation retreats isn't the singles crowd, but businessmen and women. Where will you find these readers? Presumably, at business conferences, self-help workshops, civic organization meetings and travel sites. What sites do they visit, which magazines do they read? Promote accordingly.

Be careful about saying that your book is for every reader. A couple of years ago in St. Louis, I had a private consultation with an author who had attended my book promotion workshop. He said that his book wasn't selling and he wanted some promotional ideas. He told me that his book was for a general audience and it featured proof that there is no God. This--a mainstream book? I don't think so. I hope that I convinced this author that his audience probably consisted of people like him--scientists with the same theory, agnostics, atheists and some philosophers. I suggested that he would find his potential readers at the same Web sites he frequents, reading the same magazines and attending the same lectures. Can you see how a shift in his perceived target audience could make a positive difference in this author's bottom line?

Identify Your Book's Hooks

A hook is a concept or a theme that helps to attract your target audience--something that captures their attention. Perhaps you were only slightly successful in a quest to attract readers for your romance novel. After writing a post-publication proposal, you may realize that you have some hooks in there that you hadn't considered. For example, the fact that your story is set in New Hampshire during the Civil War adds two additional hooks. Perhaps you can promote this book to U.S. history and Civil War buffs. You'll probably discover eager readers all over the state of New Hampshire. If the story isn't too racy, it might be welcomed into public school curriculum. And you thought that women were your only audience.

Additional hooks for a nonfiction book featuring garden designs might be office garden designs, container gardening for apartment dwellers, regional gardening, etc. Do you see how you could promote to each of these demographics?

Continue to Build on Your Platform

It's never too late to build a platform. Ideally, you have your platform well-established before you publish your book. For your book on the new women-on-motorcycles trend, presumably, you are a lady biker. You've taken all of the instructional and safety courses--maybe you even teach them. And you have contributed several articles to Women Riders Now Magazine, Biker Ally Magazine and Women on Wheels. But there's more that you can do.

Establish weekend rides for women, start an organization, build a Web site, circulate a newsletter and sign books at bike shops, for example. Continue to build a reputation in your field through exposure.

Establish New Promotional Tactics

Your after-publication book proposal might reveal that you've been just skimming the surface of your promotional potential with your book. Maybe you've been promoting online, you're on amazon.com, you have had a few reviews in the obvious places and you've done a couple of talks locally. Consider what more you can do. Write for appropriate magazines, solicit more reviews in publications related to the theme or genre of your book, approach the library market with your book, start blogging and do talk radio shows, for example.

If yours is a novel, get your name out there by submitting stories to magazines. Find print and digital publications that use fiction in Writer's Market (Writer's Digest Books), The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers (Writer's Institute Publications), by doing a Google search using keywords, “fiction markets,” “literary magazines,” etc. And don't forget to consider those magazines that you like to read.

Snoop on Your Competition

What else is out there like your book? How are the other books selling? For those books listed in Ingram's database, you can check sales by calling, 615-213-6803 (have the ISBN handy). Also find out how other authors in your genre/topic are promoting their books. Glean this information by visiting author Web sites. Check out their blogs, personal appearance pages and contests or other activities they've launched on behalf of their books. Subscribe to their newsletter. You might even contact these authors to discuss promotional tactics such as piggyback marketing.

Make Changes in All the Right Places

For those of you who are struggling with book sales and who face a decision regarding a revision, and for authors with POD and ebooks, here are some ideas for building promotion into your next printing: For nonfiction:

* Hire an editor. * Add an index. * Update facts, figures and resources. * Create a workbook either as part of the original book or to accompany it. * Add value by including more examples, tips, techniques, forms and/or anecdotes. * Consider fictionalizing your memoir or true story if you are virtually unknown. . * Include more people in your book. Interview old-timers for your local history, profile early pioneers, note your information sources, etc. * Soften the message. Avoid trying to change minds, hearts and habits.

For Fiction:

* Hire an editor. * Include more selling hooks--give a character diabetes, twins, a horse or amnesia, for example. * Include effective grab hooks--teasers and surprises in the storyline that make people want to keep reading. * Make your book more attractive. Washed out, muddy, uninteresting covers do not attract attention.

Competition for authors is at an all time high. According to Bowker, over 291,000 books were produced in 2006. And the instance of failure has also reached new levels. In 2004, there were approximately 1.2 million titles in print, and a whopping seventy-six percent of them sold fewer than 100 copies that year. (BISG) The Jenkins Group says that over seventy percent of all titles fail to make a profit.

Authors who treat the process of publishing like a business and consider their book a product, have an advantage. While professionals preach and cajole hopeful authors to write a book proposal as a first step on their publishing journey, many of you don't. The good news is that it may not be too late. If your book sales could use a boost, consider writing a post-publication book proposal. This could just mean the difference between a failed book and a successful one

Patricia has recently completed a 27-page ebook featuring the post-publication book proposal. Order your copy of The Author's Repair Kit at http://www.matilijapress.com/.

For more information on writing a pre-publication book proposal, read The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book or How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less by Patricia Fry.

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer, speaker, literary consultant and the author of 28 books. She is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). Patricia's hallmark book is, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (revised second edition). Also you can follow Patricia's informative blog.


I hope from this sample article you can see the value with Patricia's materials and insight. Just this single article is packed with insight and worth several readings. This type of publishing insight can make a real difference in your writing life.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Use Your Book For Leverage

Are you leveraging the power of your book to engage your reader? You may be wondering what I'm talking about since many people see the book as their end goal. These people are trying to learn the craft of writing and take the necessary steps to get their ideas into print--which is a great starting place in the journey.

The book isn't the end but it's the beginning in many regards. Repeatedly I've heard my friend Alex Mandossian say, "People do not make money writing books (true). People make money explaining books."

I've probably burst a few people's dream with those words about making money writing books. In the last few days, I've read Patricia L. Fry's excellent book, The Right Way To Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (more about this soon). Fry writes on page 14, "The Author's Guild has determined that a fiction book is successful if it sells 5,000 copies and a successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies." Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry write in Putting Your Passion Into Print that less than 10% of books published (yes fiction and nonfiction) ever earn back their advance. These statistics are the norm and you could break out of the norm but realize what you have to overcome and leverage to make that happen. While hope springs eternal, it is good to root your hope in reality.

I was stirred to think about this concept of leverage for books earlier this week with a thought-provoking post from Paul Mikos at Cumberland House Publishing. As Mikos wrote in his post quoting Michael Cader from Publishers Lunch another source that I will also use, "The book, Cader said, 'is the [most] meaningful place for you to have meaningful interaction with your readers…When I finish a book, I want to know what to do next… Can I write the author? … Is there a club? … If there's a Web site, don't just give me a URL, tell me what's good there.' [Cader's] larger message: 'Get your mind-set out of the book business and into the reader business.'

Mikos pointed me to read this article from the EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Noelle Skodzinski. Here's the paragraph from this article that I want to point out: "Books have a power, for many of us, unparalleled by television or movies. We grow strangely attached to the characters. I recently finished reading “Water for Elephants” and didn’t want the story to end. I wanted friends to read it, to share the experience. And I definitely want to read another book by Sara Gruen. Fortunately, the publisher was smart enough to tell me what other books she has written."


How are you leveraging this power in your own books and creating products which explain your book? Are you doing it through a regular newsletter where you connect to your readers? For example, several years ago I wrote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. While the book is available instantly in an Ebook format, it is also in a paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many other places. It is important to give the book to people in as many different formats as possible. In addition, I created several products like the audio interview with eight top editors and literary agents in publishing called Secrets About Proposals. As another tool, I'm providing daily proposal coaching through another product, Proposal Secrets. Or I've provided an audio package of my teaching about book proposals called Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets.

Each of these products is an example of how I'm leveraging my book and focused on attracting readers and growing the audience. You can follow the same pattern.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Get The World Is Flat For Free

I must be one of the few people who have not read The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman since millions have purchased this book. When Publishers Weekly ranked the bestselling books from 1996 to 2006 in the fiction and nonfiction category, Friedman's book was the ninth book on the nonfiction list.

Beginning tomorrow, and running through August 4th, Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Macmillan Audio will be offering the audio edition of Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat for free. Listeners will receive the audiobook in three easy-to-download sections, and soon after that, as an added bonus, will also receive an exclusive prepublication audio excerpt of Friedman's Hot, Flat, And Crowded: Why We Need A Green Revolution And How It Can Renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release the new book on September 8th. I received this notice from Change This.com who reported: Senior Vice President of marketing and publicity at FSG Jeff Seroy said the purpose of this audio giveaway is to "celebrate Friedman's enormous influence on our lives and times. And in preparation for the release of his new book, a green manifesto and a continuation in many ways of his thinking in The World Is Flat , we want to enable anyone who hasn't already read The World Is Flat to catch up with Friedman's argument and vision for the future." Here's where you'll sign up, if you'd like to receive these free audio downloads.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Next Time You Speak

Tonight I'm driving down to the southern portion of Phoenix to speak to the Arizona Authors Association on the topic, Why Should A Writer Use A Literary Agent? The event is free and if you can attend, that would be terrific. If you live locally and can't make it tonight, then I'll be repeating the information on the west side of Phoenix on October 20th (notice it's on my speaking schedule).

While I've spoken about agents in the past, I've never addressed the topic from this angle and I'm going to tell some new stories and provide some great resources through my one-page handout.

Because of the worldwide audience with these entries on The Writing Life, I know many of you will not be able to attend this event. To help you whenever you speak, I wanted to tell a few of the details about my preparation.

First, notice that I created a one-page handout. I'm not going to use a Power point or anything connected to technology. Too many times I've been in presentations where the speaker is panicked because his computer crashed or he can't get his machine hooked up for the event. To me that sort of stress isn't worth the pay off to the audience so I've gone low tech with a paper handout.

Second, I will encourage people to sign up for my Right Writing News during the event but my handout also uses two different ways to intentionally capture this information. I'm going to encourage people to download my free Ebook, Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to A Rejection-Proof Submission.

In addition, since the topic is agents, I've created a free list of over 400 literary agents with their contact information. This database is the second potential way that I could connect to my audience and collect their name and email address in exchange for a valuable resource.

Both of these resources are links on my handout. There are numerous links on this handout and while I've made the URLs as simple as possible, it's still a bit of a barrier for someone to type those addresses into their browser. I created an Internet location for my handout, and then changed it into a PDF which I uploaded to a website. Now after my workshop, the writer can go to this location and instantly access all of the various links. It's a pattern which you can repeat when you speak to a group.

Finally from my past experiences with these types of groups, I doubt that the group plans to record my workshop. Until recent years, I didn't do much with these recordings but now I see the value in each one. I'll be taking my Edirol R9 Digital Recorder to the event and recording my own workshop. I can use the recording as a bonus item or part of another audio product package like my Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets. While I know it is basic, I can't use the recording if no one makes it. I've taken matters into my own hands and I'm recording tonight's workshop.

I understand that I've not told you much about tonight's workshop. You will have to catch that information through another method. There are many great reasons to use an agent for your next book project. The challenge for any writer is to find a good agent in this busy publishing environment. I hope you will take advantage of these different tips for the next time you speak to a group.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Resource For Author's Platform Building

The last time I wrote about platform, I received several vocal comments--especially from the fiction authors, who many times believe they don't need a platform. Yes, story is important but increasingly the better your platform, the more likely to sell your book.

In the last few days, I've read a new book from Stephanie Chandler called The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform, Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books. I just wrote a five star review for Amazon but wanted to also give you the insight from this review--then I have even more information from Stephanie Chandler. First my review:

Every writer has great dreams and aspirations of selling many copies of their published book. Stephanie Chandler gives you the real story about publishers. They can make beautiful well-crafted books but selling those books? That's a key responsibility for the author. THE AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO BUILDING AN ONLINE PLATFORM gives writers the critical tools to sell their books into the marketplace.

As Chandler writes at the bottom of the first page of Chapter 1: "The reality in the world of publishing is that without marketing, a book simply cannot be successful. And even if you have the biggest publishers on the planet behind you, it is unlikely that they will run your entire marketing campaign for you. You will still be required to do the majority of the work."

Publishers use the word "platform" a great deal and Chandler explains, "The formation of a platform is essential for publishing nonfiction and helpful for writers of fiction. A platform encompasses your ability to reach a broad audience before the book is even released."…"Authors of fiction and gift books aren't always required to have a platform first. But if you come to the table with one, your chances of getting published will be dramatically increased. Agents and publishers want authors who can sell books. Once you realize this and figure out how to demonstrate that you can do that, your future in publishing will be bright." (page 6)

In a no nonsense style, Chandler gives you the details to stand apart from the run of the mill book submission or published book author—because you will be motivated and informed to sell more books."

That was my review. Now I want to give you an article from Stephanie Chandler's website which will give you a bit of her writing style and a sample of the type of information in this book:

Create Passive Income Online: A Formula for Financial Freedom

By Stephanie Chandler

Passive income is money you make while you sleep. Real estate is the most traditional form of passive income, but the Internet has opened up opportunities for anyone who wants to generate revenue online. Following is a strategy you can follow to develop your own passive income business:

Create a Content-Rich Website.

Content really is king. Not only does it give your site visitors a reason to return to your site, but it gives the search engines plenty of reasons to index your pages. Load your website with articles, links and other resources. By offering free information, you can convert many of your visitors into paying customers.

Publish a Useful E-zine.

Online newsletters or e-zines are powerful tools for keeping your name in front of your customers. Pay attention to the e-zines you receive from other businesses. What do you like about them? What could you do better? Publish yours weekly or monthly and make sure it offers plenty of value. This is your chance to build a rapport with your readers while you soft-sell your products and services.

Develop Products to Sell.

Information products are powerful revenue generators. Product opportunities include books, e-books, special reports, teleseminars, workbooks, tips booklets, mp3 files and virtually and form in which you deliver information. Use your expertise to develop products that your site visitors need. Electronic products are ideal passive-income earners since once the product is created; it can continue to sell for years with little effort on your part.

Write Persuasive Ad Copy.

Once you create a quality product, you need to convince customers to get out their credit cards. Offer a list of product features, testimonials from others who have enjoyed the product, and appeal to your buyer's emotions. The key to successful ad copy is to identify the buyer's need and show them how your product will fill that need.

Automate Your Online Business.

The key to passive income is to minimize the amount of work involved. Instead of manually responding to every sale that you make or every inquiry you receive through your website, you can automate these tasks. Add a shopping cart solution to your site such as www.1shoppingcart.com, a comprehensive shopping cart solution or www.payloadz.com, a service that automates electronic file delivery.

Implement Affiliate Programs.

You can sell other people's products and services directly through your website and earn a percentage from every sale. Find products and services that compliment the content on your site. Popular affiliate programs include those offered by Amazon.com, Google Adsense (www.google.com), and Commission Junction (www.cj.com). Your shopping cart service provider may also allow you to implement your own affiliate program so that you can empower others to sell your products and services. You can also create affiliate programs through services such as Click Bank (www.clickbank.com) or Pay Dot Com (https://paydotcom.com/).

Market Your Business.

Drive traffic to your site by spreading your website link across the Internet. Some strategies to employ include swapping links with other businesses, publishing articles online through services like www.ideamarketers.com and www.ezinearticles.com, submitting press releases through www.prweb.com, and purchasing classified ads in industry publications. Try to do one to three tasks every day to market your business and soon your website traffic will begin to explode.

Continue the Product Development Cycle.

Be on the lookout for new product opportunities. Pay attention to what questions your customers are asking so you can create products that they need. Each new product should help increase your bottom line by generating new income streams and new reasons to advertise your business. Keep in mind that customers who liked your previous products will be more likely to purchase new products from you for years to come.

About the Author:

Stephanie Chandler is the author of several business and marketing books including FROM ENTREPRENEUR TO INFOPRENEUR: MAKE MONEY WITH BOOKS, E-BOOKS AND INFORMATION PRODUCTS. She is the founder of www.businessinfoguide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs and www.thebusinessgrowthconnection.com, a marketing company specializing in electronic newsletters.

You may recognize that I've been writing about a number of these elements through these entries on The Writing Life. Stephanie Chandler pulls this information into a worthy resource that I recommend: The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Unusual Publishing Battle

At least one news cycle this past week included the controversy over cover of The New Yorker magazine with Michelle and Barack Obama dressed in unusual garb. Maybe you saw it on your television news or some other means. It came across my desk in several different formats.

If you read these entries on The Writing Life, you will be aware that I read The New Yorker magazine and often call to your attention some of the great articles about the publishing world. Beyond the controversy about their July 21st cover, I wanted to make sure you read Jill Lepore's article, The Lion and The Mouse, The battle that reshaped children's literature. Thankfully the full version of this article is available online. Some times I locate articles that I would like to point out but they are not so easily accessible.

I encourage you to read this piece and you will learn about the battle between Anne Carroll Moore who yielded huge power in the area of children's literature because of her initiative setting up a children's library in New York City. As the article explains, "In the first half of the twentieth century, no one wielded more power in the field of children's literature than Moore, a librarian in a city of publishers. She never lacked for an opinion. "Dull in a new way," she labelled books that she despised. When, in 1938, William R. Scott brought her copies of his press's new books, tricked out with pop-ups and bells and buttons, Moore snapped, "Truck! Mr. Scott. They are truck!" Her verdict, not any editor's, not any bookseller's, sealed a book's fate. She kept a rubber stamp at her desk that she used, liberally, while paging through publishers' catalogues: "Not recommended for purchase by expert." The end. The end of Moore's influence came when, years later, she tried to block the publication of a book by E. B. White. Watching Moore stand in the way of "Stuart Little," White's editor, Ursula Nordstrom, remembered, was like watching a horse fall down, its spindly legs crumpling beneath its great weight."

Yes Stuart Little is the mouse in the title of the article. Through the movies and other reinventions, a new generation has come to love the stories about Stuart Little. Yet few people know the struggle that some of these ideas have to come into print. Notice in the last paragraph of the article there are more than four million copies of Stuart Little in print today.

What are the people around you or the editors or the literary agents telling you as a writer can't be done? Can you keep thinking about your idea and come up with a creative way through the obstacle? I hope you can draw some courage and strength from reading about Stuart Little.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Meet A Need--Build A Quick Audience

It's a rather frequent conversation that I have with authors about their visibility in the marketplace. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, publishers and literary agents want to work with writers who have a direct personal relationship to their audience. In these entries on The Writing Life, I've encouraged you to build that relationship through regular communication, such as starting a blog or electronic newsletter.

One of the keys to building that connection to the audience will be finding a need and filling it. While this aspect is critical for nonfiction, it can work on the fiction side as well. In this entry, I want to tell you about Peter Shankman. He found a need, filled it and built a quick audience in the process. Also every author or publisher will be interested in what he has built because you can tap into this resource.

Peter has a number of reporter friends who were regularly calling him to tap into his large database for story sources. To meet this need of reporters to be connected to specific people, he launched Help A Report Out on Facebook. It quickly grew beyond the limit of 1,200 emails and launched it on the HARO website. If you visit this site, you will see that it is simple to subscribe--and free. You will receive three emails a day from Peter which contain the different reporter needs he has received. If you have a story or a product or something to help the journalist, then you contact that person directly.

Peter makes it clear that individuals should only contact the reporter if they have something to meet their particular need. It is not a way to collect reporters email addresses for more SPAM. If he gets complaints about you, then he can boot you off the list. He has built an impressive series of contacts with a number of high profile outlets in radio, print, television and the Internet.

HARO also makes the reverse service available. If you are writing a book or a magazine article and need a certain type of person, then you can use his other site to broadcast your need and locate a certain type of person.

In a short amount of time, Peter Shankman has built a list of almost 15,000 emails that he writes three times a day. Each one of those emails gives Peter a chance to talk about what he's doing in a paragraph or two before he gives the queries from the last few hours. I've been fascinated to see how he found a need, filled it and is using that need to build relationships--and a quick audience.

Can you do likewise with the topic that you are passionate about?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Pay Off From Social Media

Several months ago, I wrote about LinkedIn and Book Reviews. Part of the concern with all these social media tools is to make them actually pay off in terms of growing your business. While it's is really nice to be connected to the world, how is that connection paying off for you in terms of increased income, increased business or some other tangible result?

Most of the social media tools are free so the trade off is an investment in personal time and energy. I've had some pay off from these tools but not to the degree that I'd like so I continue to learn and increase my skills and knowledge about social media.

Last night I attended a live workshop event called, "The Secret Behind Social Media--How to Grow Your Business Online." In a 60-day period, the organizers used social media to promote the event. Almost 100 people paid to attend this event which was packed with information and engaging speakers. I filled pages of my notebook as each presenter spoke. I've highlighted a number of elements which I'm going to apply to my own social media efforts.

The World Webinar Network organized this event. Here's how you can learn about this topic. First, join the World Webinar Network Ning (free). Each of the power points from last night's workshop have been turned into PDFs which are in the forum section. Yes, it's not like the live event but you can gain a great deal of insight and information from these presentations.

It's going to be good review for me as I apply my notes from the event.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who Are The Top U.S. Publishers

You name the type of book but from my experience, most new authors want to be published with the top publishers. One of the things they don't understand is whether the publisher is large or small, the author is still the person on the planet with the greatest passion for their particular book. And this author will have to translate that passion into marketing action for their book to give it the best possible reception in the marketplace.

Also I've heard horror stories about marketing and publicity efforts from authors of all persuasions--whether they went with a major publisher or a relatively small house. Publishing is not an exact science because to a degree it is unpredictable which books will strike a chord with the buying public. For example, why did how-to books about canasta sweep the nation and land on the bestseller list during the 1950s? The card playing craze caught on and the public went to their local bookseller to get a how-to book on canasta. It's the same sort of unpredictable nature of publishing today.

In the paper issue of Publishers Weekly which I received in yesterday's mail, it included an article with publishing sales data from 2007 about the top publishers in the world. When it comes to the U.S. publishers, the magazine included this illustration with the data:Notice this data is about publishing of all types--textbook and trade publishing. Earlier this year, Mike Hyatt included some data about the market share of trade publishers. If you look at the Publishers Weekly information it was interesting that Thomas Nelson doesn't appear in the top 50 publishers of the world. While I don't understand the difference, I suspect it is from a different way of defining the data will be at the root cause.

As long as I'm writing about Publishers Weekly, another bit of information came out at The New York Observer about the PW reviewers. Traditionally there is no printed list of the reviewers in the magazine but in recent days they have changed this policy and The Observer pulled together an article about the background of some of the PW reviewers. I thought it was interesting and I hope it will help your knowledge of the publishing industry as well.

Finally whether you land a large publishing house or a smaller press, I continue to encourage you to take an active and consistent role in the marketing of your book. That passion will pay off in the long run.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Life & Amazon Reviews

As these entries on the Writing Life reflect, I read a wide range of print magazines and publications. Yesterday I was flipping through Rev. 7 which is a publication of the JAARS portion of Wycliffe Bible Translators. At their "newsworthy" section, I instantly spotted a photo of one of my long-term friends with these words, "David Ramsdale, former editor (1993-1998) for the JAARS magazine, Beyond, passed away April 19, 2008, after a short illness. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and his two grown children."

While I understood the words in those sentences, they didn't make sense to me. What really happened to my friend and why was this notice the first time I've heard about it?

David Ramsdale was a trained pilot and over twenty-seven years ago, I had flown with him in the jungles of Peru in experiences so far back in my memory that they seemed like a lifetime ago. As David expressed interest in learning about writing, I had given him some encouragement and advice about getting started and encouraged his work as an editor. At Evangelical Press Association meetings, we sat around and laughed and enjoyed good conversation. Years ago I had even been entertained in his home in North Carolina.

Unsure what I would do or say, I picked up the phone and called Nancy to learn more details. He was ill for about three weeks and David suffered from endocarditis and multiple staph infections. She sent me an internal publication for pilots which included an article with this revealing paragraph about David, "Although he was an avid outdoorsman, David's passion was photography, which he incorporated into his work with Wycliffe. He was also a gifted writer and speaker. He loved to fly and sparked interest in aviation with the stories he shared about his years in the cockpit."

The experience reminded me about the brevity of life and how we need to celebrate today's opportunities and love the people who we touch.

As I talked a few minutes with Nancy, she mentioned that she had been looking at some books on Amazon and had read my review of Richard Mabry's book, The Tender Scar: Life After the Death of a Spouse. She was considering ordering this book and my review caught her attention.

If you look carefully at the permanent link, I wrote that review almost two years ago and it's one of a limited number of reviews for this book. I've written over 200 book reviews for a variety of books. It's one of the simple ways I can support good books. Customers are making buying decisions all the time related to these Amazon reviews because it's the largest online bookstore.

What can you do to add a few Amazon reviews to the pages of your books? You never know where it will have impact and influence.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Get A Fix On Grammar

Whatever your connection to the writing world, basic grammar skills are important to master. Many people have forgotten but I have a Masters degree in linguistics which means I've spent more hours than I'd like to recall in detailed study of grammar. I'm talking about way beyond simple English grammar but grammar patterns of other languages. For example, one of my courses for my Master's degree was called "The Sentence." Over an entire college semester, we studied various sentence patterns in a sweeping array of languages.

It's not that I am uninterested in grammar. Over the years since I've been in publishing, I've tried a variety of books geared to writers about grammar--and each one has landed in the boring category. Yes I read a few pages of each one then didn't complete them or use them. They sat on my shelf of writing books for a few years then were cleared off to make room for other books.

In my local newspaper, I found a great story about the wildly popular podcast, "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." It turns out Mignon Fogatry is starting her book tour here in Arizona this week for her first book--which naturally bears the same title as her well-known podcast.

I spent a few minutes looking around her podcast which includes transcripts. Also make sure you check out her other website called Behind the Grammar where she talks about other topics like marketing, business and writing.

One of Fogarty's most popular entries is about proofreading--which is an area that many writers can use some help. She's got some great tips that I recommend.

No matter what your skill level as a writer, it's a good idea to continually improve your grammar skills and these links might help you get a fix on grammar skill improvement.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Change With The Times

You can barely turn on the television, listen to the radio or read a newspaper or magazine when you begin the hear all of the dismal economic news. Many times it makes me want to shut it off and not fill my mind with such negative messages yet I don't want to live in isolation or with my head in the sand. Like many things in life, it is a matter of finding balance and changing what you can with the times where we live.

In recent weeks, I'm not driving every day to my mailbox where I pick up my work-related mail. While I haven't written about it often I do have a mailbox address. Some times I've received calls from writers who are in the area and have come to "drop" into my office. When they reach the address, they are confused since they see nothing from the outside of the building that indicates my name or office. They would not find this information since it is not my office but a local business with post office boxes. At that point, these people normally telephone my office because their plan of dropping into my office isn't working. It gives me a chance to ask them to physically mail whatever they want to send to me instead of dropping it by my office address. Some writers are overly persistent in such efforts to reach the editor or literary agent.

Because of the price of gas, I'm coordinating trips with my wife to run past the mailbox and pick up any mail or submissions. The mail tends to run in bunches so some days I get a great deal of it and other days there isn't much of anything. If you want to check out the cheapest location near you for gas, I recommend Gas Buddy. I've used it a number of times to check the price of local gasoline.

Until recently I've never been concerned that I find the most inexpensive gasoline station in my area. Yet with the rising price of gas and looking for ways to cut my expenses, Gas Buddy has become a useful resource. Are you constantly looking for ways to change and improve your writing routines? I am always on the look out for such innovative tools to broaden the reach of my writing and improve my own communication.

As another example, several weeks ago, I reworked my personal resume. I wanted my resume to reflect some of the skills which I've learned in the last few years. Yet my resume didn't match my LinkedIN profile--until last week. I reworked the data within LinkedIN so my printed resume and my profile are exactly the same and give a coordinated message. It took a bit of learning and effort to make these changes but the unified message is well worth the effort in my view.

Keep growing in your craft and business knowledge. It will pay off in the long run.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Moving Editorial Target

In my years in publishing, there is always a lot of "transitions." That's a code word for when people within the publishing house--whether their decision or someone else's decision--make a move to a different publisher. It happens a lot and my rolodex is in a constant state of revision to try and keep up with the various changes.

The July 7th issue of Publishers Weekly which arrived in my mailbox yesterday and I was amazed to see this visual representation of some of the "corporate shuffle" which has taken place in 2008. If you glance at this graphic, you will see that they are major shifts in the leadership of name-brand publishing houses.

Some people wonder why they need a literary agent. One of the reasons is to make certain your material gets to the right person within the right publishing house. Each book internally needs a champion who will stand up for the author and support the importance of their work--throughout the publishing process and including after the book is published. It's a little hard some times to hit the moving editorial target.

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