Sunday, July 31, 2011

Find the Right Path for Your Writing

Last Saturday I spoke at the Fifth Annual Roaring Lambs Writers Conference in the Dallas, Texas area. There were over 200 people attending this sold-out event. As a publisher at Roaring Lambs Publishing, I met one-on-one with many of the participants to help them with their writing. The relationship building and interaction is one of the key benefits of making the effort to attend a writers' conference. I'm going to be attending several more conference this year. Follow this link to keep up on my speaking schedule. I'd love to meet with you and cross paths at a future conference.

From meeting many writers at these conferences, I've learned one of the keys is to see where they are in the writing process and then help them however I can from my experience. Today I want to focus on one of those meetings with some specific advice yet I will also broaden the advice to work for every writer.

This particular writer was typical of many writers that I meet. Jim was passionate about writing devotions. He had launched a blog and started to send these devotions to friends and gain readers. He clearly had passion because he had written over 300 devotions. At the conference, Jim was trying to determine his next steps for his writing.

My first suggestion is to try to publish some of his devotions in printed magazines. Print magazines has a lot greater credibility than posting on a blog since it has a higher standard. There are many devotional publications. I suggested Jim try The Upper Room which reaches millions of people each day. This magazine has great guidelines and details for any writer on their website.

If Jim wants to publish more than a single devotion in a magazine,then I suggested he explore working with the book packagers. I've written several entries about packagers over the years but here's some for you to explore for more detail:

Barking Up the Wrong Tree Sept. 13, 2005

Just Teach Me The Rules Sept. 14, 2005

Knocking on the Wrong Door Sept. 6, 2006

Work with the Middleman Sept. 12, 2006

Start at the Beginning Feb. 6, 2007

In Jim's case, he had written a series of devotions. What is it that you have written? Maybe you love writing personal experience stories or fiction. Maybe you like to write how-to information. Find the print magazines that take your type of material. Study these magazines and begin to pitch story ideas to these publications. Yes, you be writing a novel and that writing can continue. But editors and agents are looking for writers with publishing experience. One of the fastest ways to get that publishing experience is in shorter writing (magazines). If you write fiction, you will learn a great deal writing short stories and publishing those as you continue to polish your novel.

Finally I want to return to Jim's blogging. I believe in the merits of blogging. It's one of the reasons I have over 1,000 searchable entries in The Writing Life.

As a resource for everyone who blogs, I'd like to tell you about The 31–Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks. This 65–page Ebook will give you the step-by-step guidance to doing more than creating content with your blog. You will be able to generate income from that effort.

Each of us as writers have to find the right path for our writing. It may take a bit of searching to locate the right path but I believe it is out there for you. Are you engaged in the search?

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Celebrating Another Bonus Day

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, I learned the great Evangelical Theologian John R. W. Stott died at the age of 90. Almost 20 years ago in 1992, it was my privilege to spend a few minutes interviewing Dr. Stott for a story that I published in a magazine targeted to Christian retailers. I own a copy of Basic Christianity which Dr. Stott signed for me saying, “Thank you, Terry, for the interrogation.” I was not a difficult interview but he was using his British humor in the message. I will always treasure the book and that time with him. In honor of his remarkable life, I dug into my files and found that story which I’m sharing with you today in this entry of The Writing Life. If you read it closely you will see lessons of giving and sacrifice that I encourage you to build into your own writing life.

5:00 a.m. Most of us are sound asleep but John R.W. Stott swings his legs over the side of his bed and starts the day in prayer:

“Good morning, heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning, Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I worship you as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship you, Sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.

Stott has begun each day with a version of this Trinitarian prayer for decades.

For over 40 years, Stott hasn’t taken a daily newspaper. Instead he turns on his radio to the BBC World Service and catches their half hour news and commentary as he shaves and showers. Then at 5:30, John begins an hour-long devotional time at his desk. “It’s my to read, pray and study the Scriptures,” says John Stott, who is now in his eighties. “Every day is fresh and I try to thank God for another bonus day.”

After devotions, Stott turns to his latest writing or reading project and spends another hour at work before breakfast. One of his major projects has been a series of commentaries called The Bible Speaks Today series from InterVarsity Press where he was the New Testament editor. This series aims to explain the biblical text and to relate it to the contemporary world. “Commentaries are not readable, but this series is meant to be read,” Stott says. Contributing himself to the expositions of the Sermon on the Mount, the Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians and II Timothy, Romans, 1st Timothy and Titus, Stott completed the twenty-four volume series in 1995.

The final book in the series was The Message Of 1 Timothy & Titus. In this Bible Speaks Today volume (previously released as a hardcover book with the title Guard the Truth), John Stott finds in 1 Timothy and Titus a dynamic truth that orders Christian life in the church, the family and the world. Here is the lucid commentary we have come to expect from Stott, ever faithful to the text and time of Paul’s letters. But in a manner unique to Stott’s role as a distinguished Christian statesman, this work’s interpretive and pastoral voice remarkably echoes Paul for our own day. One generation speaks to another: “Guard the truth.”

Dr. Stott is best known for his Basic Christianity (InterVarsity Press) which received a Gold Book award for reaching the two million sales figure (now over 2.5 million in print). Basic Christianity continues its popularity because it presents the intellectual basis for the gospel. In 1992, the ECPA honored Dr. Stott with its International Award for”his tireless efforts to encourage thoughtful biblical exposition and preaching throughout the world.” While the majority of his over 40 books have been published by InterVarsity Press, other publishers include Zondervan, Tyndale, Moody Press, Eerdman’s, Baker Books and Fleming Revell.

Last January, InterVarsity Press released the latest Stott title, Why I Am A Christian which provides a compelling, persuasive case for considering the Christian faith.

Although he has traveled to over 100 countries throughout his ministry, Stott has always sought the simple life. He lives in a two room apartment in Central London. In 1971, he had published several titles, and his royalties were increasing beyond his personal needs. “After thinking and praying about how to use them, I believe God led me to form the Evangelical Literature Trust,” Stott says. About 95% of his royalties are donated to ELT. Dr. Stott has no idea how much he’s given through the years, but according to David Spence, who chairs the U.S. Board of ELT, it has accumulated to more than half a million dollars. ELT is administered by volunteers, consequently almost all the contributions go directly to providing books to thousands of third-world and East European pastors, seminary professors, libraries and students.

The Bishop of London installed Stott at age 29, to the prestigious Anglican church as its Rector in 1950. The Bishop commissioned a different book each year for his flock to use for Lent devotions. A couple of years later, the Bishop asked Stott to write that year’s Lent book--originally published in England as Men with a Message, later titled A Basic Introduction to the New Testament (Eerdmans). Stott received his royalty for this book in a lump sum of 750 pounds and then invested it in purchasing a retreat called “The Hookses” in West Wales.

“It was a ruin and had been unoccupied for several years,” Stott says of the slate-roofed Welsh farmhouse cottage located a mile from the nearest neighbor, and without telephone, electricity or television. On the Pembrokeshire cliffs, it commands a superb coastal view. Gradually Stott has put the buildings into order, and most of his books since 1954 have been written there.

For sessions of two or three week, John Stott will go to The Hookses and write. “I’m rather Victorian in that I don’t use a typewriter or a dictating machine, let alone a word processor, to write,” he says. “After 50 years, I’ve got into my own rhythm for writing.” Using plain bond paper and pen, John will study and write six hours without a break. Then after some exercise, he will return to his desk and continue for another four hours or so.

Now the Rector Emeritus for All Soul’s Church, Stott splits his time each year between the church and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (six months), at which he lectures, traveling (three months) and study and writing (three months).

As he considers publishing, Stott sees the production of literature as a precious partnership between author, publisher, distributor and retailer. “The Bible tells us that it is good to be dependent on each other,” Stott says. “As John Donne says, ‘no man is an island.’” The inter-dependent relationship is biblical and precious to John R.W. Stott.


W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer’s Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books. See more about his writing at www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Overcome A One Star Review on Amazon

It is a shock to check out the customer reviews on Amazon and learn some reader has found your book worthy of a one star review. I've had it happen. I'm even including an image to show you the one star review. Yet it can be overcome and I'm going to give you the details.

Amazon has the biggest online bookstore on the planet. Yes they sell much more than books but if you have a book, you want to pay attention to the customer reviews on the page. Readers are constantly reading these reviews and making a buying decision about your book from those reviews.

I love books and regularly read new books. One of the ways I support good books is to take a few minutes and write a short review of the book and a rating on Amazon. I'm often surprised when I go to the book on Amazon and discover three or four reviews. Or often I'm the first person to write a customer review about a book. It did not happen in an instant but I've continued building a body of work through these customer reviews and I've written over 330 Amazon reviews. Many of them are positive because I'm writing the reviews to support authors that I love their writing. In some cases they are controversial. For example, check out the reviews of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly. While the book has only been out three months, it has a mixture of positive and negative reviews. People either love this book or strongly dislike it. Here's the permanent link for my review of Malled. It is worth reading and I enjoyed this book.

The Shack by William Paul Young has been rooted in mixed views since it was published. People either love or hate this book but it continues to be a bestselling book. At this writing, it has over 4,600 reviews. Notice the mixture of almost 3,000 Five Star reviews and over 800 One Star reviews. Yet because of the overwhelming majority of Five Star reviews, the average is Four Stars for this book.

The key fact that many authors overlook is that the Amazon stars are averaged. If your book has dozens of Five Star reviews, then you can overcome any low reviews. Now if you only have one or two reviews for your book, then a low review has a lot of impact on the average.

If you have a book, here's several ideas for you with your Amazon page:

1. Monitor your page on a regular basis. Many authors ignore the page where their book is located. I regularly check these pages for my books and note any activity.

2. If someone has written a Five Star review, then use that information. Tell others about it. When I see that anyone has written a Five Star review about my book, then I tweet about it to my followers with a link to the review. These tweets generate even more buzz about your book.

3. It does not have to be a new book. Also work on your older books. For example, my Book Proposals That Sell has been out in the market for years. Currently there are over 95 Five Star reviews on Amazon.

4. Whenever anyone emails me about how my Book Proposals That Sell helped them, I respond back in appreciation then I ask them to go over to the Amazon page, cut and paste those sentences along with a Five Star review (and I remind them that the Five Star review is important because the stars are averaged). Not everyone takes action and writes the review—but a certain number of them will post the review.

As you increase the number of Five Star reviews for your book, you are also protecting your book when you get a one star review. As you can see from the illustration from my page at Book Proposals That Sell, I have a few one star reviews. In spite of those reviews, my average is still Five Stars. You can overcome a low review if you are aware and working at it.

Whether you have written many books or no books, do support books with simple straight forward reviews on Amazon. You will be making a difference and helping others make wise buying decisions.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Away From Your Computer

Often it happens in a shopping center parking lot or in the mall. These people will be walking with a glance every other step at a phone they carry so they can easily see the screen at all times. I assume they have their smart phone on Facebook or Twitter or some instant message where they don't want to miss anything on their computer. These individuals have elevated the computer to become a critical part of their every minute.

For many years, one of the best places to disconnect and get away from your computer was at 30,000 feet in an airplane. Yet even in the plane some people are connected to their computer. While I was waiting for a recent flight, a fellow traveler was telling me how he booked is flights on the basis of whether the flight had an online Internet connection so he could continue to be connected throughout the flight.

This coming week, I'm headed to Dallas for another conference and I love that time on the plane to write and read—generally to be disconnected from email and my phone. I understand it is a choice and a matter of focus. In the phone area, I've chosen not to have a smart phone and be connected to my email 24 hours a day. I believe it adds some balance to my life.

When I'm away from my computer as I will be for a couple of days this week, I do take some proactive actions when it comes to social media—Twitter and Facebook. I want to continually feed information about publishing and great products to my followers and friends.

Hootsuite is the free tool I use to schedule these tweets. My twitter account is hooked to my Facebook and LinkedIn. It was a one-time action to set up on Facebook and LinkedIn so my tweets are replicated on these other social mediums—automatically. I don't have to do anything for the tweets to show up on these sites.

Using Hootsuite, I can schedule three or four or more tweets at different times to appear while I'm away from my computer. I will schedule these tweets at some point during the week ahead. I know it works and people read these tweets and take action from them. Earlier this year, an editor was going to call me. He and I follow each other on twitter and he noticed that I had just put out a tweet. His assumption was that I was sitting at my computer and had sent that information to twitter. Yet when he called me I was walking down the concourse in an airport on the other side of the country. I had just gotten off an early morning flight. You never know how people are using these types of tools to continue to touch their followers. I use them and will continue to use them.

Another tool that I will be using when I'm away from my computer is Tweet Adder. This program works around the clock to add targeted followers. If you haven't tried the free download, I recommend you try it and begin to actively use it. The program has a one-time fee and you can get a 15% discount by using the coupon NICHE15 when you check out.

How about you? Do you take action and schedule tweets which appear when you are traveling?

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Start Now & (Eventually) Get Big

Last week I passed over 32,000 followers on Twitter. When people see those numbers, they wonder how they did it. I see many people who have less than 200 followers on Twitter. Other people haven't tweeted in months and have given up on their involvement—yet over 200 million people are active on twitter.

Others react strongly when they see that I have over 4300 friends on Facebook. The typical person on Facebook has a few hundred friends.

I can often hear the amazement in the voice of people when they learn that I've written over 60 books or that I've written for more than 50 printed publications. I do have a large body of work that I have been growing for many years. It did not happen instantly or overnight. Instead body of my work has been growing for years.

The same thing has happened with my Twitter following. It began slowly but I've been consistently growing that audience. It is not magical but happens in small incremental and consistent action.

I've often heard authors say they took years to become an overnight success. We live in an instant society where everyone wants to write the next bestseller. I hear these unrealistic ambitions from authors almost daily. These authors have published a book or two with modest success. Other authors have never published a book yet they believe they have the next bestseller. There is nothing wrong with ambition but it has to be followed up with a consistent plan of action.

I've spoken with a number of authors who believe they have the next bestseller—yet a year later when I speak with them these authors are in exactly the same unpublished spot. They are “talking” about getting their book published.

Here's my encouragement to you:

1. Take some time to plan your writing goals. What are you doing to consistently write for online publications or printed magazines? Are you working on your book proposal to show an agent or editor?

2. Take some time to plan your marketing goals. What are you doing to build your audience for your topic? Are you actively using Twitter and Facebook? I've encourage you to look into Tweet Adder for Twitter. Get the free download and try it. Use this program consistently to build your twitter audience. You can even get 15% off the one-time fee if you use the code: NICHE15

3. Take consistent action with your writing and marketing efforts. That constant action will pay off for you. It will not happen overnight but with regular action, you will get there.

You have to take action today to be able to eventually get big.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Become A Magazine Editor

Some of you will have to use your imagination a bit because you don't have a lot of publishing experience or even if you have publishing experience, just let go and imagine for a few minutes.

You've been offered a new position as a magazine editor. Now your responsibility is to reach your target audience with solid writing on a regular basis. You will have to write a few articles. You will have to reach out to other writers and get their material. You will look for some products to review and advertise. Then you will add subscribers and be involved in the business aspects of producing your publication.

Feel a bit overwhelmed with the responsibility? It doesn't have to overwhelm you. In fact, there are easy-to-use resources to help you create the content for your publication.

I've often encouraged writers to begin their own magazine—an electronic newsletter. This magazine is a consistent way you can reach out and touch your audience with solid content—and remind them that you want to help them in your particular subject or area of expertise. I have had a newsletter for many years, Right-Writing News. Follow the link and you can see it and subscribe to it. When you subscribe you will receive free ebooks—and access to all of my years of back issues.

Publishers, editors and agents are actively looking for good writers but they want these writers to come to them with a ready-made audience. What are you doing to create this audience? Yes, you are working at your writing and storytelling skills—which is excellent. But are you making audience-building a priority? I hope so because having a ready-made audience could be the tipping point between finding your champion inside the publishing house and a form rejection.

Robert W. Bly has been one of my long-term friends and a mentor in this area of newsletter creation and marketing. His Ebook, Ready-Made Ezines, has a revised second edition and is excellent.

In the first part of this Ebook, Bob provides important details about the creation and writing of an Ezine. He answers important questions such as:

  • Why do you do it?
  • How frequently to you touch your audience?
  • How do you expand your audience and get people's email addresses?
  • How can you create it in two hours or less?
  • Do you send the Ezine in HTML or text?
  • What are the two most important lines in every email?
  • What are the 14 things Bob likes to put into his Ezine?

In the second portion, Bob gives the lasting value of this particular resource: ready-to-use Ezine articles on different topics that you can cut and paste into your own Ezine. The articles are organized into ten different categories for easy use.

This valuable resources is an investment in your own writing life but from my view it is well worth it. You will gain education and the practical articles that you can use for weeks into the future to build your own audience. This resource matches a consistent message that I've been giving to writers. Every writer needs to be developing their own audience and their own products.

If you don't have an Ezine, then take the first step with Ready-Made Ezines. If you already have an Ezine, then you will find more ideas and a treasure-trove of ready-t0–use articles. I'm going to be using this resource in the days ahead. How about you?

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Developing Your Author Platform Online

By D’vorah Lansky, Guest Blogger

I’d like to thank Terry for allowing me to be a guest here today. As you know, Terry is a remarkable, kind and giving person who knows a great, great deal about the authoring industry. Terry also knows a great deal about the area of online marketing for authors.

Today I’d like to talk about developing your online author platform. An author platform is a place where people can come to connect with you. It is where you share your message and it refers to the size of your following/readership and your presence on the Internet. It is essential for an author to have an author platform. Your platform raises your visibility and allows people to get acquainted with you.

Here are a few things that you can do to develop your online author platform:

· Set your blog or website up so that it makes a positive statement about you as an author. If you have any intentions of speaking, you are going to need a website which actually shows people who you are and what you speak about.

· Have a media page or speaker sheet that can be easily accessed on your website. Include low-resolution and high-resolution images of both you and your book cover.

· Outline a talk that you give related to your book. You can include five bullet points, or a list of sample questions, that you can cover.

· Include a brief and an expanded bio and your contact information. When composing your bio, rather than beginning by listing your credentials, begin by speaking about your strengths as a speaker or captivating presenter. For example, you might say, “Terry is a dynamic and engaging presenter.” It is important that your bio talks about you as a speaker, in addition to listing your credentials.

· Add a page to your website that lists your speeches, events, presentations and programs.

· Include a section, on your media page, that links to your videos and recorded interviews.

· Make sure that you have a professional presence on the social media networks. Social networks provide you with the ability to reach a large number of people easily, develop your presence, share your expertise and impart the message of your book.

Whether you are beginning with a well-established website and large audience, or you are just setting up your website and beginning to grow your audience, there is much you can do to develop and promote your online platform.

The fastest way to develop your new or existing platform is to make sure you have an attractive-looking blog or website where people can come to find out more about you and your book. Develop a daily writing schedule and post articles to your site several times a week. Interact on the social networking sites and invite your target audience to enjoy reading the articles you’ve posted to your site. You will soon come to be seen as an expert in your field and you will develop relationships and friendships with your readers.

D’vorah Lansky is the author of Book Marketing Made Easy: Simple Strategies for Selling Your Nonfiction Book Online - Visit her book blog and check out the full virtual book tour schedule at: www.BookMarketingMadeEasy.com.

D’vorah offers programs for nonfiction authors interested in growing their brand and their book sales through online book marketing practices and strategies. You can purchase her book on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/oft9Pt

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Crucial Element to Book Proposal Success

After reading thousands of book proposals, I know for a fact that many writers fail in the section about their competition. The writer either falsely believes there is no competition (every book competes) and writes that information explicitly for this section or they write a section which is incomplete and not persuasive.

Whether you write nonfiction or fiction, the competition is an important part of every book proposal. Below I’m including an excerpt from the excellent Publish Your Nonfiction Book, Strategies for Learning the Industry, Selling Your Book, and Building A Successful Career by Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco. Yes, Sharlene and Anthony have focused on nonfiction but if you are a novelist, do not be fooled into thinking this material is not for you. It is equally important for you to learn. Every writer can profit from a careful study of this book. Here’s their valuable excerpt:

“Next to your platform, your book comparisons (or comps) section is the biggest key to the success of your proposal. Your comps section must consist of three to six examples of recent books that are similar to yours, and which sold well. Take time and care in considering the right comps for your project. They must reflect well on the potential success of your book.

To find appropriate comps, you can start with online booksellers such as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble (www.bn.com). Look for recent books that cover the same or similar subject matter as yours. Because trends and habits change, a book that did well thirty years ago will not necessarily do well today, and so it will not be a good comp. There is no use in comparing your book to a dinosaur. Additionally, new people are constantly moving into publishing, and they might not be aware of a book that old—or even one from ten years ago. Newer books give agents and editors a point of reference for current consumer buying habits in your field.

No matter what your book title and subject, you are sure to find a few comps that are close. Amazon.com offers several million titles; a few have to be similar to yours. When you find eight to ten books that look promising and that are similar to your book, check those titles in terms of sales. The number one mistake that authors make here is that they list comparative titles without any thought to the success of the books. There is absolutely no point in holding up a book that tanked as a supporting example.

Many authors use the daily sales rankings at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble to determine sales success, but these numbers only reflect very current sales and are not accurate indicators of the overall, long-term sales of a book. A better bet is to go to the best-seller lists in The New York Times or USA Today. Both publications archive their best-seller lists and you can check to see which of your prospective comps are on those lists. If you are lucky, you will find one or two of your comps have done exceedingly well. One might even have a blurb on the cover to the effect of “Sixty Weeks on the Best-Seller List!” or you might find a book that is in its fifth or sixth printing.

Then do your homework. Find the publishers of the recent comps that sold well, and go to their websites. See how many books they release each year and how large their backlist is. If you want to attract a large publisher, you need to use comps that have been published by a large publisher.

If these steps have completely eliminated your prospective list of comps, go find some more. If some comps are still on your list, go to an actual bricks-and-mortar bookstore or a library to find an actual copy of your prospective comp. Then assess it for quality. If the manufacture of the book is done as shoddy work, that publisher will not be among the respected in the industry. When you hold the inferior book in your hands, it becomes apparent that if you had used it as a comp, that would only draw an unfavorable comparison—something that you surely want to avoid.

As you can see, this process can take some time. After you finally get three to six suitable titles, pull information for the comp’s title: author, publisher, publication date, page count, ISBN, and whether it is hardcover, trade paperback, or a mass-market paperback. Be careful: Many popular books have more than one edition, as well as large print and audio versions.

You definitely want to choose the printed version that sold best. Often, but not always, it is the original hardcover printing of the book. Pull a cover image so agents and editors can get a visual. Format the image as you did the other photos in your book proposal, then place it in your document near that book’s title information.Next, decide how best to compare and contrast your title with each of the comps. To do this, (a) develop a one-paragraph description of the comp, then (b) add another paragraph of analysis explaining how your book offers positive points that the other book lacks. The common theme for all commercial nonfiction is that your book is similar to others in ways that have proven successful, but it is also uniquely yours by virtue of your valuable perspective.

CAUTION:More is not more, here. One prospective author sent us a proposal that included twelve comps, ten of which were from small, university, or self-published presses. If your goal is to be with a university press for the prestige, then by all means use those books as comps. But don’t use these kinds of books and expect to get a sizable advance, as those presses pay very little in the way of up-front money.

With the proliferation of information on Internet, there is no excuse for an author to remain ignorant about the profession. Check out your references. For example, if the publisher of a prospective comp doesn’t have a website, run! If the website is cheesy, run faster. Consider that the way this sloppy website looks to you now is how you would look to others, if they learned that this publisher was handling your work.

Never bluff. You must read your competition. Otherwise how will you determine the right way to position your book? You could easily end up looking like a fool by declaring a certain book to be a “comp” for yours, when your recipient is aware that it is not a good comparison. With today’s tight budgets, accurate competitive analysis is more important than ever, but the onus of it is upon you, ahead of the publisher. When you multiply your book by hundreds of others, it is clear that editors at publishing companies have no time to do this for each book that they are thinking about buying. But if you try to bluff your way through with lazy work, you will never know how to predict what your recipient already knows about the topic. The accuracy of your comps is another arena where you can demonstrate that you are the writer for this book.

Regarding the language in your comparison: Certain words and phrases are the kiss of death in the comps section of a proposal. Never say, “This book is better than__________________ .” Who knows whether your proposal might end up being read by the agent or editor of the book you just slammed. It can happen! A better way to approach is to say: “My book offers _____________ in order to go deeper into the topic than other books have done so far.”

Never try to get off with light work by claiming that “there are no other books out there” like yours. This is actually a very old and tired gimmick that has been attempted far too many times to carry any weight. Many of your competition will try it anyway, which is fortunate for you because it isn’t going to work for them, either.”

Excerpted by Permission from Publish Your Nonfiction Book by Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco (Writer’s Digest Books, 2009) Pages 74-77.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Contains Years of Wisdom and Insight

If you have ever had the yearning to become a Christian screenwriter or actor or producer or director, then you will take years off wasting your time with this book. Dr. Ted Baehr, the Founder and Publisher of Movieguide, has written a comprehensive guide. As he writes in the introduction, "It is a critical time for people of faith to communicate through the mass media of the entertainment industry...This book intends to help you to do just what Jesus commanded: herald His good news in movies and television, the marketplace of entertainment." (Page xxviii)

Dr. Baehr breaks the contents into two main sections: Foundations and Step-by-Step. Each section is loaded with practical yet detailed information into the business. While the author has years of experience, he has reached out to 30 diverse Hollywood experts with stellar credentials. He interweaves these contributors throughout the book and it strengthens the message and impact of the contents.

While this book is loaded with practical information, I want to give one detailed example as a taste of the contents from the chapter, "If It's Not On the Page...":

"Remember that the average movie takes nine years from start to finish. The Passion of the Christ took ten years. Evita took twenty-three years. Batman took seventeen years. There are several reasons why it takes so long. First, there are 300,000 scripts submitted every year to the Writers guild of America and many more are written that are never submitted, aside from the flood of novels every year, but less than three hundred movies open in theaters every year. Thus, most scripts never make it into production. Second, Hollywood movies cost over $104 million to produce and distribute in 2010, and it takes a long, long time to get all the elements together so that some distributor or investor will want to put up this kind of money. Third, most people take years to get the script right. The Los Angeles Times interviewed a woman who was trying to twenty years to sell her script. She said that in all those years she had not had the time to take a scriptwriting course or read a book on scriptwriting. The Los Angeles Times and all of us should be perplexed: What was she doing all that time that she could not take a moment to learn her chosen craft?" (Page 150 to 151)

Before you follow the beckoning siren of Hollywood, you need the detailed information in How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul) A FieldGuide for Christian Screenwriters, Actors, Producers, Directors, and more...

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

From Concept to Contract

Over 83% of Americans plan to publish a book at some point in their life. The majority of Christian nonfiction writers are filled with passion yet they have no experience in how to navigate the book publishing world. In Writing The Christian Nonfiction Book Concept to Contract, Fessenden writes, “Any good book is the result of inspiration, followed by hours of grueling work. I don’t know about you, but for me, inspiration is not a problem (except it comes at the most inconvenient times, doesn’t it?). It’s the prospect of the hard work that gets to me—it shuts down my brain, wiping away any shred of creativity. No wonder most authors have no idea where to begin when they sit down to write a book.” (Page 2)

In the pages of this book, David Fessenden boils the process into eight steps:

1) Brainstorming

2) Researching

3) Outlining

4) Preparing the Proposal

5) Writing the Rough Draft

6) Revising

7) Fine-tuning the Manuscript

8) Getting the Contract As the author of more than 60 nonfiction books (many of them Christian books and from traditional publishers), I've repeatedly been through this process. I resonated with Fessenden's insight and instruction which are mixed with humor and honesty. He is a skilled communicator who has written Christian nonfiction books and guided other authors as a book editor. That experience shines in these pages.

Each chapter includes three tips for the reader to apply the teaching to their own plans for book publishing. If you study and apply the information in this book, it will take you down the path to getting your Christian book published.

I recommend you get this title, read it carefully and highlight the pages. Then take it one step further. You will need to apply the information to your writing life. It will push you down the road to achieving your goals in the nonfiction book world.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Independence for Every Writer

For many years, I’ve been working within the publishing community whether as a magazine writer, a book author, a magazine editor, a book editor, a literary agent and now a book publisher. I’ve developed products and books to train others to easily enter the publishing community, work with others and achieve their publishing dreams. This entry may seem a bit contrary to this focus. I continue to be a strong advocate for working with others. It is through the team approach that your writing improves and you can do much more than you ever could on your own.

Yet I also encourage you to start something independent of the magazines or book publishers.


While I believe it is good to work with others and the strength of the team process, creating independent products and services also has value for every writer and should not be ignored.

For example, some publications pay on publication or months after they have accepted your article. While many beginning writers don’t think about it, often traditional publishers pay once a year or the best they do is to pay quarterly or four times a year.

If you create the products yourself use a tool to collect the payment, then you immediately receive the payment for selling the product or service.

Many writers are struggling to wonder how to earn a living at their writing. One answer is to begin writing and selling small reports. My 84-page Ebook, The 31-Day Guide to Making Money Writing Small Reports gives step-by-step instructions.

From working on this Ebook, I’ve got a list of small reports that I’m actively working to put together and get online.

Just stop for a few minutes and think about it. What information product can you create that would be a help to others? Take a few minutes and write down some ideas. Maybe you already have the content in your blog entries or in answers that you give on a specific forum or for a group. You’ve invested the time and energy to learn this unique skill and with a little bit of effort on your part to rewrite it, you can create this small report. Then you can sell this small report and help others.

Also in selling this small report online you also create your own independent business effort. Imagine how much more attractive you will be to book publishers if you have already established a connection to your audience or readers?

The process is not complicated or difficult. Each writer can do it. In fact on this Independence Day, I recommend that you create your own plan of independence. It might start with reading my risk-free small report. As I wrote toward the bottom of the sales page, you can buy this report with my 100% money back guarantee. You have nothing to lose and your independence to gain.

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