Friday, November 27, 2015

9 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing During the Holidays

You can almost feel the shift in the publishing world when the calendar gets close to the holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.  I'm receiving fewer emails. My phone calls and emails are not as quickly returned.  The culture is shifting into holiday mode where activities outside of publishing fill our schedule and less is happening.

While the schedule for others fills with holiday activities, your writing does not have to go on hold. In fact, from my experience, the holidays are a perfect time to jumpstart your writing life.  Here's nine action steps you can take during the holidays:

1. Increase Your Writing. Now is the time to lean into your novel or your nonfiction book and complete it.  No book manuscript is created overnight. It takes day after day effort to write your story and finish the manuscript. Make a plan for your writing then stick with it.

2. Create A New Product or Book. Do you have a new product or book idea? Take this time to lean into it and create. I encourage you to download The 24–Hour Product Creation Cheat Sheet from Jimmy D. Brown. I have several of these types of projects which have been on hold because of other work. I've started scheduling regular time into my work day to begin to move these projects forward and get them into the marketplace.

3. Write A Book Proposal. Maybe you have several book ideas and the place for you to dig in during the holidays is creating a new book proposal. If you don't know how to create a proposal, take my Write A Book Proposal membership course or use my free Book Proposal Checklist or take my free proposal teleseminar. Then take action and create your proposal.

4. Reach out to Editors and Agents. The holidays are often a great time to touch base with these publishing professionals. Send them a card or email and reconnect with them. Tell them some detail you appreciated about them and see how you can help them. Those simple statements may go a long way with that person. 

5. Read and Review books of others. I've written about this important habit but if you've never started it or forgotten about it. Now is a good time to read these books and review them. You will be practicing your craft of writing but also building good will among other writers as you read these books and write book reviews.

6. Begin a new program or tool. Do you want to learn how to make money with your blog or increase your social media presence? The key is to develope an easy system for you or to learn from someone else. I have a risk-free, detailed 31–Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks. Or listen to my free teleseminar on blogging or follow my detailed information on social media. Take committed time to work on developing a new skill or tool.

7. Get Organized. As a writer, I have piles of paper that isn't in a file folder (where I'm much more organized). I took some time this weekend to sort through the papers, put them into folders and get more organized. If I haven't used or read something,  I threw it away rather than lurking in a pile. As you get organized, you can be much more effective as a writer.

8. Pitch and Write Magazine Articles. Think about the publications you read and send ideas to the editor. If you have written for a magazine in the past, what can you write that they need? Approach the editor and see if they have a theme list online or one you can get from the editor. Then pitch appropriate ideas. 

9. Write to Look for New Opportunities.  Maybe you want to do more speaking in the new year or have a greater visibility at a particular conference. Work on expanding those possibilities during this season.

I include more than a dozen ways to jumpstart your publishing life in my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. The key is to take action during the holidays and move forward with your writing.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Before You Create a "New" Category of Books

It happens fairly often. An unpublished writer will pitch a new genre or type of a novel. Or it happens in the children's area, another inexperienced writer will create a new type of children's book. What they don't understand is their pitch sets off all sorts of warning bells to the editor or literary agent (at least if they are actively thinking about the market when they read the submission).

For example, I read a novel manuscript that had several recipes in the final pages. These recipes ties to the story line and weren't random that the author included it but these recipes are not the reason the target audience picks up the book. They will purchase the novel for entertainment or escape. The inclusion of the extra material does not fit the expectations of the market. If someone is going to need a recipe, they will purchase a cookbook.

I've also met authors who believe they are creating a new genre of fiction. Yes they have created a catchy name for this new category. The question the literary agent or editor is asking (internally), how will this book fit into the marketplace? If they can't answer this question, then the author will receive a polite “thanks but no thanks” rejection/ pass letter.

I also see this experience in the children's book area—particularly in the picture book market. Writers will read tons of picture books to their own children and decide to write a book. While they may have a terrific concept and story and their manuscript may be well written, they have never stopped to learn the details of how the children's book market works. 

The children's book market is very segmented. Your book will not reach all ages of children but needs to have an expected target. This target age will affect the words you use for your manuscript, the illustrations, the subjects and much more. Also picture books have a specific format and length. The shortest picture book is 24 pages and make sure you layout those 24 pages properly with a trial “dummy” book. Just use google to find some examples, then follow the expectations. If your book is short, then you need to rework your story until it is the right length.

I've seen a number of unpublished picture book authors that just decide to “fill in” the blank pages in the back of their book with other information (not connected to the story or the concept). Or maybe they use CreateSpace to create their book but see extra pages in the smallest format and “fill in.” Here's the insight for you: “fill-ins” are probably landing in the rejection stack. They will not garner serious consideration because they break the expectations of the picture book market.

As a writer who wants to find a publishing home, you need to learn the expectations for a particular type of writing and write with excellence before you try and break those patterns.   Yes you can always self-publish but this action is full of challenges and potential dangers (spending a lot of money with little return for example). Writers who are not in publishing don't understand there are thousands of people (at least 50,000 for most of these self-publishers) and on average sell only a few copies. That is not where as a writer I want to put my limited time and resources.

Publishers have to meet the expectations of their authors but also to produce excellent books which will be prized, discussed and promoted among booksellers and librarians as well as the general public. If you haven't seen a particular type of book, often there is a good reason why you haven't. I encourage you to get into a writer's group, attend a writer's conference, join a critique group and get into the community to learn before you leap. It will help propel your writing life forward.

I have a mixing bowl illustration because many writers believe writing a book is like mixing a cake. You simply gather the ingredients (words) and put them into a document and fire them off to an editor or agent. Just like with a cake, if you put in the wrong ingredient, you can ruin your cake. It's the same with a manuscript. The unexpected additional element could ruin your opportunity to get published.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Six Platform-Building Short Cuts

For years, platform has been a buzz word throughout the publishing community. Every agent and editor is looking for authors who have visibility or a platform in the marketplace. I've written a free ebook on the topic, Platform-Building Ideas for Every Author.

One of my key mentors in this process of building an online presence has been Internet Marketing Expert Jimmy D. Brown. Several years ago, it was through Jimmy I learned how to create a membership site like my Write A Book Proposal course. His insights and teaching has been incredible and helped me in many different areas. I continue to learn important lessons from him his information.

In the last week, Jimmy started giving away a series of six one-page documents that he calls Cheat Sheets. Each of these documents are packed with information for every author. In this article, I want to call to your attention each one of these resources and explain why author's need to study each Cheat Sheet. I've made these cheat sheets easy to download. Just click the link in each section and it will open to the resource.

List Building Insights

While there are many different ways to market your books, I believe every author should be building an email list where you are collecting names and emails of people who care about you and your work. Jimmy has created The 1-2-3 List-Building Cheat Sheet which helps you understand the steps and gives specific information about how to do it.

Product Creation

Besides selling books, as an author you can create other products to sell to your audience. I've got a series of ebooks and other products that sell all the time such as Blogging for Bucks or the Simple Membership System. I encourage every author to create such products and create their own income stream which is separate from their books and other aspects. You need to get The 24–Hour Product Creation Cheat Sheet and study this information, then take action in your writing life.

Turn Content Into Income

You may be a blogger or write magazine articles but how do you turn your content into money? The details are in The Content Into Cash Cheat Sheet. Yes the information is in brief but this resource will certainly get the idea wheels turning.

Get Others to Create for You

Most of us as writers operate alone. How do you find competent people to assist you and get more accomplished and make more income? Study The Hands-Free Outsourcing Cheat Sheet and you will begin learning these details.

Is Earning Six-Figures Possible?

Many writers are struggling financially yet The Simple Six-Figure Cheat Sheet provides the step-by-step insights for every author to achieve success. This resource gives five different models to reach the six-figure mark. Study this cheat sheet and take action then six-figures becomes do-able.

Drive Traffic to Your Content

Your website can look fantastic but if you don't learn traffic techniques to get people to see it, that beautiful website is worthless. You need The Traffic Master Cheat Sheet. Study the words on this page then apply them to your writing life.

While each of these cheat sheets contain seasoned guidance, there is no easy fix. You need to take daily action to achieve success. These pages contain rich knowledge and make it well worth saving to your hard drive, printing and study. Jimmy D. Brown's newest course is at Earn Income.com. He's a master of  marketing and every author can learn valuable insights from his teaching. I know I have learned a lot and continue to learn a lot from him.  

Let me know what you think of these cheat sheets in the comments. 

Discover Six Platform-Building Short Cuts. (Click to Tweet)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Perfect or Detailed. Mutually Exclusive?

As an acquisitions editor, I see many different types of writers.  For almost eight months, I've been emailing and occasionally speaking with an author who “talks” like she has a terrific book—even more than one book. Despite my encouragement to send the material, this author has never completed her proposal or a sample of her manuscript.  In her view, it still needs more work and isn't ready to send to an editor or agent—despite the multiple requests.  Her perfectionism is keeping her from taking action and moving forward. Know anyone like that in your own life?

In contrast, I often see submissions which are unprofessional and missing elements.  Maybe the proposal doesn't have the word count for the manuscript or the author's contact information including their mailing address (or skype if they are outside of the U.S.). Or when I read the material it has no pattern or cohesion like it was thrown together and sent off to an editor or agent to sort out the details and see if it is a fit to be published.

The balance is some place between these two extremes. You want your submission to be complete and professional.  Many of us in the publishing community have created terrific resources so you can learn what a literary agent or editor expects with a submission. I often refer writers to my free book proposal checklist (use the link).  I want to encourage you to take action on your book or book proposal. What are you doing to keep moving forward?

Do you already have a book and want to sell more copies? Then what actions are you taking to make that happen? Are you reaching out to book reviewers or writing a press release or the dozen other ways to stir book sales? If you want this information, follow the links in my last sentence because each one goes to a free teleseminar that I've created.

From my years in publishing, it is important to take action every day. The details are important but it is also important to constantly be expanding your network of people.  You will never reach the right person by yourself. I encourage you to attend conferences and meet new people. Last Friday and Saturday, I was at the Castle Rock Writers Conference meeting writers and editors.  As I spoke with others, I freely gave out my business cards (yes plural because I have two—my Morgan James Publishing card and my local Colorado business card). 

While giving my own cards was important, I also made a point to ask for a card from each person—or at least wrote down their basic contact information if they didn't have a business card. Why? Because I want to continue to work at expanding my network and connections to others. You can take the same actions.

Here's a reality of the publishing world: you only need one connection. It's like the realtor reminding me when we sell a home, you only need one buyer. For your writing, you are looking for the right agent or the right editor to champion your cause. This connection is out there—but you have to be taking daily action to make this connection.

Our world is full of dreams, joy and hope. Notice the image I included with today's article—a pile of rocks with words on them. Take action today and let me know how I can help you.

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham

Billy Graham has touched millions in over seventy years of preaching the Good News about Jesus Christ. One of the most admired men in the world, Mr. Graham will be 97 years old on November 7th.  
You can help Billy Graham celebrate this milestone birthday in two ways. First, use the sample tweets and images for your own social media connections (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). Second, use the tools to enlist others in your church or circle of influence to join in and wish Billy Graham a Happy Birthday.
  1. Send your own tweets and Facebook posts. Use the sample tweets below and modify them to make them your own. Also add an image with your post. Studies show that posts with an image will have a greater response and visibility. I’ve included four different images of Mr. Graham below. Also use a free tool like Hootsuite to schedule your tweets using the hashtag so it will “trend” on twitter and other social media sites.
  2. Pass the resources below to others. Use the announcement in your church bulletin to get others. Include the announcement in your newsletter or use twitter to send others to this page of resources.
Your efforts can help many people wish Mr. Graham a Happy 97th Birthday and to mark this special milestone.
Here’s some sample tweets:
I’m celebrating @BillyGraham’s 97th Birthday #HappyBirthdayBillyGraham
Congratulations @BillyGraham on Your 97th Birthday #HappyBirthdayBillyGraham
#HappyBirthdayBillyGraham Thank you for a life committed to serving others. Congratulations on your 97th birthday
Your 97 years have changed many lives. Thank you, @BillyGraham #HappyBirthdayBillyGraham
 Use Images With your Social Media posts
 Images with your social media will have greater appeal so save these images on your desktop (right click and use the "save as" feature), then add them to your post. Here are the four images:

W. Terry Whalin is the author of Billy Graham, A Biography of America’s Greatest Evangelist. Over 20 years ago, Terry worked for Mr. Graham as Associate Editor of Decision magazine.
Questions or Feedback?: You can reach Terry at: terry@terrywhalin.com or follow Terry on twitter at: http://twitter.com/terrywhalin  If you are new to twitter and want to learn more information, get Terry’s free handout at: http://terrylinks.com/goviral
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