Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Plans for The New Year

As we begin a New Year, many people are making resolutions, setting goals and plans for the year ahead. I'm right there with you and in this article, I'm going to layout some of my personal plans. I hope you will find some insights and inspiration for your own writing life. Instead of resolutions or goals, I have six areas with actions in each area to highlight.

1. Take Responsibility for My Own Success.

I've mentioned this aspect a number of times in these articles. Over the holidays a long-time publishing friend sent me a letter addressed to marketers. This author has written a number of books with traditional publishers. His concern is one I've heard many times from writers (and I've voiced myself in the past). The publisher has marketing departments and why aren't they marketing. He's a writer and he does not want to be turned into a marketer. He doesn't want to blog or tweet or Facebook or _____ to market his book. He wants to be left to his writing craft. The letter is laced with frustration. I hear it—yet it is not reality of today's book market.

Here's a dose of reality according to my friend Penny Sansevieri, currently there are at least 4,500 books published every day. As an author, how are you going to break through that noise and actually sell books (succeed)? It will not happen trying to pass the responsibility to someone else (like a marketing department). It happens by taking responsbility for your own success (the first principle of the bestselling The Success Principles from Jack Canfield). I've mentioned Canfield and Victor Hansen's Rule of Five. You may not commit to five actions but what can you do and do it consistently? I'm committed to consistently working at my own success.

2. Re-commit to being a good communicator and writer.

As an editor and writer, I work in the communication business. Even on the holiday with my publisher “closed,” I've been answering a few emails and writing my authors and others. It's a chronic problem throughout the industry: silence. I'm again committed to solid customer service. Yes it takes effort but is well worth it in my view and helps me stand out in a crowded market.

3. Continue my own spiritual development.

While I've rarely written about it in this blog, you can tell from my list of published books and the type of books that I write, I'm a Christian. (Read here for the story of my life change). For many years, I've been reading through the Bible (cover to cover). I select different versions and tools for this reading but I've made another commitment to read through the Bible again during the coming year. These few moments each day feed into my spiritual development and life.

4. Continue my own personal growth.

I often write about different books or online courses or audios or other ways that I'm developing as a writer and communicator. This week I purchased a simple cord to connect my iPhone to the audio system in my car. I download the free audio book through Overdrive and can play the book over my car speakers. I'm constantly learning something new and applying it to my daily life. I hope you will do the same.

5. Continue working on my own health.

Each of us have a finite number of days on the earth and as a writer and editor, I spent a great deal of time sitting (not moving). For over a year, I ignored exercise and my weight showed it. In the last few months, I've recommitted to working on my health (good eating but also consistent exercise). It's not easy and consumes time from other things but is a priority for me (and hopefully for you).

6. Continued commitment to helping others (including you).

As we close out 2015 and begin 2016, I have the continued commitment to teach others what I'm learning about the publishing world. It's been the focus of The Writing Life for years and also my free teleseminars, my personal teaching at conferences, my books and other ways I'm helping like through my tweets. This commitment will continue. In the last couple of days, I reworked and updated my Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. Now this resource is ready to help you and others in the days ahead.

I hope these plans have encouraged you to take action in your writing life. The days ahead will be bright and full of hope. Here's to an exciting New Year.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Five Every Day Actions Grow Your Twitter Followers

I've been on twitter since 2009 and right now my twitter followers are growing at a rate of about 100 new followers a day. While I have many followers, I continue to take several simple and quick actions every day to add to my followers.

1. Refollow

Every day I use a simple tool called Refollow (which I've described in detail before. Follow this link for the details). I use it faithfully because it allows me to follow 800 new people in less than five minutes—but not just anyone—people who are in my target market. I'm targeting individuals who are interested in publishing (books or magazine). It is a critical aspect of using this tool.

About once a week, I'll get an error message that Twitter says I've maxed out my new followers and I can come back tomorrow. I looked and I had only followed about 190 people instead of 800. I've learned to wait about 30 minutes and return to Refollow. Then I repeat the process and follow more followers and the tool begins again to reach new people. Don't believe the error message and persistence pays off with reaching 600 more people than Twitter was going to allow me to reach.

2. Manage Flitter

A second tool I use every day is Manage Flitter. I've also described the use of this tool in detail. Follow the link. I use this tool to eliminate people who have not set up their profile, don't speak English, and are fake or spam followers.  Also it allows me to quickly unfollow people who are not following me back.

3. Scan Your Twitter Home Feed

About once a day, I will scan through home feed on Twitter. I do it on my desktop computer so it is easy to see. I'm looking to block porn, non-English tweets (non-Roman scripts) and anything offensive. This process is quick and I page through my feed. I know I don't catch everything but it is something simple that I do to maintain my followers.

4. Respond to Direct Messages

I use Hootsuite to monitor my direct messages from followers and respond to them. This tool is free and easy to use. The engagement is one of the key reasons to use Twitter. Also notice my Twitter profile includes my personal email address. Often my new followers will email me for help—and I always respond point them to my blog, my free teleseminars, my other free writing resources.  My personal goal is to answer these emails within 24 hours and often I do it quicker. These writers are surprised that I answer since most publishing communication goes into a black hole (no answer) and I provide solid writing resources.

5. Tweet Valuable Content (mostly not mine)

I use Hootsuite to schedule my tweets almost every hour throughout the working hours of a day. Throughout my day I read content of other people and I pass along this valuable content about publishing to my followers. My active tweeting builds followers (and it will for you as well). Also notice for almost every tweet, I include an image (which is part of Hootsuite). It's been proven using images gets more attention for your tweets. 

These simple actions do not consume a lot of time but the fact I do it every day (repeatedly) builds traction and a following on Twitter. I've recently gone over 158,000 followers and have no plans to stop growing my following. You can follow the same steps with consistent action. It will give you more credibility with other writers, catch the attention of literary agents and editors—and help you in ways you can't even imagine. 

I spend most of my days working as an acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, Morgan James. If I can do these steps, then you can find a few minutes to do them. Be encouraged and let me know how it is working for you.

Learn 5 Every Day actions to Grow Your Twitter Followers (Click to Tweet)

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Every Little Girl Needs This Book

During this time of year, everyone is searching for the perfect gift for their child or grandchild.  I want to recommend you consider DISNEY PRINCESS: A MAGICAL POP-UP WORLD. From my experience with children's books, this book is perfect to read aloud to your daughter or granddaughter. The various princesses from classic Disney movies are illustrated in these five page spreads with 27 pop-ups.

You should get this book just to see the incredible paper engineering and enjoy the reading experience with your child. They will love to see each pop-up. I encourage you to keep this book is a special place where an adult supervises and watches the child interact with each pop-up. With care, this book will provide years of fun for every reader. Matthew Reinhart has done a remarkable job with this book.

Insight Editions, the publisher, was also thoughtful about the paper for this book and produced the book in association with Roots of Peace. Two trees will be planted for every tree used in the manufacturing of this book. Roots of Peace is an internationally renowned humanitarian organization dedicated to eradicating land mines worldwide and converting war-torn lands into productive farms and wildlife habitats. Roots of Peace will plant two million fruit and nut trees in Afghanistan and provide farmers there with the skills and support necessary for sustainable land use. This book was manufactured in Thailand.

The DISNEY PRINCESS: A MAGICAL POP-UP WORLD spans eleven films and princesses including fan-favorites such as Rapunzel, Belle, Snow White and Ariel. This book will provide every adult and child hours of fun and entertainment. I highly recommend it.

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Writing Takes Courage

It's not easy to be a writer and push your ideas out into the world.  The process of publishing involves risk and takes courage. I wish there were some guarantees. The only guarantee for the writer is to continually work hard to expand their platform and reach their audience.

Through twitter, often writers will reach out to me through email and ask how I can help them. My answer depends on their situation and what they need. Recently a self-published novelist approached me for help. She had sold 35 copies of her book and wanted to know what to do next. I sent her a number of links and ideas. Her situation is fairly typical. What authors don't often consider if they self-publish is they are taking 100% of the responsibility for selling the book and completely on their own (no one helping them). Another aspect they don't know (because they often aren't a part of publishing) is they are jumping into relationship with a company publishing at least 50,000 titles a year (follow this link if you don't believe the number and I know these numbers are four years old and only increasing).

In my exchange with this novelist, I offered to review her book and possibly pitch it to my publication board at Morgan James Publishing. I say “possibly” because I do not do this for every author or every type of book.  As an acquisitions editor, my responsibility is to look for the right book and the right author. We have standards and criteria—unlike self-publishing. We only publish about 150 books a year and receive over 5,000 submissions for those few spots. My job involves this sorting process looking for quality and the right authors. If (and that could be a big if) the submission is appropriate and well-done, then I process the submission into the publisher system and later schedule a time to speak with the author.

She did some research online and learned there might be a financial investment so she balked sending me her “lifetime work.” The key is there “might” be an investment—if she even sends it and if she gets an offer to publish. There are many unknowns in this process but the writer has to have courage and move ahead. As an acquisitions editor, I invest hours with authors talking to them about the unique way books are published at Morgan James.

It does not mean the process is easy or simple but it is possible. I'm sincere on my twitter profile where I offer to help authors and give my personal email address. I help in many different ways:

1. Answering my email and returning phone calls. This type of prompt communication is different in a publishing world which doesn't respond. Often writers feel like their submissions and emails and manuscripts go into a black hole.

2. Sending them to my free information like this article in The Writing Life or on Right-Writing or one of my numerous free teleseminars.

3. Sometimes I offer for the author to send their manuscript to my work email then process the submission and see if I can get them a book contract. Each step in the process for them to move forward takes courage and action. In this process, you need to work with people you can trust—but also people who give you a realistic picture of the process. I tell every author that I speak with about Morgan James that it is 80% their responsibility. Also I make sure I tell them about how bookstores buy books and the authors key role in that process. It's key to manage their expectations and help them understand the important role of every author in the process of getting their book into the market.

When we think of courage, often a lion illustrates courage because of their behavior. As writers we need to have courage and take action with our writing.

Books change lives. I know first hand how a book changed my life. It does not happen sitting on your computer or in your desk drawer. It takes courage to take action and get it out into the world. Do something courageous with your writing today.

Get these insights on writing takes courage. (Click to Tweet)

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