Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why You Must Follow-up

These words could change the course of your writing career—if you take action and follow-up. I know this is a bold statement but I want to explain why I'm saying it.

During a writers' conference, I meet with many different writers. I listen to their ideas (pitches), read some of their work and then respond saying something like, “I love this idea and concept. Please send it to me.”

At this point in the process, we exchange business cards and I tell the writer to send the proposal or partial manuscript or all of the manuscript to my work email address as an attachment. The writer will frequently circle my email and make a note on their business card. If they have an extra hard copy, I will take this document home with me. Why? So I can follow-up our conversation with an email (and sometimes a phone call).

If you respond to this request, then you will be among the few from the conference who take such action. I understand the challenges of life. You return home from the event and plunge into your family and life. All sorts of things pull at your attention and prevent you from sending the requested manuscript.

Several of the people I met with gave me flash drives with their submission. Even during the conference, I used these flash drives and put their work into our internal system at Morgan James Publishing. Later this week those writers will receive a letter of acknowledgement in the mail (part of our unusual practice at Morgan James). To be honest, it does not mean they will receive a contract from the publisher or be published with the company since there are still a number of other steps to go before that happens. But they have taken a huge step in the right direction.

We work with people that we know, like and trust. This principle is a basic of sound business. It's true that we receive thousands of submissions and only publish about 150 books a year yet even with the mounds of material to examine, I am always looking for solid authors to publish.

Over the next few days, I will be creating and sending follow-up emails to the people who gave me promising proposals and submissions and exchanges. I follow-up to encourage the writer to take action and send me their submission. When they send the requested material (electronically) then they will keep moving forward in the process and possibly get their book published. It never happens if they do not follow-up and take action.

Years ago my first book was published after a conversation with an editor during a writers' conference. She encouraged my pitch and asked me to send my manuscript to her. I made a note about it, went home, wrote the manuscript and sent it. There were many more steps in the process before my book was published but the ball began rolling from my follow-up action.

Sometimes authors will follow-up with me many months after my request. That is OK with me because eventually they took action. I'm always eager to read their material and keep it moving in the process.

What follow-up work do you need to do with your writing? It might be a short email to an editor or literary agent? Maybe you've sent something and never got a response. Did they receive it? You must follow-up. Each of us as professionals have many things in motion. Your follow-up work is critical to the process and why you must follow-up.


Why you must follow-up. Here's some insights from a much-published editor. (ClickToTweet)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How Writers Can Attract Editors and Agents

As writers, we want literary agents and editors to love our words and be attracted to our book proposals and manuscript pitches. The process is subjective and each editor and agent is looking for what will be right for their agency or their publishing house.  Yet after years in this business, we are attracted to great writing (and you don't have to read much of a manuscript to recognize excellence). Also writers who understand their target audience—and more importantly know how to reach them are attractive.

Today I want to give you four ways you can become more attractive to an agent or editor. This attraction factor can show up in any type of communication such as a phone call, an email or in person. I want to begin with something that does not attract or attracts negative attention. Recently I was corresponding with a novelist who was pitching her novella. She said, “I am no marketer.” As an editor, I don't want to work with an author who has this attitude. It started me thinking about how writers can attract literary agents and editors.

1. Have the Right Mindset. You may long to be a “writer” or “storyteller” and not a marketer. I understand and you are exactly like every other writer with this longing.  Yet saying such words to an editor or agent does not attract them.  In fact, it can drive them away from you. These publishing professionals are looking for authors who “get it.” If you have the right mindset, you understand you have to build your audience and work every day at being connected to readers. Everything begins with the right attitude or mindset.

2. Commit to consistent time to learning about the craft of writing and how to build your audience. It will take time to build your email list or your following. Get ideas from my free ebook, Platform-Building Ideas for Every Author. Your consistent effort in this area will pay off.

3. Don't let rejection get to you. When Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected repeatedly as they pitched Chicken Soup for the Soul (before they were published and when they were looking for a publisher), with each rejection they looked each other and said, “Next.” See the upbeat and looking ahead way they handled rejection. When you get rejected (and yes it will happen because it still happens to me after all these years), say the word, “Next” and move forward to the next opportunity.

4. It takes persistence to find the right publisher and editor for you. Editors and agents are looking for great material that will sell (subjective I know). You can be attractive to these professionals as you hone your pitch and test it with other writers. Get it down to a sentence or two that pulls the agent or editor to want to know more details.

Your persistence will pay off and if I can help in this process, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'm always looking and as an acquisitions editor, I send contracts to authors every week.


Discover 4 Keys for Writers to Attract Editors and Agents. (ClickToTweet)
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

4 Ways NOT to Be A "Lost Author"

Last week I attended Book Expo America, the largest trade show for books in the U.S. I was there because of my work as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. Thousands of booksellers, media, librarians and others from the publishing industry were showing their latest and forthcoming books. It was exciting to see bestselling authors and enthusiastic readers of books.

This massive event can be overwhelming—especially to the new author. Several times during the week, I met authors who were “lost.” Now to be honest some of them didn't know they were lost. From my interaction with them, I knew they were in this category.

In different places of this trade show, there are small booth exhibitors. One booth was attracting people with fresh cookies. I stopped but didn't eat a cookie. I listened to the author. This former journalist had written a novel. I recognized the book was self-published from a company where I've met authors who have spent $20,000 with them and the books are only online and not inside any brick and mortar bookstore. I asked if she fell into this category in terms of her personal investment. To my relief, she had not. Wisely this author had spent most of her budget on editing her book.

As I listened to her pitch about the book, I learned she had written a civil war historical novel based on her part of the South. The cover was a “different” looking drawing (not your typical eye-catching book cover). I could hear the passion in this author's voice. It was not only a historical novel but a young adult time travel fantasy. See the challenge for booksellers and librarians to process this string of categories? It doesn't neatly fall into a single place in the bookstore or library. While I admired her passion and commitment to market her book, I knew this author was lost in the market and probably had no idea why her book wasn't getting attention and readers.

A little later, I met another author. This former pro-athlete who gave me a copy of his book.  I took a quick look and noticed it was also self-published. The book was small and an odd size. When I opened it, the typeface was not what you find in books and had full color photos. This author had passion and had invested in publishing his book—yet I knew he was also lost and unsure how to find readers and sell books.

While self-publishing is exploding with almost 5,000 new books entering the market every day, my personal bent is to get the broadest exposure for my writing and books. In other words, I want my books to be available online but also in brick and mortar bookstores. I want to give you four ways not to be a “lost author.”

1. Study the publishing world and get to a writers' conference, take classes and meet experienced professionals. I'm speaking at several events so check them out and I'd love to meet you at one of these conferences.

2. Write a good book. Your book needs a good foundation so make sure you have a target audience in mind and are writing for that audience. Get an outside editor or join a critique group to get feedback on your book before publishing it. 

3. Create a book which fits the market. The details matter in publishing. Even if you are going to self-publish, make sure you have an attractive cover and interior. Show the cover to the target market and get their honest feedback. Does your book look like books from major publishers? Does it have a little logo on the bottom of the book spine? If not, change it so it does. You don't want people to wonder about such details but to simply accept your book as a solid product.

4. Take your own responsibility to market and tell people about books. Get others to give honest reviews for your book. Tell the media about your book and get booked on radio programs and other venues.

Even if you do everything “right” with a solid publisher or have a literary agent, not every book sells or some books still have dismal sells or they take several years to take off. There is no set formula for a book to sell but there are good practices in publishing.


Are You A “Lost Author?” Here's Four Ways NOT to Be “Lost” (ClickToTweet)

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Monday, May 09, 2016

Social Proof Is Required for Experts and Teachers

If you are an author or speaker or teacher or expert, are you backing up your expertise with social proof?

With a few key strokes on Google, anyone can check out the background and expertise of another person. Now admittedly not everything on the Internet is true (a fact you have to keep in mind) but each of us have access to the information. 

Last week I was teaching at a writers' conference. During a break, I checked out the bookstore and noticed one of the participants had written a book with tips about Twitter. As I flipped through the book, it had some good information. Then I wondered about the credentials of the author. With my smartphone, I found this author on Twitter and began to follow her. I noticed the number of her followers (less than 1,000). To “qualify” as a Twitter expert, I expected this author to be above average with at least several thousand followers. Next I checked out her page for this book on Amazon. This book had been out several years and had four reviews. To her credit, these reviews were Four and Five Star but they were few in number—not at least 25 reviews or hundreds of reviews for this book. I did not purchase the book at the conference because this author did not have the social proof to be writing on this topic.

While at the conference,  I taught a class on the business of writing and included information about some of my own social media techniques. In the weeks ahead, I will be teaching this workshop at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference as well as at Write To Publish. Anyone can follow me on Twitter or check out my books online. They will discover my social proof backs up my expertise for what I'm teaching.

Everyone has to begin their platform building and their presence in the marketplace some place. If you want my free ebook on Platform Building Ideas for Every Author, follow this link. For many years I've been encouraging authors to blogwrite book reviews, get reviews for their own books and take an active role in social media. You have to be wise about the amount of time you spend on these endeavors because they can become a huge time suck. But it does not have to consume massive amounts of time. The key is consistent and focused effort.

My caution is to understand you need to build the background and expertise in an area before you jump in and publish a book or teach a class about it. If you are just beginning in a particular topic or area, one key method to build expertise is through the world of print magazines. If you don't know how to get started,  follow this link for a detailed article. In general, print has a higher standard of excellence than online publications. The articles are short and easy to create through interviewing others or your own background. As these articles appear in print, they will add to your own expertise in a topic and give you this required social proof to begin writing books or teaching workshops on the topic.  


Teaching on a Topic or an Expert? Why Do You Need Social Proof? Find out here. (ClickToTweet)

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Four Tips To Meet Your Deadlines

Meeting deadlines is one of those basics that I learned years ago as a journalism student in high school and then college. What I didn't know back then is writers are notoriously late on their deadlines (magazine or book deadlines). If you consistently hit your deadlines with quality writing (key), then you will stand out from other writers.

When I became an acquisitions editor years ago, I sat in hours of scheduling meetings where we went through all of our books to see if they were on schedule or not and made adjustments to the schedule. 

Authors have no idea about these meetings and the trauma you cause to your own book when you miss a contract deadline. Your book may not get sent out to reviewers or the press release may get skipped or the catalog copy on your book may be wrong or any number of other things. Yes you got sick or your child or grandchild got sick and you needed two more weeks or a month extra. You will not see the results of your moved deadline for several years when your book doesn't find your audience or has poor sales. That is the truth of publishing.

Here are four tips about deadlines:

1. Understand the importance of hitting the deadlines large and small. You will be positioned as a different writer if you hit or exceed your deadlines--since most of your colleagues miss them or slide them. In this crowded market where there are many submissions, you want to stand out as a writer. One of the easy ways to stand out is to meet your deadlines.

2. Use reminder tools. Most of us have a smart phone and there is an app called reminders. I use it all the time to set up a reminder about a deadline I need to hit. That deadline may be writing or a call I need to make or something personal. It flashes on my phone on that time and date.

3. When the inspiration strikes, work ahead. I have been blogging at least once a week for years--but I've learned to crank out the draft of the blog in a few minutes. I've also learned to schedule blog posts--something I didn't know or use at first. Learn to use these different features and it will help you.

4. Create your own system for meeting deadlines and creating great content. Everyone wonders how I tweet so much with great content. I've developed a system (follow this link to learn details about my system). You will have to find your own system but I use tools like Hootsuite to post content on a schedule (free). I also have created a plan for each day and a template that I fill in with different tweets. For example, every day I begin with an inspirational quote and if I have room, I include a photo (to get attention). I find these quotes all the time and put them into future tweets. It only takes seconds but helps me.

Hit your deadlines for magazines or books or blogs or whatever. It's important and will distinguish you in the writing community.


Discover why writers need to meet deadlines and four quick tips to achieve it. (ClickToTweet)

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