Monday, May 29, 2017

Why Trade Shows Are Important

This week the largest book trade show in the United States will take place in New York City called Book Expo America. I'm looking forward to attending this event. While I've been going to trade shows for many years, I know many writers have never been to one nor understand why they are important. In this article I'm going to cover some of these basics.

Almost every field has trade shows which are closed to the public but draw thousands of participants. Librarians, booksellers, retailers, publishers and many others attend these closed events. The first step is to make sure you can get into the event. By closed, I mean it is not open to the public.

Last week one of my Morgan James authors from California, planned to meet at Book Expo, had booked his plane ticket and hotel, then emailed me that he wasn't sure how to get into the event. We worked out the details to get him into the event but you should take care of first things, first. Can you get into the event? Publishers, exhibitors, vendors and media are all ways you can get into the closed event. Often in years past, I've registered as a journalist, writing for a particular publication.

When I arrive at the event, I find the media or press room to get my credentials to get into the show. When I say the event is closed, there is someone standing at every entrance checking badges and credentials. If you don't have the credential, then you can't enter the event. The registration place is different for different categories of participants.

Ok, so you know it is difficult to get into this event but why do you want to get inside this closed trade show?

Book publishers and others related to the publishing industry exhibit their latest products at Book Expo America. There are miles (no exaggeration) of exhibits.  The publishers are giving out books which will not release to the public until the fall. Most of these books are marked as “advanced reading copies” and not for sale. It is a way for you to read books before their actual entrance or launch into the marketplace. Publishers give away bags so you can carry these giveaways.

Over the years, I've learned the hard way to execute some common sense with these giveaways. Why? The exhibit hall is a long way from your hotel room. You have to figure out what to do with these bags of free books and whether you want to lug them all over the event with you.

Literary agents and editors are attending Book Expo. I've reached out to a number of people and scheduled meetings during the event. Also from my planning, I have learned about agents who are not attending and I will have to meet with them in another way (phone, email, etc). These face to face meetings can be a productive aspect of attending the trade show.

During the event, I will bring lots of business cards and exchange them freely to form new relationships. Also I've learned to keep my eyes open because you never know who you will see at such an event. I've seen editors and publishers who I've known many years. I've seen celebrities and well-known authors at this event.

Your activities after attending a trade show are also important. I'm talking about the follow-up on ideas and connections and new projects. I've formed many important relationships at trade shows and understand the importance of them for my writing life. There are several keys:

1. Work it out so you can attend — i.e. get inside.

2. Form new relationships and connections

3. Follow-up on the opportunities.

One of the reasons I enjoy Book Expo is the entire trade show is focused on books. For many years I attended the Christian Booksellers Trade Show which was renamed the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). With the name change, ICRS grew their gift (non-book) aspects until it is almost 50% of the exhibit floor space. ICRS has grown smaller each year and for the last two years been held in Cincinnati, Ohio or a venue which it could not have done years ago. I haven't been to the ICRS event for at least seven years.

Trade shows can be valuable to writers but it takes careful planning and follow-up. Let me know in the comments if you have been to a trade show and what you have gained from it.


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Monday, May 22, 2017

Insights about Getting Book Reviews

Often I see books launch into the market with zero reviews or only a few reviews. With over 4500 new books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for any author to find readers—and to find readers who will write a few sentences of honest review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads and other sites.

In this article, I want to encourage authors to take an active role at getting book reviews and give you some resources and insights.

First, take your own responsibility for getting book reviews. Whether your book is brand new or has been out for a while, continually work at getting reviews. When you get a review—especially a positive one—promote or tout that review on your social media connections (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). Go to this article from Tim Grahl about Amazon reviews, scroll down to the bottom and get his free download because of the tools you will get to help you gather reviews.

Second, study this article from Jim Cox, editor-in-chief at Midwest Book Review. Notice the article is 16 pages of information and I encourage you to print it and study it. I am on Jim's email list and found this interview with Shelby Londyn-Heath was filled with insights. Jim has been in his position for 40 years and provides an amazing free service to help people discover books. I want to make several points from this article:

* They receive an average of 2,000 titles a month to review and select 600 to 700 a month to actually review.

* Books are rejected for possible review for several reasons including not following their submission guidelines, poor covers and serious production problems.

*Midwest Book Review emphasizes self-published books and books from small presses. Cox explains his reasons in this article. He also encourages authors to produce excellent books—edited and designed well. These foundational elements are missing in many books and some of the reasons for books not to be reviewed (rejected in this process).

Third, learn about how to get book reviews. I interviewed Dana Lynn Smith on this topic and have a free teleseminar teaching authors about how to get book reviews.

With the sheer volume of books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for authors to get book reviews. Write a great book. Produce a great book (design and production is important) then finally take action to get your book reviewed. I've seen a number of books that have well-done production, great endorsements and zero or few reviews. The details are important and I encourage you to take an active role on this process of getting book reviews.


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Monday, May 15, 2017

The Value of Consistent Book Marketing

From my years in publishing, I find many writers expect to have instant success. While they may not say it verbally, they show this expectation in other ways. It makes sense since we live in a fast-moving, instant message world. One of the ways I see this expectation is in contract negotiations with new authors. In the details of the contract sometimes writers try and narrow the length of the contract to two or three years. I understand their desire but I often end up explaining that books sometimes take several years to take off and reach the public. At Morgan James Publishing, we've had a number of books with modest sales in the beginning, but the author consistently works at marketing and spreading the word about their book. These authors try multiple approaches to reach their audience. Then almost without explanation, their book begins to consistently sell in large numbers—month after month.

It is one of the truths in publishing that consistent regular action is the path to success. Whether it is trying to write a 100,000 word novel or a 60,000 word nonfiction book or a book proposal or sell a magazine article. The process of taking consistent action will eventually pay off.  You will complete the novel. You will finish writing the nonfiction book or book proposal. You will find an editor who wants to publish your magazine article.

Marketing a book is not a sprint but more of a marathon where slow and steady rules the day. Penny Sansevieri is a marketing expert who runs a book marketing company. 5-MINUTE BOOK MARKETING FOR AUTHORS is filled with practical, easy to apply information. Sansevieri gives the straight scoop in the opening page, “With more than 4500 books published every day, unless you’re a big name, you can’t afford to set it and forget it. It’s true that the success of a book doesn’t happen overnight; the biggest constant in the publishing industry is that consistent, regular exposure of your books is the best way to reach your book marketing goals.”

Each chapter of this book is designed to encourage authors to take action. As Sansevieri writes, “You only fail if you fail to try! So dig in with me, and learn some great marketing efforts that you can begin in around five minutes!” (Page 11). There is a wide range of action in this book from Goodreads to Amazon to ebook pricing to website to newsletters to social media (Facebook, twitter and Pinterest). Whether you are a brand new author or an experienced author, you can gain valuable insights from 5-MINUTE BOOK MARKETING FOR AUTHORS.

Author insights are embedded into each chapter. For example, the chapter on how to get the best Amazon reviews begins, “Reviews can really help to drive the sale of a book. In fact, several marketing survey companies have cited that 61% of online purchases were made after reading a review.” (Page 45)

Sansevieri is an author but also works with authors all the time. She designed this book with short chapters and each one concludes with a “5-Minute Marketing Action Item” For example, “Join a Giveaway Group (on Goodreads).  Groups are quick and easy to join. You can see what members are excited about and get them excited about your title. The more you engage with potential fans, especially in your genre, the better!” (page 21)

Why are a variety of actions and strategies included? Sansevieri explains, “It’s important for you to remember that there’s no one marketing strategy that will help attract and retain fans. Instead, marketing is a series of actions and consistent engagement over time that will help you to grow your following and keep them engaged.” (Page 88).

As a long-time member of the publishing community as an author and editor, I learned a great deal from reading 5-MINUTE BOOK MARKETING FOR AUTHORS. I highly recommend every author get this book then start applying it to their own book marketing.

I want to return to where I started this article: consistent, steady action will pay off. Remember the parable of the race between the tortoise and the hare. It was the slow and steady tortoise that beat the hare. From my experience, it is the same in publishing. Too many writers quit too soon and never get their work published or achieve the book sales that they dream about. It is critical to keep going and not give up. 

Have you had this experience ? If so, tell me in the comment section.

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Monday, May 08, 2017

In Praise of the Educated Writer

While I've been in the publishing community many years, I continue to learn new information all the time. I'm committed to a life-time learning process. I've watched several of my writing friends who stop learning and figure they have reached their level in the market. 

From my experience, this attitude of arrival is self-fulfilling for them as I also watch the stall of their careers. Authors with this attitude only get to workshops when they are teaching and don't read how-to magazines or books. I encourage you not to fall into this attitude trap—no matter where you are on the spectrum of published authors.

There are many ways for writers to get educated and here's a few of them:

--online groups
--writer's groups
--critique groups
--one on one mentoring or coaching
--blogs and other online articles
--online courses like my Write A Book Proposal course

From my experience, I know a great deal of publishing is about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right material—timing is crucial. As someone who has reviewed thousands of manuscripts and book proposals, I can read a few paragraphs and know whether the writer is educated about the market and publishing.

The opposite is also true. I can tell whether the writer has sprayed their proposal far and wide without any thought about what our publishing house is producing. Recently an author mailed a self-published book to the Morgan James office in New York City. A little online research would tell you quickly that I work remote and live in Colorado. Our office forwarded the book to me and I opened it. First, I was amazed at the size (over 700 pages) then I looked at the title and the contents (targeted to the New Age market). While Morgan James publishes some Christian books (about 30 each year), they are not a “Christian” publisher yet this view is across the board in the published books (i.e. our fiction has no sex or curse words and the publisher would not publish a New Age book). While I admire the enthusiasm of this writer, he had not taken the few minutes to get educated and targeted with his submission. I read numerous books outside of what I do at Morgan James and often write book reviews. Yet this book would not be one that I would even read a few pages.

What steps are you taking to get educated as a writer? 

Literary agents and publishers receive thousands of submissions. The standout ones that get published come from thoughtful, educated writers.


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Monday, May 01, 2017

Why Writers Need to Manage Their Information

Each of us moving quickly but are you carefully managing your data? We meet people at conferences and exchange business cards. As a practice, if you don't get a card, ask for one. You return home from an event, what do you do with this information? Do you throw the card away or into a drawer? Do you follow-up or keep the information?

1. Follow-up exchange emails. Shortly after a conference, I reach out with a short email to the people who I've exchanged cards and met during the event. The exchange shows validates that I've put the correct email into my system and gives us a brief connection.

2. Get the information into your computer or phone so you can locate and use later. I put the information I've collected either in my computer or some of it on my phone. Then I can easily locate it and use it later if needed.

In recent weeks, I've been working on the audio book version of my Billy Graham biography.  At first I was going to read the book myself, but I realize reading an audio book is a skill and one I would need to learn. Others can read the book.  I selected a short sample for auditions and the audio book was put out for auditions. We received a record breaking 28 responses. I listened to most of the samples and working with my Morgan James colleagues we selected one excellent reader to record the book.

I listen to a number of audio books. One of the ways to set apart the Billy Graham audio book is to add a short clip from the hymn Just As I Am. Searching online for a recording, I found a beautiful rendition from the Gaithers. You can watch this short video here:

To use any of this recording in my audio book, I needed permission. Thankfully over ten years ago, I met Gloria Gaither and exchanged emails with her back then.   Now with a current need, I looked in my files and still had her contact information (which I had not used in ten years).

Because I still had Gloria Gaither's contact information, I wrote a short email, reminding her of our exchange years ago, then asking for permission for the short audio clip. Within a few hours, I got a response—and royalty-free permission to use the clip. To be clear, this audio book is still in process and I don't know yet if the short audio clip will be used in the final product--but at least it is being considered and possibly may appear in the final audio. The experience showed me again the power of information and the need to keep this information in a format you can easily access when needed.

This basic skill is something I've been doing for many years as I travel to conferences and events. You can do it as well—whether you are just beginning as a writer or you are a seasoned professional. The information does little good in a stack of business cards. It should be put into some computer system where you can access it later and even transfer it from computer to computer. Yes every now and then we upgrade and change computers. Create a system for collecting this information that will transfer from machine to machine.

Another resource in this area is LinkedIn. I've had a profile on LinkedIn many years and have many connections with primarily editors and others in the publishing business.  Like any field, publishing is filled with continual shifts and changes. Yet if you have a connection with someone on LinkedIn, they will take that connection with them—even if they change companies. Sometimes when I do not have the information in my address book, then I go to LinkedIn and see if I have it there.

It is rare that I reach out to many of my connections, but because I do it judiciously and in frequently, I find often they will respond to my requests and needs. By the same token, these responses are a two-way street.  If I am asked to do something for them, my default answer is “yes” if at all possible.

Do you gather and maintain this type of contact information on the different people who you meet and cross your paths? How are you using it? Tell us in the comment section below.


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