Monday, September 25, 2017

Move Beyond Bleeding on the Page

Within the writing community, I've often read, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

According to Ryan Holiday in his book, The Perennial Seller, this statement is attributed to Ernest Hemingway. Then Holiday continues saying, “This is a wonderful, seductive line as we consider sitting down at our proverbial typewriters. The problem is that it is preposterous and untrue.  It is directly contradicted by Hemingway's own meticulously edited, often handwritten manuscript pages. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has some forty-seven alternative endings for Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. He rewrite the first part of the book, by his own count, more than fifty times. He wrote all of them, trying them like pieces of a puzzle until one finally fit.” (Page 37-38--and the italic emphasis is from Holiday)

From my study of writing, this aspect of the writing life is rarely discussed: there is hard work involved to practice the craft of storytelling and write something which sells well and continues selling year after year.  The successful writers continue to learn and grow in their craft—and also grow their audience or tribe or platform. You can pick your term because different people interchange these terms. The work of writing is way more than bleeding on the page.

As a writer, I encourage you to continue to grow in your craft and your skills. You need to be practicing your writing craft with continuing to work on longer work like books but also writing shorter articles for magazines and blogs and other places.  I've been publishing for many years but I continue to read a book about writing every month—and grow from reading those books.
In addition to studying about writing, I continue to try new programs and learn new skills. As I look at the various types of media that I have online, I have one area which is lacking—video.  I do not have a YouTube channel nor have I recorded many videos. 

Last week, I made some progress in this area. I've joined the faculty of the Serious Writer Academy. As a part of this faculty, I learned to record on video one of my writing workshops: Editors Read Book Proposals Not Manuscripts. Over the years, I've taught this workshop at numerous writers conferences—but it has never been recorded—until now. Just use the link in this paragraph and you can learn about the video and the cost details about accessing and taking this workshop. In the days ahead, I plan to record and launch additional workshops as a part of Serious Writer Academy.

As a writer, make sure you plan to attend a writer's conference. Follow this link to see a list of several conferences. Also make sure you check my speaking schedule and see where I'll be teaching in the weeks ahead. I'd love to meet with you face to face during one of these events.

If you want to keep up with what I'm learning, one of the best ways is to regularly read my posts on twitter. A second way would become an email subscriber to this blog on the Writing Life. Use this link. It has over 1400 entries and I add new entries every week.

As a conclusion to this article, I want to show you a short video about bestselling author Ann Patchett who also owns an independent bookstore. The video contains a lot of current information and insight about what is going on in the ever-changing world of publishing.

With my work for Morgan James Publishing, I'm working with authors to get them a book contract all the time. Sometime people will ask what I'm looking for. My answer is always “good stuff.” We publish many different types of books at Morgan James. I understand “good stuff” is subjective but I also know that I recognize quality work when I see it. When you are ready to pitch your book, reach out to me and let me know how I can help you. My work  contact information is on the bottom of the second page of this link.

In the comments below, let me know what active steps you are taking to move beyond bleeding on the page.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

How To Keep Moving When Stopped

Recently I was driving into downtown Denver for breakfast with a Morgan James author. There are many one-way streets in this section of the city. Suddenly the street where I was going was blocked off and had a detour. Without even a second thought, I turned and followed the detour and soon was back on track heading toward my meeting place. I did not let the detour throw me off from my destination. I did not get put off and quit and return home but found the way forward. My response comes from years of driving experience and understanding that sometimes roads are blocked and you have to locate the way around the roadblock.

Just like driving and finding roadblocks to get around, the writing world often has roadblocks and detours. Maybe you pitch an editor who requested your manuscript and you don't get a response. I've been working with an author who has a children's book and she has been promising to send it to me. It has never come. A few weeks ago when I saw this author in person, she asked me if I had received it. My conversation with her was the first I had known she had even finished it and tried to send it. No, I had not received it. She promised to resend it—and that still has not happened. We depend on things like email when sometimes even email breaks down and doesn't reach the intended editor.

From my years in publishing, I find every step of the process has pitfalls and potential breaks in communication. Editors don't respond to your magazine pitches or a program which you use often isn't working or someone promises to review your book and doesn't follow through. These types of roadblocks happen all the time.

How do you respond to a roadblock? Do you stop and say to yourself, “Guess no one wanted that idea.” “Or “it wasn't meant to be.”  Or do you persevere and look for another way to move around the roadblock?  The writers who succeed (and that measure of success is different for each of us)—find their way around the barriers.

Earlier this year, I wrote about listening to Lauren Graham's memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. She sat next to best-selling author, James Patterson and ask him, “How do you do it?”

Patterson responded, “Keep going, keep going, keep going.” As writers, each of us get rejected. Our plans get interrupted and changed.  My encouragement is to continue looking and find the path forward. If you are struggling with an area, then create a new habit or new system to help with this area. Your goals and dreams as a writer are important.

The stories of persistent and perseverance in the face of challenges is often a theme in different biographies and how-to books that I've heard recently (check my list of books here). In Robert Greene's Mastery, he told the story of Henry Ford and his early failures and persistence to ultimately form the Ford Motor Corporation.
Admiral William H. McRaven told about his persistence in his Navy seal training in Make Your Bed. Historian David McCullough told about the early failures of Harry S. Truman in Truman. While he had no college education, Truman became the 33rd  President of the United States. I learned valuable lessons from each of these successful people. Persistence and perseverance is an important quality for every writer.

Tell me in the comments below, what actions you take to continue and move forward with your writing.


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Monday, September 11, 2017

Celebrate the Writing Journey

I often meet writers with big dreams: writing and selling a bestseller for example. They want to win contests or writing awards or speak at large events. I applaud these dreams and encourage them yet today I want to celebrate and write about a different aspect of the writing life—the journey.

The writing journey is filled with many different twists and turns in the road. The process of getting the ideas and stories in your head down on paper takes hours of work and creativity. It's not easy but involves sweat and hard work. Beth Vogt recently included this quotation from Colin Powell: “ A dream doesn't become reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

I encourage you to understand the process and enjoy the journey.

  • Did you get an email from someone telling you about how your book helped them? Did you ask them to write a review on Amazon and send them a little link to that page? Celebrate.
  • Did you meet a new editor who can publish your material in their magazine? Celebrate.
  • Did you complete a magazine query letter that you sent out to a number of publications at the same time? Celebrate.
  • Did you read a new book which gave you insight into your own writing? Celebrate.
  • Did you write a review of a book you read on Amazon and Goodreads? Celebrate.
  • Did you meet your word count goal for writing your current work in progress? Celebrate.
  • Did you get out of your chair and walk around the block or exercise to help your health and physical health? Celebrate.
  • Did you reach out to an old friend when you read their article (or newsletter) and it touched your life? Celebrate.

I was listening to Darren Hardy in one of his Darren Daily recordings discuss the successful people that he's interviewed. His fascination (and learning) is not their particular achievement or way they were made famous. His keen interest is in the lessons and process they went through to achieve that success. His focus is what I'm driving at in this particular article: the writing journey.

The road is not easy. At times you fail (get rejected). Other times you publish a beautiful book that you promote and market—yet few people buy it. Yes these situations happen. When it happens to you, what do you do? Keep moving forward or quit. I hope you keep moving forward because from my experience the people who succeed in publishing understand that rejection and failure is part of the journey.

The publishing journey is full of twists and turns. Not everything goes smoothly. Almost daily I face some technical glitch. Do I let that glitch completely throw my day or do I press on to something else that I can accomplish, then work on that later?  The longer I'm in this business, I try and take the second action. It's a process to learn to do what you can do and be grateful for those action—and to let the rest go.

Is celebration a part of your writing journey? I hope so. Tell me in the comments below. 


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Monday, September 04, 2017

Why I Give Away Books -- And You Should Too

If you have a published book, you have a powerful tool in your arsenal. I hate to admit it but when I entered publishing years ago, I was tight (cheap) with my books. Each time I gave away a book, I was thinking about what that book cost for me to purchase it. As the years have passed, I've become less cautious about the actual cost and more aware of the way books can help others. In this article, I want to give you some reasons to give away your books.

At a recent Morgan James author event in Nashville, I asked one of the authors for her business card. She didn't have one. Immediately she said, “Why don't I give you a book and I will write my website into my book?” Your book can be the perfect business card in that situation. This author has been around publishing many years. I'm certain she had no idea that I've written over 800 Amazon reviews. I gratefully received her book and carried the book home. A week or so later, I read the book cover to cover. It was excellent and I wrote a short book review on Amazon and Goodreads. While this author had recently launched her book, she only had eight book reviews. My short review helped her add to this number and I told others about my review through a short tweet with the book on twitter. 

To be realistic, I understand that my response to the gift of a book is not your normal response—but you can suggest readers post a review on Amazon and Goodreads as you hand them your book. Simply from the power of your suggestion, some people will do it.

At the same event, another Morgan James author asked for a copy of my Billy Graham book. I pulled it out, autographed it and handed it to her. She promised to read it and write a review.  Each time I discover a new review, gives me an opportunity to tell others about this review on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).  Marketing people understand a reader has to hear about your book seven or eight times (at least) before they decide to purchase your book. With each new review, you should seize the opportunity on social media to tell others. That exposure is building and adding to the time when that reader will purchase your book.

Here's several reasons to give away your books:

1. Books change lives of readers. I know books change lives because years ago, I read a book called Jesus the Revolutionary and it changed my life. You can watch me tell my story about the book in this short video. Or you can read my story in this magazine article called Two Words That Changed My Life

2. Books in the right hands can help you promote your book. Be watching for other readers and others who write reviews of books and give them a book. Also be generous with people who are in the media to give them copies of your book. 

Be prepared to give away your books. Carry the books in your car or briefcase and use them as you have the opportunity. 

Finally, follow up with the individuals after you have given away your book. In your follow-up note, tell them what you would like them to do and make it easy for them to do it. If you aren't telling them (asking), they may not think of the idea on their own. Your follow-up note can be simple saying something like:

“I’d appreciate it if you could leave your honest review of my Billy Graham book in three places:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1gYtzbx

Barnes & Noble.com: http://bit.ly/1zLviz6

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1rTDzYB  Your review will be a huge help.”

Notice several details about my follow-up note. It was short, specific and I gave them the actual links to go to the right location online to leave their review. You can use my follow-up note as a template for your own actions with others.

If you are generous with your books (give them away) and tell people what you need from them, many of them will be glad to help you. Are you continually giving away your books and then following up with these people? Let me know what you are doing in the comments below.


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