Sunday, October 29, 2017

Are You A Rule Breaker?

Some writers intentionally want to rebel and break the rules to produce something different which stands out in the market. I understand this feeling but to break the rules, you have to know and understand them in the first place.

From my many years in publishing, I've worked hard to continually grow and learn about the market—and give the reader (and the editor or agent), what they want. Every magazine and publishing company has expectations and a target market. For example, last night a publishing colleague introduced me to a published author who has written his first novel. I learned this novel is edited and completed yet I haven't seen it yet (but I did request that the author to send it to me). From the beginning I spotted something outside of the lines. The novel is 134,000 words—and our fiction guidelines say we have a 100,000 word limit. Until I see the novel and speak with the author, I have no idea if it will be a fit or not. 

Maybe our publishing team will love the concept and publish a little larger novel. Or possibly the author will know how he can cut it to the 100,000 limit. Anything and everything is possible in the publishing process but first things first, the author has to send me his material.

Last week another author sent me her nonfiction book manuscript. She told me the bulk of this book had been sitting on her computer for three years and she finally got it out to someone. I'm honored with these submissions and will be exploring if it is the right book for Morgan James to publish. So how do you learn the rules and where to send your material? In this article, I want to give you several methods of learning these rules.

First, get the guidelines for the magazine or the book publisher—and carefully study these instructions. if you follow these guidelines, you will gain a “reading” or “hearing” from the editor or literary agent. It increases the possibilities if you follow these rules.

A second way to learn the rules is through studying how-to-write books. For years I've read and studied a how-to-write book every month (often more than one per month). Last week I finished reading Write With Excellence 201, A lighthearted guide to the serious matter of writing well—for Christian authors, editors and students by Joyce K. Ellis. For many years I've known Joyce as a magazine editor. Originally we met through our involvement in the Evangelical Press Association. What I didn't know about Joyce is that she has written a column about grammar for years for The Christian Communicator magazine and she has a passion for excellent writing. Write With Excellence 201 is a detailed examination of grammar rules.

How do you write strong engaging sentences? Some of that comes from experience but also understanding the difference between active and passive tense. Write With Excellence is a clarion call for writers to learn the rules then use them to improve their writing. Ellis engages her readers with vivid examples and insights. The chapters are short and each ends with a quiz to help you absorb the details on adverbs or the use of hyphens or italics versus quotation marks. The book has three main sections: Grammar and Related Matters, Punctuation and Related Matters, and Style, Usage and Other Considerations.

As Ellis writes, “Writers have a responsibility to communicate clearly. And excellent Christian writers strive for clarity, especially in the spiritual realm. We enrich the reader's takeaway value—if we vigilantly guard against being jargonauts.” (Page 246–-the chapter cautioning about use of jargon). Write With Excellence 201 is realistic and doesn't pull punches: “Yes, all this is a lot of work. No one said it was easy (How many times have I written that in this book?) But if you take the time to “sweat” your titles and subheads, you'll show editors you're a professional, right from the start.” (Page 264)  I've given you a small sample of the wisdom packed into these pages. I highly recommend this book.

Are you learning the rules before you break them? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Help Me Celebrate a Milestone

Years ago I worked for Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as the Associate Editor at Decision magazine. I learned a great deal from my years with Mr. Graham. After I left I had the opportunity to write a biography about Mr. Graham as a part of the Men of Faith series of books from Bethany House. Yet that book is long out of print (a sad fact that happens in book publishing).

A couple of years ago, I updated my old book and added new stories and brought out a new book, Billy Graham, A Biography of America’s Greatest Evangelist. I built a book website, gathered endorsements and Luis Palau wrote the foreword for my new book. I’ve received great feedback about my book which currently has over 60 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

For the last six decades, Mr Graham has been on the list of the most admired men in America. He has mostly disappeared from the public eye except for rare occasions. I’m encouraging you to wish Mr. Graham a Happy Birthday and I want to give you some tools and ideas for those wishes. I’ve prepared a series of social media posts and some images that you can use at:

Besides this advanced planning to celebrate Mr. Graham’s birthday. I’ve been working on the audiobook version of my book. You can hear the retail sample of the book here and even use this link to encourage your local library to order the book.

If you hear this sample, you will know that it is not my voice but Andrew L Barnes, an experienced audiobook specialist. As I wrote about recently here, audiobooks continue to explode in the book world and I’m happy to announce my book’s availability in audio.

What is the milestone that I need your help to celebrate? 

November 7th Mr. Graham turns 99. No one has preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ face to face more than Billy Graham through over 70 years of faithful ministry. In preparation of Mr. Graham’s 99th birthday, I’ve created a means for you to add to the celebration.

1 1. Use social media like twitter and Facebook to wish Mr. Graham a Happy Birthday.
   2.      Schedule your greetings using a tool like Hootsuite
   3.      Social media gets more attention when it includes an image. I’ve created four images of Mr. Graham that you can use with your greetings.

Let’s start a movement of celebration for this milestone birthday. Each of us can wish Mr. Graham a Happy Birthday with our actions. Please pass this information along to your church or small group Bible study. I suspect many people would like to help me mark this celebration.

Tell me what actions you are taking in the comments below.


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Sunday, October 15, 2017

When You Can't Locate an Individual's Phone Number...

With the proliferation of smartphones, most of us carry one of the most powerful communication devices in our pockets—our phone. As an acquisitions editor, I get a lot of email—and I regularly send a lot of email. While I love the convenience of email, I also know email is easy to ignore and not answer. You can put it off for another time and another day.

The phone is a completely different communication device. It is immediate and if we reach the person, we can have a short conversation with them. We can leave messages into their voicemail (something I do a great deal as an editor). Each time I leave a message, I try to think about the person getting that message—so I leave something upbeat and to the point with my phone number and email so they can respond.

The Internet has given us tools where we can guard and protect our actual phone number. For example, I've got a New York phone number through my work at Morgan James. When I call authors or literary agents related to my work, I use this tool and it shows up on their phone as a New York phone number—even though I live in Colorado and work remote. Sometimes authors will answer because it is a New York phone number. 

What if you can't locate the phone number for someone? The other day I wanted to have a short conversation with an author. I looked in my contact information. I had his email and mailing address but not his phone number. I checked the author's website to see if it contained a phone number—and it did not. It had a contact form but no email and no phone number. See how this author is limiting the people who have his number?  How was I supposed to find it?

To find a phone number, one of the tools I often use is Godaddy WhoIS Database.  You can use Google to look up “WhoIs” and see there are a number of these databases. As the first place I turn, I use this one from Godaddy. With the author's website, you put that into the search engine and in a matter of seconds, you get the contact information for that author—including their phone number.  I wrote down the number then called it. Immediately I was speaking with the author I needed to reach—on his cell phone. Also I saved the cell phone number I had located for if I need to use it in the future. This system is not perfect. Sometimes authors have paid for an extra service called Domain Privacy Protection—and their real phone number is not in this WhoIs record—but from my experience, many times you can locate their phone number.

Maybe you have other tools and websites that you use to gather this information. Please let me know in the comments section. I look forward to learning from your experiences. 

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Sunday, October 08, 2017

How to Engage & Connect for Greater Profits

Editor's Note: I rarely have guest bloggers but loved what MaryEllen Tribby wrote about how to reach an audience and wanted to make sure you saw it—and learned about her new free special report.

By MaryEllen Tribby

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get.” 

~ Nelson Boswell

Have you ever noticed that a lot of writing in your niche is actually fairly boring or not in the least bit helpful?

Well that’s actually good news for you. Because if everyone else in your niche is creating dry, mediocre content, then you’ll stand out if you create something entertaining, educational and enriching.

And if you really connect with your audience, you can bet they’ll want to read every word you publish. And over time consider you a trusted resource and once that happens you have a bona fide fan base! 

That was exactly what happened to me almost six years ago when I started Working Moms Only. I noticed that the market was sooooo under-served. All the other newsletters and products were tedious and quite frankly not practical. 

So how did I create this connection between words and the heart and souls of the audience?

Well just like this...

1) Tell Stories

Stories are good ways to connect with your readers, because a story tends to help you form that emotional connection. It helps the reader identify with you. And a story is much more memorable than simply telling a reader what to do.

You can write this story either about you or someone else. Either way, however, the story will be more impactful if the main character is very similar to your readers.

So if your readers are moms who are looking for an opportunity to make incremental money or money from home, then you’ll connect to these readers if your story is about a real mom who overcame this same problem.

Another thing a story can do is help demonstrate to your readers that you really understand them and their problems.
And when a reader feels like the author understands him, you can bet they will keep reading.

2) Create “Reader Oriented” Writing

Your readers have no doubt read plenty of articles, reports and ebooks on the same topic as the one you’re writing about. However, a lot of this content is “author oriented.” That means that it seems to be more about the author rather than the readers.

Example: You might read a book about dog training in which the author seems to boast repeatedly about his credentials or delve into personal stories that actually aren’t of interest or relevant to the reader.

One way to quickly check if your writing is author-oriented is to see how many times you’ve used words like “I” or “me” versus how often you use words like “you” and “yours.” You want to use more “you” writing, since this is reader-oriented writing.

Here’s a great example:

• Author-oriented writing: “I’m going to tell you about how I lost weight.”

• Reader-oriented writing: “You’re going to discover a weight-loss trick that’s worked for me – and it will work for you, too.”

3) Engage the Audience

If you’re writing a “how to” article, then it’s easy to fall into the familiar pattern of writing a straightforward article: “This
is step 1... this is step 2...”

Basically, it’s the same kind of article everyone else publishes. Instead, engage your audience by freshening up your writing.

This includes:

• Adding in your own tips. In particular, include unique tips and tricks not found anywhere else.

• Using stories to illustrate points. Be sure to engage all five of your reader’s senses to really bring him into your story.

• Inserting examples to make things more clear. Just look at the way I gave an example of reader versus author-oriented writing above.

• Including “spiced up” writing. For example, instead of merely describing someone as nervous, you could say “He was more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

That’s much more memorable, impactful and fun – don’t ya think?

You’re writing with a purpose, whether it’s to presell your readers, teach them something, solve a problem, overcome a challenge or just develop a good relationship with them.

However, these goals are not possible if your writing doesn’t engage and connect with your audience.

That’s why you’ll want to use the tips above to improve your ability to engage and connect with your readers!

And here’s the best news – you can start today. You can be among the first to check out this extraordinary new report.
I have just put the finishing touches on a brand-new, hot off the presses, special report with 52 Essay and Blog Posts Ideas to save you hours and hours of writing time. 

MaryEllen Tribby is the premiere business consultant and coach to some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs in the information publishing and digital marketing arena. She also works with a number of the largest most lucrative traditional corporate publishing organizations in the world. Her quarter century experience includes but not limited to successfully running multi-million dollar divisions of companies such as Forbes, Crain’s New York Business and Times Mirror Magazines.

Later taking the entrepreneurial world by storm as Publisher and CEO of Early To Rise where she was responsible for growing the business from 8 million dollars in sales to 26 million dollars in just 15 months. In 2008, she founded and remains the proud CEO of Working Moms Only, the world’s leading Media Company for the empowerment of the working moms.


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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Continual Experimentation

While editors, agents and other publishing executives would like to proclaim they know what makes a successful book, the real story is the process involves continual experimentation. If there was one formula or path, then every book would be a bestseller—and that is certainly not the case.

No matter where you are in the writing process, every writer needs to be reaching their audience with their website, social media, email list, physical events and more. Some people fall into the “shiny object syndrome” where they are chasing the latest and greatest tool. Every week there is a new social network or a new tool or program. Each of us must find the right path for our writing and our audience.

In the last few years, one of the growing areas is video with the explosion of YouTube and other ways of adding video to your website. I've had limited participation with videos. I've watched other writer friends launch a YouTube channel and incorporate more video into their websites but I have not.

In the last few months, I was invited to attend the Ohio Christian Writers Conference and will be there in early November. You can see a short interview here with some tips for writers:

These writers have also launched Serious Writer Academy and invited me to be a part of their faculty. For my first class, I taught one of my most popular writer's workshops: Editors Read Proposals Not Manuscripts. This video format is available 24/7 and I broke my teaching into four sessions:

1. Five Questions Every Book Editor Asks
2. Six Reasons Book Ideas Are Rejected
3. Book Proposal Check List
4. Six Ways for Your Proposal to Stand Out

I've reviewed hundreds of book proposals and the teaching in this video session can be a game changer for your submissions. Because the session is on video, you can watch it multiple times and capture all of the details and information to build your submissions to editors.

This class is hopefully the first of several which I will be teaching ate the Serious Writer Academy. I look forward to your feedback as you take this workshop.

This class shows how I'm continuing to experiment and look for new audiences—as well as provide new products for people who have been in my audience for some time. I hope you are continually experimenting as a writer with new opportunities—testing to see which ones will work, then stopping those which do not work. Tell me about your experimentation in the comment section.


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