Sunday, January 28, 2018

Pitch Magazine Editors for Exposure

For many years I've been writing for print magazines. Also I've been a magazine editor and know from the perspective of an editor the competitive nature of this business. I've written for many publications which no longer exist. Yet I contend writers need to include writing for magazines as a part of your writing life. For several reasons:

1. You Gain Broad Exposure in Print Publications. For a minute, let's talk realistic numbers. Yes you “may” write a book which becomes a bestseller but that is extremely rare. Your lifetime book sales are somewhat tied to the way you publish. The average self-published book sells about 100 copies during the lifetime of sales cycle. The average traditionally published book sells about 1,000 copies during the lifetime of the book. Every author “hopes” to exceed the numbers but understanding them gives you a bit of a reality check on the publishing world. In contrast, the circulation numbers for print publications are much larger. It's fairly easy to reach 100,000 or 200,000 people through a magazine—whether a large publication or small. Admittedly books are more permanent than magazines but the reach is broad with print publications.

2. You Increase Your Platform. In the early days of my writing life before my first book, I wrote for magazines. Book editors and literary agents read magazines looking for writers. It is a lot easier to write a 1500 word magazine article (or shorter) than to craft a 60,000 word book manuscript whether fiction or nonfiction. Every magazine includes a short bio of the writer at the end where you can list a book and a website. The exposure is helpful to you as a writer.  Marketing studies have shown that someone needs to hear about your book six or seven times before they actually purchase it. Your magazine writing can be a part of the exposure for your writing to new audiences. I have a lot more detail in my free, 43 page Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author.

3. You Practice Your Storytelling and Professionalism. Writing for magazines teaches some basic skills for every writer. You learn how to write interesting headlines and first paragraphs. You learn how to tell a focused story with a beginning,middle and ending. You learn how to write for a particular word count and deadline. Recently one of my Morgan James authors snagged one of his first magazine assignments. He could not reduce his manuscript from 2,700 words to the editor's request of 2,600 words. It was rare for me to help someone with this detail but I took a few minutes and made some suggested cuts for his article. It is a skill that I've practiced for years but learned in the world of magazine journalism.

I continue to write for several publications on a regular basis. With every submission, I show my professionalism and express my willingness to revise or fix any issues. While I work hard on meeting their expectations, I'm always willing to fix any issues. I recommend you take the same actions with your own submissions to publications.

4. You Must Be Pitching to Start the Editorial Process. I've given some reasons for being involved in print publications but how do you get started? You need to be select a publication, follow the guidelines and be pitching the editor with either a query letter or a full manuscript. The process begins with making that connection. 

Recently I reached out to a local editor where I've never written for the publication. I've known this editor for years from teaching at writer's conferences. We exchanged some emails about writing for this publication. Unexpectedly, this editor wrote asking if I had a short article on the topic of hope. She gave a short deadline for this need. I searched for the word “hope” in a folder of articles on my computer and found a couple of possibilities. One article looked like it “could” work so I revised my short bio then read through the article one more time, and emailed it off to this editor. Within a short amount of time, she responded that the article was exactly what she needed and would go in the next issue. Some of my ability to pull off this article was my experience but also my organization skills. You can do the same thing but you need to be pitching these editors to get on their radar. Do they have an editorial calendar and can you pitch an idea for a forthcoming issue? You will not be published in magazines without taking regular action.

Are you writing for magazines? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.


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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Protect Your Good Name

I enjoy reading memoirs. About four years ago, I noticed a memoir at my library called Molly's Game. I brought it home and read it cover to cover. The story began with a competitive skier in Colorado. Molly Bloom. Ultimately Bloom began to run a high stakes poker game in Los Angeles. While I know little about poker, the story and writing held my interest. At the end of the book, the FBI had arrested Bloom and the story was not finished or resolved. While I enjoyed and appreciated the book, I went on to reading other books and didn't think much more about the story—until last month when the movie Molly's Game was released.

Prolific screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay. While in general, I do not go to many R rated films, I was eager to watch Molly's Game. The movie picks up where her memoir stopped and tells the rest of Molly Bloom's story. Repeatedly throughout the movie, Bloom is pressed to give the government the details of her high stakes poker clients and she refused. If she gave in, she would get all of her funds back from the government and much more but she did not.Why?  She didn't want the release of this information to destroy or hurt the lives of her clients. Also she was protecting her own name. One of the themes of the movie is how Bloom was firm on protecting her own name. It is a well-crafted story and worth seeing.

This film started my thinking about what steps am I taking to protect my own good name? I've written many books and magazine articles and worked as an editor for several publishers. In this era of social media,  stories can spread rapidly on networks—whether they are true or not. What steps are you taking to monitor and protect your own name?

Here's a couple of action points:

1. Be aware of the necessity for every writer to be cautious about what they put out on social media. Those posts are there forever.

2. Be actively monitoring your own name and how it is used with free tools like Google Alerts, TalkWalker and others. I use several of these tools and I find each one finds different sites and are easy to use and monitor.

I have been on Twitter since July 2008 and posted over 40,000 times. No one else is making these posts. Each time I type something on Facebook or Twitter, I'm aware of the longevity of such actions. These posts are searchable and long-lasting as in forever.

What actions are you taking to protect your name online? Let me know in the comments below.


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Do you listen to audiobooks on Audible? Are you willing to listen to the audiobook for Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist, then write an honest review on Amazon? If so, please email me and I can get you a review copy of this new audiobook.
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Good Follow-up Is Important In Publishing

Good communication is important in the publishing world. As an acquisitions editor, I spend a lot of time every day answering emails, returning phone calls, texts and other forms of communication. Yet some emails go unanswered and phone calls are not returned. There are many possible reasons. Maybe it is the sheer volume of email. Maybe you are using the wrong email address or possibly you are trying to text someone whose phone line doesn't receive a text message. I've written about this topic before on The Writing Life. You can use this link to see some of these articles and read them.

When you approach a literary agent or editor, I encourage you to understand these publishing professionals are facing a torrent of such communication.  If your questions and emails do not, get answered in several days, I encourage you to send another email and follow-up.

Recently I could not reach an author for some additional information about his submission. If an author does not send their mailing address, I can't get their submission into our system at Morgan James.  We acknowledge every submission with a letter in the mail—and we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. These numbers show the massive volume and potential for missing some details. With this particular author, I tried several times on email and could not get a response. It turned out my emails were landing in his SPAM folder.

A different author filled out a submission form on the Morgan James website located in the lower right corner when you go to the site. I contacted this author as soon as I received the information. She wanted a phone call back. I returned her call but did not get her on the phone and left a voice mail message. We did not speak but this exchange had some red flags in the communication process.  With each exchange she never gave her last name nor any specifics about what type of book she was writing (despite my specific requests for this information). 

Next this author didn't feel like she was getting in touch with me, so she filled out another submission form complaining to my colleague (another red flag). This colleague checked with me (see the internal communication which goes on?) and learned the details of our exchanges from my perspective. 

Finally this author called me again and we actually spoke to each other a few minutes on the phone instead of exchanging voice mail messages. She wanted to inform me how we had missed out on a great publishing opportunity (admittedly never explained) through my lack of follow-up. I listen and attempted to clarify but each time, she refused to give additional information (another red flag).

Our publishing house has worked with thousands of authors over the last fifteen years. Besides my work at this publisher, I've worked at two other houses and reviewed thousands of submissions. Whenever we publish a book, our company invests thousands of dollars in the creation and promotion of this book. Good and clear communication from the author is important—and something we learn and evaluate with every exchange. Here's some basic principles for you:

1. Follow-up when you don't hear back or get the information you need—in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe the person you are trying to reach is on a deadline, ill, traveling or any number of other reasons.

2. Be clear and forthcoming in your communication with the editor or agent. There are no “secret” books or problems with giving the editor your complete information including your last name and details about your book. Without the author, the idea has no value—zero.

3. As publishing professionals, we are looking for great ideas and clear communication. Because Morgan James is not a self-publisher but works as a team, I can not look at your submission and offer you a contract. Yes I have influence on the decision and champion the author and the book to my colleagues. If we are able to offer a contract, that offer comes from the group. The best publishing in my view is a consensus-building process. Individuals have blind spots and miss critical elements in this process where the group can help each other and produce excellent work. Authors have to take their own responsibility to market and promote their own book—yet working with their publisher in this process.

I wrote this article to help every writer understand the importance of good follow-up in the publishing community.  

Is follow-up one of your skills? If not, how can you improve in this area? Tell me your experiences in the comments below.


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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Time for a Reboot

I love January and the fresh beginnings of a new year.  Whether you are reading this article in January when I wrote it or in the middle of the year, any time is a great time for a reboot or a new start. 

As I consider last year, I know some great accomplishments happened with new authors and my own writing life. 

Yet some of my goals were not met and some projects were not completed. Do you have some of these projects? Here's my good news: you can reboot those projects and push them into the marketplace. Maybe your book didn't sell as many copies as you wanted. Then take a reboot and begin reaching new readers. As the author, you are the person with the passion for your book. Maybe your publisher has pressed on to other books and other authors—but you still love your book and want to reach more readers. My encouragement is you can do it so make your plans and push forward. When your old book generates some new sales and new momentum, then your publisher will notice and join you in the push. As the author, you are in the drivers seat of this passion and momentum. 

Book publishing is not a sprint but more like a marathon. Some books shoot out into the marketplace and succeed while others are more of a slow burn and take time. If the author continues with their passion, these slow burn books can pick up momentum and begin to sell thousands of copies every month—but the author has to keep going on the marketing. My friend Sandra Beckwith has an inexpensive tool (yes 99 cents) called 365 Daily Book Marketing Tips. These insights come every day via email. Sandy sends you the full listing of the tips in a single PDF but I like the regular reminders through these daily emails. I do not take action on all of them but I read them and follow a number of the suggestions. Why?

As I've written about in the past, there is no single path to becoming a bestseller or achieving success with your book. If there were such a path, then every book would sell many copies and become a bestseller. Instead every author and every book has to find their own path. The author has to continually experiment and use tested methods to reach their readers.
Another resource is 5–Minute Book Marketing for Authors by Penny Sansevieri. Last year I wrote more details about this book (use this link). While I read this book last year, I marked my own book with numerous tags for action. As I look through them, I see more actions that I can take. I suspect each of us are in the same category. It's never too late to take action and get started. Make your plans and do it today.

For example, my biography of Billy Graham released over two years ago. In November, the audiobook version of the book released. At 99 years old, Mr. Graham is in his 100th year on the planet and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Decision magazine are celebrating this milestone. One of my marketing ideas for my book was to create a study guide. Small groups and book clubs are always looking for these study guides to enhance their group. I began to write the guide for my book in 2015 or two and a half years ago. Last week, I dusted off that file and decided now was the time to write this study guide. I've written study guides for other books plus I've used numerous study guides for books. I have the background and skills to pull together this study guide.  When completed and launched, it will give me a new tool to promote related to my book.

Does your book have a study guide with it? It doesn't matter whether your book is nonfiction like my Billy Graham biography or fiction? You can still write and launch a study guide. Maybe you need this tool for your own book. It is never too late to write it and get it out into the marketplace.

Do you have a project that you can reboot? Tell me about your action steps in the comments below.


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