Sunday, July 29, 2018

3 Ways to Read More Books

Thousands of new books are published every day.  No one can keep up. Yes, you can take speed-reading courses and other things but even then, the sheer volume of new books makes it impossible. In this article, I want to give three ways that I'm using to add more focused reading into my life. I'm always learning about books. I use these methods to acquire and read books.

1. Learn to Use Your Public Library

It is not practical to purchase every new book. I find many people forget about or don't use their public library. Get a library card then when you see an interesting book, get on your library website and see if that book is available. In my area, I often find the library has acquired the book and I can ask them to hold a copy for me. When I put a “hold” the library sends me an email when the book is available to check out. Also my library sends me an email when my book is about due to be returned (and possibly I can renew if I haven't read it).

Also ask questions to the librarians about using the library or locating a book you can't find, then listen to the answers. These professionals are helpful and knowledgeable about books. Check out the services of your library and begin to use them.

2. Listen to Audio Books in Your Car

My library has an extensive collection of audio books on CD.  Browse the section and select a couple of different titles. Try the book and if it isn't exactly what you wanted, then try another one. I've heard incredible audio books using this method in my car.

In the last few weeks, I've learned to listen to audio books on my car's speaker system that originate on my smartphone. My car has bluetooth so I'm able to continue listening on my car speaker system to the same audio book that I'm hearing on my smartphone. Listening in my car as well as on my phone, helps me move through the audio book even quicker than normal. For example, recently I got on the hold list for Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. I only had 21 days to hear this audio book but using my car and my phone, I finished it in less than a week. The book was fascinating but uses the F-word throughout so use caution if you get it.

3. Learn to Use Hoopla or Overdrive on Your Smartphone

Hoopla or Overdrive are are free services from your library. Download the apps on your smartphone and learn about these opportunities. There is a bit of a learning curve to use them. Throughout my day I have some time at my computer when I'm setting up my social media. I've found I can be listening to an audio book on my phone as I do some of this busywork. In the process, I'm consuming more books. I also listen to the book while I'm exercising.

I've written about this before (follow this link). After I read (or hear) an interesting book, I add a review to Amazon, then paste the same review on Goodreads. And often (not always) I tell my social media connections about the review. This entire process takes only a few minutes but it is my way of supporting and telling others (quickly) about what I'm reading and learning from good books. Every author needs this type of support—and you will build goodwill with other authors—and help the entire community with this simple and consistent action.

I hope you will use these three ways to read more books. If you have other ideas or methods, I'd love to hear it in the comment section. May the days ahead be filled with more reading and learning from time well-spent.

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

What Fills Your Daily Schedule?

There is one resource in the possession of everyone: time. Also everyone spends time doing some activity. As you take control of your schedule or time, you can increase (or waste) your day.

As a writer, how to you fill your days? Do you have a plan or schedule? Or is it random and uncontrolled? I work as an acquisitions editor and a writer. I'm grateful for the flexibility of my daily schedule. Yet to some, this empty calendar can be a concern. How do you fill your time?

As an acquisitions editor, I have some writers and literary agents who reach out to me and want to schedule time on the phone or a meeting in person. Other times I attend or speak at a conference and travel away from my office. Yet overall these types of events or meetings are rare to fill my daily schedule.

In this article, I want to give you some of the tools and action steps I take on a regular basis with my life in publishing.  The steps you take will be different but I hope these words will give you some new ideas for your own writing life.

For years I've been active on Twitter and every day I grow my audience on this social media platform with five actions (detailed here and still being done). There has been admittedly hours of time spent in small chunks to achieve this following. It is a regular part of my day whether I am at home or traveling.

Here's some basic principles to help you:

1. Create a system to handle any action you take on regular basis and keep moving forward. For example, if you are writing a book, set a word count goal. This goal can be for the week or even daily. Then consistently write enough words to meet or exceed your goal and you will keep the project moving forward toward completion.

2. Be aware or actively look for tools to help you automate and meet your goals. For example, with my Morgan James Publishing phone calls to authors, I use an application called DialPad. When I call someone using this program, my direct dial New York phone number shows on the recipient's caller ID—even though I live in Colorado. It is a company branding tool that immediately says New York publisher. This tool also keeps a running list of any of my phone calls listing the date and length. It give me a systematic place to keep track of my phone calls. You may or may not use DialPad but find a way to keep track of such information (if it is important to your work).

3. Consistently work on different stages of the work. For example, some of my work is calling authors who have a contract and answering their question.  Another part of my work is processing new submissions to see if they are the right fit for Morgan James and if so, then I champion these authors to my publication board and colleagues. I'm regularly working on brand new authors and also answering email and phone calls from current authors.

My phone has a feature called Reminders. When I have a deadline for my writing or anything else that I need to accomplish, I will often create a reminder. As I use these tools and check off my tasks, I move forward with a productive day.

Your process of filling your schedule with productive activity will be different from mine. Hopefully I have given you some ideas. If you have another tool or tip, please comment below.


Become more productive. Use three principles from a prolific writer and editor. (Click to Tweet) 

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Why I Lost 15,000 followers in 24 hours

Last week I lost 15,000 Twitter followers in 24 hours. For many people that loss would have been devistating and possibly wiped out their following. I went from 220,000 to 205,000 followers. I've been on Twitter since 2008 and actively working every day to increase my following.

What happened?  An article in the New York Times explained Twitter is battling fake accounts and has slashed millions of these accounts. As the article explains, “Twitter’s decision will have an immediate impact: Beginning on Thursday, many users, including those who have bought fake followers and any others who are followed by suspicious accounts, will see their follower numbers fall.”

I applaud Twitter's actions in this area but it has had impact on many users. At one point years ago as an experiment, I did buy some followers and my followers increased over a 24-hour period. Now those followers were fake accounts and I would not expect them to engage with me or be interested in any of my tweets.

Last year one of my writer friends launched a book with a New York publisher (in fact one of the big five). She had a modest Twitter following but in a short amount of time her followers increased to over 100,000–-which looks suspiciously like she purchased those followers rather than growing the following (as I have done). I just checked her followers and now she has 14,500 followers for a dramatic drop.

I want to make several key points from this experience to help you:

1. While Twitter continues to be an important social network, do not try and game the system with buying fake followers. I have written about the five actions I take every day on Twitter. There are good reasons I have a large Twitter following.

2. Don't forget Twitter is “rented” space. I don't own or have any connection to the Twitter company. They could cancel or block my account at any time eliminating my presence. I don't expect this elimination to happen and to my knowledge have been obeying their rules (key for everyone).

If you don't understand this concept of rented media, I encourage you to study Mastering the New Media Landscape by Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton.  I regularly speak with authors who have built their entire platform on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn or Twitter. Yet these authors have never considered the risk of such efforts.

3. Diversification is important as you plan your presence in the marketplace. Henricks and Shelton talk about this in the final chapter of their book giving six ways to “futureproof” your media presence. The advise is wise and worth your following it. Make sure you have media that you own: your websites, your blog and your email list.  If you haven't read my free ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author, I encourage you to get it here.

There is one safe prediction I can make about the social media landscape: it will continue to shift and change.

What steps are you taking to master the new media landscape?  Let me know in the comments below.


Have you suddenly lost Twitter followers? Learn the  proactive steps you can take. (Click to Tweet) 

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Sunday, July 08, 2018

Your Submission Must Be Electronic and Easily Readable

Every editor needs an electronic submission.
Every writer should have the need to keep growing and looking for new avenues and ways to market. As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, we receive many submissions—over 5,000 a year for only 150 books that are published. Yes that is high volume but as editors, we are always looking for the right authors and right material.

About a month ago, I received an author contact from one of my colleagues. That day, I sent an email to this author letting her know exactly what I needed and how to submit her material. A few days ago, I got a text from my colleague asking about this author. I said she had never responded to my email. Something many people forget is email sometimes does not get through. I reached out to this author again on email and picked up the phone to call her (rare for an editor or agent to call).

Later that day I began to receive her submission in hard copy on my phone—which I could not read. It was pages of a manuscript texted to my phone. I asked her to email it to me. The email came one page at a time with the hard copy attached—-many emails. I went back to this author and explained I needed a single file in an electronic form as an attachment. 

In conversation, I learned this author had an electronic file for her manuscript and then her computer crashed. She lost the electronic files with her computer crash. She only had a hard copy of her manuscript. With this explanation, I understood why she was trying to get me the hard copy.

I told this author how for years, every publisher requires the author to send an electronic version of their manuscript or proposal. It is the only way to get your material into the consideration process with an editor or agent. Your computer crash and the fact you don't have the file is a barrier to getting your submission considered. If you have this problem, you can:

1. Retype your manuscript into a Microsoft Word file.

2. Hire a student or transcription service to type your submission into Word.

3. Forget about this book and start another one. This last point is not what I would recommend since the author has invested hours into creating her book.

I have no idea what this author is writing and whether it has any merit or not—since I did not receive it in a form where I could read it. I've reviewed thousands of submissions during my years in publishing and never seen this particular situation. I point out several lessons from it:

1. Get your manuscript to the editor or agent in a format they can read. I've met authors who do not type. If you don't type, then take a typing course or get a book or figure out your way around this barrier.

2. Before you complain to the company or editor, make sure the format of your submission is not the issue. The reality is every editor and agent receives many submissions. Sometimes things do get missed and we are not perfect in this process. Just make sure it is not your issue before you reach out to someone else.

3. Follow the editor's or agent's guidelines. If you don't follow directions, then you can't get considered.

4. Follow-up to make sure you are giving the editor what they need. We receive volumes of material and want to help but have limitations on our own time and resources.

As a writer, you are searching for the right fit for your submission. It will take effort on your part to find this fit. Good communication is important every step of the way.  It took some digging on my part to figure out why I was not connecting with this author and her manuscript. I'm encouraging her to retype her lost manuscript and get it into the market for consideration.

Have you been skipping a publishing basic as an explanation why your submission is not hitting the mark? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 01, 2018

Two Ways to Write A Magazine Article

Two types of Leaves & Two Types of Articles

If you want to reach readers with your writing, one of the most effective methods is to write magazine articles. As your articles are published, you will reach thousands (if not millions) of readers. Through my years in publishing, I've written many different types of articles on all sorts of people and topics. The variety is endless in the print magazine world.

In the beginning of my magazine writing, I would be inspired to write a personal experience article or a how-to article.  I would sit down and write the article with no magazine or market in mind. After I wrote this article to the best of my ability, I opened up my writers' market guide and searched for some place to send the article or write a query. The process took a lot of searching and energy—and often involved getting rejected because I didn't send it to the right editor or right publication.

This type of writing is known as inspirational writing. You are inspired to write something so you sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard and write the complete article. It is one way that many people write and eventually with enough persistence, find the right publication or editor and get into print.

There is a second way to write a magazine article: write for a particular publication and what the editor wants or needs. As a writer, you learn about these needs as you read and study the submission guidelines. Almost every magazine has a set of editorial guidelines on their website. Some of these guidelines are more detailed than others. Sometimes the guidelines will say the percentage of freelance work they publish. The higher this percentage, the stronger the need of the publication for freelance writing (as opposed to something they write with their staff).

In addition to their guidelines, some publications include a “theme list.” These publications have planned specific themes they want to publish and they are solid indicator of what the editor believes their readers want to know. To get published, you can either write a query letter or write the entire article and send it to the editor (follow their guidelines). The second way to write a magazine article is a more targeted yet also involves meeting the needs of the editor and reader. Because it is targeted, it has a higher probability of publication and less time for the writer to search for a market and then get rejected and search for another market.

Inspirational writing is fun and something I still encourage you to do—particularly with personal experience articles. Each of us have unusual personal experiences in life but the successful published writers will take these personal experiences and use them as grist for their writing and craft their article. Almost every magazine uses personal experience stories (large circulation and small circulation).

My purpose in writing this article was to show you a more targeted (and potentially successful) method to get your writing into print publications. Writing for magazines is a solid way to build your platform or presence in the market, reach readers and build your reputation as a writer. After many years in publishing, I continue to write for magazines.

What tips do you have for writing for magazines? Let me know in the comments below.


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