Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Celebration of Books!

April is the first ever Wimpy Kid Month, which will become an annual event. Tomorrow, April 28th, the cover and title for the 9th book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be revealed in a free webinar.
This event reminds me of an amazing experience that I had with books last October. I love printed books. I've written numerous books. For years as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James, I’ve helped others get their books into print.
Yet something was missing from my experience. I had never toured a book manufacturing plant. I wanted to see how books were assembled from large rolls of paper to books you can hold in your hand.

Last October I finally had that magical experience. I spoke at the Wisconsin Writers Association and I knew one of the largest book manufacturers was in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I arranged a tour of Worzalla Book Publishing which has been operating since 1898. The plant runs 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
You’ve got to wear your walking shoes because the plant is over 300,000 square feet of building space. They were running many different print jobs as I walked through. Some machines were binding paperbacks while others were adding the jackets on hardcovers. Others were assembling the signatures of books into stacks and another machine added the hardcover binding.
The large project in the plant was printing six million copies of Book #8 of the Wimpy Kid Diary books. I was not allowed to take any photos of this printing because the book is embargoed and will not release in the bookstores until November 2, 2013. Yet six million books are not magically printed overnight and shipped to stores around the country. It happens ahead of time in book plants like Worzalla.
I saw the book in pieces in some places and at other machines like in the bindery, they were completely assembled and packed into boxes and on pallets for shipping.
With permission, I took a few photos to include with this post. The rolls of paper are massive and weighed 1300 to 1600 pounds EACH. Notice the tall stacks in their warehouse. These rolls of paper become books.
I’ve been wanting to visit this plant for years and last fall, one of my dreams came true. My plans paid off and I managed to see how books are manufactured.
What are you dreaming of seeing manufactured? How can you take action to set something into motion where you can see this take place? Or maybe it is some trip you want to take. How will you achieve this dream in the days ahead?

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why Words Are Magic

Dennis Welch knows the right words can be magic. The challenge for anyone who writes is selecting the right words. In this hurry-up-and-get-it-out world, "SO...WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?" is a clarion call to choose your words with care.

In places, the storytelling and writing in these pages is laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, I laughed as I read several of the stories--a real testament to the craft inside this little book. The lessons for any writer or communicator are profound. Read this book with a highlighter so you can return to the messages and think about them again and again. 

To give you an example of the insights in this book, I’m going to excerpt a few words from one of the final sections called “How You Can Make Magic.” Dennis gives a key principle, “Don’t rush unless you have to.” He writes, “Look, I know everybody is in a hurry. Hardly anybody sits down to write anything for fun. You probably have a reason why you need to communicate more clearly and more effectively. And, you probably have a deadline. You’re not doing this for your health.”

“We live in a fast-paced, get-it-done-yesterday environment, and the biggest danger we fast is speeding along and just getting stuff done so we can mark it off our list.”

“Huge mistake.”

“Take your time. Think through your message. Plan out your writing time, if you can, to allow for some breathing room. Write it down, and then go back later and re-read it with fresh eyes. Check the taxonomy and the tone. I heard someone say once it’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. That happens a lot. You’re an expert and you use those terms every day in your work and life. But, are you writing to the uninitiated or someone who’s never heard of this stuff (but should)?”

“We all have blind spots as writers. Take the time to let someone else look it over if you can.” (Page 127)

I gave one little snippet of the type of wisdom packed into this little volume. I've got shelves of how-to-write books. In fact, I've given away many more boxes of how-to-write books that aren't on my shelves but I've read through the years. "SO...WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?" is among the best of these books. There are simple, profound insights that are worth reading repeatedly. Dennis Welch has written what I hope turns into a classic. I highly recommend this book.

In fact, I encourage you to get a copy for yourself and a second one to pass to a writer friend. They will appreciate your thoughtful gift.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Read the Fine Print

I subscribe to a number of magazines and read them cover to cover. Admittedly I will skim parts of them but I learn a great deal in this process which is a regular part of my reading life. 

I'm one of millions of subscribers to Readers Digest magazine. For many years I've faithfully read this publication. In the January issue, I was drawn to A full color ad and the words, “Love to Write? Pursue Your Passion with LifeRich Publishing and Reader's Digest.” I scanned my page and have included it with this article. 

The page was positioned near the front of the magazine near the index to catch a lot of attention. Because I'm constantly reading about publishing and had never heard about LifeRich Publishing, I read a little closer. 

Then I located the publishing connection—see the second image that I'm including which says, “The Reader's Digest Association Inc and Author Solutions LLC.”

In the next few months, I'm almost certain to meet authors who will claim they have been published by Reader's Digest through LifeRich Publishing. It is the same way writers will claim they have been published by Thomas Nelson through WestBow or Lifeway through CrossBooks or Guideposts through Inspiring Voices

There are at least 20 different company names for the various Author Solutions companies. I've met numerous authors who have paid $8,000 to $20,000 to these publishers and have many books in their garage. The authors who took this leap did not read the fine print of their agreement. 

These companies are only online—i.e. no book placed inside brick and mortar bookstores. Yes there are some exceptions but of the thousands of titles they are producing each year, it is only online sales.
I have written about this issue in the past. Make sure you carefully read this Publisher's Weekly article from 2012. Notice this sentence in the article about their employees, “Its workforce totals 1,565 full-time employees with by far the greatest number, 1,215, located at its facilities in the Philippines which handles not only production but sales and marketing as well.”
The volume of books these Author Solutions companies are producing is staggering. Just check out this article from 2011 which shows they produced over 47,000 titles (yes different books). These numbers have only increased in the last few years.
Recently I heard Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference. He said, “Author Solutions has put the capital V in Vanity Publishing.” Coker was talking about the cost of publishing for authors and how they are paying these various Author Solutions companies with very little return on their investment. There is a reason that Penguin purchased Author Solutions for over $116 million. Large amounts of money here but not necessarily beneficial for the authors.
Last fall, I wrote an article about how authors can avoid being cheated. I raised a series of questions that many authors never ask when they are considering publishing. If more people ask the questions, they will be wiser about what they are doing. It grieves me to see authors spend a great deal of money with the expectation their book is going to sell and become a bestseller—yet in reality they haven't asked enough questions or the right questions to make an informed business decision.
Yes publishing a book with anyone is a business decision. Ask lots of questions to make sure you make the right decision.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Power of Consistency

If you want to get your writing published, are you consistently working at that goal? From interviewing more than 150 bestselling author, many authors set a specific word count they want to produce in a day or a week. With this goal firmly in place, they sit in their chair and put their fingers on the keyboard and crank out words toward their goal. There is immense power in working toward a goal on a consistent basis.

If you want to write a novel, then you need to be writing ___ words a day consistently for __ days to achieve this goal. 

If you want to be published in magazines, then you need to be writing query letters to editors and pitching your ideas on a regular basis. Then when an editor gives you the assignment, you consistently write excellent material and return it on their deadline.

If you want to write a nonfiction book, then you need to create a riveting proposal which captures the attention of literary agents or editors. A good proposal isn't created in a single session but takes time and energy to craft one.

If you want to build your social media presence in the marketplace, then you need to consistently work at growing your Facebook friends or increasing your twitter followers. I've written about my methods to do this in the past. It is one of the reasons that in the past few days I've gone over 100,ooo twitter followers. I've worked at this goal on a regular basis.

Besides working to increase my numbers, I'm also delivering good content to my twitter followers and my Facebook friends and my LinkedIn connections.

At a recent writers conference, I met with a writer who thanked me for the good content that I put on my twitter feed. She had noticed that it was consistently worth reading. I appreciated this feedback. It is true that I do not spend a great deal of time on what I post on twitter—but I am consistent. It's why I've tweeted almost 18,000 times since the summer of 2008. There is power in consistency.

If you want to be selling your book to people and having them talk about it, then you need to be consistently working to build a larger audience and get in front of people and the media. Whatever your goal, I encourage you to follow what Jack Canfield calls The Rule of Five. In this short video (less than two minutes), Jack explains the rule and how it will help you tap into the power of consistency to accomplish your goals and dreams.

Consistency doesn't have to take a lot of time but the results will add up for you. Eventually you will achieve your goals if you take regular and consistent action.

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