Sunday, August 30, 2015

Deadlines Help Writers

I've always found a deadline helps me get into my chair and get my fingers moving on the keyboard toward the completion of a writing project. In the newspaper business, the deadlines come fast and furious. I would write a story in the morning and it would appear in the afternoon newspaper. Print magazines work on a longer time frame yet also have deadlines to help the writer consistently work on meeting the needs of the publication. Books have a larger number of words and even longer deadlines. It's up to the writer to set the time frame and meet those deadlines.

Writers are notoriously late on meeting their deadlines. As an editor, I've heard almost every excuse from a writer about why they could not meet their book due date. What many authors do not understand is inside the publishing house, the staff is counting on the author to meet that deadline. Dozens of other functions are tied to the arrival of that manuscript.  I used to spend hours in schedule meetings where we talked about our various books and if the authors were on track to meet their deadlines. If an author was going to be late, then we needed to know how late and make adjustments in the other functions (such as the release date for the book, the publicity campaign for the book, the cover design and much more).

I have a number of writing deadlines. Each month for several writer related publications, I send articles. If I don't send my material then the publication does not have what they need.  It's something I plan into my schedule and meet the deadline. Yes I have the rare time when the editor prods me for my material but normally I send it like clockwork.

Do you have deadlines for your writing? If not, can you set one that will help you move forward with your writing project. Many writers set a goal of a daily word count to move forward on a project and complete it on time. Bestselling novelist James Scott Bell talks about the best writing advice that he's ever received—and it's to set a writing word count.

Watch this short video (less than a minute and a half) at:

If you don't use deadlines, then I encourage you to create one for your own writing. If you don't have enough deadlines, then I suggest you approach a magazine about a regular column or article from you. Maybe you write for a publication on an occasional basis and they would be interested in a regular column from you. Or possibly it is a new publication which is just getting started and they need a columnist or a regular contributor. You can use a Writer's Market Guide or the Christian Writer's Market Guide to learn about new publications.

We are surrounded with many opportunities for our writing.  The key is to take action and approach editors with your material or ask if the editor needs your regular contribution.  If you don't ask, you may never have the opportunity. But if you ask and the editor assigns you to write something on a regular basis, then you have a broader opportunity for your writing to get in front of new people.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Find A Job That You Love

For over three years, I've worked for Morgan James Publishing. I love my job—admittedly not every detail but I love the process of finding the right author and good books. It is a constant search and rewarding to interact with authors.

Recently one of my authors felt like quitting and not completing their book. From my experience, all of us feel like that at one time or another. I know I have wanted to quit the writing process. I emailed her with some ideas how to get it done—and then I went on to something else in my work day. My words had impact and about a week ago, this author emailed again saying she had finished her book. It was exciting to receive that email!

If you are considering a career change or looking for a new position, the classic book which instantly comes to mind is What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. This book has sold over 10 million copies. I knew about this book but I had never read it. Now I wish I had turned to this book several years ago when I went through my own intense job search.

During my job search,I followed seasoned advice and treated my unemployment like a job. Every day I spent a considerable amount of time working at my job search. I created an excellent resume, searched job boards for appropriate positions and filled out many applications. I did it day after day and week after week—with no response and no calls for interviews or even consideration. Yet I persisted in looking and speaking with my publishing network. Nothing happened.

Looking back at that time in my life, I believe the publishing world was changing and numerous publishers were downsizing and cutting back on staff. Downsizing alone sent many people into the job market and my qualifications didn't stack up when compared to others. I could have used the wisdom in What Color Is Your Parachute? The book is updated and revised every year.

In the last few weeks, I was offered a review copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016 I'm not looking to change jobs but wanted to see what this well-known book contained. I read the review copy and discovered this book is packed with insights and lessons — no matter whether you are not thinking about changing jobs or searching.

For example in a section called You Are Not As Powerless as You Think, Bolles writes, “So it is, that in any situation you find yourself, no matter how overwhelmed you may feel, no matter how much you may feel you're at the mercy of huge forces that are beyond your control, some part of it is within your control: maybe 2%, 5%, who knows? There is always something you can work on. Something that is within your power. And often, changing that little bit results in changing the whole lot. Maybe not as dramatic a change as Mary (in the previous paragraph); but change nonetheless.” (Page 47)

As part of Bolles' training he attended an Episcopal seminary and in the appendix includes a large section about how to find your mission in life. Every reader can personally profit from working through some of the checklists and information in this book.

I conclude this article with my review of the book for Amazon and Goodreads:

Valuable Insight -- Whether You are Searching for A Job or Not

No job lasts forever--whether we admit it to ourselves or not. This classic book (updated each year) is loaded with encouragement and insight for every reader. The step-by-step insights are valuable to any reader at any place in the job market.

I loved what Bolles said in the first chapter, "In today's world, he or she who gets hired is not necessarily the one who can do that job best; but, the one who knows the most about how to get hired. If you can learn new advanced job-hunting skills you can not only survive. You can thrive." (Page 14)

This book is packed with ideas and action steps for every reader. I highly recommend it.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Golden Opportunity--If You Take Action

It is an old saying, “To win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket.” It is impossible for you to win if you don't enter the drawing.  In life and the publishing world, it is the same sort of action. If you don't submit your proposal or manuscript to an agent or an editor, then it is hard for you to get a publishing contract and have your book published.

From my years in publishing, I've learned sometimes golden opportunities (if you seize them) can change your life. I'm about to offer you such an opportunity so please keep reading.

I have created a special event on Tuesday,  August 25th.  I know it is short notice. Have you heard of Rick Frishman, our publisher at Morgan James?

To refresh your memory, Rick Frishman is the founder of one of the largest PR firms in the U.S. Planned Television Arts (now called Media Connect). Also Rick is the host of the popular writers conference Author 101 University, which will be held October 22, 23 and 24th in Los Angeles. I will also be attending this remarkable event.

Maybe you're wondering if you need to go to a writers' conference. Rick is an expert at these conferences. Now is a great time to jump into the book market and learn from Rick.

Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you this because I've convinced Rick Frishman to go on the hotseat for my questions during a LIVE 70-minute telewebcast on Tuesday, August 25th!

Here's My Small Request 

Rather than have the "content" come out of Rick's head (or my head) for the August 25, 2015 telewebcast at 6 p.m. PST / 9:00 p.m. EST, I decided to let you ask Rick a question. 

Sound fair?

So, if you could ask Rick Frishman ANY question you wanted about attending a writers conference like Author 101 University, what would your question be?

Here's your chance to ask Rick directly and get registered for our call on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 (starts promptly according to www.Time.gov). Click the link below:

 Get Rick Frishman's FREE Special Report 

You will receive a FREE copy of Rick Frishman's special report, The Top Twenty Author Mistakes that Rick wrote with Robyn Freedman Spizman. 

It's FREE  if you ask a question and register for this Telewebcast.

Click the link below:

After your question gets submitted, you'll find out how to get phone access and webcast access to Rick and myself for our LIVE telewebcast, August 25, 2015.

Your Golden Opportunity During Our Call

Rick has agreed to give away several registrations for Author 101 University during our live call. Each of these tickets is worth almost $400. You can be one of the winners. 

1) You must register for the call. Even if you don't have a question, then mark "no question" Then

2) You must be listening to the LIVE call in order to be one of the winners. Just winning this registration could be a life-changing moment for your writing.

What are you waiting for? Use the link below:

Golden opportunities are rare. I hope you will take action and register for Tuesday's event. Hope to hear you on the call and speak with you soon.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Why I "Fish" Every Day

It takes great practiced skill to fish successfully. While some people fish for a hobby, the seasoned fisherman knows he has to fish many times to gain skill and also to catch fish.

To be honest, it has been years since I've been fishing but I “fish” every day. A fisherman puts his line into the water and is positioned to catch a fish. I put quotations around the word “fish” in the headline since I'm using fish for the word networking or connections. You have to be in the market talking and connecting with others every day to make a difference with your writing. Yes you need to craft an excellent book and good storytelling. I always encourage writers to learn that skill but you need something more than good writing. You need the right connection.

Much of publishing (and any business) is a matter of making the right connection with the right person at the right time at the right place. You can't make that connection working alone in your office at your computer or curled up with your legal pad writing your story.

What steps are you taking today to “fish” or network with others? It begins with your goals for your writing. Do you want to sell more books? Do you want a traditional publishing deal or are you going to self-publish? Do you want to build your platform or group of readers? Do you want more people to know who you are and what you ar doing? Then you have to make a conscious effort every day to reach out and touch other people.

Some of us reach out to others through Twitter. I've mentioned how I follow 800 new people every day—people within my target market of publishing. It does not consume lots of time but the consistent effort is important to my constant expansion of this tool.

Also I dig into my network of friends and connections. I pick up the phone and call people leaving little messages or connecting with them for a few minutes. Yesterday I spoke with several literary agent friends. Why? Because these agents represent numerous authors who they want to get published.  Those agents need to be reminded that I'm constantly looking for great authors to publish through Morgan James. Our publishing program will not be right for every one of their authors. Yet it will be perfect for some of them. I'm looking for the right author—every day.

I have authors who have submitted their manuscripts and I'm scheduling calls with them to see if Morgan James is the right fit for these authors. I spend a great deal of time on the phone and answering my email but it's part of my daily work. Your daily work will be different but are you working every day at expanding your connections? I hope so.

I think about activity in the past which has been productive for me. For example, I've made terrific connections speaking at conferences. I'd like to do more speaking next year. It will not happen if I don't take any action. Instead, I'm making a list of conferences where I'd like to speak and conscious of who runs these conferences. Can I fill a need for this event with a workshop or keynote? There are numerous conferences and events where I can help others—but I have to be proactive to get on their radar.

I'm eager to continue to promote my Billy Graham and Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams books (as well as other books that I've written or been involved with). Can I book a radio show or podcast or do a guest blog post or some other event to get in front of a new audience? The answer is yes but from my experience it does not happen without my initiative (sometimes but rarely). Most of the time these opportunities come through proactive pitching and follow-up work. Are you building this type of fishing into your daily schedule?

Throughout today I will be emailing and calling people. You have to have a line in the water to catch fish. What steps are you taking? 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is It Worth Buying Twitter Followers?

You don't have to be on twitter long before you see the ads and messages to buy followers. Maybe you have been stuck at 1,000 or 2,000 followers on Twitter.  It can be tempting to purchase followers and instantly boost your numbers. Should you buy followers?

In the publishing community, your social media numbers are public record. In a few minutes, any editor or literary agent can check your twitter numbers. Then they can make a decision whether the information in your proposal or pitch is real or exaggerated. Marketing departments in publishing houses are looking for authors with a large reach and social media connections.

I've recently seen a number of bloggers and social media experts tell their audience to never buy followers. To them it is a big no-no. I understand their reasoning and the encouragement for people to naturally grow their followers. In this article, I want to take a contrarian position and give you some ideas why you should buy followers.

First I want to tell you that I've purchased followers—not 10,000 or 20,000 at one time—but I have done it several times. Have you looked at my twitter followers (currently over 152,000). Why would I need to buy followers since I have more followers than social media guru Joel Comm? Several months ago, Joel released the third edition of his terrific book, Twitter Power 3.0 from Wiley.

I've been on twitter for many years (since 2009) and my number of followers has been growing. I didn't instantly get to these numbers. I love to experiment with different techniques to see if it will increase my followers. One of the aspects that I've tried is to purchase followers. 

Before I did it, several people warned me that I will be kicked off Twitter. It's possible but did not happen. Others contended these followers are fake and not “following” my tweets or information. That is maybe true but buying followers is a way to instantly boost your number of followers. This boost can impress new people who follow you and also others who are looking at your work to possibly purchase your books or even publish your work.

I did not spend a lot of money to buy followers. I've seen these ads and costs to purchase followers. They are outrageous and nothing that I would do or recommend. Here's the details of how I added followers. I went to Fiverr and searched for “twitter followers”  You will see pages of ads and possible vendors who will add a certain number of followers for $5.  I have no idea how they fulfill their promise to add new followers—but I know they do it and have experienced it several times with different vendors.

For a minute, let's think about this service. Your twitter following is stuck at 1,000 or 3,000 and you want to increase them.  Would it help your credibility or presence to go from 1,000 to 3,000 followers or 3,000 to 5,000 followers in 24 hours? I believe it would and for a minimum cost. I'm not advocating that you go overboard with this technique.  Yet buying twitter followers could help you in the platform building process or building your presence in today's marketplace.

If you use this technique in moderation, it is not the no-no, never do it that others advocate.  Have you ever purchased followers? Did it help you or hurt? Let me know in the comments below.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

When Hitting a Roadblock, Experiment

For my social media efforts, I've written about using a tool called Refollow. Every day for the last several years, I've been increasing my followers using this tool. It takes me less than five minutes to follow 800 new followers.

It's significant that the people I'm following are not just anyone. They are followers in my target readers of publishing or writing. This targeting is a huge part (plus my continued valuable content in my tweets) as to why my followers continue to grow.

Sometimes when I use refollow, it will suddenly stop and I will get the message that I've reached the maximum followers which twitter allows and this will reset tomorrow.  Often in the past when I receive this rare message, I will close the window for refollow and use it again the next day.

I've learned through experimentation that if I wait for at least 30 minutes, I can return to refollow and select more people to follow and it will begin to work again. Just giving it this break from use, the tool will restart and I will be able to follow more people—so I can reach my selected limit of 800 new people a day.

Recently a reader wrote asking what to do because they had followed the maximum number of people which twitter allowed. My question in response: are these new people you have followed responding and following you back? If not, then you need to use a free tool like Manage Flitter to unfollow those people. Then you can replace the people you have unfollowed with new followers.  Manage Flitter is a valuable tool to remove people who are not responding. Then you can add new ones.

Some people wonder how I've written the volume of books or magazine articles or even these articles on The Writing Life (over 1200). The answer whether increasing your twitter followers, writing your next book or book proposal or magazine article, is simple: do it consistently every day. Many people want to write a bestseller or rocket to the top of some ranking yet they are not putting in this regular consistent effort.

I've been using Refollow for several years and I reap results from that effort all the time. Some people contact me about marketing their book or finding a literary agent or getting published or any number of other things. I faithfully respond to their questions, send them to valuable resources and help them. In response, they sign up for my email list, buy my products and books and publish their books with Morgan James or take my membership course on book proposals, receive these articles on the Writing Life, tell their friends about my work and much more.

The key point is to keep experimenting, trying new things and growing.  Each of us run into roadblocks—like Refollow hearing from twitter that I've followed the maximum people for today. Through experimenting, I found a way around the limit.

Each of us have challenges and roadblocks, do you accept the roadblock or find a creative solution around it?

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Discover New Authors and New Books

How do you find new books and new authors? As you answer this question, consider your own writing and books. What action steps are you taking to be in these places where you are finding books?

The answer to this question of discoverability for books continues to change as our world and culture change. Some people find new books through Goodreads.  Over 40 million readers are on Goodreads. If you are an author, you need to check out this inexpensive teleseminar then apply the lessons to your own books. It will boost the discoverability for your books. Several months ago, I had registered for Goodreads but didn't even have my picture on my author profile (a big sign of my lack of activity on Goodreads).  I changed my involvement on Goodreads and now I have 5,000 friends on this site (which I learned when I hit this number is the maximum for friends). I believe my activity on this site is boosting discoverability for my books—and it is not taking much of time. 

Word of mouth continues to be the best way to discover new books. I commonly take recommendations from friends when we speak together. While many have tried to study word of mouth, to most people, it remains a mystery how to use word of mouth to promote or spread the word about books.

I find new authors and new books at my public library. The recommendations of librarians and the displays at libraries have influence with readers.

I receive a number of electronic press releases from publicists and through reading those releases I learn about new authors and new books. It's another method that I use to find new authors and books.

I read trade magazines and online newsletters like Shelf Awareness or Publishers Weekly and find new authors and new books to read.

Also I go into bookstores and browse books. While I do this process, less than I used to do, I still enjoy this experience of holding the book, reading the back cover and learning about different authors. I hope you saw the news about Family Christian Bookstores coming out of bankruptcy last week. I was pleased to learn over 200 bookstores will remain in business.

I encourage you to study the Christianity Today article and you will see that the bankruptcy of Family Christian has had a domino effect to other areas of the Christian publishing world. The old-long established publisher Gospel Light which filed for bankruptcy. As the CT article said, “It was a contributing factor in our need to seek court protection,” Gospel Light CEO Dave Thornton told CT. “We had to write off $143,000 in expected income, and we’re a smaller, family-owned Christian publishing company that didn’t have deep enough pockets to sustain that, combined with other unexpected losses this spring.” It makes you wonder what other things are going to happen from the Family Christian bankruptcy.

Recently I heard a podcast from Susan Meissner. I have known Susan for several years but not read any of her books. During the podcast, she mentioned her historical novel, Secrets to a Charmed Life. I found my local library had this novel so I got it and began reading it this past week. I can see why Susan Meissner  has a growing fan base for her work. It is evident from over 580 customer reviews on Amazon for this book which released in mid-February. I've not completed this novel but find the story spell-binding. As I've read this novel, I've become a fan of Susan's work.

There are many different ways to discover new authors and new books. If you are an author, I encourage you to:

1. Make sure your book is available in as many different formats as possible. For example, some people only read Ebooks while others prefer audio books or print copies. You want to reach a variety of readers in these diverse markets.

2. Be aware of where your book is being sold online and in the retail market. For example, I learned one of my Morgan James author's books was not available on a certain Christian online site. I called it to the attention of our marketing department and they are investigating it—and trying to resolve it. If I had not been reading my email and responding to it and others on the Morgan James Publishing team, we would be unaware of it and working toward a resolution. It takes a team and you need to be using your team. If you are self-publishing, are you gathering a team to create this synergy?

3. Be telling others about good books that you read—in emails and in person. If you read a good book, when you finish, take a few minutes to write a few sentences of honest review on Amazon and Goodreads.  Use your social media and other connections to spread the news about good books and excellent authors.

We live in a complex world but you can spread the word about good books to others and encourage others to help you spread the news about your books. We need each other.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Flexible Learning

As a writer and editor, I’m constantly learning and trying new programs or new tools or new ways to explore opportunities and grow. I’ve written about a number of different opportunities in these entries in The Writing Life such as:
Today I want to highlight one more opportunity which has great flexibility: podcasts.  Many people are using this tool to get their message and information out to new people. As an author or entrepreneur, you can learn how to create a podcasting course. Just follow the link to learn more about how you can create a course. Podcasting is another tool that you can use as an author to build your audience and establish yourself as an expert.
There are thousands of podcasts with great information for you to learn about almost any subject. Many of us are carrying a smartphone with us. Make sure you have the podcast app on your phone. Then through iTunes you can search for podcasts which appeal to you and subscribe to the podcast.  As that podcast adds more programs, you can download the program on your phone and listen to it whenever you want.
Many people listen to podcasts as they exercise or walk. If I don't have something like a podcast to engage my mind, I find exercise is boring. If I exercise while listening to a podcast, I can gain some new insights during the process. My local church puts past sermons on podcasts. There is an endless variety of topics and subjects for podcasts.
Four Possible Podcasts
I'd like to highlight three different podcasts for writers and authors. I selected these podcasts because they are long enough to have some substance to them and with valuable insight for every author or would-be author. I recommend you listen to several of these podcasts and see if the content helps you. If not, try something else which will help you with your writing life.
Recently I was on a live radio show It’s all About the Questions with Laura Steward. Our interview was a live AM radio broadcast throughout Florida. To Laura's credit, she also recorded  and edited this this broadcast as a podcast. Follow this link to hear our interview.  I love the flexibility of this interview. You can download it to your desktop or your phone or catch it as a podcast.
Writers and Authors on Fire is another recommended podcast. I've known the host John Vonhof for many years. The quality of the interviews and the information for writers is excellent. I've heard a number of these interviews and appreciated the contents. John interviewed me and here is my recent podcast at Writers and Authors on Fire.
Another podcast that I've been listening to is Authorpreneur with Jim Kukral. I've heard several of these interviews and appreciated the information and education for authors in this podcast.
Finally I recommend Author U, Your Guide to Book Publishing by Dr. Judith Briles. I've known Judith for many years and she has a large volume of podcasts and many different topics in this podcast. I would encourage you to download several of them and gain from this information.
You may like a different set of podcasts. My main point in this article is to celebrate these flexible learning tools but also to encourage you to listen to these resources—or even start your own podcasting course.
Which podcasts do you listen to? Let's get your ideas in the comments.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Value of Persistence

In the writing world, it happens often. A writer will craft a piece of writing—like a query or a book proposal or a magazine article or a book manuscript. They will approach an editor or literary agent and either get no response or a polite “no thank you.” At this point in the process, the writer can give up and chalk it up to experience. Or they can choose another path of persistence and keep getting their work into the marketplace.

I often tell writers that successful publishing is the process of being in the right place at the right time with the right person with the right material.  A number of rights have to line up for that piece of writing to be published. As a writer, you are in search of the right opportunity. It does not happen instantly. And if it does, then that is a rare fluke. It happens to me—all the time. I write emails which are unanswered. I make phone calls and leave messages which are not returned. I even offer book contracts to authors which they don't acknowledge or accept.  The lack of response bothers me but it does not make me stop or give up. I understand the value (and necessity) of persistence.

In the last few weeks, an author signed her contract with Morgan James Publishing. Her memoir will be published next year. When we spoke, she told about sending her manuscript out to various literary agents and not getting a single response. I was struck with this lack of response.  Maybe her pitch wasn't attractive. Maybe she sent it to the wrong literary agents. There are any number of variables which can cause this type of response but I still felt bad for this author.  I found her personal story fascinating and well-written.  As her book gets published next year, I hope it catches a lot of attention in the market.  I've tried to manage this author's expectations and encourage her that the success of her book will be 80% up to her efforts. There are many unknowns ahead but I'm confident in this author because she understands the value of persistence.

One of the best known examples of persistence in the publishing community is Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen for their first Chicken Soup for the Soul book.  As Mark explains in the foreword for Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, their book was rejected 140 times. Now that is a lot of rejection.   In the process, Jack and Mark heard every reason for rejection from large and small publishes—yet they persisted to believe in their book and that they would eventually find a publisher.  Now this series of books is one of the best-selling books in history. If you follow this link, you can read the complete story and download the foreword and first chapter of the updated edition of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams.

What challenges are you facing with your current publishing? Are you getting rejected?

Maybe you need to send your material to a different set of editors or agents. Maybe you need to learn more about the craft and business of writing to improve the quality of what you are sending.  Possibly you need to select a good writer's conference to attend in the next few weeks or months. There are many ways to learn the skills you need. For example, I've had a number of people take my Write A Book Proposal course and gain practical teaching from those lessons. Each of us need to keep growing in our knowledge and skill and connections in this business. Persistence has great value.

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