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Thursday, February 04, 2016


Break Out of the Pack


Through the years, I've read thousands of submissions from authors, their proposals or manuscripts. In a few sentences I can see if they are quality storytellers or what they are pitching. It doesn't take long or reading much information to see it. Some people have estimated at any given time there are over a million manuscripts and proposals in circulation in the publishing world. While the process is somewhat subjective and different from person to person, all of us are looking for a standout. We want to see someone who breaks out of the pack (in a positive way). The author has to quickly show their distinctions and how they are going to sell books.



Recently I was filling out a form for a publisher. They were asking about my number of Twitter followers. Was it 1-500 or 500-2500, or 2501-10,000 or 10,000+? If you look around at other authors and see they have 1,000 to 4,000 followers on Twitter. Then how can you increase your followers and stand out. I'm not talking about buying followers to instantly increase your number (which doesn't count since these are fake followers and will not be caring about your tweets or engagement). I'm talking about making a consistent effort to increase your followers so you will break out of the pack and stand apart. I've detailed what you can do on twitter to increase followers. With my over 161,000 followers, it's one of the ways I break out of the pack in such a discussion—but you can do the same with your work. It's a matter of consistent focus and deciding that you will stand out.



Or consider Facebook. The average Facebook user now has about 338 friends, though the median number is quite a bit lower: 200. This means that while half of all Facebook users have 200 or fewer friends, many of the billion-plus Facebookers have quite a few more. In fact, 15 percent of users have friend lists topping 500. Now there is a limit on personal accounts of 5,000 friends but if you have over 500 friends then you are suddenly in the top 15% of Facebook users and are standing out. Currently I have over 4,800 friends on Facebook. I grew these numbers gradually but it is another way to break out of the pack.



It was not until about a year ago, that I began to be active on Goodreads (check my profile). There are 40 million readers on Goodreads. How many friends do you have on Goodreads? Through hitting the maximum, I learned the number of friends tops out at 5,000. And I have that number so I stand out from the people who only have a hundred or two hundred friends. How can you increase your Goodreads friends? Go to this page and use the buttons which help you find friends.

To break out from the pack takes consistent effort but you can do it. What steps are you taking today to help you get the right attention from editors and agents for your work?


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Saturday, January 30, 2016


You Need "Honest" Book Reviews

Do you have book reviews for your book? Are they “honest” reviews or something you have orchestrated from friends and family?

It is hard work to write a good book and get it into the market. Whether you work with a traditional publisher or self-publish, I hope you have produced an excellent product. At some point in the process, you are ready to release this book into the market. What will others say about your writing? The natural tendency is to expect everyone to glow about your book and send you accolades.

Yet that expectation is not reality.  Not every review will be five star. These reviews are important social proof from readers and feedback to you as the author. Several years ago, I met a novelist who claimed to have sold thousands of books on Amazon. Yes, this author touted amazing numbers for her book sales. Yet when I looked on Amazon, there was one review—and the author had written that review. If you don't think this result is unusual, take a few minutes and look at any bestselling novel on Amazon. If the book has been selling well, then people enjoy it and write reviews—often hundreds of reviews.

I look at other books (even self-published) which have less than five reviews—even if they have been out on the market for several years. Again this absence is social proof of the quality and feedback from readers. Your book should have reviews and as the author, you need to take responsibility to get these reviews.

As the author, you can create a launch team. Recently I've been involved in the launch of several books. I've filled out applications to be a part of the launch team. These applications ask why I should be included. The launch director creates a private Facebook area with encouragement to read the book and post reviews. Recently I got added to a launch team that said they were only going to let 500 people to be on their launch team. What a huge team but see the social proof these authors are gathering for the launch of their book?

Your team may be smaller than 500. Can you launch your book with 25 reviews on Amazon? To launch with 25 reviews, you will need to gather at least 50 people who agree to review your book and will post a review during the week your book is launched. Why so many more than the 25 you need? Even though you do your work and the person has committed, not everyone carries through with their commitment. Maybe the book doesn't reach them in the mail. Maybe they get ill. Maybe they have some family emergency. Life happens for every person and they don't carry through with their promised review. As the author, you need to recognize this fact and move beyond it with even more people to write the review.

This process takes work and effort from the author. Bestselling author Tim Grahl has written about this process and guided numerous bestselling authors. He has a valuable article here. Be sure and scroll to the bottom of the page and get his Amazon Review Package.  You give up your email address but get an excel spread sheet, sample emails and much more. This package can be a valuable resource for you to gather your reviews—if you use it. Also I encourage you to get this free teleseminar that I created with Dana Lynn Smith about reviews.

In your request to the reviewer, you are asking for an “honest” review. Not every review will be a Five Star Amazon review or glowing. One of my Morgan James authors called me almost in tears a while back asking what she should do with a one star review. My advice: do nothing. Don't comment back. Don't complain to Amazon. Do nothing. The fact that you've received a variety of reviews is good for your book.


Over ten years ago as a frustrated acquisitions editor, I wrote Book Proposals That Sell. The book has hundreds of Five Star Amazon reviews and it has helped many people. I have offered my publisher a revision or update but he has not taken my offer. The inside of this book has not been revised. It continues to be reviewed. About four months ago, I received a detailed One Star review. Did I read the review? Yes. Did I take any action or reach out to this reviewer? No. This book continues to help people. If you want the revision, then get the Ebook version, which has been updated. Or take my Write A Book Proposal course. You need to fix what you can, then let the rest go—and continue working on getting reviews.

Has your book been out several years? Are you still working on getting reviews? I hope so. These new reviews will help you continue to sell more books.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2016


5 Reasons to Read Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoir

I have always loved reading biographies, autobiographies and memoirs. I've written more than 60 books and many of the books fall into one of these categories. Also when I read a book, I often write a short review on Goodreads. If you check this page and look through the covers with books and my reviews, you will see many of these books are biographies, autobiographies or memoirs.

1. The Experiences Are Real


While I enjoy reading a good novel, the stories in biographies or memoirs are not created but based on reality. Recently I’ve been listening to Anjelica Huston read her book, Watch Me. She told about being in a car accident in the 70's where she wasn’t wearing a seat belt (not required then). As a part of this accident, she broke her nose in eight places. That little details stuck because I found it fascinating.


2. Personal Encouragement



Last year my biography of Billy Graham was released. Mr. Graham has preached the Good News about Jesus face to face in front of more peple than anyone on the planet. He is currently 97 years old. Some people may wonder if Billy Graham ever doubted his faith. He had doubts and here's a brief excerpt from my book (pages 59-60):
"Several other series of meetings were held that year, and for the summer of 1949, the team prepared for a crusade in Los Angeles, the largest citywide meetings of its kind to date. At the end of August, before the campaign began, Billy attended the annual College Briefing Conference at Forest Home, becoming the youngest college president to speak at the conference."
"One night after the conference’s evening session, Billy pondered a simple question: Can I really trust the Bible? He decided that if the answer was no, he could not with a clear conscience conduct the campaign in Los Angeles. At thirty years of age, it wasn’t too late to quit the ministry and return to his wife in North Carolina. He wrestled with the answer."
"Unable to sleep, he took a walk in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dropping to his knees in the moonlight, he placed his Bible on a tree stump. The moon didn’t cast enough light for him to read its pages, but there at his makeshift altar, he prayed to God: “There are many things in this book that I don’t understand,” he began. “There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions, and many areas that do not correlate with modern science.”
"Billy was trying to be honest with God about his deepest thoughts and questions. Finally, he felt the assurance of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as your Word—by faith. I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be your inspired Word.” Billy got to his feet and immediately sensed the presence of God and a new source of power within himself. While not every question was answered, he sensed that God was leading him, and he knew that he could depend on the Word.”
I hope you find this story encouraging. It certainly helped me to know Mr. Graham's experience.
3. Discover Memorable Stories

From reading Tom Jones autiobiography, Over the Top and Back, I learned at one point early in his career, he sold vacuum cleaners door to door. Or also in his book, he told an unforgettable story about Elvis Presley and how he carried a six shooter. I would never know these true stories if I did not read these types of books.

4. Gain Insight into the Success of Others


I enjoyed reading Troublemaker by actress Leah Remini about her involvement and escape from Scientolgy. Many people believe a well-known actress like Remini just skyrocketed to her success with shows like King of Queens. But this line in Chapter Seven was revealing and dispels this misconception. "All told, I've been on more than twenty-five eventually cancelled television shows in my career, and have appeared on even more pilots that never made it to air. While I would never complain, I certainly did feel anxiety. This is not an easy business to be in." (page 68 to 69) This quote affirmed to me again that there are no overnight successes.

5. Changes Revered People into Real People


Years ago I wrote a youth biography about Chuck Colson, a much revered person in the Christian market because of his teaching and work in Prisons through Prison Fellowship.
When I interviewed people around Chuck every person wanted to tell me about his practical jokes—something you would not expect on the surface. I built some of those stories into my book. To my knowledge, it is about the only record of this aspect of Chuck’s life and makes him real as well as a hero.

I love reading these types of books. Do you read them or listen to them? What are you learning from these types of books? I look forward to your lessons and comments.




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Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Five Ways to Boost Your Writing To A New Level


It's hard for every writer to begin and it takes work for every writer to move to a new level with their writing. I've been pouring words into stories since I was in high school and have had a lot of practice—yet I continue to learn new aspects of the publishing world.

Late one night at a writers' conference, I was sitting with several much published writers listening to their stories. At that point in my career, I had published only a few magazine articles. These writers discussed how each of them has huge doubts and fears every time they begin a new book. I found their honesty encouraging. It is like the actors or public speakers who admit to getting nervous or butterflies right before they walk on the stage. Such feelings are a part of life and these professionals have learned to acknowledge these feelings, accept them and yet move past them to produce excellent work.

If you want to move your writing to a new level of excellence, here's five ways to boost your writing. I encourage you to do as many of these ways as you can in the days ahead. If you take action, then in a few months your writing will be at a new place in the market.

1. Attend a Writers' Conference (cost: varies)

Published authors agree the step which propelled their writing life is attending a writer's conference. If you have never been to a conference, now is the time to plan to attend a conference. I'm going to be speaking at several conferences in the coming months (use this link to learn more details). There are many excellent conferences. Prepare ahead of time and this action will broaden your connections to editors and agents—but also give you key insights into your own writing life. Attend the workshops, take notes and follow the teaching. Also meet one-on-one with different editors and agents, then follow their suggestions and submit your material to them.

2. Read a Book on the Writing Craft Every Month (cost: free or low)

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction or have never written, I encourage you to intentionally read books about the craft of writing.  I have shelves of these books that I have read but you don't have to purchase them. Get them from your local library. I've written a couple of these books like Book Proposals That Sell or Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Weave these books into your reading plans then take action on what you learn—apply it to the writing and marketing of your books.

3. Take an online course (cost: varies)

There are many possibilities in this area. Bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins has launched a FREE three lesson course course. Or another alternative is listening to a number of my free teleseminars on different topics like blogging or book reviews or dealing with the media or special market sales. Also you can take my Write a Book Proposal course.  Finally for this method, you can use my Simple Membership System to create your own membership course. 

4. Read blog posts from respected leaders (cost: free)

A number of literary agents and well-known editors have created blogs. Look for their subscription button on the site and sign up. The updates will come to your email box and you can read them and learn from their expertise. To get you started, here's a new list of the Top 100 Writing Blogs for Authors and Bloggers. Notice how I qualify who you read. Select people with experience and follow their guidance instead of “so-called experts” who when you look at their credentials have published less than five books. I include this reality check to make sure you are taking teaching from real experts.

5. Follow my twitter feed and read the articles in it (cost: free)

At this writing, I've been on twitter since 2009 and tweeted over 28,000 times (almost every hour throughout every day). I'm committed to reading and telling my followers about solid teaching information in the publishing and writing area.  As you follow this information stream, it is a terrific education to help you take your writing to a new level of excellence.

Follow the links and advice in this post and you will take your writing to a new level. It is critical that you do more than read and absorb new information.  It's great to learn but in addition to learning, you need to take action and incorporate what you learn into your daily actions. If I can help you in this journey, don't hesitate to reach out to me. My personal email is in my twitter profile. You can boost your writing with these active steps.


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Monday, January 04, 2016


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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Thursday, December 31, 2015


My Plans for The New Year


As we begin a New Year, many people are making resolutions, setting goals and plans for the year ahead. I'm right there with you and in this article, I'm going to layout some of my personal plans. I hope you will find some insights and inspiration for your own writing life. Instead of resolutions or goals, I have six areas with actions in each area to highlight.

1. Take Responsibility for My Own Success.

I've mentioned this aspect a number of times in these articles. Over the holidays a long-time publishing friend sent me a letter addressed to marketers. This author has written a number of books with traditional publishers. His concern is one I've heard many times from writers (and I've voiced myself in the past). The publisher has marketing departments and why aren't they marketing. He's a writer and he does not want to be turned into a marketer. He doesn't want to blog or tweet or Facebook or _____ to market his book. He wants to be left to his writing craft. The letter is laced with frustration. I hear it—yet it is not reality of today's book market.

Here's a dose of reality according to my friend Penny Sansevieri, currently there are at least 4,500 books published every day. As an author, how are you going to break through that noise and actually sell books (succeed)? It will not happen trying to pass the responsibility to someone else (like a marketing department). It happens by taking responsbility for your own success (the first principle of the bestselling The Success Principles from Jack Canfield). I've mentioned Canfield and Victor Hansen's Rule of Five. You may not commit to five actions but what can you do and do it consistently? I'm committed to consistently working at my own success.

2. Re-commit to being a good communicator and writer.

As an editor and writer, I work in the communication business. Even on the holiday with my publisher “closed,” I've been answering a few emails and writing my authors and others. It's a chronic problem throughout the industry: silence. I'm again committed to solid customer service. Yes it takes effort but is well worth it in my view and helps me stand out in a crowded market.

3. Continue my own spiritual development.

While I've rarely written about it in this blog, you can tell from my list of published books and the type of books that I write, I'm a Christian. (Read here for the story of my life change). For many years, I've been reading through the Bible (cover to cover). I select different versions and tools for this reading but I've made another commitment to read through the Bible again during the coming year. These few moments each day feed into my spiritual development and life.

4. Continue my own personal growth.

I often write about different books or online courses or audios or other ways that I'm developing as a writer and communicator. This week I purchased a simple cord to connect my iPhone to the audio system in my car. I download the free audio book through Overdrive and can play the book over my car speakers. I'm constantly learning something new and applying it to my daily life. I hope you will do the same.

5. Continue working on my own health.

Each of us have a finite number of days on the earth and as a writer and editor, I spent a great deal of time sitting (not moving). For over a year, I ignored exercise and my weight showed it. In the last few months, I've recommitted to working on my health (good eating but also consistent exercise). It's not easy and consumes time from other things but is a priority for me (and hopefully for you).

6. Continued commitment to helping others (including you).

As we close out 2015 and begin 2016, I have the continued commitment to teach others what I'm learning about the publishing world. It's been the focus of The Writing Life for years and also my free teleseminars, my personal teaching at conferences, my books and other ways I'm helping like through my tweets. This commitment will continue. In the last couple of days, I reworked and updated my Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. Now this resource is ready to help you and others in the days ahead.

I hope these plans have encouraged you to take action in your writing life. The days ahead will be bright and full of hope. Here's to an exciting New Year.


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Friday, December 18, 2015


Five Every Day Actions Grow Your Twitter Followers


I've been on twitter since 2009 and right now my twitter followers are growing at a rate of about 100 new followers a day. While I have many followers, I continue to take several simple and quick actions every day to add to my followers.

1. Refollow

Every day I use a simple tool called Refollow (which I've described in detail before. Follow this link for the details). I use it faithfully because it allows me to follow 800 new people in less than five minutes—but not just anyone—people who are in my target market. I'm targeting individuals who are interested in publishing (books or magazine). It is a critical aspect of using this tool.

About once a week, I'll get an error message that Twitter says I've maxed out my new followers and I can come back tomorrow. I looked and I had only followed about 190 people instead of 800. I've learned to wait about 30 minutes and return to Refollow. Then I repeat the process and follow more followers and the tool begins again to reach new people. Don't believe the error message and persistence pays off with reaching 600 more people than Twitter was going to allow me to reach.

2. Manage Flitter

A second tool I use every day is Manage Flitter. I've also described the use of this tool in detail. Follow the link. I use this tool to eliminate people who have not set up their profile, don't speak English, and are fake or spam followers.  Also it allows me to quickly unfollow people who are not following me back.

3. Scan Your Twitter Home Feed

About once a day, I will scan through home feed on Twitter. I do it on my desktop computer so it is easy to see. I'm looking to block porn, non-English tweets (non-Roman scripts) and anything offensive. This process is quick and I page through my feed. I know I don't catch everything but it is something simple that I do to maintain my followers.

4. Respond to Direct Messages

I use Hootsuite to monitor my direct messages from followers and respond to them. This tool is free and easy to use. The engagement is one of the key reasons to use Twitter. Also notice my Twitter profile includes my personal email address. Often my new followers will email me for help—and I always respond point them to my blog, my free teleseminars, my other free writing resources.  My personal goal is to answer these emails within 24 hours and often I do it quicker. These writers are surprised that I answer since most publishing communication goes into a black hole (no answer) and I provide solid writing resources.

5. Tweet Valuable Content (mostly not mine)

I use Hootsuite to schedule my tweets almost every hour throughout the working hours of a day. Throughout my day I read content of other people and I pass along this valuable content about publishing to my followers. My active tweeting builds followers (and it will for you as well). Also notice for almost every tweet, I include an image (which is part of Hootsuite). It's been proven using images gets more attention for your tweets. 

These simple actions do not consume a lot of time but the fact I do it every day (repeatedly) builds traction and a following on Twitter. I've recently gone over 158,000 followers and have no plans to stop growing my following. You can follow the same steps with consistent action. It will give you more credibility with other writers, catch the attention of literary agents and editors—and help you in ways you can't even imagine. 

I spend most of my days working as an acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, Morgan James. If I can do these steps, then you can find a few minutes to do them. Be encouraged and let me know how it is working for you.

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