Bookmarks Hold Your Reading Place
When you read a printed book, do you use a bookmark to hold your place? Or do you bend down the corner? Or do you stick anything into the book to hold your place—like a business card or any little piece of paper?
Because I've been in book publishing for many years, I've always been fascinated with with bookmarks. Over the years, I've created bookmarks that promote my books and I give them away when I attend conferences.
Also when I walk around book trade shows like the recent Book Expo, I'm always on the lookout for some different types of bookmarks. Book Expo has miles of trade show exhibitors and some of those small exhibitors are displaying bookmarks and bookmark-related materials.
Artgame is one of the places which caught my attention at Book Expo. Their beautiful 3D bookmarks almost jump off the page. If you are unfamiliar with their work (as I was), just follow this link to look at their 3D products. They gave me a copy of the bookmark called Big Five with five African animals and they nearly leap off the page with the 3D technology.
Also they gave me a copy of a bookmark called Sam which is Uncle Sam pointing his finger and saying “I want you.” As you move the bookmark, his finger moves around.
I tend to use a bookmark like Big Five over and over in different books and it's a fun way to enhance my reading experience. Occasionally I will lose a bookmark when I leave it in a book such as a library book.
Most of the time, the bookmark is tucked into my desk drawer for the next book that I will be reading. In general, it is rare that I lose them.
How about you? Do you use bookmarks? Some people collect bookmarks. Do you? If you are a writer, do you create bookmarks to promote your books? I'd love to hear your insights and comments about these tools.
|Big Five 3D Bookmark|
Labels: 3D bookmarks, Artgame, bookmarks, reading, tools
The Necessity of Simple Follow-up
Good and clear communication is a critical element in the business of publishing. Otherwise authors and editors have wrong expectations.
Last week I was at Wheaton College for Write to Publish. During the question and answer portion of a workshop, a woman asked, “I sent my manuscript to an editor who asked for it at the last conference. I never heard and checked on it about six months later. When I called, the editor said she had not received it and could I send it again. I sent it a second time. Now it is six month's later and I've heard nothing. What do I do?”
See the challenge for the author? She has been waiting for a response to a requested submission and hearing nothing. This new writer is too timid to email or call and check with the editor about it. I understand the reluctance because sometimes when you check, it gets rejected—and no one wants to be rejected.
Here's what the writer isn't thinking about. As editors, we receive a lot of material. For example, at Morgan James, we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. Did you see those numbers? A massive amount of material is floating through our system at any single time period. I'm constantly putting submissions into our system and sorting through my acquisitions files.
To be transparent, other editors are not as careful with their submissions. It is not uncommon for me to receive several hundred emails a day. If I'm traveling or at a conference, then I can't be as conscious of my email and the submissions. Manuscripts, proposals and submissions are misplaced and some times the editor doesn't receive them. Or maybe they have moved into a new computer or their computer has crashed or any number of other possibilities.
Here's what I suggested to the writer asking about her manuscript: follow-up with the editor. Don't wait weeks yet at the same time give it at least a week so you don't seem overly anxious. Then you can email or put in a quick phone call to the editor asking, “Did you receive my submission?” Notice the question. You are not asking if the editor has read it or reached a decision—which if you ask is pushing them to say, “no.” Instead you are simply asking if they received it.
You avoid waiting months for a response, hearing nothing and then asking only to learn the editor never received it. I never mind an author checking with me to see if I received their material and this simple follow-up is professional and appreciated.
Other authors are extreme in the other direction of follow-up. They follow-up too frequently and often. I have a children's author who submitted their material three weeks ago. I got their material into our submission system and they received an acknowledgement from me in the mail. In addition, I emailed the author to tell him I received his submission. Yet, in the last several weeks, I've been in Seattle, New York City and last week Chicago. With my travel, I have not been processing manuscripts. Yet this author has called multiple times—essentially making himself a nuisance. In my last email to him, I leveled with him and asked for patience—and no more calls or checking—or I would be rejecting his submission. I've not heard from him in the last few days so hopefully he is following my last instructions or I will follow through with the rejection letter (whether I've read his material or not).
Why take such a direct response with this eager author? Because if he is eager with his submission then he is showing that he will be eager throughout the entire publication process. You can substitute my use of the word “eager” with the word “high maintenance.” No publisher wants high maintenance authors. Every publisher wants to work with professionals and not with eager authors who simply waste volumes of time and energy over nothing.
If you are submitting your work, that is excellent. Many writers never get published because of this simple fact: they never submit their material. As a professional writer, you also need to use this simple follow-up method to make sure that your material was received. It will help your work be considered and move forward through the publication process. This follow-up work is critical.
Labels: acquisitions editor, follow-up, manuscript, Morgan James Publishing, rejection, submission
The Risk-Taking Writer
This weekend I returned from Book Expo, the largest book trade show in the United States in New York City. A trade show requires the attendees to wear a badge to get into the event and the entrances are closely monitored.
The floor of Book Expo is filled with librarians and booksellers from around the world. The exhibits are large and small publishers who are showing off their forthcoming books and authors. The aisles are full of well-known and unknown authors. For example, I saw journalist and political commentator Chris Matthews in the Simon and Schuster area signing the paperback version of his New Times bestseller, Jack Kennedy.
From my years in publishing I know that every book which is published is a risk. No one knows if the book will sell or not. The publishing professionals make their best effort and put the book into the market. Book Expo or trade shows like it are one more way that an author can get exposure for their book.
One of the foundational keys is to take calculated risks in publishing. First and foremost a good book is based on an excellent manuscript. Good writing is critical.
As I walked around the massive floor, I saw some unusual risk takers. For example, I met one new publisher with three full color picture books. While the art work was beautiful, I looked at the story and it seemed to have a lot of words for a picture book.
I mentioned this concern to the publisher and he instantly launched into how they are creating a new category of picture book which he called the picture book/ chapter book. I listened but skeptically. The children's book market is very particular. The age category and the expectations from retailers and librarians and others is almost impossible to shift or “add a new category.”
I wish this new publisher nothing but the best but from my years in this market, I could see some potential pitfalls in his book launch. I hope he proves me wrong and sells thousands of copies of his beautiful books.
The Book Expo was an excellent event in my view because of the opportunity to meet with literary agents and authors. On the final day of the event, Saturday, the public could purchase tickets to attend and someone told me that over 600 people were waiting in line to be able to enter the exhibit floors. I was grateful for the opportunity attend and learn from the experience and new relationships.
My encouragement to you as a writer is to take calculated risks. Every bit of writing that I've done for years involves risk. Every writer can:
And in the area of conferences, tomorrow I'm headed to Chicago to be on the faculty of Write to Publish at Wheaton College tomorrow. I hope to see some of you at this event. Or possibly you can attend a conference later in the year (follow the link) and we can have some face to face time. I look forward to it.
Labels: Book Expo, children's books, conferences, nonfiction, picture books, relationships, risk
When You Send Out Gibberish
During the last five years, I've written over 1200 entries in The Writing Life. Besides continuing to expand my reach with these entries, I've arranged for readers to receive my writings via email and almost 500 people receive the information through this tool. If you want to subscribe, go to my blog then scroll down and in the right hand sidebar, you can subscribe.
I subscribe to my own writings and each day I look at the email. Imagine my horror when I opened the one for today and it was pure computer gibberish (see the screen shot to see part of what I'm talking about). It was pages of weird stuff which made zero sense.
Because of my work as an acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, Morgan James, I don't have a lot of time for writing these entries. For yesterday's entry, I worked hard at crafting some insight about the publishing world search for excellence. I added links to additional information and (here's my mistake), I included one of my personal photos from my recent trip to Seattle.
For some reason, I could not get the photo uploaded into my blog. I tried resizing it and then I realized that I could copy and paste it into the site. That worked on the actual site, but not on the email version. That email version was entirely garbled and nothing came through to the reader.
The minute I saw the errors, I went into a “fix it” mode. I went to the site where I sent the emails to my readers and arranged to resend this single post—right away. I received the corrected entry in my email. Whew.
I have several lessons from this experience:
1. Every writer makes mistakes. The important skill in my view is to own that mistake then work to resolve it as soon as possible.
2. I handle my own technical issues. I'll admit it is a pain some times and not everything gets done quickly because my focus is elsewhere. Yet there is no one to blame for mistakes or inaction except myself. I know all about outsourcing and how I can hire others—yet I also understand the speed and value of doing something myself (besides the cost savings). I own a number of websites. If something isn't working right or handled properly, it falls back on my own responsibility to correct. I accept that responsibility.
What action steps are you taking if you make a communication mistake? Do you shrug it or work to resolve it right away? These skills are important in the writing community and I hope my transparency helps you.
Labels: communication, honesty, mistakes, transparency
The Constant Hunt for Excellent Writing
|The view from Lake Washington|
Last weekend I was in beautiful Seattle at the Northwest Writers Association Conference. I've been privileged to speak at this conference several times over the years. I always find it invigorating to get away from my computer and phone for a bit to meet face to face with writers and talk about books and publishing.
In today's connected world, we seem to rarely get away from our computer and phone but at least we can grab the face to face time. Several years ago at this conference, I met retired surgeon Lloyd Johnson. In recent years, Lloyd has been writing fiction. We've kept in touch and when I joined Morgan James, I reached out to him to him and discovered he had a great novel called Living Stones. I championed his novel to my colleagues at Koehler Books, the fiction imprint of Morgan James. If you click this link, you can read a sample of the book and see the attractive book cover.
Lloyd's passion is about telling stories about the Middle East and he has taken that passion into his storytelling and novel. Lloyd and I had dinner at beautiful Lake Washington (see my photo) and talked about book publishing. He is excited about the forthcoming publication of his first book and has connections to some great nonprofit organizations in this part of the world. I was encouraging him to include in his launch plans some ideas to sell his books large numbers.
Most writers are thinking of selling books one book at a time. What if you could sell boxes of books with one connection? It can happen with the right mindset and planning. To learn more listen to this free teleseminar. It's an interview that I hosted with Ted Rogers and Vickie Mullins (use this link). Lloyd has an excellent novel and now needs to reach as many people as possible with his new book. If you have a book, I encourage you to spend some time in strategic thinking about how to reach new audiences.
All day Friday, the Seattle conference had a series of group pitching sessions. Each one had five or six or seven writers. Often these conferences have individual meetings so it was different to hear the pitches in a group. I am actively looking for excellent writing. Morgan James publishes nonfiction, fiction and even children's books (a challenging area for any new writer these days).
In this group setting, I focused on one writer at a time and heard their pitch. Yet everyone else in the group also heard the pitch and could learn from what worked or didn't work. It was a different dynamic than one on one pitching but the participants seemed to enjoy the interaction and learning experience.
Since meeting these new people, I've been writing emails and encouraging these writers to send me their material. Morgan James receives about 5,000 submissions a year and only publishes about 150 books. Yet you can't have your material considered if you don't send it. During the conference, I participated in a panel discussion with all of the faculty (several other editors and literary agents). We agreed that often we encourage writers to submit their material. It was confirmed that many times, we ask for the submission at a conference and the writer never sends it. Talk about a missed opportunity! Yes no one likes to be rejected—but you can't get into the consideration process if you never submit it.
As editors and agents, we are on a constant hunt for excellent writing. Yes we are looking for authors who are connected to the marketplace. Yet good writing is always important. Are you a good communicator? How do you become a good communicator? Practice. Good writing will result in more good writing.
Several weeks ago, I attended an excellent workshop at the American Society of Journalists and Author Conference in New York City called Book Publishing: Making It in the New Frontier. Unfortunately this session was not recorded. The panelists included Jon Fine, the director of Author & Publisher Relations at Amazon.com, Amy Grace Loyd, the executive editor of Byliner, and Jofie Ferrari-Adler, a Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster. Moderator John Rosengren organized this excellent event.
While this workshop had a lot of information about the future of publishing, at one point, each of the experienced panelists talked about the importance of excellent writing. Whether you are writing for Byliner or magazines or books, your storytelling and writing has to be excellent.
How do you learn to be an excellent writer? I believe it comes from constant practice and working in the publishing industry. So many authors want to publish a book so they work for hours and hours on a long 40,000 to 100,000 piece of writing—yet they ignore the magazine market. It is much better to learn to write with shorter articles than to “practice” with a longer work like a book. You are better to start a blog and begin writing short articles or to learn to write query letters to magazines and then write the articles than to work years on a longer book which finds limited readers. Thousands of people will read your magazine work so don't ignore those possibilities.
I continue to write for magazines on a regular basis—and have done so for over 20 years. It's where I can practice my storytelling craft on a regular basis—and you can do the same.
I'm speaking at a number of places in the coming months. I hope to see you on the road and we can talk about your book ideas face to face. I'm on the continual search for excellent writing.
Labels: acquisitions editor, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Amy Grace Loyd, ASJA, Byliner, excellence, fiction, Koehler Books, literary agent, Living Stones, Lloyd Johnson, Morgan James Publishing, writing
You Can Make A Difference
Do you want to make a difference in the lives of others? P.K. Hallinan, author of 90 children's books that have sold almost ten million copies, identifies a key need for people: to have a life which makes a difference in others.
Hallinan boils it down to five steps:
1. Work hard
2. Go in the strength you have.
3. Finish what you start.
4. Be patient.
5. Help others along the way.
Through a combination of personal stories, the stories of others and solid how-to information, Hallinan packs a punch in every chapter of this easy-to-read book.
As he says on page 24, "You have one life, and this is your time in the sun. Use it well."
In the section on “Finish What You Start” (a real problem for many writers), he writes, “Perseverance is often the key to success. We may need to stand up one more time. We may need to take one more step. We may need to fight one more battle…”My friend who made himself a millionaire twice over liked to say, “Success in business comes from doing a lot of little things right.” I agree. In life, as well as in business, it's often the little things that make the biggest difference.” (Page 99–100)
I enjoyed reading this slim volume and recommend A LIFE THAT MATTERS, FIVE STEPS TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
Labels: difference, life choice, P.K. Hallinan, perseverance, persistence, success
The Power of Teaching
While it was many years ago, to me, I can remember it as though it was yesterday. I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher Mr. Smith suggested that I might like to join the high school newspaper. He noticed something in my writing and recommended this extracurricular activity.
I took action and became a sports writer on the paper. This sports position was the only one available. I wasn’t active in sports so had to learn everything such as the terminology and the most basic of writing skills. Yet I loved it. I enjoyed observing the games and interviewing the players and the coach and getting quotations then putting that information into the article.
That sports writing experience introduced me to writing stories and headlines and learning how to pull the reader into my story. This introduction to journalism took my life in a focused direction. I ended up being the editor of my high school newspaper, then studying journalism at one of the top schools in the nation, Indiana University. Each step has built a lot into my life and writing life.
Stop for a minute and think about an influential teacher or mentor in your own life. Who is this person? Can you reach out to them and express your appreciation?
Years ago I tried to reach out to Mr. Smith. I called my old high school to see how I could find him. It turns out he passed away a couple of years earlier. I was too late in my expression of gratitude.
Don’t wait too long to express this gratitude to others. Do it today and you will bless the people who have guided your life decisions. I encourage you to watch this 2.5 minute video on the power of gratitude (just follow the link).
This past week I received a review copy of a children’s book from a new author. I met this author seven years earlier when I was teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference near Asheville, North Carolina. In the cover letter, she thanked me for my words of encouragement years ago. I’ve forgotten the specifics of what I said. I’m out at a conference about once a month. You can see my schedule here. I encourage you to look it over and plan to come to an event where we can meet and talk about your writing.
Today take action. Pull out a card and write a note to someone expressing appreciation. Then do it again and again. The power of gratitude can be life changing.
Labels: action, gratitude, teaching, writers conference