Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ever Thought About Going It Alone?

As a Guest Blogger, Nicole O'Dell Talks About Publishing Without An Agent

One Isn't Always the Loneliest Number

I’ve never considered myself to be a rule breaker. But if you looked at my publishing history, you might think differently.

Let’s take a look at some “unbreakable” industry rules:

→ An unpublished author cannot sell an unwritten fiction manuscript.

In 2008, as an unpublished author, I got a two-book deal for unfinished fiction.

→ An unpublished author can only gain the attention of an agent or editor at a conference or by referral.

Not true for me. I’ve never been to a conference. (I’d LOVE to go but my toddler triplets have other plans for me right now.)

→ An unpublished author cannot approach publishers without an agent.

That two-book deal I mentioned above? There have been two more two-book deals since then. That’s six books since 2008 - with no agent.

In my few short years in the publishing industry, I’ve toiled many hours over the question of whether or not to find an agent to represent my work. In 2008, I was blessed beyond measure to receive a contract for my first two books through direct communication with Barbour Publishing. I didn’t have representation, my manuscripts were incomplete and I was unpublished at the time. I truly believed that my idea was going to sell my books, so I decided to give it a try on my own. Plus, I figured it would be just as difficult to get my ideas in front of an agent as it would be to go to the publisher directly. I broke several industry “rules” by going about it in that way, but it worked for me.

Granted, there are only a few publishers that are open to unagented authors, and fewer still who will contract a novel without it being complete. I happened to find a publisher who did both.

Sometimes, it’s just not the right time to work with an agent. If you’re an unpublished writer whose work is unfinished or unpolished, you’ll only damage the potential of a future contact by approaching them prematurely—after all, what do you expect them to represent? A hope and a promise?

Or, perhaps you’re like me and you’ve gotten your first contracts, written some books, secured future contracts and see a nice steady road mapped out ahead of you—you may not feel you “need” an agent right now, either.

Would things have been different for me if I’d had representation from the beginning? I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a negotiator—I’m a contract signer. I’m not a sales person—I’m just a grateful working writer. I’m not an industry-savvy professional—I’m just a learn-as-I-go hard worker. So, in all likelihood, my advance would have been a little higher. Perhaps my royalty split would have been a little tighter. And, an agent would have definitely encouraged me to perfect my work more, knowing that I was still in the throes of learning. But, I think all of that is true for any author, with or without an agent. There’s always something to second guess.

If I were to seek an agent for future projects, I would want someone who believed in me as an author and wanted to manage my career, not just one book. She/he would be able to negotiate killer contracts, ensure that excellent books are published, guide me toward making sure they are marketed properly, etc. My perfect author/agent relationship would include a joint ministry focus, an overall approach to branding and a shared outlook on the future. That’s a tall order. Many agents don’t want to participate in all of that, and that’s fine. But, I would rather not sign with one at all than to settle for anything other than that.

Sometimes it’s okay to work alone. Your writing career doesn’t begin the day you join forces with a literary agency. You can still be a working writer, still pursue contracts and still chase your dreams one step at a time until the doors to the hallowed halls of the perfect literary agency open for you. The key is to keep going, keep writing and keep your eyes on your goals.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is This The End of America?

This is not my usual blog topic.

Everyday I read the news and wonder just how much more freedom can survive.

The obama administration seems determined to change America into a post American social experiment, where his troops use the patriot act to destroy those who disagree, or resist his agenda.

When a few malcontent liberals can derail the purchase of a sports team because they object to a person's opinions, then go out and fabricate statements just to have something to complain about, is a symptom of the end of our lifestyle as we know it.

The 2010 midterm election is our closest chance to limit the damage obama and his pack of wolves are doing, but we might not have a country to save in another year.

Publishers are pulling books because someone "might" be offended, someday and elitist liberals are demanding more.

Schools are labeling five year old children sex offenders for hugging a crying classmate.

Courts are inventing laws just to please their cocktail party friends and other courts are too timid to reverse them, for fear of being labeled by the left.

Are we experiencing the end of America? Is obama the one that is to blame? Is george soros really the puppet master, controlling obama just as David Rockerfeller controlled Jimmy Carter?

When the dollar fails completely, as obama and his pack of wolves are working toward, how do Americans pay bills, keep the electricity on, fund schools, maintain hospitals and buy food?

The trillions in new deficit sending is guaranteed to collapse our economic system and overwhelm the governments, which is exactly what obama's mentor, Saul Alinsky preached in his writings.

When you look at obama's plans, you see a list of new deficit spending out to the horizon, as if the destruction of America is exactly what he wants.

I think it's coming time to push back and demand accountability, refuse to be silenced by a partisan media with shivers down their legs and elect a new congress and senate. Force these newly elected representatives to appoint intelligent and decent people to judgeship's and stop the insanity.

We have no choice left but to take responsibility for our government's actions and demand that they stop the wholesale destruction of our economy, before there is nothing left to save.

Here is a good plan.

Be Prayerful. Pray for guidance, protection, honorable leaders and courage.

Be Brave.

Be unswayed by the emotional cocktails of the administration's crooks and liars.

Be Honest and Straightforward, giving no quarter to a bunch that would take over your local hospital and turn you out in a heartbeat.

Hold your elected government accountable. Do not let them wiggle off the hook by blaming George Bush, or anyone else.

This is the president that proclaimed no lobbyists would be allowed in his administration, then hired more lobbyists than the last four administrations put together.

This is the president that promised the most open administration in history but sealed the White House visitor records so no one can determine who is coming and going, has sealed every one of his records from first grade on up, and refuses to provide basic information about how he paid for his Harvard education and exactly what did his wife do for over $ 300,000 a year in a Chicago hospital, a job that began right after he was elected to the senate, after a bunch of questionable campaign activities.

In an economic meltdown, while making speeches about people tightening their belts, this is the president that spent millions of our money to go on a date to NYC, then flew Hawaiian dancers to Washington dance for him, at dinner one night.

This is the president that sent his wife on a separate 747, to speak to the Olympic committee, then flew over himself, twelve hours later, ignoring the massive wasted tax money.

This is the president that PROMISED bills would be posted online for FIVE DAYS before a vote so the people could know what their government was doing. You saw the stimulus passed by representatives that were never given time to read what they were hammered to pass and now they plan the exact same thing with health care and then cap and trade.

Each of those are multi-trillion dollar deficit programs, designed to harm American taxpayers. That debt is money the treasury can never tax people enough to pay back but they are inventing taxes at a record pace.

We are living through the end of America at the hands of a despotic regime. It's time to stand up and refuse to die.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Say You Want to Become a Professional Speaker... Then What?

Mike Hyatt shares much of what he learned from Ken Davis at the Professional Communicators Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

There is a tremendous amount of information, distilled into a handful of paragraphs and lots of conversation topics. Use what is good for you and file the rest for future reference.

As someone who does a fair amount of speaking myself, I was confident I could benefit personally form the Summit. However, I also thought I could use this information with many of the authors I publish as the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was right on both counts.

The conference is sponsored by Ken Davis. In case you are not familiar with Ken, he is a very popular Christian speaker and comedian. He has had a significant, wide-reaching career. He is also a student of speaking and, especially, the business of speaking. He has distilled everything he has learned in 30 years of professional speaking and used it to take hundreds of other speakers to the next level.

Over the course of three days, we learned four things:

1. How to discover our assets as a speaker. We took an inventory of our talents and gifts. We looked at our status and platform. We reviewed our own proprietary information and expertise. We even considered how we could convert our weaknesses into strengths. This was hugely eye-opening. I discovered that I had much more to work with than I originally thought.
2. How to design our products. Our “product” is all about how we package and sell our assets. We began with the question, “What product am I really promoting, selling, or delivering to your buyers? We then discussed four kinds of products:
* A presentation at someone else’s event
* Our own events, like seminars or conferences
* Resources, like books, DVDs, CDs, etc.
* Services, like consulting, coaching, counseling, etc.
3. How to market our products. We discussed what marketing is and four steps to building a perception about our products. It was especially helpful to learn about the kinds of things that damage perception. We also discussed what meeting planners are looking for, how to develop effective promotional materials, and the pluses and minuses of speakers bureaus and booking agents.
4. How to determine our value. Frankly, this was one of the most helpful segments. We discussed why we should charge for our services, how much we should charge, and an extremely helpful pricing concept called “high bar/low bar.” Ken even role-played a fee negotiation with one of the other instructors that demonstrated how natural this conversation can be and to do it in a way that is comfortable for both parties.

Ken was not the only instructor at the event. He had a team of dynamic communicators. I was also privileged to lead a session on “How Professional Speakers Can Get Published.” I will also be speaking at this next event.

If you have been thinking about “going pro” by either starting a speaking career or taking your existing career to the next level, this is the conference for you. This is the only conference of this type that I am aware of. It is both motivational and practical. You will leave pumped up about the possibilities for your career, with concrete tools that you can put to work immediately.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Will You Still Love Him?

I preached, Sunday on the subject of September 11th. It is a bittersweet topic as I am a New Yorker by birth and even though I have lived away for decades, like so many others, I never left in my heart.

My Scripture was from Jeremiah...

Jeremiah 29: 11-13
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

...and my point was that even though the worst thing seemed to happen September 11th...

even though the world caved in on so many...

even though Taliban made indiscriminate war against innocent men, women and children...

even though America was hurt very badly...

even though the towers in your life sometimes collapse

and things seem to turn against you at every turn.

Even though you hurt so much you think it will surely kill you and hope that happens soon...

Will You Still Love Jesus Christ?

I cry every time I see the film of the towers coming down.

I cry when I hear the voice mail recordings of those poor souls who had a chance to call home and say I love you and be happy.

My tears would make a river but even so, I still love Him. I serve only Him. The intention of my life is to be worthy of being His child.

Will You Still Love Him????

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Today When I Got Home...

Today when I got home, there was a box from Barbour Books on the front porch waiting for me.

Inside the box was the First Printing of the book to which I contributed ten devotions.

The Great Adventure - a daily devotional journal

...was released and shipped on Friday.

It came out much nicer than I expected and I expected a lot!

It sort of feels like a new member of the family. You never get used to the first time you handle a new published work. I hope I never get over the thrill.

...End Of Shameless Self Promotion...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mike Hyatt: Before You Hire a Literary Agent

One of the toughest decisions facing authors today, is what they will do about professional, positive, representation. Agents are like plumbers. For some things you can't just can't go it alone but for many others, it isn't absolutely necessary.

There are a list of "to do's" that come before hiring an agent and the list gets longer all the time.

In this age of electronic, on demand publishing, what can you do ahead of a representative to establish yourself, build a brand, lay out a solid, long term platform and find your reader base?

How can you create your finished product in publishable form, ready to be handed over to the wolves, ahead of hiring a representative?

What steps can you take to be an unpublished author of substance, who's work is ready for professional, positive, representation?

How do you know when you are nearing and / or crossing that fine line between being ready for representation and in need of representation?

Mike Hyatt has been there and done that. His suggestions are quite clear and on topic. He sits at the head of the largest publisher of Christ honoring literature in the world and knows something about this topic.

Before You Hire a Literary Agent

A while back, I received an email from one of our authors, notifying us that he had hired a new literary agent. My first thought was, You’ve got to be kidding! Of all the agents out there, why would you pick THAT one!

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against agents. Not only was I a literary agent for six years, I have been represented by an agent on all of the books I have personally published. And, of course, as a publisher, I deal with agents on a daily basis.

A few of these agents are close, personal friends. Many of them add real value to the publishing process. However, some of them do irreparable harm to the author’s reputation. Like most professions, it is a mixed bag. You owe it to yourself to do your homework.

As an author, the most important thing you need to understand about agents is that they represent YOU. If an agent has a good reputation (i.e., a brand), that reputation will accrue to your benefit:

* If the agent is knowledgeable and well-read, publishers will assume that you are a person of literary merit—someone to be taken seriously.
* If the agent is prompt and responsive, publishers will assume that you are cooperative and low-maintenance—someone they want to work with.
* If the agent is reasonable in the terms they request, publishers will assume that you are committed to a win-win paradigm—someone they want to invest in.

However, if an agent has a bad reputation, that reputation will also accrue to your detriment:

* If the agent isn’t well-read and isn’t conversant with your topic or proposal, publishers will assume that you don’t know what you are talking about either.
* If your agent is disorganized and unresponsive, publishers will assume that you are uncooperative and high-maintenance.
* If the agent is unreasonable and greedy, publishers will assume that you are committed to a win-lose paradigm and just in it for the money.

Frankly, I am amazed that so many authors hire agents without checking references. To be blunt, this is just stupid. You wouldn’t do this with an employee; why would you do it with an agent?

In hiring new employees, I have found that checking references is the single most important thing I can do. Prospective employees will tell you all kinds of things in an interview. They will spin their story to their advantage. But, as Ronald Reagan used to say, “trust but verify.” You never know for sure until you check the references. The same is true in hiring a literary agent.

Before you hire a literary agent, I would encourage you to:

1. Contact at least three authors whom the agent currently represents. Ask the agent for a list, including telephone numbers. Obviously, these will be clients the agent thinks will speak well of him. Regardless, you will still learn a great deal by talking to these clients. If possible, talk with them on the phone. People will tell you things on a phone call that they will not put in writing.
2. Contact at least three publishers with whom the agent has recently done business. Again, ask the agent to provide a list. Ask the publisher, four questions:
* “Did the agent present a compelling proposal?”
* “Did the agent provide you what you needed to make a good decision?”
* “Did the agent respond to your calls and emails in a timely manner?”
* “Was the agent fair and reasonable in the negotiating process?”

If you already have an agent, it is important that you monitor how you are being represented. Check in with your publisher from time to time and make sure that you are being well-represented. Keep in mind that the publisher will be reluctant to be candid unless he can count on your confidentiality.

By the way, I maintain a “List of Literary Agents who Represent Christian Authors”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Video Trailers Help Sell Your Book

Why a Video Will Help Sell Your Book

A shopper who watches a video about a product is more likely to buy it.

We are all concerned with the steps necessary to market our work. We wonder about how to spend very limited marketing dollars. Our thoughts are contradictory, at times and frustrating. At times it seems like we are taking a stab in the dark, with funds that need to be spent with the utmost care.

Alan Rinzler has a bit about one emerging marketing trend that seems promising, through a well produced video trailer. It's worth the read.

by Alan Rinzler
That’s why publishers and video producers are rushing to collaborate on low-cost video book trailers. Publicists and marketing professionals believe these videos are the best new way to create the kind of buzz that attracts readers and sales.
In the past few months, publishers like Simon & Schuster, Harlequin, Scholastic, Wiley and others, have commissioned and produced hundreds of these short videos. They’re posting them on their own company websites, on Amazon, YouTube, author sites and blogs, and an expanding universe of multimedia and social networking sites.
Some of these book videos look like movie trailers, with high production values, location shots and paid actors. Some are just about the author, with talking heads and an interview at home about the book and how it was written.
Here’s one I love
This is a book trailer for New Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado (Broadway Books/Random House Sept. 09). It’s about the author and her quest for meaning and purpose in her life, which she discovers by becoming a master baker and opening her own shop in Vermont where she creates pastry and cakes to die for. They’re so well photographed you’ll want to rush out and buy them, and the book.
A sudden trend
This new approach is part of the sea change in the industry’s turbulent and volatile efforts to sell books. Most of us generally agree that the old ways of marketing books has become prohibitively expensive and obsolete, especially in the current economy and declining retail sales in all sectors.
That full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review or the 30-second national TV spot on a show like Today or Front Line can cost tens of thousands of dollars with few tangible results. At the same time the DIY free-access culture of the internet has shown how powerful a three-minute YouTube video can be, careening around cyberspace in a few minutes if viewers pass it on to interested friends in their social network.
Book publishers are struggling to figure out how to survive and flourish in this brave new world of digital marketing. Many are now willing try something new.
At John Wiley & Sons, for example, we’ve already commissioned many such videos. The Dummies division at Wiley in particular, is using video trailers to market its books. Simon & Schuster’s CEO Carolyn Reidy, told me at Book Expo this year that she’s a big supporter of this recent initiative and has ordered dozens of videos for her various imprints. Jeff Gomez at Penguin is another strong advocate of this marketing tool.
We’ve also found that these book trailers are perfect as audition tapes for national broadcast and print media, and to generate author publicity and support the author’s direct-to-reader marketing efforts to drive sales and engage customers.
Growing book trailer industry
Video production companies targeting authors are emerging to produce book trailers. For example, Andrew Kaplan, Business Development Manager of the internet video company TurnHere, says they’ve produced about 500 book videos and is releasing three or four new ones every week.
Another producer, Scott Robinson of RFI films in NYC has been creating book videos directly with the author, most notably our own favorite discovery, Lenore Skenazy.
A quick search online turned up other players, including Living Jacket, Circle of Seven Productions, and Expanded Books. I don’t have any personal experience with these companies, so please do your own due diligence if you consider using their services.
If you’re a writer under contract, be clear about who’s paying for producing the video. If you don’t yet have a book publisher, consider doing something within your budget, either on your own or with professional help. The cost for such an effort can range from a few hundred to $5,000.
How can you make the best use of this new resource?
Watch as many book videos as you can and become familiar with the rapidly changing state of the art. To get started, check out BookScreening, a hub for book trailers submitted by publishers and authors featuring great examples of this new medium. Another big player in this arena is the book trailer channel at Barnes & Noble Studio. Search YouTube for book trailers, and you’ll find more than 50,000. And there’s Vimeo, with a roster of more than 200 book videos. Also take a look at The Book Trailer Blog, with interesting background and commentary about making and re-purposing book videos.
Book trailers tend to fall into two major categories: Some are like Hollywood movie previews, with professional actors playing out elements of the stories in actual locations, with good music, slick editing, and high production values.
Others are entirely author focused, with a writer explaining why and how they wrote the book, often speaking from home. The author might be sitting behind a keyboard, walking through a location associated with the book, or conducting an interview with an on or off-camera journalist or friend.
Readers want a relationship with the author
“Our experience and field surveys show that what potential readers want most is contact with the author,” Kaplan of TurnHere says.
“Book tours don’t often bring authors to neighborhood events anymore, but people still crave that personal touch, that sense of a real person they can get to know, that relationship between author and reader.”
What would work best for your book? Would you prefer to dramatize the story in an enticing manner, or talk about your work and how you did it?
Consider roughing out a preview trailer on your own. Do you have any video equipment at home? Do you know someone who would be willing to experiment and have some fun working on this with you?
“I’ve seen good book trailers that started as an amateur Flip camera version made by the author and then later redone with professional production values,” says Robinson of RFI films.
“Lenore Skenazy and her husband Joe, for example, did a first-draft video for her book Free Range Kids with consumer equipment and software. They wrote their own script. It had humor – which is important for many book trailers — and a lot of smart ideas for inserts and locations. So we re-shot the whole thing with better audio and editing. Humor, good sound and good editing can all make a huge difference.” See the final version on Amazon.
Is Amazon charging for placement?
Book trailer producers have told me also that one of the biggest challenges they face now in video marketing campaigns is placement. It used to be easier to get a video trailer posted on Amazon, for example. Now I hear they’re beginning to charge for posting a video on the first page of a book listing.
Kaplan at TurnHere says that Amazon is beginning to charge some of his clients a $1500 fee for posting on the first page of a book listing. A spokesperson for Amazon, who prefers to remain anonymous, told me that such a fee would depend on how much business the publisher does with them, and the status of an individual author.
I’m told that we’re not paying that kind of money at Wiley for posting on Amazon, but we may be getting credit for the volume of cooperative advertising dollars that a publisher makes available to major retailers.
If anyone out there has had direct experience with Amazon regarding placement of a book trailer, we’d love to hear from you.
The bottom line
Here’s the bottom line: Smart buyers do research online before making any retail purchase. Book readers are no different. If they’ve heard about a book, or read something by a writer they like, they’ll search for it. When they find an actual video, the research shows that people have an attention span of about 3 minutes.
Three minutes doesn’t sound like much. But that little book video could make a big impact in your ultimate sales.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Idea Starters for Stuck Bloggers - Part II

Idea-Starters for Stuck Bloggers – Part Two

By Mike Hyatt

The dreaded “writer’s block” afflicts us all from time to time. I struggle with it almost weekly. Occasionally, I have an easy run of several days, when the ideas seem to flow effortlessly. But that is rare. Most weeks, I get stuck at least once or twice.

So what do I do? What can you do? Here are some more idea-starters. I offer these up as possibilities for lighting a fire when your brain is damp:

Provide a step-by-step explanation for how to do something. When you provide five steps to this, or four strategies for that, people gobble it up. I think all of us have a need for down-to-earth, practical help with the items that interest us. Example: “How to Update Your Facebook Status With Twitter.”

Provide a list of resources. This is a huge way to give back to your industry or community. It is easy to take for granted what you know. You are probably sitting on priceless information that others would die to have access to. Resource lists are a great way to build traffic. Example: “Literary Agents Who Represent Christian Authors.”

Answer your readers’ questions. My readers ask some of the best questions. Sometimes they email them. Sometimes they put them in the comments of an older posts. Often they just Twitter them to me. I assume that if one person has the question, so do others. By answering these you demonstrate that you are listening. Example: “How Much Times Does Twittering Really Take?”

Make a seemingly overwhelming task simple. There is a huge audience for anyone who can make complex things simple. Provide a conceptual model, an outline, or an introduction to something you take for granted. Example: “Advice to First-Time Authors” and especially “Writing a Winning Book Proposal.”

Explain the rationale behind a decision. Intelligent people want to know why you do what you do. That is what makes everyone so interesting. You can explain the rational behind almost any decision you have made, and it will be instructive for others. Example: “Why Every Author Needs a Powerful Online Presence.”

Write a guide to something popular. This is especially good for technology topics—anything where people feel overwhelmed. I have written introductions to social networking, how to stay on top of email, and how to create a life plan. They key is not to assume the reader knows anything about the topic. Example: “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter.”

Next time you get stuck, you might want to pull this list out and review it. Sometimes, all it takes is a spark to re-ignite the fire.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

You see the badge. It's an honor and a burden. I "won" the Honest Scrap award by doing nothing.

I think Tommie Lynn, on the occasion of her 65th birthday, dropped the (non) coveted award on my unsuspecting head, as a way of jabbing at the world on her special day. So jabbed as I am, the rules of Honest Scrap are that I must share eight things about myself and nominate a bushel of other people to the lofty heights of Scrap.

1) I am absolutely no one. It's true. Nobody is here and you're reading his words.

2) I have an aversion to "going along" with things. My life has been a never ending series of events wherein I refuse to take the road most often traveled. The people that are closest, often refuse to wander the well trod paths, also.

3) I love Baseball. It's a beautiful game that gives me much pleasure. From the last day of the World Series, to the 15th of February, I patiently await the return of my game. All is well in the world once the baseball-ers are back at work.

4) For several years I sang opera and loved it. In the background is a recording of Gilbert and Sullivan. Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, Escamillo in Carmen, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado and others. Once in a great while, I sing out a line or two of a part I once sang.

5) Politics has been a fascination since high school. Over the years, I worked with some relatively important people. Though I remember them, I am sure they do not have such keen memories of me.

6) I drive a Toyota Prius. Yes. I'm a hybrid kind of guy. I love the gas mileage and its zippy.

7) Once upon a time I was a policeman back in NY.

8) I'm married to the smartest, long suffering, woman that ever lived.

In the interest of harmony, I will name a very short list of new recipients.

Lynn Mosher Heading Home

Tasha Reed Endless Writings

Ginger Takamiya Christian Romance Magazine

Linda Yezak 777 Peppermint Place

Build Your Speaking Platform

One often overlooked facet of direct author sales is how well you build your platform and how effectively you use speaking to get your message to people who might buy your books.

Virtually every organization wants / needs speakers who don't cost a lot and have something of value to say. Good speakers do many of the same things, that result in a growing base of organizations that invite them to speak, promote their message and their books.

Develop a Network of Contacts that automatically refer them to their friends who also need a speaker

Stay in Touch. Met those folks know what is new and what has changed. Give them a heads up on your career and the topics you bring to their events.

Do Your Homework. Be energetic, excited, prepared and worthy of the invitation.

Carla Williams from Wine Press of Words has more on the topic.

Sell More Books: Build a Speaking Platform
Carla Williams

Publicity & Editorial Director for The WinePress Group.

Building a speaking ministry is the single best way to sell books.
One grandparenting expert built her speaking circuit to the point of being dubbed the “grandparenting guru of the Midwest.” She spoke at civic groups, churches, corporations, women’s retreats, and PTA meetings.

She built her reputation as an expert in her field and used much of the input she received from her speaking engagements to write her book on grandparenting. She did not want to wait for a traditional royalty publisher to offer her a contract; she chose to self-publish.

She started out with 2,000 copies and sold them all within six months. She had built a substantial mailing list from her many speaking engagements and had an automatic channel of distribution for her book.

These days, it really doesn’t even matter if your book has anything to do with the topic you are speaking on; the truth is, whatever you have on your book table will sell after your audience has heard you speak. In fact, your book might not even be of interest to your audience personally, but they may very well know someone else who might benefit from the book, and buy it as a gift, complete with your signature inside!

How to Prepare

Often, having a book in print will open more doors for you to speak, or will help accelerate an already established speaking ministry, so be prepared for the inevitable. To get prepared, attend some speaker training, if possible from a Christian perspective.

Two good choices are Speak Up Speaker Services and CLASSeminars. Both of these sessions train you on the basics of effective speaking.

Many communities also offer Toastmasters groups. They typically meet monthly, and sometimes more often, and give you a good chance to practice speaking in front of a group of people.
Collateral Material

Develop collateral material to promote your speaking ministry to include a brochure or “sell sheet” that includes your picture, bio, information on your book, and different topics you speak on. A few endorsements from groups you have spoken for in the past would also be helpful. This enables you to present yourself in a professional manner to a speakers’ committee or planning board.

Another important piece of your speaking ministry materials would be a good quality audio tape or CD of you speaking to a group. Often, if someone on the planning board hasn’t already heard you speak, they will require a sample to review before inviting you.

If you don’t have a good copy of your presentation, then set up a time with a group of friends where you can present your topic and get good group feedback during the session. Make sure the taping quality is good and there is no background noise.
Spread the Word

Once you’ve learned the fundamentals of effective communication and compiled a professional set of materials to promote your speaking ministry, you should begin to let people know that you are available.

However God helps you orchestrate it, develop a system for your speaking ministry to stay organized and begin to build a platform that can be measured and leveraged in the future.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't Write A Book - "Wisdom" from Tony Morgan

I was struck by the plain spoken, take no prisoners approach to writing that Tony Morgan shares in his recent blog post, "Don't Write a Book." There is so much to argue with and so much to agree with that the conversation simply takes off on its own and goes where ever you wind up.

Take his points with skepticism and enjoy the diversity of hard edge, rapier attitudes and see how it makes you react.

Tony makes an important point when he encourages us to write things that matter, as opposed to setting out to write a book.

Don’t Write a Book

Since I’ve been involved in several book projects, I’m frequently approached by aspiring writers who are interested in the process. I’m certainly not the expert on getting a book published, but I have learned some things over the last number of years that might be helpful for you.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts for you to consider…

Don’t write a book. Begin by writing in your journal. Write blog posts. Get your article published in a magazine or on someone else’s website. If your idea and your writing aren’t strong enough to be published in a magazine or on a website, it’s not strong enough to be published in a book.

Don’t assume if you have a book, someone will publish it. People who get published rarely go looking for a publisher. Typically, the publishers go looking for the authors. Or, the authors have literary agents who handle those conversations. If a publisher isn’t approaching you about writing a book, that’s a pretty good sign that you probably don’t have a book to publish.

Don’t start out to write a book. Start out with something to say. For lots of people, the goal is to get a book published. That shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal should be to spread good stories or ideas. If you don’t have a good story or idea to spread, you need to start there.

Don’t write a book if you’re not a writer. At the end of the day, if you can’t write you can’t get published. And, just because you can get up in front of people and talk, doesn’t necessarily mean you can get behind a keyboard and write. There’s an art to writing. Some people have it. Most people don’t. (If you have a strong idea or a good story, you may need to find a writer to help you get it published.)

Don’t try to write a book if you’re not willing to get disciplined with your time. Manuscripts just don’t drop out of the sky. You have to outline. You have to draft. You have to rewrite. You have to edit. You have to promote. You have to sell. It takes time. If you’re unwilling to prioritize your time, you shouldn’t write a book.

Don’t plan on making money. Unless your name is Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, you’re not going to make money writing a book. At best, you may get a platform from writing a book. Of course, the challenge there is that you have to have a platform before a publisher will even consider your book.

I know. You’re skeptical. So, for those of you who write books or publish books, I’ll let you chime in and tell me where I’m wrong.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Twitter for Business

Twitter for business: Four breakthrough insights

Mark W. Schaefer from his blog of Practical Marketing Solutions, shares some practical uses for Twitter.

I’m privileged to introduce a week-long series of B2B social media insights with Dr. Ben Hanna, Vice President of Marketing for, where he oversees brand strategy, online marketing, public relations, social media, direct marketing and events.

Ben is a true online marketing pioneer. Prior to his current position, Ben led the eBay B2B trading platform, driving nearly $3 billion in annual sales. He was also a force behind IronPlanet, a leading online marketplace for construction equipment, and he co-founded a B2B strategic marketing agency specializing in high-tech product and company launches.

I was first introduced to Ben through his blog and was fascinated to read disclosures on his company's month-by-month progress on its first social media initiative. I highly recommend looking at these reports! They are chock-full of insights and data you will find nowhere else.

So let’s get into Part 1 of my interview!

Ben, I love the detailed statistics and correlations you're making through your analysis of Twitter successes and failures. I think the Tweet lifespan is a new one for me! It's still relatively early in the data collection process, but what "a-ha” morsels have you found?

We’re documenting some of these “a-ha” moments in our Twitter for business case studies but here are a couple new ones:

Tweet quality builds followers faster than tweet quantity – When we started using Twitter for business, we wondered about the relevant importance of tweeting only when we had something really interesting to pass along (quality focus) vs. tweeting more frequently to make sure our content was in front of our followers more often (quantity focus) for building a Twitter following. From what we’ve seen, tweet quality is MUCH more important than quantity: the higher the average number of clicks per tweet with a trackable link in a given week, the higher the follower growth (controlling for total number of followers). This said, you have to be in the game - our average tweets/day over this period ranged from 2.9 to 11.0.

The first 3-5 words are critical – At 140 characters max, tweets are like headlines and people scan through them quickly. If you want to catch someone’s eye, think like a headline writer and make sure the main topic keywords or a number/statistic are found in the first 3-5 words. I would also recommend against using the standard retweet style (e.g., “RT @markwschaefer: …” to start the tweet), instead shift attribution to the end of the tweet (e.g., “… via @markwschaefer”).
The average lifespan of a business tweet is four days -- If you measure the lifespan of a tweet by the number of days on which it receives at least one click from a Twitter user, then business tweets don’t live very long. On average, our tweets with a clickable link received at least one click on four separate days with a range of one day (not a very popular tweet) to 23 days (home run!).
The optimal time between business tweets -- Again looking at the clicks per tweet, the optimal space between business tweets to attract the most clicks is either 31-60 minutes or 2-3 hours. Tightly packed tweets just don’t appear to attract as much attention as tweets with more space between them. I’m not certain what causes the dip in click activity for tweets between 61 and 120 minutes but I suspect it has to do with missing prime Twitter activity time on the East and West coasts (we may look into this in a later post).
The more we find, the more I wonder how well what we find will apply to other business Twitter users and how stable the results will be as Twitter becomes a more mainstream channel for business information. We need a lot more B2B marketers to dig into their social media metrics and share what they’re finding to help move the overall field forward.

You took a very methodical business approach to your planning process. What did think "success" would look like? And after you've been in it awhile has your view changed?

"Success" depends on what phase the initiative is in. During this initial phase our focus has been learning about the opportunities for social media as part of our overall marketing mix including things like:

> Can we find certain factors that are consistently related to audience growth and engagement?
> How easy is it to codify and teach these factors to others so we can scale up our initiatives?
> What would it require to scale blogging/micro-blogging to the point where these would have a tangible impact on our business?

The task for us during this first phase isn’t to hit a home run with a particular social media campaign. Instead, its to figure out if and where we should invest additional resources in two social media tactics – blogging and micro-blogging – relative to our other marketing programs. Success will look different in later phases where we’ll set more specific performance goals using the data from our learning phase.

You can read more about our approach in our social media case study.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ideas for Writer's Blocked Bloggers

Idea-Starters for Stuck Bloggers – Part One

By Mike Hyatt

The dreaded “writer’s block” afflicts us all from time to time. I struggle with it almost weekly. Occasionally, I have an easy run of several days, when the ideas seem to flow effortlessly. But that is rare. Most weeks, I get stuck at least once or twice.
So what do I do? What can you do? Here are some idea-starters. I offer these up as possibilities for lighting a fire when your brain is damp:

Tell a personal story. This almost always works, because you harness the power of your own personal narrative. It is particularly good if it is dramatic, and you feel the freedom to be transparent. It is helpful if you can conclude with a lesson or two that you have learned. Example: “What Does This Make Possible?”

Describe a historical event. This is very similar to using a personal story. History is full of great stories. It’s one of the reasons why I am almost always reading a history book of some kind or a biography. Again, you can tell the story and distill the lessons. Example: “Two Things Great Leaders Must Do in Turbulent Times.”

Review a book, movie, or software program. This is a great way to share some of the resources you have found and why you liked them. It can also help your readers avoid products or experiences that were not so helpful. What are some of your favorite resources? Example: “Book Review: Same Kind of Different As Me.”

Comment on a powerful quote. I can’t read a book without underlining the passages that impress me. Occasionally, I go back and post the quotes that stand alone. Also, from time to time, I post the quote and that comment on why a particular quote was meaningful. Example: “Don’t Wake Up Dead.”

Let a great photograph inspire you. Behind every great photo is a story. You may know the story or you may not. Regardless, you can find one in the photo. Some of the best ones are posted on You can use these in accordance with a Creative Commons License. Example: “Learning to Recognize Wow.”

Comment on something in the news. This can be something global or something that is specific to your industry. If you are a thought-leader—or trying to establish yourself as a thought-leader—this is a great way to do that. Example: “Why the Authors Guild Is Off Base About the Kindle 2.”

Report on an interesting conversation. I meets lots of interesting people. Some of them I meet at work; some of them I meet in my social life. Regardless, rarely a week goes by that I am not deeply stimulated by a conversation I have had. Why not blog on that? Example: “Twitter as a Leadership Tool.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seven Tips for Networking on Twitter

As authors it is imperative to develop a consistent marketing strategy and faithfully execute it, over a long period of time. A strong Reader Base is built through many contacts, that construct a relationship between a writer and a reader. These contacts vary in style, intensity and cement a bond that lasts for decades.

Seven Tips for Networking on Twitter
June 17th, 2009 Author: TwitterWatchDog

By Skeeter Hansen and Al Ferretti
We’ve been using Twitter for six months now and have met so many terrific, interesting and business savvy people.

On Twitter, you’re allowed 140 characters when sending a tweet. It may seem short, but you can get in quite a mouthful. No one ever said networking had to be a long drawn out novel, sometimes shorter is better. Don’t underestimate the power of short and quick replies because with the right words they can be very effective.

We have observed over the months that everyone uses Twitter for different reasons, but the majority of people who use it for networking don’t always know how to network effectively.

These 7 tips will show exactly how you can get the most out of your networking efforts on Twitter.

1. Start by using your real name on your profile, upload a real photo of yourself and fill out your bio. Your bio is about you and not your business. People want to know they are talking to a person. Your website link will take care of your business.

2. Follow people that interest you and who can help grow your business.
Follow quality people. People you can connect with is more important than the quantity of people you follow.

3. People want knowledge, information and resources. It’s always better to give first and then receive. I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-promote, but if the whole time you’re on Twitter and you’re just self-promoting, people aren’t going to care and will most likely un-follow you.

Note: Networking is about engaging, building relationships and
providing value. A person who only has self-promotion on their
mind is looked upon and labeled a spammer.

4. People like freebies and tips. Offer your best tips on working from home, on direct sales, web design, marketing and even Twitter tips. There are tips for everything so find something in your niche that you think would be valuable information. Throw in a few freebies as everyone loves something for free.

5. It’s important to engage in conversations with your new found “friends”. Don’t ignore their tweets. Use it to strike up conversations by asking a question or giving a compliment, as you will never know where these will lead.

6. If you read an interesting or newsworthy tweet, retweet it. This is a great way to say something if you can’t find anything to say. Retweeting a quote is a great way to help promote others, others will help to promote you.

7. Expect to spend some quality time and be consistent in your networking. Try to visit daily and the relationships will start to take shape. Enjoy and be yourself on Twitter and be respectful. Your reputation should always be guarded as you brand yourself.

A number of people don’t take networking seriously because they don’t know how to effectively network. There are many people who do know how and can show you the ropes or better yet take the time to learn and observe what others are doing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Six Marketing Lessons From A Great Campaign

Six Lessons From a Great Marketing Campaign

BY Rohit BhargavaMon

Last month an unlikely underdog stunned the marketing world at the International Cannes Advertising Festival. At the show, a single marketing campaign took home a Grand Prix award in three categories simultaneously--direct, cyber and PR-- something that had never happened before in the 50+ year history of the show. Contrary to what you might expect, the unanimous winner of this unprecedented victory was not a Fortune50 brand with an advertising budget of millions, but a small Tourism board promoting a little known island off the Great Barrier Reef.

The winning campaign was called the "Best Job in the World" and was essentially a big online job search conducted through social media for a new "caretaker" for Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia. Done on a comparatively paltry marketing budget of just $1.7 million dollars and reliant on fortuitous PR and word of mouth, the campaign achieved stunning results, including over 34,000 video entries from applicants in 200 countries, and more than 7 million visitors to the site who generated nearly 500,000 votes.
Just two weeks ago on July 1, the winner of the competition--a 34-year-old British man named Ben Southall started blogging and touring around Queensland, finally bringing the competition to a close. For the next six months, he will be touring around Queensland, sharing his adventures through a video blog, writing, Twitter account and Flickr photos-- generating even more interest in Hamilton Island and all of Queensland in the process. The tangible results for the island are rolling in as well: Amway Australia chose it as the site of their upcoming annual conference, and domestic Aussie airline Virgin Blue just started flying a direct flight between Sydney and Hamilton Island, due to the rise in demand from travelers wanting to get to the island.
I realize that tourism and the travel industry may seem far removed from your business. Unfortunately, we don't all have the natural beauty of Hamilton Island to fall back on when starting our marketing campaigns. Still, a big part of the reason for the amazing success of this campaign was not what they were marketing, but how they used social media to do it. In that, there are some lessons anyone trying to promote a product or service could use:
1. Make it believable. Many marketing groups would never make a claim if they can't provide substantial evidence. How might Tourism Queensland prove that their job is the best in the world? They can't. But it is believable because it is a beautiful place and fits what many people's definition of a dream job might be.
2. It's not about how much you spend. One of the major benefits of smart public relations and social media is that it scales in a way that advertising typically doesn't. In other words, you don't have to pay more to get more. The real trick is to have something worthwhile to say that people can't help talking about. You need a good story.
3. Focus on content, not traffic. The typical marketing campaign focuses on traffic to some kind of site. For Tourism Queensland, the biggest payoff of this campaign was having over 34,000 videos on YouTube from people around the world talking about how much they love Queensland. Aggregate the views of all those videos, and multiply them over the long term and you'll start to understand the true impact of their campaign.
4. Create an inherent reason for people to share. Another element of this campaign that worked extremely well was the fact that there was voting enabled on the videos. What this meant was that after someone submitted their video, they had an incentive to share it with everyone in their social network online to try and get more votes.
5. Don't underestimate the power of content creators Most recent statistics point to some number between 1% and 10% of the user base of any social network are the active content creators. Though these percentages may seem small, the potential impact of some of these individuals are vast online. It could easily become the secret weapon for your next marketing campaign.
6. Give your promotion a shelf life. The best thing about this campaign may just be the content yet to come. Ben, the winner, just started blogging and sharing videos and photos, but the content is already engaging, high quality and inspires you to dream of making it to Queensland yourself. Over the next six months, his itinerary will take him across the state of Queensland and unlock many other unique opportunities. Best of all, this content will live on far beyond the time span of the campaign.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Agents Turn Down Good Projects - Part Three

Why do Agents Turn Down Good Books?

We live in a time of publishing turmoil. One of the unusual bits of news that drifted back from the ICRS, (CBA) show is that some publishers are rolling back advances, dramatically. On top of reduced lists of new books, a one thousand dollar advance is rumored to be the new "standard."

Agents have to be careful. With new titles becoming more rare and more agents than ever before, the availability of income producing clients is restricted and money spent developing new titles, new authors, or new concepts is having to be restricted with it.

As with all market corrections, this one chock full of opportunity for an imaginative, creative and determined author. Mine this and every other source of advice for what pertains to you and your project. Develop a constancy of purpose, single minded and indefatigable about marketing your work and keep good records.

It all counts.

Anne Hawkins, Literary Agent
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.

CREDENTIALS AND/OR PLATFORM: For certain types of non-fiction, an author needs relevant professional or academic credentials. For example, to write a credible diet book, it’s best that the author (or co-author) be a physician or a nutritionist with demonstrated knowledge and experience in the field. Agents know that publishers aren’t likely to go out on a limb with a book that can’t speak with some kind of authority.

“Platform” is a different animal. It’s usually defined as the existing audience that an author can bring to his book. Authors often develop their platforms through such vehicles as speaking engagements, syndicated columns in magazines or newspapers, media exposure, or a very strong internet presence. Platform is essential to selling some kinds of nonfiction. Without it, an agent will surely turn down the project, no matter how good it may be.

: Weirdly enough, this situation comes up much more frequently than anyone would suppose. If a new author approaches an agent with a project that is uncannily similar to one she’s currently representing, the agent has to turn it down. There’s simply too great a chance for misunderstanding or possible legal action if one author suspects that his agent has discussed his ideas with a competitor. This is the kind of situation that can ruin an agent’s reputation, and no book is worth that.

SUITABILITY FOR AGENT/AGENCY: This is somewhat of an odd-ball issue, but it does happen. Once in a great while, an agent will have to turn down a project simply because representing it could cause hard feelings among her established clients or publishing contacts. To use an extreme and fictitious example, let’s say that an agent does a lot of business in the Christian publishing market. She’d be hard pressed to take on a book with raunchy or irreverent content that would be deeply offensive to the authors and editors with whom she works every day. Most of the time, agents are pretty eclectic in the projects that they choose -- and authors and editors accept that -- but there are some lines that just can’t be crossed.

Good books draw rejections for a variety of reasons, and many of these reasons have nothing to do with the quality of the work. I know for a fact that I have has turned down books that other agents subsequently took on and sold. Then again, I’ve had some major successes with books that quite a number of my colleagues had previously rejected. If a book is truly outstanding, it’s only a matter of time until the right agent steps up to the plate and offers to represent it. Don’t give up too soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Just a Moment

"In just a moment this wedding will be over and your marriage will begin..."

Officiating at weddings is one of the most fulfilling parts of being a pastor. Being there to help get a new family started is kind of like delivering a baby, (which I did one night back when I was a police officer in NY). You are honored enough by the couple to be invited to share in their intimate moment with God when they turn their backs on the past, slip on those rings and create something new and beautiful.

One of the best things about performing weddings is standing at the front and seeing a father walking a daughter down the aisle. For those brides who have no father, or have one who won't or can't walk them down, it is fun to see how they adapt. One had her mother and sisters walk with her. One had her favorite aunt as her escort. Some walk alone, smiling, crying, laughing, or simply so proud to meet their intended at the altar, that nothing else mattered.

There were those couples who smile as if every light in the hall exploded into brilliance. Especially when they slip their rings on the finger of their forever loved one. That is the moment when I think the purpose of the wedding is fully accomplished.

There are those who are so devoted to each other that they barely know the rest of us are present. Then there are those weddings when a learning disabled child participates, even though participating takes them to the uttermost limits of their ability.

A father with a 15 year old special needs child asked me if his son could stand with him at the wedding. His special need often caused him to act out and the groom feared that might cause me to decline.

During the wedding, the young man started to pace in a circle around the wedding party. He made no noise and it didn't detract from the celebration. In fact, I thought it was quite charming and when this little man circle past me again, I reached out and collected him under my free arm, pointing to my place in the ritual of marriage book and asked him to help me stay on the right line.

He pointed to the page but no where near our place and kept his finger there until we were finished. After the new couple had processed out, his aunt walked up and took him along to the reception.

It was a moment when ordinary becomes eternally beautiful.

This little man, wanting to be with his daddy, tried all he could to behave but didn't quite make it and no one noticed. He was part of a beautiful and loving celebration with his daddy and all was good in his world and mine.

May your life be filled with beauty and joy, celebrations of love and memories that make you laugh and cry, today and forevermore...

Peace be the Journey...

Why do Agents Turn Down Good Books? Part II

Why Do Agents Turn Down Good Books? Part II

Anne Hawkins, Literary Agent
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.

Anne Hawkins is an agent with John Hawkins & Associates, which was founded as Paul Reynolds Literary Agency in 1893, and makes it the first literary agency founded in America.

Anne is not only a highly respected, and beloved agent with a list of best-selling authors in her stable. She is a consummate professional with impeccable instincts, a devoted advocate for her authors, but she’s also a blind hoot. It is with great pleasure that I welcome Anne here as my guest on The Kill Zone.

EDITORIAL CONTACTS: To put it bluntly, if an agent doesn’t know the right editors for a book, she has no business representing it. From time to time, every agent reads a wonderful project that she has no clue how to place. Believe me, she’s doing the author a favor by declining.

Here’s why. As a general rule, an agent can submit a project to a particular publishing imprint once -- and only once. If the original editor declines, it’s very difficult to get another editor at that house to reconsider the book. Obviously, the key is to get the submission into the hands of the right editor the first time around, since you usually don’t get second chances.

SUITABILITY TO GENRE: Some kinds of books have specific conventions as to format, word count, style, content, etc. If a book strays too far, it may be unsalable – no matter how good it is. Of course, authors can cheat this unhappy fate by doing some homework on the particular requirements of their chosen genres.

Mixed genre books are another dicey situation, since an agent or publisher needs to feel that there is a definable market for a particular book. When an agent reads a book that is “kinda mystery, sorta horror, with strong romance and science fiction elements,” she’s going to wonder just who the audience might be. Projects like this have a history of falling through the cracks in the marketplace, so an agent will have to think long and hard about her chances of placing it.

LENGTH: A related subject is the matter of length, or word count. For adult fiction, most books range from around 70,000 to 130,000 words in length. There are exceptions of course, but very short or very long novels can be problematic to sell because of pricing, production, and distribution issues. In the case of books for children and young adults, the length must be appropriate for the targeted age group. There’s a bit more leeway for certain kinds of non-fiction, but even there inappropriate length can be a deal-breaker.

AUTHOR: Generally speaking, an agent takes on an author and his project because she is interested helping him build a long-term career. This is almost invariably true for fiction, where the name of the game is to increase readership over the course of many books. Agents may shy away from a novelist whom they believe to be a “one book wonder” because of the enormous investment of time and energy for only a single book. (This is not necessarily true in non-fiction, where one-off books, such as celebrity biographies, are more common and can be quite profitable.)

It goes without saying that if an agent has reason to suspect that an author might be the “client from hell,” she’ll have to carefully consider whether representation is worth the hassle. Then again, everybody’s different, and what’s poison to one agent may be ambrosia to another.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Do Agents Turn Down Good Books? Part One

Why do Agents Turn Down Good Books?

With so many of our members concerned with the issues relating to Agents, I thought it would be a good thing to remind ourselves of the way Agents see these things from the other side of the table. I regularly read several Agent Blogs, to try and keep current with their ever changing thinking.

I'll blog this in several parts to cut down on size and hope that we get a good conversation going about it.

By Anne Hawkins, Literary Agent
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.

Anne Hawkins is an agent with John Hawkins & Associates, which was founded as Paul Reynolds Literary Agency in 1893, and makes it the first literary agency founded in America.

Anne is not only a highly respected, and beloved agent with a list of best-selling authors in her stable. She is a consummate professional with impeccable instincts, a devoted advocate for her authors, but she’s also a blind hoot. It is with great pleasure that I welcome Anne here as my guest on The Kill Zone.

Rejecting authors’ projects is one of the least pleasant aspects of my job. It’s no fun to feel that I’ve ruined someone’s day, even though I always try to be gentle and courteous. How much nicer it is to call or e-mail and say, “I love what I’ve read. Please send more.”

Of course, the most common reason for rejection is a perceived lack of quality, a natural reaction to a misbegotten query letter or sloppy sample pages. Sometimes, however, I have to turn down projects that are actually quite good. Subjective judgment plays a large role in that sort of decision, but so do other business considerations. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that influence an agent’s choice of books for representation.

PERSONAL TASTE: A literary agent sinks or swims professionally because of her taste in books. This taste impacts the kinds of books she represents (her list), her contacts among editors and publishers, and ultimately her success in the business. Good agents learn to trust their taste and only represent projects that inspire them, because those are the books they’re likely to sell.

Most of us concentrate on the areas we enjoy and where we consequently have the greatest knowledge and expertise. If we don’t “get” it, we don’t handle it. You may be the next Dr. Seuss, but if the agent you query doesn’t fancy children’s books, she’ll almost certainly turn you down.

Authors can minimize this kind of turn-down by researching the kinds of books each agent does represent. Jeff Herman’s GUIDE TO EDITORS, PUBLISHERS, AND LITERARY AGENTS (most recent edition) is the premier print resource, since each listed agent states specifically the sorts of books she does and does not handle. Some of the best on-line resources are the searchable databases on, Publishers, and the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) website. Sad to say, certain other writer-friendly sites perpetuate information is that is either out of date or downright wrong. (One has me listed as a top agent for horror fiction, even though I have never represented a single book in the genre.) There is good information on the internet, but do yourself a favor and cross-reference. Don’t rely on any single source.

PASSION: For me to take on a new book by a new author, especially a novel, I simply have to love it. It’s not enough to “like” it or “admire” it or consider it “salable”. We’re talking about real passion here. Even at the very beginning of the submission process, editors can sense when the agent is on fire about a book -- and the feeling is contagious. Chances are, that’s the book the editor will choose to read first. Later on after the sale, down the long, bumpy road to publication, an agent needs this kind of wild enthusiasm to continue to be a strong and persuasive advocate for the author and his work. “Lukewarm” just won’t go the distance.

KNOWLEDGE OF MARKET: An agent needs to keep track of the markets for the kinds of books she represents. This knowledge may be as general as the track record of an entire genre or as specific as one publisher’s immediate needs. In short, agents need to know what’s hot -- what’s not -- and who’s looking for what. Market factors are a huge topic, so here are just a few examples:

Publishing is in the business of selling books, lots of books. If an agent wants to place a book with a major publisher, she has to believe that book has the potential to attract a substantial number of readers. If she judges that its market is too small or too specific, she’ll most likely decline.

The existence of a recent, successfully published book (or books) can make a similar project extremely hard to sell. Even if your book is better, somebody has beaten you to the punch. The concept is no longer “new news.” This is particularly true for non- fiction, but it applies to novels as well. If the market appears saturated with a certain kind of book, an agent will be reluctant to take on a new project in that category, knowing that her chances of placing it are slim.

Sometimes, an agent will know that the market for an entire genre is on the decline, so she’ll be hesitant to take on any book of that sort. At other times, a market will be on an upswing, so she’ll be champing at the bit to land an author in that genre. Historical fiction, for example, was a tough sell for many years. Recently, however, its popularity has surged to the point that agents who wouldn’t have touched the genre five years ago are now actively looking for it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Facebook Tips

Four Facebook Tips – See What Others are Doing

Non-profits have discovered how to use facebook to promote their cause, by promoting a community. Much of what applies to getting the message out for non-profit organizations can be applicable to our cause. As in every form of advice. Use what you can and learn from the rest.

Courtesy of Frank Barry, Moderator of NetWits Think Tank

Facebook is an ever growing force in the internet space and it looks like it will be for a while. With 200 Million users (and growing) it’s hard to ague otherwise.
Facebook is also a great tool for nonprofits. It’s free, it gives you an immediate way to build a tribe and engage people in online community. Facebook also gives others the ability to share their affinity to you with their friends, family and co-workers. That said, you can’t just throw up a page and expect to be successful. You have to be thoughtful, strategic and knowledgeable. Four tips to help you get started.

1. Create a Page not a Group or Cause

Facebook pages give you a ton of great features that Groups and Causes do not. There is a place for each of the Facebook page types, but the generic “Facebook page” is the place to start. Here are a few reasons why:

• You get a friendly URL like

• People can find you via Google. More people can find out about your Nonprofit because your Facebook Page gets indexed and is searchable inside and outside (i.e. Google) of Facebook. Which also means you can boost your search engine rankings (SEO).

• No limit on the number of people who can express their support for your nonprofit by becoming your fan

• Pages Have Access to Users’ Feeds - When Facebook users become a “fan” of your nonprofit page, they will be notified of your status updates every time you make one! Then they can comment, share and/or like your wall posts which then shares it with all their friends – now that’s viral.

• Communicate with your fans regularly just to stay in touch or with special news, offers and information.

• All the great features of Facebook are available - writing on the Wall, uploading photos, and joining discussion groups.

• Add applications to your Page and engage your users with videos (YouTube Box), photos (Flickr Box) reviews, flash content, and more.

• Integrate your blog/web site content via Blog RSS Feed Reader
Examples of Great Nonprofit Facebook Pages:

• Lance Armstrong Foundation

• Stand up 2 Cancer

• Prostate Cancer Foundation – Athletes for a Cure

• Red Cross Fan Page

• One Campaign

• Stanford University

• Athletes for a Cure (read about their social media strategy)

Excited to get started ... Create a page here

2. Participate and be a community like the Lance Armstrong Foundation
Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) is doing a great job participating and building community with their Facebook page. If you take a look at their page you’ll notice that there are hundreds if not thousands of people interacting there (I’ve added an image to the right – notice the red box towards the bottom). It’s not just LAF “shouting out” or broadcasting to their fans. As a matter of fact you’ll notice that the LIVESTRONG representative is talking with the people, sharing things, commenting, liking wall posts and more. They are fully interacting.

So what’s that mean for you?

• Be active daily. Share news, video, photos, stories and what ever else makes sense for your organization.

• Engage with your fans. Comment on their wall posts. Like things they share.

Help people connect with others.

3. Get folks to engage with you in more than one way like the ONE Campaign

Check out the ONE Campaign Facebook page. Did you see that? They set up their page
to go to a custom tab where they show people how to engage with them beyond Facebook. They do this with compelling imagery, a simple form and the ability to get to their main web site. Very nice!

Why is this important? Because we know that email is still a HUGE way people like to be communicated with. According to the “eNonprofit Benchmarks Study” done by NTEN (shout out to Holly Ross) email is still the “killer app” that reaches the most people. Open rates and click-throughs are holding steady.

We also know that having a ‘home base’ is vital to internet longevity. Facebook is an outpost, but your main web site should provide people with added value and ways to connect with your organization.

4. Stats, stats, stats …

Facebook Pages give you stats!! Awesome, I know. Administrators have the ability to see how well their wall posts and content are engaging people through the recently updated “Insight Portal”. You may be thinking “why do stats matter?”
As I discussed in a recent post (see 4 Keys to Building a Successful Nonprofit Web Site) stats are key to helping you improve your web site or in this case your Facebook page. By understanding your activity and performance, fan response, trends and comparisons, you are better equipped to improve your presence on Facebook.

Actually, this data will likely help you improve your overall web efforts! Use the stats to gain valuable insight into what your constituents like, what type of content they interact with the most, what they tend to share with their friends and, maybe most importantly, what they don’t like.

See a sample of what the stats look like here

What is measured you ask?

• User exposure- Actions and overall behavior relating to your Facebook Page.
• Total Interactions - The total interactions metric captures all of the feedback Pages receive from Facebook users. Including media consumption and interactions per post, as well as the number of fans who have hidden you from their stream.

• This number measures the aggregate count of Wall posts, Likes, Discussion posts and comments on any content such as photos, videos, notes or links in the past 7 days.

• The goal of the metric is to provide an updated snapshot into how fans are engaging with your Page’s content.

• Demographic Information - The locale breakdown and demographic information offers you access to detailed data about your fan base in an effective way that isn’t available on any other site.

• Post Quality Score - One of the most important new metrics to pay attention to is your post quality score. That score measures how engaging your posts have been to users in the last 7 days. Posts that generate a high number of interactions (such as comments or Likes) per fan will improve the post quality score. Posts that do not draw interactions from fans will lower the post quality score.

Facebook offers many more great features, but I believe these are critical for nonprofit success on Facebook. If you don’t get these things right chances are you will have less of an impact on the community of people you are trying to engage and impact.

More Facebook Resources can be found here:{EA4438F2-2529-4379-8A32-16EBD5D5BF90}¬oc=1

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eight Ideas to Improve Your Blog

Blog Tips from Tim Ferris

Mike Hyatt, on his blog, featured Tim Ferris with blogging tips. Since so many of us are searching for the right mix of communication, education, humor and personal touch, I thought it was a good time to enjoy Tim’s ideas.

One of my favorite bloggers is Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. His book has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for almost two years. His blog is one of the most-read on the Internet. Tim has become famous for challenging the status quo.
Recently, he posted a video of his presentation at WordCamp San Francisco, a conference for WordPress bloggers. Though I don’t endorse everything he recommends—and am still mulling some of it over—I found his blog tips compelling and stimulating.
As I listened to him, I jotted down eight key insights. (These are my words not his.)
Write about what you are passionate about. Don’t pay too much attention to what your readers say they want. As it turns out, people are quite bad at predicting what they like. Typically, what works best—and generates the most traffic—is the stuff that is written out of deeply-felt convictions or emotion. If you can’t seem to get the creative juices flowing, start with anger. What makes you mad?

Be careful about how you allocate digital real estate. Obviously, people will eventually leave your site. However, you don’t want them to become distracted and leave prematurely. This is particularly true for first-time visitors. Instead, you want to pull them deeper into your site to explore your other content. Because of this, you probably don’t want to include your Twitter feed above the fold.

Don’t display the post date at the top of the post. Why? Because people place a higher value on newer posts and tend to discount the older ones. This is unfortunate—for them and for you. Unless you are running a news blog, most of your posts are still relevant and valuable. Move the date from the top of the post to the bottom. (If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can modify this in your theme’s single.php file.) You can leave the date above the title on your home page, just not the single post pages.

Test everything and listen to the numbers. There is no shortage of blogging advice on the Internet. But beware of conventional wisdom. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don’t. The web is dynamic and things are constantly changing. What works last year—or last month—may not work now. The only way to know is to test and keep testing. Tim recommends a site called that enables you to see, for example, where your users are clicking on your home page.

Optimize your posts for SEO. Forget about this when writing the first draft. It will make your writing seem forced and artificial. However, once you are satisfied with your post, run some of your key phrases through Google Keyword Tool to see which have the highest Global Monthly Search Volume. If you can use more highly-ranked synonyms without compromising your meaning, do so. That way, more people will be able to discover your post via Google.

Practice zero tolerance for negative comments. There is already too much negativity in the world. You have no obligation to provide an audience for snarky people with too much time on their hands. Your blog is like your living room. You are inviting people to come in and have a civil conversation. If they are rude are abusive, show them the door. Make your blog comments policy prominent, so people know the rules before they comment.

Keep it fun so that you stay engaged. If it is not fun for you as a blogger, you will post less frequently—or not at all. If you stop posting, that’s the end of your blog. So it’s better to write something, even if it is off-topic or silly, than to write nothing at all. Tim gave an example of a post he did called, “How to Peel Hard-boiled Eggs Without Peeling.”

Break the rules. Don’t listen to people who are not paying you to blog. Nothing is sacred. Experiment. If it sounds like a good idea, try it—then measure the results. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Encouraging and Equipping Children Who Love to Write

Write Like Crazy has a bit about encouraging and directing your children who like to write. It’s full of good advice.

Maybe we should try to add to it. Kids who write are going to take publishing to heights we haven’t even begun to imagine. As a group, wouldn’t it be fun to add methods, ideas, suggestions about how we can help our youth become better writers?

Does your character seem flat?

Think of your favorite books. What makes those books so memorable to you? I’ll bet it’s the characters.
Select the main character from one of your favorite books and answer the following. Even if the author doesn’t mention these specifics in the book, if the character is well-written, you should be able to guess at the answers:
1. If the character had free time on their hands, what would they most likely be doing?
2. If confronted by a bully, how would this character react?
3. What is this character’s favorite subject in school? Favorite band? Favorite TV show? Best friend?
How did you find the information listed above? Was it written into the story? Or maybe, the character’s traits, personality and unique quirks were so specific, you could make your own conclusions. This is a well-written character.
So, when you’re writing your own short stories or novels, how do you create memorable, realistic characters? In a first draft, your characters may seem lifeless and flat. Not sure? Test it out:
First, give your story to someone else to read. Then, give them the list of questions above and see if they can come up with the correct answers. If they’re stuck, so are you. Your character needs more life, more details to flesh him out.
Come back all this week to get tips on “fleshing out” your characters. Already have tips that would help others? Share them here!
Since we’re discussing characters, let’s write wacky characteristics and discuss how you can “show” not “tell” through writing.
Example #1: Minor Character has a nervous twitch when he walks.
Don’t say:
Billy has this weird twitch when he walks.
Instead, say:
Billy lagged behind the others. He was careful to pretend he had stumbled if anyone noticed that his left leg swung out at an awkward angle when he walked.
Example #2: Main character has a unique fashion sense.
Don’t say:
Melody liked to dress in mismatching clothes to get attention.
Instead, try:
All eyes turned when Melody entered the cafeteria in her purple leopard printed leggings, orange turtleneck and red gingham jacket.
Your turn! Write a before and after of a character describing a wacky characteristic or trait. And don’t be selfish with your creations – share them here!
Advice for Developing a Character:
• Start with what matters to you about your character: Is he or she like you? Like someone you know?
• Put together a character so that all the parts fit together: Do these different things make sense within one person? Do they fit together in a believable way? Are these traits here for a reason?
• Explain any general descriptions of your character: What exactly does this description mean for this particular character?
• If a character seems too good to be true, make it more human: What is the downside of this trait? (too nice, too giving, etc.) How does this characteristic help and hurt the character?
• Know your character’s motivations (longings) and struggles.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In Regards to Online Posting

Writers write. It's what we do. Jane at Writer's Digest talks about the balance between careful and careless in regards to online content.

Are You Needlessly Worrying About Your Work Getting TOO MUCH Exposure?
Posted by Jane at Writer's Digest,category,MarketingSelfPromotion.aspx

As writers become more and more comfortable with online media, I receive more and more questions like this:
• If I post my work on my own site, will anyone be willing to consider it for print publication?
• How much of my novel can I post online before a publisher won't take it any more?
• Do I lose rights to my work if it's posted on XYZ site?
Here are key points to remember.

1. First things first: You own the copyright and all rights to your work when you post it online, unless you specifically agree otherwise. It may be easier to steal when it's online, but you still own it.

2. Always check the terms of service when regularly posting content to any site. If you're posting your work on major sites like Authonomy, WeBook, etc., you really have nothing to worry about. In such cases, you're not relinquishing any exclusive or vital rights to your work by posting it. (If someone knows of exceptions, please note in the comments.)

However, there may be an implicit agreement—by very fact of you using a website—that the site owner has nonexclusive right to use the content in a limited (or expansive) way. Such use is usually justified or reasonable, and sometimes it might profit the site owner. You need to decide what you're comfortable with and if the trade-offs are worth it. I have yet to see an agreement that is unethical or not upfront.

For example, here is Amazon's language governing book review content, which you agree to when using their site:

If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Amazon a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media. You grant Amazon and sublicensees the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content, if they choose. You represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content that you post; that the content is accurate; that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity; and that you will indemnify Amazon for all claims resulting from content you supply. Amazon has the right but not the obligation to monitor and edit or remove any activity or content. Amazon takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content posted by you or any third party.

This basically means that while you retain rights to your work, Amazon has the right do whatever it pleases as well. The key is the word "nonexclusive." If Amazon decided to publish a collection of the most elegant book reviews ever written, and used your material, they would not owe you any money or need to ask your permission, though of course it would be considered good practice and common courtesy to notify you.

3. If your work doesn't have a lot of commercial value, who cares? Here is where I have to be completely insensitive and say bluntly: Writers are overly worried about work that is not commercially valuable. Many things that people post online, whether on their own sites or elsewhere, are online precisely because there isn't a commercial value attached. So, when you post your work without compensation, there is an essential value statement made that, right now, you're valuing exposure (or service or community) more than payment. Or that you're marketing and promoting yourself, your brand, or a work that does have commercial value.

4. That said, the value of your work CAN change or be discovered later—which only opens up the commercial value and potential of your work. Remember that online exposure and online media are not the same as print exposure and print media. They are usually written and edited differently, presented differently, marketed differently, and read differently. The online audience is not 100% the same as the print audience (and sometimes not even 10% the same!).

Think of it this way: If you participated in a poetry slam and became wildly successful as a poet-entertainer, with thousands of followers, would that detract from your ability to publish books of your poetry? No, in fact, it would help make the case for print publication. Would a presentation of your poems online, in a way that gathered 10,000 unique visitors every day, detract from the sales of a beautiful physical chapbook? Of course not. It would help.

For the most part, online and print are complimentary—they are not competitive. Any book publisher who refuses to consider a work that has been successfully published digitally or online or in a multimedia format has not caught up with the times. Magazine and newspapers are a little different, but if they become a fan of your online work, most likely they will ask you to produce an original work for print publication.

5. You're always producing more work, right? Don't hold on so tightly to each piece of work that you're not focusing on new production.

Yes, even I hang onto my creative writing from senior year in high school, and have a catalog of all the places my work has appeared over the years (online and in print, often without pay), but even if a third party is profiting off my work online, that work has no commercial value to me anymore. I'm producing better stuff now. Plus the old work serves to offer additional exposure, little guideposts leading people to the more recent work.

Key takeaway: Just because your work is "published" when it appears online doesn't mean you've destroyed its market value. That's a very old-school way of viewing the value of content—a viewpoint that's based on decades of print publication tradition, when whoever had the "first" rights to print publication had the "best" rights, and paid the most.

If you haven't noticed, things have changed.

P.S. ... and a final word on theft: Stop worrying. When writing becomes a lucrative profession and when demand for writing far outstrips supply, then maybe we can discuss. In the meantime, feel flattered that someone thought your work was good enough they wanted to bother taking the time and effort to market, promote, pitch, and/or publish it themselves.

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