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Right Writing News, April 2, 2012 Issue #52
April 02, 2012
Welcome to the 52nd issue to subscribers of Right Writing News. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.
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Table of Contents1) Will We Cross Paths Soon?
By W. Terry Whalin
2) Why Every Book Needs a Proposal (Even Self-Published)
By W. Terry Whalin
3) Leveraging News Headlines
By Sandra Beckwith
4) What's Holding Back Your Writing?
By W. Terry Whalin
5) The Crux of Good Business
By W. Terry Whalin
6) Practice Makes Perfect
By W. Terry Whalin
7) How to Create a Powerful Media List
By Penny Sansevieri
8) How to Handle Rejection
By W. Terry Whalin
Will We Cross Paths Soon?
By W. Terry WhalinIn a few weeks, I'm headed back on the road to speak at two different writer's conferences in April then another one in May. I hope our paths will cross at one of these conferences so we can speak together face to face.
April 13 to 14, 2012, I will be speaking at Called To Write Conference a two-day event in Pittsburg, Kansas. I am one of their keynote speakers and will be meeting with writers throughout the weeekend. Follow the link to register and get the details.
April 19 to 21, 2012, I will be speaking at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop a three-day event on the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Follow the link to get the details. This conference is only held every other year and is always sold out. Terry will be teaching a workshop about book proposals.
May 16 to 19, 2012, I will be speaking at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference a multiple-day event in Estes Park, Colorado at the YMCA of the Rockies. I will be meeting with authors and teaching a couple of workshops. Follow the link to register and get the details.
Hope to see you soon.
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Why Every Book Needs a Proposal
By W. Terry WhalinI've read thousands of book proposals as an acquisitions editor and a former literary agent. I continually teach on the topic because I believe many writers don't understand the critical nature of this specialized document called a book proposal.
On the traditional side of publishing, editors and agents read proposals. It doesn't matter whether you've written nonfiction or fiction because this document includes information which never appears in your manuscript yet is critical detail in the decisionmaking process. My Book Proposals That Sell has over 100 Five Star Amazon reviews and continues to help many writers. My online course, Write A Book Proposal has helped writers around the world to learn the step-by-step techniques of creating a proposal.
As a book publisher at Intermedia Publishing Group, many of my authors have not written a book proposal because we work with full manuscripts. From my perspective of working in book publishing for over 20 years, every author should create a book proposal for their book--whether eventually they publish the book with a company where they pay to get it published (subsidy or self-publishing) or whether they find a traditional book publisher. In the proposal creation process, the author learns some critical elements about their book concept plus they are better positioned in the marketplace.
Here are four benefits of proposal creation (and I'm certain there are many more):
1. You Define Your Target Market. Many authors believe their book will hit a broad target--everyone. No successful book is for everyone. Each book has a primary target audience and the proposal creation process helps you define, pinpoint and write about this audience. It is important in nonfiction but it is also important in fiction. For example, romance is the largest fiction genre yet there are many divisions within the romance genre. Every proposal needs a target which is defined-- yet large enough to generate volume sales. You learn and achieve this balance when you create a page-turning book proposal.
2. You Understand Your Competition. While creating a proposal, the writer has to take a hard look at which books are competing with your idea. This process helps you understand the marketplace. Many new authors believe they are writing something unique with no competition. It's not true.
Every book competes in the marketplace and you will be a better equipped author if you understand your competition.
3. You Create A Personal Plan For Marketing. Whether you like marketing or dislike it, the reality is every author has to market their own book. It doesn't matter who publishes your book--whether you self-publish or go with a large traditional house. As you create a book proposal, you will be including practical, specific and measurable ideas that you can execute when your book enters the market. The proposal will be a valuable reference tool for you because you've done this important creation process.
4. You Possess A Valuable Tool To Pitch Agents and Editors at Traditional Houses. I've written it a number of times but it bears repeating here. Literary agents and editors do not read manuscripts. They read book proposals. Even novelists need a book proposal for their initial pitch to an editor or agent. And if you self-publish and are successful with selling your book, because you own everything, if you receive an attractive offer from a traditional house, then you can move the book. Without a proposal you can't properly pitch the concept and you've eliminated this possibility.
I believe writers should explore every option and keep their possibilities open. You've narrowed the possibilities rather than expanded them if you don't have a proposal.
If you make the effort to create an excellent book proposal, then you will be ready to pitch your book at any time and any place.
Editors and literary agents do not read manuscripts (a surprise to authors). They read book proposals. Learn more at: http://bit.ly/wbkpro
Be Opportunistic: Leveraging News Headlines
By Sandra BeckwithSome news stories have staying power that extends well beyond the morning or evening newscast; they are the stories that give us some of our best book publicity opportunities.
Can you leverage any of this week's headlines to secure media or blog interviews related to your book? Here are a few that have either remained in the news for longer than usual or are reoccurring stories. Use my suggestions for these topics to help you see ways you can connect your book to other big stories as they develop.
• High rate of home foreclosures because lenders offered mortgages they shouldn't have, and borrowers took loans they shouldn't have. This story has made almost daily headlines for nearly four years. During that period, someone reading this newsletter has probably written a novel that involves losing a home to foreclosure - and someone else has written a nonfiction book about what went wrong and why, or about how to work the system to keep your home. You be should be interviewed by the press on a regular basis - this story isn't going to disappear anytime soon.
• How and why teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. Outraged individuals in communities far from Sanford are protesting how this was handled. Have you written about problems with law enforcement agencies, racial profiling, vigilantes, or losing a child to violence?
• Social media's influence on corporate decision-making. This is one of those stories that comes and goes - and it will come again. Most recently, a marketing firm used homeless people as wifi hot spots during the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. The criticism on social media was swift and unrelenting. Corporations continue to make stupid decisions; the public will continue to point this out via social media. Does your fiction include a social media theme or emphasize the role of public opinion in business decision-making? Have you written a nonfiction book that includes information on the impact of social media or how to use it to support a movement?
• The U.S. presidential campaign. This one is big now and will continue to get bigger as the year moves on. If your novel has a political theme, setting, or characters, think about how you can contribute to your local media's conversation about this. If you've got a nonfiction book on political campaigns or elections, you could become a pundit.
• What's up with the weather? Most regions in the U.S. have enjoyed a blessedly mild winter. Some of us have watched spring arrive at least a month early. Do you write about the weather, global warming, or climate change? Does a dramatic weather change - or even a meteorologist! - play a role in your novel? If your local media outlet is talking about this, you'll want to be part of the conversation.
• Facebook privacy issues. It was in the news again last week when the Associated Press reported that employers were asking job candidates for their Facebook user names and passwords. If you've written a book about social media or one where social networks play a large role, you can be interviewed on this topic regularly. Consider writing a few newspaper editorials on the topic and sending them out when these issues make news.
Start with your local media outlets to get experience (and a video of your interviews to use when you're ready to pitch national shows). Remember that publicity begets publicity - your local radio interview can generate a local TV news interview which can lead to a local newspaper interview. And much of this ends up online, where your interviews can be found by national reporters searching for new sources.
Sandra Beckwith is a former national award-winning publicist who now teaches authors how to be their own book publicists. Get free tips and subscribe to her free “Build Book Buzz” e-zine at http://buildbookbuzz.com.
What's Holding Back Your Writing?
By W. Terry WhalinI've got a new dog in my house. Well, she's not really new but acting in a new way. We've had Sophie, our Yorkshire Terrier for over four years and she's an integral part of our daily lives. Yet I'm not the “alpha” in our house but my wife fills that role.
For years, Sophie has had this annoying behavior of barking like crazy each time I come into the house or speak with my wife. We've tried many different things to correct this behavior—and nothing worked until this week.
We learned about the Pet Corrector. This simple red can makes a hissing sound with air. Whenever Sophie barks or misbehaves, I blast it toward her and she immediately stops barking. In fact, she's lost this barking habit. It is like we have a new dog in our house--one that has much better behavior.
This Pet Corrector is an amazing tool and we learned about it from a family member who used it with their dogs.
I thought about this tool in relation to my writing life. What is holding back your writing? Is there some missing tool that you could pick up which would move your writing in a new direction?
The correction process has several parts. First, you need to take some time and think about what is holding back your writing?
Maybe you need to learn to write a query letter. Maybe you need to learn the skill of writing a book proposal. Maybe you need to attend a writer's conference with different editors and agents (people you've not met in the past). I'm speaking at a number of conferences in the coming months and you can check my schedule at this link.
Possibly you need to purchase a new book which will stir ideas. In each chapter of my Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, I include resources so you can dig deeper into the material in that chapter.
Or maybe you are missing a critical skill that is holding you back. Or possibly it is financial and you need to make more money with your writing. I have a free teleseminar that you can access immediately along with my Ebook, Buzz Your Book Marketing That Matters.
Possibly you have a blog yet few readers and you aren't making any money with it because you've not set it up right and monetized it. I suggest you get my 31 Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks. You can get this resource any time day or night and it comes with my 60 day risk-free guarantee. Begin to use it right away.
After you determine what needs to change and locate the resources, the final step is critical: change your behavior. If you don't change your actions, then you will still be in the same spot a month or six months from now.
You can determine what is holding back your writing, find the resource and make a change. I believe in you and look forward to hearing about the results.
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The Crux of Good Business
By W. Terry WhalinIt may seem pretty basic but if you are going to work in the communication business, you need to work at this thing called communication. It seems like I need to work at it every day--even when I don't want to work at it.
Recently one of my customers wrote and said, “This EBook has not been up to my expectations and I wish to request a refund. I don't believe the content was substantial enough to merit the $39 cost.”
The comment made me a bit angry and I wanted to come back in protest. After all I had sold many copies of this same Ebook around the world without a single person asking for a refund. Wasn't it my “right” to protest such a request?
Instead I dropped it and simply refunded the money. On my website, I have a “no questions asked refund policy.” It says that if you ask for a refund, then I refund the money. It’s straightforward and simple.
This customer had requested a refund so I was going to return the money. Within the hour, I sent the money along with this note to the customer, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you this time. I hope to work with you again later on.”
Notice my comment leaves the door open for this customer to return and purchase another product from me at a later date.
Over the years in business, I’ve learned several important lessons in this area of customer service which are important for every business person.
1.Never burn a bridge. Relationships are critical and it is important for you to take steps to preserve your relationship. Someone may return a product today but become a major monthly client if you handle the return properly. It is never worth burning a bridge with some snappy comeback.
2. Always deliver prompt customer service. When someone emails me about a product, I try and answer within 24 hours. I don’t care if I’m traveling and away from home or where I am when I get the request. I quickly send a response. If I can resolve it, then I try and resolve it. If I need to explain that I’m on the road and will resolve it in the next day, then I send that message. My customers deserve a timely response.
When I have a customer service issue with a product or service, I’m expecting a prompt response. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.” It’s called the Golden Rule for a reason.
3. Be certain to respond. Whether the customer service issue is someone asking for one of my free products or someone asking to return a product that they have purchased, I attempt to deliver prompt customer service. I have a simple principle: when someone write or calls, I call them back or email them in response. In today’s world it is shocking the lack of response from vendors. If you take this simple step, it will distinguish you from the others.
Communication and quick resolution will pay off for you and build rapport which will preserve your reputation and build trust.
Here's the “rest of the story.” The Ebook that I'm talking about was Writing For The Christian Market. Recently I was talking with someone about a Christian publishing company and the way they treated their customers. The person I was talking with was not a Christian but he complained, "This company talks all over their site about God and uses that reason why people should use their company. Because they are Christians, I hold them to a higher standard of excellence." While I didn't turn the discussion into one about faith and standards, I agreed with the person.
What are you doing to foster or hinder good communication in your writing life? That connection is critical in many different areas of life and it was a good reminder for me.
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Practice Makes Perfect
By W. Terry WhalinIf you don't have publishing figured out, welcome to my world. It is always changing and evolving with new editors, new agents and new opportunities.
One of the best actions you can take each day is to continue to get your writing into the marketplace. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” You have to be actively working in the field to find success.
During a summer long ago, I took typing in summer school. It was in the pre-computer days and we learned on electric typewriters. If you hesitated or pushed the wrong keys, the mistakes were instantaneous. Yet these typewriters also had an amazing button to erase the mistakes. After using the old manual typewriters, that correction key was remarkable. I was an average typist during high school. I believe I earned a solid C in that class.
You’d never know it today. If you’ve ever seen me type, it’s pretty quick. When I work in an office, I get a steady stream of comments about my speed and the clicking on the keys. I’m a hard typist because for many years I used manual typewriters to write stories. Why the speed? Because I’ve done it repeatedly—every day for years. In the early days of my journalism training, we learned to compose at the typewriter. We created sentences in our minds, then put them instantly into the typewriter. It’s the perfect skill for any journalist since there is no time in the newspaper world to rewrite or stew about the syntax of the sentence. You need to spread your notes around you on the desk and spit out the story. It’s another skill which has served me well over the years.
I don’t know what you are facing today. You may be wondering if you will ever get a magazine article published. You may be struggling to find any children’s book editor to give your work some attention. Or possibly your book proposal is getting lots of rejection. Maybe your novel is languishing on some editor’s desk (or worse it’s stuck in your file drawer and has never been sent out—yet). I want to encourage you about the value of repetition. Select something—then do it repeatedly. If it’s children’s books, then write lots of them. Read lots of them and send them into the market. Try the children’s magazine market and also the children’s book market. Join organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and learn about the current editorial needs and trends in the market. Then get your material out there—over and over—with excellence.
My skill set and learning in this market continues to grow daily. I understand the value of repetition—constantly throwing out new ideas and different types of writing. Then I write over and over. It’s not rocket science. You can do it too.
How to Create a Powerful Media List
By Penny SansevieriBuilding a media list is often tricky. Traditionally PR firms spend a lot of money on yearly subscriptions to online databases that give them access to every media contact in the US and sometimes the world. As a business owner, speaker or author you don't need to have that big of a media list, you just need a strong set of contacts that you can go to when you have a news item, a launch, or an interesting story to tell.
When we consider our publicity budget, we don't often take into account the pricey subscriptions to these services. It's generally not a good idea, or a prudent use of your marketing budget, to sign up for a database such as this. But the problem is that you still need the contacts. There is, however, an alternative that does require some work and planning but will help you build a strong, long-term list.
* Start early: This process, while it will save you money, will take you anywhere from three to six months to pull a good list together. The longer you work this process, the more comprehensive a list you will develop.
* Topics: Be clear on the topics you feel you can cover and if you're unclear on how many areas you can address, spend some time with a professional publicity person who can help you brainstorm some areas. The more areas you can cover, the better and more fruitful your media campaign will be.
* Google Alerts: First and foremost you want to keep track of any news breaking in your market. You also want to keep tabs on other speakers, authors, or businesses that are similar to yours so you can see where they are popping up. This will also alert you to the various media (including online media, i.e. bloggers) who work in your particular area.
* Which media: Not all media is created equal, so be clear on which media you want to go after and what's doable for you. As you start building your list, you might find that your topic is very popular (lucky you) and there are opportunities in both broadcast and print media. Are you ready for prime time? Only you know the answer to this, but if you're just starting out the answer is probably no. Don't go for the big time media just because everyone else is. If you've had media training and you're not a novice then great, but likely you're just starting out. It's rare when a national morning show will feature a "green" guest. By that I mean someone who's never been on media or has no media training. If you're getting your feet wet start locally and build from there.
* Networking: The next phase of this will be networking with your media contacts. And even though I cautioned you not to shoot too high if you're just starting out, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't start networking with them early. By networking I mean connecting with them on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Comment on their posts, their news and be sure to connect with them if the stories they publish are also featured online. As you get to know your target media (and they get to know you) you'll begin to build a relationship with them and, if you're lucky, even become a source for their stories. Most media folk are pretty well connected. If they do broadcast media and you can't find their stories online, check out the station website to see where you might find them in the social media world.
* HARO: Don't forget to sign up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). If you aren't familiar with this I have an article on media leads that will guide you through this process: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/penny-c-sansevieri/maximizing-media-leads_b_748574.htm). Responding to media leads, even in the early stages of your project, will really help you build your media database and potentially get interviewed.
* Staying in Touch: Once you have a story you are actively pitching, I recommend "touching" each of your media contacts at least once every six months or once a quarter if you have a really hot topic. You can keep contact with them through a quick email telling them you enjoyed their story, or through a pitch idea, but this contact should be direct. A posting on Facebook or response to a Google+ update is just part of your daily/weekly communication but it can't and shouldn't replace direct contact.
* Events: As you go to industry events, always be alert to the media attending so you can network with them. Some events might publish their attending media list, but if they don't you can often spot media by their badge (many press passes have special colors on them so they are easy to spot). Be sure to attend evening functions, which is always a great place to identify new, potential media who may be interested in your pitch.
Building a media list is more than just creating a list, it's about building long-term relationships with media (both online and off) that you can turn to again and again. Once you have this media list, you'll want to keep enhancing it. As your message and media data base grows, these relationships can grow with you. Like any relationships, they'll take time so it's best to start early. Once you implement these action items, they should become part of your daily/weekly/monthly marketing goals. At some point, as you continue networking and connecting with the right media, you'll find that media opportunities become almost second nature. There's no substitute for a mention in a popular blog, magazine, radio or TV show - you just have to be ready when opportunity knocks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Penny C. Sansevieri is a book marketing and media relations specialist who coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional services, visit http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
How To Handle Rejection
By W. Terry WhalinNo one likes to hear the word “no” or “no, thank you.” Yet it is firmly a part of the publishing community. It's been a while since I've written about rejection. From time to time, I believe it is good to return to it and includes lessons for every active writer.
Notice I wrote that little word “active?” Some people call themselves writers (which is good in my view) yet haven't been recently rejected because they are not sending out their material. Getting rejected is a part of the writing life.
If you want to get published in magazines, then you need to be studying the magazines and regularly pitching ideas to them (a query), then getting feedback from the editor (hopefully an assignment) and turn in your well-written article on the deadline. I encourage you to write for print magazines because it will help you as a writer in a number of areas of your writing life. If you write nonfiction, it is good to write for magazines and if you write fiction, it is good to write for magazines. In general, print magazines have a higher standard of excellence than online publications so I'm talking about print publications.
It is the same constant action of pitching your idea which counts on the book side of publishing. Several years ago I was a fiction acquisitions editor then a literary agent (all former roles for me now) but I learned a great deal about the rejection process from my work in these areas.
Manuscripts and proposals and query letters come in all shapes and sizes. When I was acquiring fiction, I was consistently work on my stack of submissions so people hear from me. It’s often not the answer they want to hear. To receive a yes response takes time in publishing and involves a lot of consensus building within the publishing house.
The “no” response can often be determined quickly. If you send in a query about a 25,000 word novel or a children’s book, then you are headed for rejection. When I was working for Howard, they did not do children’s books and I was the fiction acquisitions editor. We were not considering youth books or young adult. Instead the focus was on six to eight adult length novels (generally 80,000 to 100,000 words). So…if your novel is 56,000 words, it’s too short for serious consideration--no matter how well it is written.
Now the writing--that’s another consideration. You would be shocked at the telling manuscripts which don’t jump into the plot. Or they meander around the story line before they jump into it. Editors and agents are looking for excellent storytelling and a plot that can’t be put down. I understand it’s a high goal—but there are many manuscripts and only a few manuscripts will be selected and even fewer ultimately contracted.
Because I am someone who also writes and loves writing books and magazine articles, it’s painful to send these rejection letters. I know people have poured their heart and dreams into these submissions. I’ve also learned the hard way if I add anything personal, I will get it revised and resubmitted to me—and often again rejected. Instead, I resorted to the standard editor response—the dreaded form letter. I don’t like receiving them and I don’t like sending them--but they come with the business.
Whether the writer likes the response or not is not the issue. It’s important to me that they have received a response. Often submissions go into a black hole and you never know if the editor received it, processed it or anything. With each submission, I know they have been read, carefully considered and rendered a decision. In some ways, I hope it softens the pain of rejection.
Finally I want to give you three key points to handle rejection:
1. Understand it. Every active writer is rejected. While you have put your best writing out into the marketplace, it is not personal. The editor or agent is looking for something specific and you are trying to make the right connection with your submission. If it was rejected, then the right connection didn't happen. It is part of the business.
2. Learn from it. You may or may not receive any feedback with the submission but you can still continue working on an excellent submission. If you don't know how to craft a query letter, then learn that skill. Get in a critique group to have a safe group of trusted writers to bounce ideas. If you don't know how to create an excellent proposal then learn this skill as you are sending out your ideas.
3. Persist and keep knocking on new doors. While you may have your mind and heart set on a particular magazine or book publisher or agent, the world is large. There are many places and ways to get your material out into the marketplace. Keep growing and looking for new opportunities.
Every writer can gain the skill of properly handling rejection. I know you can do it.
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