Saturday, August 27, 2016

Some Truths About Book Publishing

Any writer who has attempted to write a book knows how much work goes into it. You work long and hard, then one day you’re holding it in your hands. And even though it came from your deepest core, it’s really got a life all its own.
One of the biggest misconceptions you can have when writing a book is that if it’s accepted by a publisher, then it must be good—it must be perfect. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While you conceive the idea, then flesh it out, and finally give it form, a book isn’t complete until it runs through the gauntlet of copy and content editors.

When a publisher accepts a book, it’s just the first step. To market a book, it must be molded so that it fits into the marketplace. Most writers become myopic when writing their books. They don’t see beyond its content while publishers have a much broader view.

Realize that your editor is a professional at making at helping authors put their books into the best possible shape. So you must learn to be open and nondefensive.

Most changes editors request are minor. You think about it and get to it, You’ve been so close to your book that you perhaps didn’t realize that a bit of dialogue sounded flat and unrealistic or that there was a small hole in the plot. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you may have inadvertently switched the facts or left one out that made the subsequent text not make sense. You shouldn’t feel bad since these things happen to the best of writers. A book is a large project, so it’s only natural that a few things will slip by.

But what happens when your editor asks you to make a major change? Eliminating a major character, putting in a new one, drastically revamping the ending with the resultant alterations to the rest of your story to accommodate it—these are big. If your editor asks for a major change and after thinking it over you agree, you’ve got some work ahead of you. No matter how you feel about it, it’ll make you a better writer.

Just the way a book is a series of chapters, any major change is simply a bunch of minor ones. Approach it that way. Make a list of what you have to do, then do it. If you feel stymied or have serious reservations about the suggested changes, talk it over with your editor. The more open you are with your editor, the better..

But remember that in the end, it’s your book. Give your editor a concrete reason for refusing to make a specific changes. Offer alternatives. Stand your ground but also listen to what your editor has to say. He or she knows the marketplace.

Besides the editor assigned to work with you on your book by the publisher, you’ll also have to deal with copy editors. The great thing about copy editing is seeing your book through the eyes of someone fresh to it. Your copy editor will challenge any grammar and mechanics you’ve missed and suggest small improvements that never would have occurred to you. Copy editors also catch all those embarrassing mistakes.Since you’ve been working on this big project for so long, you’re bound to make a few.

Today, all book editing is done electronically. You send your manuscript into the publisher, and the copy editor sends it back to you digitally marked. All publishers use Microsoft Word to edit, so no matter what word processing program you use to write the book, you must save the text as a Word document before sending it to the publisher. Word features a complete editing subroutine that enables the copy editor to not only mark mistakes and other items but recommend ways to fix them.

Nearly all first-time authors get bogged down thinking that they control their book. For some reason, many think that they’ll have a role in choosing the cover of their book. As stated above, the publisher’s job is to get a book ready for the marketplace and he or she knows what type of cover will work best. Your publisher trusts this job to experts in graphic design. This doesn’t mean every cover will be perfect for every book, but it does mean you should relax and concentrate on what’s inside.

Another mistake beginning authors make is putting the chicken before the proverbial egg. They worry more about whether their book will be reviewed by the New York Times than they do about its content.

In fact, it’s rare for a first-timer to be reviewed in The New York Times—or any other major publication for that matter—so don’t get your hopes up. The only way a top reviewer will even consider your book is if it concerns a controversial topic. A few good low-profile reviews will help your book in the long run. But one really bad top review could kill it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Profit From Anniversaries

Every day is an anniversary of some event or moment in history. Every day is a chance to take your readers back in time.  Every day offers an opportunity for a way to increase your profits as a non-fiction writer.

Newsworthy milestones of all kinds can mean big profits if you’re a savvy writer. Many people love to read about what happened way back when. But the key is to uncover a unique angle on an anniversary, especially for those that are more well known.

While every day is an anniversary, it’s the important milestones that count----10, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200 years—so begin by making a list of these numbers. Subtract these numbers from the current year—in this case 2016. For example, subtracting 100 years from 2016 gives you 1916.

Next find a copy of The World Almanac and go to the historical timeline section. Look up 1916 and see what events happened that year. This gives you a list of centennial anniversaries to write about. Look for the more unusual events—ones that other writers might dismiss as too trivial. Then use your imagination to put your own spin on the ones you select. Repeat this process for all the milestone anniversaries. You’ll end up with a more anniversaries than you’ll have time to write about. Select the ones you think will work out best for you, and you’ve essentially planned articles for an entire year.

When pitching article ideas to editors, remember that most magazines work at least four to six months ahead, larger national publications often work a year or more ahead. So you may want to project into the following year. For example, look at the listings for both 1916 and 1917.

You should only have to do this procedure once a year. Try to do it at the end of the previous year to plan the anniversaries you’ll want to write about for the following 12 months.

A Google search for "historical anniversaries" will reveal lists of event anniversaries. And a search of “anniversaries + [specific year]” can also reveal many potential article angles. The bigger and rounder the number of the anniversary, the more potential the hook. Target these findings first in your queries, because well-known anniversaries are where the competition will be the most challenging.

You’ll also find it easier to narrow down all the possible anniversaries if you follow your personal interests. Use them as a filter to narrow your selection.

One writer had a strong interest in the Old West. When the 150th anniversary for the departure of the first wagon train to traverse the Oregon Trail came up, he did lots of research and in the end sold 16 articles to as many different magazines on various facets of this event. He targeted each article to a different audience using the same basic information but with specific details for each readership.

As in with other aspects of freelance marketing, it’s important to be broad minded. You never know which magazine editor is planning to cover what, or what special issues he or she may have in mind that would be perfect for a particular anniversary piece. Even rejections can open the door to future assignments. Whenever possible, target both local and national publications—and be sure to target each pitch a specific market.

Avoid ideas that first come to mind. Instead, find an innovative way to spin the topic that will make your query stand out from the others. One of the ideas the writer pitching the Oregon Trail anniversary used was to bring to life that first wagon train, based on personal accounts left by the pioneers on rock faces along the way and in diaries they kept. Since actual people signed their comments, it made his article personal and true to life.

Remember, that even what seems like a great idea to you may fall on an editor’s deaf ears. Be prepared to circulate and recirculate your anniversary article queries for multiple successes.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Re-inventing Yourself as a Writer in Today’s Hi-Tech World

Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years or so. So much so that it could have left you in the dust. What made for success in the 1980s and 1990s just won’t cut it today. So how do you re-invent yourself? The answer lies in creating a new business model—one tailored for today’s publishing industry and today’s readers.

To be successful today, you have to be passionate about what you do. While this sound s obvious, it’s even more important in a world run by technology. Readers no longer have just the printed page to turn to for information. Now they have billions of sites on the Internet that opens up an entire world of information.

Secondly, you have to write with a purpose—to fill an informational need, not just to get paid. With all the blogs online and ebooks to read, it’s a sea of information, so standing out on that great ocean can be a challenge. Creating personal, publishing, and community goals that inspire you will help you achieve them.

Today, you have to go beyond normal prose which originally involved only writing on your part and reading on your reader’s part. Today, you have to set up a system of sharing your content. While that may take the traditional form of print media, you should investigate all the opportunities to share your work with online communities.

Use your passion for writing to serve others. Crowdsourcing has now become a reality as creative entrepreneurs fund their projects by asking for it from the people who matter most—their readers. You need to build strong relationships with engaged, committee communities who want to help you because they know, like, and trust you.

After you’ve developed these online relationships, you must make yourself and your work continuously visible to them. Subject integration is the key. Once you write about a subject, explore all the possibilities for sharing that information. Tie articles to blogs and Web sites and vice versa.

Previously, you may not have considered test-marketing your work. But in today’s information filled world, that’s almost a necessity. While you wouldn’t have to test market an article or short story you’re submitting to a traditional publisher, you should do so with any project you’re planning for digital media.

Promote yourself. Before all this technology, all you had to so is produce writing that editors liked and were willing to publish. Today, you have to promote yourself directly to your readers. And the technology to do that is out there.

Above all, you have to remain professional. Maintain a positive perspective about publishing. Run a business that creates a steady stream of scalable content in as many forms, media, and countries as you can.

Build a brand—a business that readers can look to for creative and innovative content. Try to find the essence of what you do and build on it. Maximize your ability to innovate and be creative. Think outside the box.

Make the effects of your efforts sustainable. Begin with people and end with profit.

Finally, create a plan, have patience, discipline, and faith in yourself for the long term. And when you’ve achieved success, no matter how small, celebrate.

Friday, August 5, 2016

How Much Should You Sacrifice for Writing?

No matter how you look at it, writing whether full-time or part-time requires you to make sacrifices. These may be just little things like skipping your favorite T.V. show to getting up at the crack of dawn to going into thrifty mode and cutting way down on expenses. You may choose to do just one of these or you may be forced to do all three. And sacrifices don’t come easy.

Skipping your favorite T.V. show is easy. You may be lucky enough to have the technology to record your program to view at a later time. That also means you’re probably paying your phone/Internet or cable provider a hefty fee for the privilege.

If you’re still working at a full-time job, then you may have to create time to write by getting up before the chickens. While that may sound like a good idea in theory and it may work for a short while, the stress on your body from not getting enough sleep will eventually catch up to you. To be able to rise before dawn means you should probably go to bed at sunset.  That means that you’ll most likely be doing so right after dinner—not good for your digestion.

Lastly, you can cut back on your expenses—or better yet, put yourself on a strict, but reasonable, budget. Doing so will do two things. It will take the stress off of you to work long hours to pay bills that are higher than they should be. And it will help simplify your life. While this may work well if you’re single, it probably won’t work if you have a family. Those little mouths beg to be fed—a lot.

But controlling your expenses doesn’t have to be a severe sacrifice. First list all the expenses you can’t do without, such as housing, food, temperature control, transportation, food, etc. Then list all the expenses that are extra luxuries. This will be a subjective exercise because what’s a luxury to one person may be a necessity to another. While you may not want to give up your Starbucks coffee, you could switch to a less expensive coffee shop. But if you can’t give up the former, build it into your budget.

If you go to the movies once a week, consider getting a T.V. control box that will let you stream movies and T.V. shows from such outlets as Netflix, Hulu, or HBO. You can watch a whole lot more movies and such for the small amount per month that they charge.

A big expense is transportation. Consider driving less or buying a compact car that gets really good mileage and costs a lot less to maintain. You really don’t need an SUV or a van, even if you have a couple of kids. You can also take public transit if it’s convenient for you. Also, shop around for less expensive auto insurance that will give you the coverage you already have. Combining homeowner’s and auto insurance will allow you to get discounts.

Shop for clothes at less expensive retail outlets—skip the mall and department stores. You may even want to buy some of your clothes at local thrift shops. Chances are you’ll find some excellent brand-name items for a whole lot less. Sporting an L.L. Bean shirt that you purchased for $5 is a lot better than buying it new from the source for $50 or $60. Clothes from this retailer are made to last, so even used ones will be fine for a long while.

Cut back on eating out. “Cutting back” is the key here. Eating other than at home will be a treat if you do it once in a while. Also, keep your eye peeled for coupons and enroll in rewards programs. Not only will you get a free-bee once in a while, but you’ll also be privy to special promotions and discounts. Cook larger batches of food and freeze them in meal-sized portions. Not only will this save you money, it will also provide delicious prepared food when you’re too tired to cook.

Skip the gym but don’t skip the exercise. Work out at home. Invest in dumbbells or just do bodyweight exercises. You can also search YouTube for exercise videos. Or do the easiest exercise of all—walk around your neighborhood.

If you put your mind to it, you’ll find plenty of ways to save a buck or two. And before you know it, your life will be a lot less stressful, plus you’ll be enjoying yourself more as you find time and energy to write more.