Who's On Your Team?

One aspect of writing many authors like is that writing is an individual, independent, relatively private endeavor. A lot of writers are natural introverts and relish the time in front of the keyboard with only their thoughts and maybe birds chirping softly outside the window. There's absolutely no problem with this, that's typically how I work too.

However, when it comes to the publishing process, that mentality must get out of the way and your team player persona take its place. This is an absolute must unless you are publishing for your eyes and yours alone. If not, you cannot go it alone.

If you intend to publish a book for the public, you'll need a team, and optimally, a team that you have great confidence in. And this will be true no matter which publishing option you choose.

If you go traditional, you want an agent and publisher with whom you see eye to eye on as much of the project as possible. Should you consider fee-based/POD, you need to get the most for your money and feel comfortable with your interaction as well. Of course, if you set up independently, your team will be large and likely include multiple vendors, from editing to printers and you will have to wear a manager's hat in addition to your writing hat.

Yes, writing often comes from a place of solitude, but the publishing process never has and never will. No matter if you need two teammates or ten, take the time to choose them wisely and you stand a much greater chance at winning at this game we call publishing.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Now These are Bookstores!

Many of us dream of someday being able to walk into a bookstore and see our books on the shelves. In America at least, that often means first walking into your ordinary boring mall or strip mall.

Thankfully, there are at least a few places left where bookstores are destinations unto themselves and I just had to share this link to some of the coolest ones.

Do you have any bookstore or literary destinations in your area? Please fill us in in the comments.

One I can share is the Raven Cafe (coffee house, lunch/dinner) in Port Huron MI. The owner previously had a used bookstore and when he opened the restaurant, he filled up wall to wall bookshelves upstairs along with giving the overall atmosphere an artsy literary vibe.

When we visited (a couple of years ago) one very unique feature was the fact that you could pull out a book, start reading, put in a bookmark, place the book on a "checked out" shelf and continue reading when you returned. You can get a sense of the place on the website, but unfortunately, they don't have photos specifically featuring the books at the moment.

We all know independent bookstores are declining daily, please do what you can to support these treasures while we still have them.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Writing for the Young and Young at Heart

I read this quote today on Twitter: No book is worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally– & often far more worth reading at age 50 & beyond"— C.S. Lewis

It struck me for a couple of reasons. First, I started thinking about how we are trained as writers with regard to marketing. We are supposed to target a particular buying audience and I still believe that's a good thing and totally necessary. However, some books we treasure really are great for more than one age group. Think about your books for a moment, can a parent get as much joy out of reading as the child gets from hearing? Can kids and parents both read it and discuss it (I know it happened with Harry Potter and now Twilight). If not, it might be something to shoot for. If it does, make sure your blurbs, testimonials say so. It might be just the nudge you need to get a buyer to say yes.

Second, I have always loved really good children's books. You know the kind when you see the title or the picture on the cover at the store you just have to stop and check it out? Most are only 32 pages, but many spark more inspiration or provide more enjoyment than books 10x as long.

How about you, have you read anything lately just for the pure joy of the illustrations or the simple story, just like a child would? If not, I say do it on your next trip to the store. Your stressed out, super-stuffed, hectic adult life will thank you for it.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


May I have Your Autograph?

When you send or give a book directly to a reader do you sign it? It's such a simple way to connect on a more personal level and there's no question that today's customers are more and more about connection.
First, it shows you took an extra minute to do something special just for them; it helps them feel they are not just customer number 72. It also gives them something not everyone will get- a copy hand-signed by the author. For some, this alone makes it worth the purchase price. I can tell you I got a book from one resource over another just because they offered a signed copy (by Alan Alda) while the others did not. There may have even been a couple dollar price difference, but I wanted the signed version and felt the trade off in price was fair.

You say you're not Alan Alda? So what. To at least some of your readers you are a version of a star, and to some extent the general public still believes just being an author is a cool thing. If you are a bit hesitant or unsure how the buyer feels-ask! If they say no thanks, then no harm no foul. But if they say yes, especially if they weren't expecting you to offer, think how you'll make them smile or make their day. To some, that will definitely be more than worth the price of purchase.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Can You Record Your Own Audio Book?

It's no secret that many people are reading less these days. Life gets in the way and sometimes the time needed to curl up with a book is a luxury. However, some people do get around that by listening to their books. Audio books aren't new, books on tape/CD have been around for a long time, but their popularity may increase because of all the new technologies for phones, ipods etc. that afford even more listening options.

Generally, audio products are created in professional studios at a fair amount of expense, but once again technology is making it easier for non-pros to record some pretty decent stuff too. For example, many Internet marketers use fairly simple tools to create MP3 files of classes, speeches and seminars for those who cannot attend in person. They are not masterpieces in audio mixing, but they're normally fine for the average listener and serve the purpose of effectively delivering information to the user.

While I've been aware of the above process for quite some time, I really haven't read much about recording books that way. However, today I came across a very useful post by Marc Warnke where he explains how he did read and record his own book at home without a lot of technical knowledge.

Will his process work for everyone? No, and fiction will certainly be more difficult than non-fiction. But for those with the time, some equipment, dedication, patience and attention to detail, it is within the realm of possibility to go DIY and I think that's very encouraging.

If you try it, tweak the process in anyway, I do hope you'll share your experiences.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Three Reasons for Choosing Traditional Publishing

If you look at the state of publishing today, sometimes it's hard to see why anyone would want to go the traditional/commercial route. After all, it takes forever to get a manuscript accepted if at all, returns are higher than ever and big names have prime shelf space at stores.

Even though all that is true, there are still reasons to choose this option and many people who support it. Here are just three:

1. Budget: If you have little money to put toward the process, traditional will likely be your choice as the publisher takes on the financial risks. You might have to pay for some early editing, but other than that your book will be produced without your investment.

2. Handling Business: If you do not have either the skills or desire to handle all of the business aspects of the process, your choices include finding a partner who will or trying to get an agent and commercial publishing deal.

3. Marketing: While the author is more and more responsible for promoting his/her book, if you have no idea how to go about it, a good traditional publisher will at least do a few tasks, have some media contacts and guide you through the process.

Is traditional right for you? These three points are just a small part of what you need to consider. If you'd like to go through a more detailed process to figure out the best option for your book project, consider picking up a copy of Publishing Possibilities or scheduling a coaching session at www.publishinganswers.com

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


What's Your Book About?

It sounds like a simple enough question right? But how easy is it really for you to answer?
If you're chatting with someone you've just met, how long does it take you to tell them what they need to know? Can you tweet your story focus or topic clearly?

If not, it's an important skill to aquire. As people's attention spans get shorter and shorter (because of texting, tweeting and more), it's important to be able to keep it short & sweet when necessary.

Just recently, I came across Nick Morgan's blog and his contest for the best in "elevator speeches". There are some good critiques and examples if you need to work on yours. As a quick note, I also got a nice surprise this evening, found out I happened to win 2nd place :-)

Want to share your elevator speech here? Feel free, let us know if you'd like feedback.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Speaking Can Be Fun

It is a commonly known fact that for many authors, speaking is a good way to build a platform/audience and to potentially sell books. It is also a known fact that a large percentage of people are afraid to speak in public. Sometimes the fear is of being in the spotlight, sometimes it's the fear of making mistakes/misspeaking in front of people, other times it is the fear of being boring or uninteresting.

In my opinion, of all people, authors should have little concern for that last one. First, we've already got one key strategy in place, story-telling, which can be incorporated in just about all types of speeches. In addition, it takes creativity to write just about any kind of book so that ability can naturally flow into coming up with unique and creative ideas to put in a presentation.

So the next time someone asks you to or suggests you should speak, don't be afraid. Think of all of the tools you already have in your toolbox and figure out new ways to use them. And for a little extra inspiration here's a fun idea from speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite. BTW, don't skip visiting the website suggested in the comment section- I dare you not to laugh.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Agents and Queries and Proposals, Oh My!

Sometimes new authors are under the impression that traditional publishing is the easiest of the options. They believe in order to get published, you send a simple email to an agent or publisher that asks them to consider your book and that's that. After all, business is so much more informal nowadays right?

While that may be true in many industries, in publishing not so much. Agents and editors may be open to email vs snail mail, but there are still plenty of formal rules/procedures that really need to be adhered to in order for your book to have any shot at acceptance.

Some of those rules include sending a proper query letter and if you get past that stage, a book proposal of some sort. You need to work at least as hard, if not harder at these items because you only have a short space of a page or two to make your case especially in the early stages.

The good news is that because of social media, it's easier than ever to learn what you need to know. A great way is to follow agent blogs. For example Pub Rants by Agent Kristen offers tons of the "how-tos" authors need. Her blogroll also lists other agents' and published authors' blogs and I'm sure there's a wealth of information to be discovered on those as well.

And just in case you need a little extra inspiration, you can always pop over to Chip Macgregor's Blog where he occasionally posts some of the best of the worst of the stuff he sees on a regular basis. The March 8th entry has some at the end of the post. If nothing else, smile and be glad in the fact that you know better.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Are You Writing the Wrong Book?

The idea for this post comes from C. Hope Clark at www.fundsforwriters.com and her weekly newsletter. This week she talked about how on American Idol, contestants often fail to hit the mark simply because they didn't choose the right song. It doesn't suit them, people don't really want to hear them sing it because they don't do as well with it. However, the singer often has chosen the song because it has special meaning to him/her. He didn't think of the audience, in this case the judges.

She also points out that it's the same for writers and I whole-heartedly agree. When you choose a topic, whether for a book or an article etc. if you want to sell it, the choice can't be all about you. You must know who you're writing for, who you expect to buy it, what they will likely buy and then give it to them. If you are just planning to write for fun, you don't need to worry about these things and that's perfectly okay. But if you want to make any kind of income, you must keep your audience in mind at all times. Otherwise, don't expect to advance to the next level.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


What Makes a Good Book in the Eyes of a Publisher?

That is one of the magic questions isn't it? So many authors ask some version of it every day.

In all reality, there's not a lot of magic. If you want a publisher to sign you and your book you have to have a book they think will sell. What kind of book is that?

Quill Driver Books founder/acquisition editor Steve Mettee provides an answer in this month's Book Business Magazine:“People ask me what works,” he says. “The No. 1 thing you have to have is good books. If you are competing with the big guys out in New York, they’ve got good books—well-thought-out, good content, well-edited, well-written, easy to read. If you don’t have that, it’s just not going to sell.”

So simple, yet so elusive. While no one can guarantee something will sell or be selected for publishing, following this list is certainly a huge step in the right direction. Does polishing take time, effort, maybe a fair amount of money (to pay an editor for example)? Probably, but if you want to compete, it must be 100% and sometimes more. The competition is just too great to do anything less.

The rest of the interview with Mettee is informative as well, I encourage you to check it out here.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Why Should People Read Your Book? Or Mine for that Matter?

I was listening to the replay of a Podcast today and came away with a couple really useful ideas. The first comes from one of the guests, Carolyn Howard-Johnson. She was talking about how some people think that (for non-fiction) their potential audience is going to go to the Internet to find what they need. Why would they buy a book?

Her answer was basically this: because books assemble all the information in one place. The author has done the searching, the sifting, the organizing of all the bits and pieces so the reader doesn't have to. If you have a how to book, think about that as you do your marketing- I sure am.

The other thought that came to mind was in regard to questions like how do I become a better writer, how can I sell more books? My answer: take time to find examples, then take time to learn from them. It is often said you cannot be a good writer if you are not a strong reader. The same goes with learning how to sell and promote; there are others out there doing it, take advantage of opportunities to listen to what they do.

While I'm at it, I'll cover a couple of excuses for why you might not get to doing this too:

1. I don't have money to take classes or go to a conference
With podcasts and teleseminars you can do it for free or next to free maybe paying for minutes/a phone call.

2. I don't have time
Honestly, and yes this might be a bit harsh- If you don't think you have time to read or learn, I don't think you have time to be successful either. We make time for what we really want and value in life. If your book project isn't high on the list right now, that's okay. When it is, be ready to give it the attention it deserves.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Have Questions About Distribution? Podcast this Week Will Have Answers

Distribution is one of the more complicated concepts in the publishing world. Books need to get to bookstores, or do they? Upwards of 40% are now getting returned back to the publisher anyway. Amazon needs copies in stock, no wait, no they don't.

I'm sure you've heard people say that writing your book is the easy part. When it comes to figuring out the ins and outs of print book distribution, I'd have to agree whole-heartedly, which is why I'm very excited to tell you about the next episode of Write Turns Allowed.

This time instead of being interviewee, I'll be co-hosting with Shamielle and we'll be talking about the inner workings of distribution with our guest from Atlas Books/Bookmasters. We'll talk about publicists too and how they figure into the publishing mix.

Join us this Thursday March 5th at 1PM EST. If you can't make it, check in out via on-demand at your convenience. Go to www.blogtalkradio.com and search "Write Turns Allowed".

Got a question? If you're on with us live you can send it via the web or call in. Hope to see you there!

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett