Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reflections, Not Resolutions

While many people are stressing over whether to recycle the New Year’s resolutions they made last year and haven’t yet completed, I suggest you take these last few days of 2011 to reflect on what you did accomplish. You’ve completed 362 days of 2011. Now is the time for reflection.
The end of the year is a perfect time to remember the good that happened, the joys you exeprienced, the goals you achieved, the progress you made, the lessons you learned, the people you impacted (and those who impacted you), and the difference you made in your corner of the world. 
As you know, I’m a huge proponent of journaling. In fact, my Write Your Life journal was developed to help you experience the joys of journaling and to guide you through the process of turning your journal entries into content for your book. Within the pages of Write Your Life are several Reflections. These thought-provoking sections are called Reflections because they are designed to cause you to think deeply and carefully about something and then to record your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
One of my favorite Reflections in the Write Your Life journal is titled, “I Am Here, Now.” It is a simple reflection that asks readers to examine their life as it is today, independent of what happened yesterday and what they hope to achieve tomorrow. I invite you to try this one:
You’ve seen maps that have a mark indicating “You are here.” That mark identifies your current location. Where you are today is the result of what you did, thought, said, and believed in your past, in combination with a set of circumstances and people that are designed especially for you. Accepting your current circumstanes is critical to living a more enjoyable life. Consider your life as it is today. Without judging your circumstances or yourself, or even projecting what you want in the future, describe the people and activities that make up your life. 
The questions that follow this description are designed to prompt thoughtful introspection. If you’re interested in receiving the questions, email me at This process of reflecting and examining is perfect for this time of year. I hope you’ll take the time to reflect on your 2011, to accept yourself and your circumstances for what they are, and to thoughtfully anticipate 2012.
If you haven’t already purchased Write Your Life for yourself or as a gift, get your copy today. And remember, when you purchase by December 31, 2011, $5 of the purchase of each book will be donated to Grand Wish Foundation, an amazing organization that grants wishes to deserving senior citizens. What a great way to give back to our greatest generation!
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 11 Take Aways from Write Your Life in 2011

Thank you for following my blog this year. I’ve shared some rich information about writing, publishing, marketing, selling, and leveraging your book. My goal has been to provide useful information to help no matter what level you’re at in your book project. 
Quick note: If you’ve diligently followed the Write Your Life blog and made an effort to put into practice some of the information and tips I’ve shared, you should have seen some progress with your book this year. Now it’s time to pick up the pace and see even more results. You are among the first to find out about a brand new telecourse I’ll be teaching to kick off 2012! Click here for information and to register for “Book Your Success: Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less!” It’s a 4 part telecourse that will walk you through the key steps to getting your book done, marketing it, and seeing the results you want.

Just in case you missed some of the phenomenal tips I’ve shared in 2011, here are what I consider the top 11 tips for the year that can help you see success with your book. If you didn’t apply any of these this year, then strap on your seatbelt and get ready to make it happen in 2012!
  1. Build your writing power: As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” To that, I’ll add that consistency makes you a much more powerful and confident writer. Practicing writing will expand your vocabulary, generate new ideas, give new perspectives, and sharpen your grammar and sentence structure skills.
  2. Overcome writer’s block: All writers experience writer's block, even the greats. But you don't have to remain stuck there. Try these tips: be true to you, reach out to experts, find your voice, be in your comfort zone, use writing prompts.
  3. Hook your readers: It takes skill to start off a book in a way that will keep readers interested. Hook your readers with the very first sentence, draw them in with the first paragraph, and cause them to turn each page hungry for more of your story.
  4. Use storytelling: Stories are the elements of a book that connect us to the content.There are several ways to flex your storytelling muscles when writing in the non-fiction genre. This post shares a few.
  5. Keep the momentum going for your book project: Among many other ways to keep your mo-jo going while writing your book, try these: have a plan, create a timeline, get some inspiration, refresh your surroundings, and read.
  6. Get S.M.A.R.T.: Setting goals gives you something to aim for, a measurable task and a timeline in which to accomplish it. As an author, you can turn this goal-setting acronym into a guide to getting your book done and achieving some remarkable goals in the process.
  7. Build your reputation as an author: As an author, you have an immediate calling card. Much more powerful than a simple business card, your book is an open door to conversation about who you are, what you know, and how that affects who you’re talking to.
  8. Be smart when selling to book stores: 1) know your target market; 2) time your book release; 3) use promotional hooks; 4) design an attractive cover; 5) know your book’s selling point; 6) get it to the buyer.
  9. Buyers buy, sellers don’t sell: If you really want people to buy your book, stop selling it. You are not selling your BOOK you are selling yourSELF.
  10. Increase your book sales: You didn’t write your book for the one-off sale; you wrote it to get it to the masses. You have to be creative in your approach to book sales, such as: connect with a nonprofit or membership organization, tie your book to a holiday or observance, repurpose your book’s content, or teach a class.
  11. Know the publishing process: If you’ve never experienced the self-publishing process, it’s not as mysterious or difficult as you might think. This post shares some important steps to successful and profitable self-publishing.
BONUS: Have a platform: Your platform is your business or your cause, this is what your book is designed to support. Writing your book should be about more than just the book. Your book should be designed to leverage your platform. 

What are some of your top takeaways from 2011 to help move your book project, your business, or your life forward in 2012?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Ways to Control Distractions

Picture this: You've carved out a few hours to work on your book. For weeks, you’ve been thinking about what you want to write about, how to continue the story, what tips to share, a few resources to include, and what you want readers to get from your book. So you’re ready to tackle the next step in creating your book.

You’re in your writing “cave;” that room of your home that you’ve designated as the place where your creative juices are most likely to bubble up and overflow like a volcano. You’ve got the laptop ready, the resource books at hand, the key websites pulled up, your favorite beverage within arm’s reach, a bag of your favorite snacks, and you’re ready to go. Type, type, type, think, think, type. Okay, you’re on a roll, when suddenly there’s a knock at the door. It’s your (fill in the blank: spouse, child, roommate) wanting to ask a simple question; it’ll be really quick s/he promises. So you allow the interruption, take care of it, and get back to work.

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as you get on a roll again, your cell phone rings. Caller ID indicates that it’s your (fill in the blank: business partner, mother, doctor’s office). Should you answer it or let it go to voicemail? Now your stomach is growling, you’ve got to go to the bathroom, and you can’t think of that word; you know, that one word that always seems to elude you.

You get the picture. These are the distractions that every author experiences. But what do you do about it? Here are a few ways to control the inevitable distractions that threaten to destroy your timeline to get your book done:

Advise your family of your writing time. This is not the point at which you ask their permission to leave you alone for a few hours. This is the turning point when you tell them that you have a deadline that you WILL meet and that they MUST respect your writing time, which is on whatever day between whatever hours you say. Not only do they have to respect this, but so do you!

Turn off your phone. Unless you’re expecting an emergency call during your scheduled writing time, there is no reason to have your phone on ring or vibrate. Set it to silent for a few hours, and get busy writing!

Avoid email, text messages, and instant messages. Turn off the alerts for these inevitable, non-emergency distractions. They can all wait until your writing session is complete. After all, no one ever texts that they’re having a heart attack, or emails that they’ve fallen and they can’t get up!

Take care of your bio needs. We all get hungry and thirsty, feel the need to nap, and have to go to the bathroom from time to time. Do all of this stuff before you start writing. Grab a snack and a drink (preferably non-alcoholic, unless that helps your writing somehow), take a 20-minute power nap, and a potty break before writing, then get ‘er done!

Gimme a break! Okay, give yourself a break. Take a 5-minute break every so often during your writing sessions. Stand up, stretch, take some deep breaths. You know the routine. If possible, remain in your well-lighted, well-ventilated writing cave during your break. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to wash the dishes or clean something instead of writing!

There are lots of other distraction busters that you could incorporate to help you stay on task with your book. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's Your Platform?

What do you stand for, believe in, work hard to achieve, inspire others to do, base your existence on, or love to do? This could be your platform. In a nutshell, your platform is your business or your cause, this is what your book is designed to support. If there is one thing I try to hammer home to my clients it is this – writing your book should be about more than just the book. Your book should be designed to leverage your platform.

Think of your book as a tool to bring greater reach, visibility, understanding, and acceptance of your platform. Perhaps you are a makeup artist and your platform is making every woman look glamorous all the time. Your book should support that platform. In it, you will explain what glamour is, why you believe it’s important, how women can glam up for any occasion, where to find glam products, photos or examples of glamorous “everyday women,” what men can do to encourage the glam in their women, and the benefits of adding glam to one’s image. 

Maybe your platform is attached to a cause rather than your business. A friend of mine is passionate about ensuring that senior citizens live comfortable, enjoyable lives and are able to have positive experiences. She founded an organization called GrandWish Foundation fueled by her loving relationship with her grandmother. What an amazing platform on which to build a book to encourage the care, support, attention, and advocacy of senior citizens.   

Basically, your platform is your passion, your driving force, your expertise or experience. Use it as inspiration for the content of your book and to determine a plan and an outline for your book. Knowing what you want your book to accomplish for your platform is an essential step towards achieving success. If you don’t know what you wish to accomplish with your book, none of your results will satisfy you. You’ll be constantly trying to measure insignificant milestones or goals that others measure, but aren’t really important to you. 

So, whether your book is complete or you have yet to start it, upon what platform will you build your best-selling book?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Using Storytelling in Non-Fiction Writing

Remember when you were a child and bedtime rolled around; one of the things you probably said to your parents is, "Read me a bedtime story." As children, and yes, as adults, we love stories. We enjoy connecting with the characters, imagining the scene, and experiencing the events unfolding on the pages. 

Stories are the elements of a book that connect us to the content. Even for non-fiction books, such as textbooks, how-to, or self-help, examples are the stories that help readers connect to the content. Including an example is one of the most successful ways to keep your readers' interest, give depth to your writing and bring home a point. A book full of dry facts will hardly keep the attention of readers, but spicing it up with examples, pictures, and humor will increase your readers’ imagination or explain a difficult statement. Often, the example will be remembered long after the text is forgotten, especially if a strong connection between your book and the reader is established.

One of the greatest roles you play as an author is that of a storyteller. This role is particularly important when writing non-fiction. There are several ways to flex your storytelling muscles when writing in the non-fiction genre. Here are a few:

Examples or anecdotes are designed to teach or explain concepts, persuade or avoid  ambiguity. In your writing make your point, and then follow with an example that explains or justifies your point. 

Case studies, statistics, or quotes from a notable source give credibility to your account and give credence to your role as an expert. Offer details of the situation, challenge, solution, and results to tell the story of success or improvement you want readers to learn.

Humorous stories, or those that pull at the heartstrings, make a big impact on readers. Be sure your main point comes across in the story.

Photos, diagrams, or illustrations are visual elements that can add interest or further explain your text. A picture paints a thousand words and can often drive home a point quickly that may take many words to explain. Keep graphics near the text to which they are relevant. Label diagrams, illustrations, or tables clearly, and always quote the source.

Animated pictures or videos are great for electronic pieces, and can be interactive. Also, hyperlinks to relevant websites are excellent for adding interest. 

There is no limit to using the above elements, but a smart author knows when enough is enough. Above all, keep your readers in mind.

What storytelling elements have you used in your non-fiction book? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Are You Giving?

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. ~ Maya Angelou

On this day before Thanksgiving, you might expect me to write about how we should all be thankful for what we have, and we should live a life of gratitude 24/7/365. That’s true, but I’m not going there. Or, maybe you think I’m going to hound you about taking the time to write and work on your book project in the midst of cooking and eating and entertaining. Nope. Not gonna do it.

What I really want to share with you is this: be the GIVING in Thanks-giving. Yep, it’s just that simple. Everyone else is focused on the THANKS part of the holiday, as well they should be. It’s good to be in a place of gratitude, not just on Thanksgiving, but always. But tomorrow (and really, you might as well start today), I want you to focus on giving.

So, what do you have to give?  

Admittedly, I’m not a great gift giver. I struggle with deciding on the perfect gift for the people on my shopping list, whether it’s for birthdays, thank-yous, Christmas, or some other observance. Should I buy them something cool, something practical, or whatever’s hot in the marketplace? I know it depends on the person, but the gift thing gets me every time. So, what I try to do now is to give based on a few things I learned in an awesome book called The Five Love Languages. This has become one of my all-time fave reads. In the book, Dr. Gary Chapman shares five ways that people express and interpret love. These are the gifts that we should give year round. After all, if you’re going to take the time to give a gift, it might as well be thoughtful and be conveyed in a way that the recipient can interpret correctly. Chapman’s love languages are:
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
What’s your love language and what are the love languages of those to whom you are giving?

Get your mind off of the costly tangible things and consider the valuable intangibles that your gift recipients would truly appreciate. When you give these types of gifts – those of your heart and soul, those that are lasting and precious and unduplicatable – then you are truly GIVING of yourself. And believe me, the THANKS will come from both the recipient and you, the giver.
I don't think you ever stop giving. I really don't. I think it's an ongoing process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life. ~ Oprah Winfrey

So, what are you giving this holiday season?

My gift to you this Thanksgiving holiday is to offer 50% off of all of my author coaching packages. That’s right; half off my regular prices. I’ve never offered this gift, and unfortunately, I can’t extend the offer much longer. Click here to take advantage of this deal right now! It expires at midnight on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back to the Basics: Start Journaling

Journaling is a journey. Many people think that journals hold only the ramblings of a budding teenage girl or the memories of a senior citizen. Yet, journaling is much more than simply intermittently jotting down one’s thoughts and feelings. Journaling, when done with a purpose, is the journey of self-discovery.

One thing that has helped me enjoy the journey of journaling is that, for the most part, writing comes easily for me. I realize that is not the case for everyone. However, I believe there is a writer in each and every person, including you. Maybe the writer in you has been suppressed for various reasons. Perhaps, harsh criticism by a teacher was all it took for you to decide that you were not a writer. Maybe, throughout high school or college you found it difficult to express yourself effectively in writing. Perhaps someone laughed at a poem you wrote or a supervisor rejected a proposal you worked painstakingly on. Whatever the reason you might approach writing with diminished enthusiasm, now is the time to move beyond that trepidation. Now is the time to discover you through your writing.

My book, Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You’ve Been Wanting to Write will help you navigate the what, when, how, and why of journaling. The ultimate goal is to create—even if on paper only—your ideal life. This journal can help you heal from your past hurts, discover the authentic you, see into the future, and dream freely of what you truly want.

Beyond the personal, psychological, and emotional benefits of journaling, you can learn valuable techniques to help you write the book you’ve been wanting to write. We each have a book inside of us that is meant to be birthed, a story that is destined to be told. Telling that story is a process. It takes time, nurturing, and creative focus, not to mention determination and vision. The impact of your book on your readers is more about your passion and authenticity than about how skilled a writer you are. Granted, every book should be well written. Books should respect the time-honored techniques of good writing and the cherished art of storytelling. Whether you plan to write a memoir, an autobiography, or a how-to book, using this journal will develop your writing skills and help you discover your voice, your style, and your story.

Through journaling, you will experience your book unfolding. In fact, that is what the Write Your Life journal is designed to do. As you write your life, the journal will become a framework for your book. That way, you’ll have half the battle won before you even realize you’ve started writing your book.

Journaling is a process that should bring you pleasure and lead to power within. Learn the pleasure, power, and process of journaling to create your ideal life, and the book you’ve been wanting to write. Begin the journey and enjoy the ride!

Excerted from Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You’ve Been Wanting to Write.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Meeting of the Minds

Michael N. Henderson (l) and Ken Thomas (r).

It’s always fun to see genealogists get together and discuss their research. What’s great is the energy and collaboration that sparks between the two. I was “the fly on the wall” when Michael N. Henderson and Ken Thomas met up at the Georgia Family History Expo today at the Gwinnett Center. 
Both were featured on the PBS TV series History Detectives. Ken’s show aired in 2004 and Michael’s segment was out just last year. Click here to watch.
Ken is a member of the board of the Georgia Genealogical Socety, and heads up the Georgia Professional Genealogists. He’s a wealth of information.
Michael is the first African American in Georgia inducted into the National Society Sons of the American Revolution. He was recently elected as President of the Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society, SAR.
Meeting like minds and making connections are just two reasons to attend expos and conferences related to your interests. This includes attending events for writers and aspiring authors.
What conferences do you plan to attend in 2012 to help move your book project forward? Now is the time to make plans to invest in yourself.

Using the Story Sphere

Today, I’m enjoying the crowd and the activity at the Georgia Family History Expo being held at the Gwinnett Center. Family history researchers and genealogists (professional and amateur) have traveled from near and far to learn the latest techniques to discover the secrets of the past. 
I’m encouraged by all of the information available to help researchers tell their family’s stories. In fact, I gave a presentation yesterday -- “Write Your Life: How to Turn Your Research Into a Compelling Book.” 
The group was quite receptive to the idea of approaching the task of turning research into a book, particularly the story sphere I shared. This story sphere includes the basics of storytelling:
  • Theme: the core of your story 
  • Characters: the who of the story. In this case, characters are your ancestors and other individuals who impacted the lives of yourancestors.
  • Situation: the what, or the event that greatly impacted your ancestor.
  • Setting: the where, meaning the town/city, area, or venue where your story takes place.
  • Time frame: the when of your story. The year or era during which the activities took place. 
  • Motivation: the why, or the reason your ancestors did what they did.
  • Outcome: the end result, the moral,lesson, inspiration

The group enjoyed a great exercise where we created a family history story based on the above elements. Our theme was “victory.” From there, we created characters--a general, his two sons who were soldiers, and two slaves. The situation was that the general was taken captive in a prisoner of war camp. All of this happened in Georgia during the Revolutionary War. The motivation of the sons and the slaves was to free the general prior to his execution. And the outcome was that the general was saved. Of course, this story would have to be based on facts and documents discovered in your research. 
As it turns out, parts of this story ring true. Click here for the story of Revolutionary War patriots Kate and Jack, who actually did rescue Col. Stephen Heard, who later became a governor of Georgia. 
What a fun exercise! 

What story can you create based on the family history research you've done?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Telling Your Family's Story

Family stories make great memoirs or even historic fiction. There is rich information in the ancestry of practically everyone. Stories of loss, hope, love, victory, struggle, unity, success, and more tug at the heartstrings of readers and give you, the author, a better understanding of your family’s past. For family history researchers and genealogists, or even for those who have collected a wealth of family lore over the years, the stories of ancestors provide an insight into their lives, the period in which they lived, and sometimes, an understanding of life today.

But how do you know when you’re ready to write your family’s story? It can be difficult for family history researchers to know when the time is right to tell a family’s story. For those with a desire to tell their family’s stories, there is a way to know when you’re ready, and there are methods to help build the story once you get started. 

This is what I will share with the audience this Friday, November 11th at the Georgia Family History Expo. I will present a session titled, “Write Your Life: How to Turn Your Research Into a Compelling Book.” Here’s a peek at what I’ll cover:

You know it’s time to write your family history story when:
  • You can’t stand NOT to write it
  • The characters (your ancestors) “haunt” you in your sleep and while awake
  • You imagine experiences your ancestors might have had
  • You create endings to stories of which you know only certain information
  • You think about the characters and the story all the time
  • You talk about the characters and the story all the time
This is the point at which you gather your research notes and begin writing. There is a method to crafting a story so that you tell the important parts, guide the reader through the story in a meaningful way, and share the moral or lessons you intend.

Here are some steps to get started telling your family’s story, because after all, getting started can often be the hardest part:
  • Decide what story you want to tell ... and stay committed to THAT story. 
  • Consider which story resonates most with you (characters, circumstances, outcome).
  • Get out of reseracher mode (for a time). Otherwise, you’ll keep finding information to add to the story and you’ll never get it done. This is what I call the “one more thing” crutch.
  • Decide on the genre (subgenre): fiction (drama, romance, mystery, paranormal/mystical); or non-fiction (memoir, autobiography, biography, spiritual, inspirational, how-to, self-help).
  • Define the theme ... keep the main thing the main thing. Here, you get down to the least common demominator of your story.
Attend the Georgia Family History Expo to learn more tips that I'll share with the audience! I hope to see you there on Friday, November 11th. I will also be blogging from the expo, so if you attend and have a story to tell, stop by the bloggers area; I’d love to speak with you. And if you can’t attend, visit this blog during the two-day expo to experience the event through my eyes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

5 Areas to Address When Preparing to Write Your Memoir

Everyone has a story. Haven’t you heard me say that time and again? I truly believe it, and I believe that we should all tell our stories, in whatever genre we choose. But when it comes to people writing about their life experiences in the form of memoir or autobiography, many people – women especially – get stuck. They don’t get stuck because they doubt their writing ability or because they hit the brick wall of writer’s block. They get stuck because they don’t want to tell the gory details. You know, all of the intimate details of what they did, whom they allowed into their lives and why, results of the bad decisions they made, and what they lost in the process. 

I’ll admit, it can be scary to tell all of your stuff. But I’m here to let you off the hook. Ladies (and gentlemen), if you want to write an autobiography or memoir, you don't have to tell all of the details ... unless, of course, you want to. Readers want to know how you made it through the tough times and what you got out of it. They most likely don’t want to know to truly ugly details of your awful experiences. So rest easy knowing that you can leave the gory, embarrassing details to the celebrity tell-alls.

This is what I plan to share in my talk this Saturday at the Woman of Wow luncheon in Jonesboro, Georgia. I’ll share with the women that writing their life is about healing and freedom, for themselves and for their readers. It takes courage to tell your life story. But it also takes addressing these five areas to get to the place where you can effectively tell your story:

Get over the guilt: What do you think should happen to guilty people? They should be tried, convicted and sentenced, right? Well, that’s what you do to yourself when you wallow in the guilt of your past. Release the guilt.

Stop the shame: One expression of fear is shame. When you’re ashamed of yourself and your actions, you're afraid others will find out and judge you. Release that fear.

Fastforward forgiveness: Releasing others and yourself from the burden of unforgiveness lifts a huge weight off your shoulders and your mind. Change the way you view the situation and determine that you will no longer hold a grudge about it.

Cultivate confidence: When you are not certain or assured of who you are and what you know, you have difficulty telling your story. Find your point of confidence for today and stand firmly in it.

Learn the lesson: Life is all about lessons. This is what your readers really want; they want to know the lessons you learned from all the stuff you went through. So focuson the lesson when you write your life.

I’ll go into more of these steps during my talk. I hope you’ll join me this Saturday, November 5th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lovejoy Community Center in Jonesboro, GA for a wonderful afternoon of fellowship. Click here to register

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Introducing the "Authorpreneurs" Streaming TV Show!

Writing has been at the core of my career -- whether for marketing, public relations, the Internet or some other form of communication. But from time to time, I’ve dabbled in journalism. After all, my undergraduate degree is in journalism. However, I never wanted to report the daily news. I’ve always found it much too ... well, negative. Instead, my interest in journalism has leaned more towards the positive news stories of the day. 
Over the years, my stints in journalism have included research and production for an interview-style talk show on a local PBS station, freelance writing, magazine publishing, co-hosting a weeklly hour-long radio show, and even interviewing guests for a public affairs television program. Well, here I go again, venturing into the world of journalism. The wonderful tie-in this time is that I’ll be interviewing authors, or as I like to call them “Authorpreneurs.”

Beginning Tuesday, November 1st, I will be the host of a 30-minute live streaming video program called “Book Your Success.” I’m so excited to get back on the scene interviewing people about their business and their passion. The program will spotlight authors whose books provide the information, innovation, and inspiration needed by successful entrepreneurs and business professionals.  

As the host of “Book Your Success,” I will be collaborating with entrepreneurial powerhouse and the Queen of Connections, Pamela Adams, founder of  The BizLynks Center. We’ve been friends for years, and I look forward to this exciting new venture.

I invite you to watch “Book Your Success” the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on BizLynks TV. Tune in for the launch of “Book Your Success” on Tuesday, November 1st, 7 p.m. Eastern and get a sneak peak at what the show has to offer and the knowledgeable authorpreneurs in our lineup for the coming months.

I hope you’ll join us for “Book Your Success.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Are Your Ideal Readers?

This is a critical question all authors should ask. And it’s a topic that will be covered in my upcoming 4-part course, “Book Your Success: Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less!”

Write your book with the end in mind – that is, the end users; those who will want to read your book.

After you identify your ideal readers and where to find them, you can implement a strategic plan for getting your book into their hands. So how do you ID your readers? First, consider the purpose of your book – to teach a concept, to share an exeprience and/or lesson, to warn of something, to make them laugh, to explain/educate, to inspire. 

Next, decide what you want readers to think, do, or feel once they complete your book. As the author, you should have an expected action you want readers to take while reading and after finishing your book. What should your readers think about the content they just read? What should they do now that they’ve completed reading your book? How should they feel about what they read and about their own life, business, family, etc.? Get clear on the “think, feel, do” concept to help identify the readers most likely to experience this outcome.

From these two steps, you can develop a profile of your readers – dads of small children, the empty nest couple, single working moms, teenage girls, do-it-yourselfers. By considering the ripple effect, you can increase your audience by also targeting those associated with your ideal readers – service providers, relatives, interest groups.

A simple Internet search will quickly identify blogs, professional organizations, and local Meetup groups that focus on the subject of your book. Learn what’s important to these audiences – their fears and dreams. Interact with these groups (or start your own) to show them how your book will help solve their problems, realize their dreams, or identify issues they struggle with daily.

Research other books with a similar theme. Check out the best sellers list and read other books on your subject to identify key strategies, concepts, language, and marketing concepts. Look at the cover designs and see which ones draw your attention. Also, examine the length of the book, its availability, price, book reviews, media coverage, and other elements that attract readers.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on this topic. Be sure to register for my 4-part course soon. There’s only space for 25 people. Oh, and there’s a special offer for followers of my blog: The first 10 registrants receive a 20% cash rebate on their course registration fee (payable at the end of the 4-part course). You can’t beat that! So register today!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When An Agent Offers To Rep You

If you've read my blog and know anything about my Write Your Life program, you know I'm all about authors choosing self-publishing as a viable route for getting their books in the hands of readers.

However, there are many authors and aspiring authors who want to take the traditional publishing route. If you do, one of your first steps should be to get a professional literary agent. Rachelle Gardner is one of the best in the business. Read what she says about a dilemma she experienced with a new author. Most importantly, heed her advice about protocol and professionalism.

I’d had several phone conversations with a potential client and we were really “clicking.” I’d made her an offer of representation, knowing she’d sent her proposal to several other agents at the same time. She expressed that she wanted to say “yes” to me. But she hadn’t heard back from the other agents, so she wasn’t sure what that meant. Were they interested since they hadn’t responded? Had they simply not gotten to her query yet? Shouldn’t she at least wait to see what they had to say? But what if they never got back to her—how long should she wait?
It was a question of both professional etiquette and wise decision-making.
I advised her to send a brief email to the other agents, politely reminding them that she’d sent them XYZ Proposal. Then say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I’ve received an offer of representation from a literary agent. Would you like a chance to respond to my proposal before I finalize the arrangement with the other agent?” This should solicit a response from the others fairly quickly. They’ll probably either say, “Hold it! I’d like a chance to discuss this with you!” Or they’ll give their blessing for her to accept the offer she has, and wish her the best.
Fairness and common courtesy can help you make the right move in almost any situation. When in doubt, err on the side of the most respectful thing to do.
Eventually you’ll make a decision, and then you should follow up with the agents whom you didn’t choose to work with. Send an email, thanking them for their consideration and letting them know your project is no longer available, and that you’ve accepted an offer. Usually there’s no point in being evasive about it—feel free to let people know exactly which agent you’ve chosen, or which publisher.
Think of it this way: In any situation in which you’re not sure of protocol, be polite, treat people with respect, and avoid making enemies. Mind your manners, just like your mama always told you. The author I told you about? She let the other agents know she had an offer. As I suspected would happen, she received another offer for representation, so she had to make a choice. She ended up making a fantastic decision, and we’ve been partners and friends ever since.
Do you have any questions about what to do when you receive an offer of representation? If you already have an agent, how did you respond when you got that call?

Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent. Her passion is partnering with authors to bring worthwhile books to publication. Visit her at

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Get S.M.A.R.T.

We all know the importance of goal setting. As the saying goes, “You’re not a failure for not having achieved your goals. You’re a failure for having no goals in the first place.” Or something like that. The point is, setting goals gives you something to aim for, a measurable task and a timeline in which to accomplish it. 

We’ve all heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
Well, just as you would set S.M.A.R.T. goals for any other task, you need to do the same for writing your book. As an author, you can turn this goal-setting acronym into a guide to getting your book done and achieving some remarkable goals in the process. Each of the following should include the S.M.A.R.T. approach:

Writing: Decide how many words, pages, or hours you’re going to write each week. There is no magic number for any of these. It depends on your skill, your schedule, your lifestyle, and your dedication to getting your book done.

Measuring: Determine how you will measure the success of your book project. Some authors prize book sales as the ultimate measure of success, while others chart clients gained, speaking engagements conducted, or media appearances made. You decide what’s best for you.

Leveraging: How will you use your book to enhance or leverage your platform -- your business or cause? You might consider examining fans, followers, or prospects. Or perhaps, you’ll look at how much more you can charge for your products and services, or the change in your status and credibility among industry leaders.

Influencing: Life is all about helping and influencing others in a positive way. Decide how your book will help you influence your customers, community, vendors, family and others.

These goals are S.M.A.R.T. ways to become a successful author.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting Mileage Out of Your Book: Repurpose the Content

When I created the Write Your Life Program to help corporate professionals and entrepreneurs become self-published authors, my goal was to help them tell their stories and to build their brands. That is still the motive for what I do. I work most often with successful entrepreneurs who have a product or service to offer. They take the bold leap into author-hood and suddenly become AUTHORpreneurs. Their goal: to leverage their knowledge, brand their business, and upsell their expertise.  

What I tell these business owners is that writing and publishing the book is only the beginning. Establishing a solid reputation as an expert is an important part of becoming a successful author (and vice versa); as is establishing a stream of quality information resources that customers can reference. This serves two primary purposes: 1) it provides useful information to readers/customers; and 2) it creates another stream of income for authors. You see, successful authors understand the value of repurposing the content of their books as information products – CDs, DVDs, reports, ebooks, presentations, ezines, blog posts, social media information, and even other books. 

Why would authors want to repurpose their book content? We live in the age of information. Finding the answer to any question is a simple as Googling it. News and information are available at the speed of light. In fact, many people – myself included – often discover the latest breaking news and information from reading Facebook posts or tweets, rather than from watching the evening news. People are information consumers, and while much of the information we consume is free, there is an abundant market of information consumers who are ready and willing to purchase quality, accurate, useful information. AUTHORpreneurs can capitalize on this phenomenon and build their businesses at the same time.

Here are a few examples of how you can get more mileage out of your book by repurposing the content:

Start a blog. Be careful not to give away your full message in the blog, but use this outlet to share your expertise and inspiration, and to whet the appetites of your readers. 

Use social media. Send tweets from the main character in your book. Give advice or share ideas and tips. 

Make YouTube videos. Hollywood-style video is just that – for Hollywood. When it comes to YouTube, all you need is a Flip camera or Webcam, an interesting topic, and the confidence to share what you know on video. Creativity does play a part in causing YouTube videos to go viral, so try these ideas: have someone interview you, read an excerpt of your book, or provide off-camera instructions with illustrations for a do-it-yourself project. Use your imagination!

Start an ezine: If you have a list of current and previous clients and prospects, communicate your expertise to that audience through an ezine. Consistency and content are key here. Your ezine should be distributed regularly (once a month is too infrequent; daily is too often; choose something in between). Share key points from your book, explore concepts more thoroughly, introduce subscribers to related resources and experts.

Using these and other techniques to repurpose your book’s content will make it hard to forget your book!

In what creative ways have you repurposed your book’s content?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

6-Step Recipe for Writing Your Book

One of the most difficult things about writing a book is organizing your thoughts. If you’re like most writers you have notebooks full of ideas and shoeboxes full of notes with scribbled outlines, dialogue, tips, and descriptions. You’ve got the content right there in those shoeboxes ... so what do you do with it? 

Approach writing your book like you would approach preparing an extravagant meal for some very special guests -- your readers. There’s a process, right? Let’s use our meal preparation analogy to walk through the basic steps of writing your book. 

Step 1: Know your guests

You want to “wow” them with this meal and cause them to ask for seconds. So, based on what you know about them, what are their preferences? Do they like spicy foods, lots of sauces, cheesy dishes, salt-free fare, a little chocolate, steamed, fried, grilled, or broiled? 

In the same way, consider your ideal readers. What are they looking for in a book like yours? Interesting anecdotes, useful tips, moving dialogue, emotional scenes, honest expression, life lessons, a love scene, a villain with a conscience, a moral to the story? You probably have all of these in that shoebox in your closet. So dig it out and start searching through those notes. 

Step 2: Your recipe 

Typically, you would find a recipe in a cookbook or perhaps from a trusted cook ... or sometimes you have to make it up yourself. For your book, this recipe is called an outline. You need to determine the main theme of your book, the characters, the setting, the moral or lessons of the story, the key points and tips. Then decide what comes first, next, and last in your book. 
Every line, every character, every bit of dialogue, every scene, every concept should focus on the theme. You decide how much of anything to include (such as tips, drama, dialogue, backstory, characters), how long a scene should simmer, at what temperature you should allow a memory to bake, and how long the lessons of life should cool on the rack. 

Step 3: The ingredients

Next, let’s gather the ingredients. Oh wait, you’ve got them right there is those shoeboxes full of notes and ramblings that you’ve been collecting. Shop for the meat, the potatoes, the spices, seasonings, garnish, and even the perfect wine to accompany your meal. Find them in your notes. Read through what you’ve already written and determine how all of that fits into your recipe. Also, you’ll want to take the time to browse through the supermarket ... in this instance, the library, your own bookshelf or an online bookseller. Remember, writers read. Reading is the process of shopping, as it were, for style, context, ideas, voice, and technique. Develop your own unique work of art, so you don’t need to snag another author’s words, characters, or theme verbatim. 

Make sure you use quality ingredients: interesting characters, moving dialogue, action, descriptive words, engaging scenes, valuable tips, step-by-step instruction, a moral or lesson that readers can easily grasp, and of course a theme that is carried through the entire book. No scene, resource, conversation, or character should be included that doesn’t directly influence the overall theme of your book. 

Step 4: Preparation is key

There is an art to preparing a delicious meal. You assemble your ingredients, read through that recipe once again, ensure you have all of the equipment and utensils needed, and you go at it. You chop, you measure, you taste. It’s a process, remember. With your writing, you add a dab of dialogue, a pinch of persuasion, and a little laughter. Be the sous-chef and make certain that you have everything you need to craft this delicious meal.

Step 5: The art of presentation

Your guests smelled the savory aromas when they walked through the door. For your book, the cover art or the title gets readers to grab your book off the shelf. But what’s inside is what gets them to want more. It’s all about presentation.
Have you ever been presented with a meal or a dish that looked ... well ... unappealing? It may smell yummy and be delicious to the taste, but if the presentation is all wrong you might think twice about tasting it. Consider that with your book layout and design, as well as with your promotional information.
Technical aspects of writing – grammar, punctuation, spelling, voice, tense – as well as  layout, format, publishing options, or cover design all play a huge part in the appearance of your book. Whether you self-publish or outsource, don’t  leave your book in the hands of others. Oversee the entire process yourself. 

Step 6: Share and enjoy

Delicious food is scrumptious even if you eat it alone. However, when shared with family, friends, and other guests, the meal can be that much more delectable. Marketing and promoting your book and you, as an author, is vital to making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the yummy vittles you’ve prepared and are ready to serve up. You have a story to tell. There are hundreds of thousands -- dare I say, millions -- of people who want and need to know your story, the lessons you learned, the tips you have, the knowledge you’ve gained. Don’t leave them waiting. Your guests have arrived ... and their appetites are voracious. Bon appetit!

Congratulations, your meal is a success. Your readers are satisfied to the full. Bravo!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Write Lean

Recently, I was completing a submission that I had been invited to include in an anthology. My contribution to this book is an excerpt from the novel I wrote several years ago titled What Goes Around Comes Around. Of course, there was a word count limit. When I completed what I thought was the perfect excerpt to give readers a taste of the characters and the flow of my novel, I was over the limit by 700 words. Oh no! It was time to edit.

Believe me, it was painful to cut those words. It was like making the choice between cutting off my baby’s right arm or her left one. Seriously! Those words were my creations; they came from my gut. To cut them threatened to ruin the very soul of the piece. Once I got through the drama and grief of having to edit the piece, I commenced to cutting the fat; first 400 words, then another 300, and finally I ended up with exactly the number of words required for the submission. In the end, the piece turned out to be much more exact, and it moved the story along just fine without those other 700 words. Imagine that! 

The lesson I learned from that exercise was to write lean. Writers, particularly novelists, tend to rely heavily on adjectives, extra scenes, and dialogue to give readers more insight into charaters and the drama of the story. Non-fiction writers sometimes over explain concepts or rely on industry-speak to fill the pages of their book. Memoirists and autobiographers tend to add more detail to the events of their lives than is necessary for the reader to grasp the general lesson or emotion of the scene. So for each of these (and other) genres there is a need to learn the fine art of writing lean.

This isn’t something I instruct clients to do in the beginning of the writing process. In fact, I often tell clients to write with wreckless abandon in the beginning. Get the story out, then pull out your butcher’s blade and go back for the cut. What do you cut? Here are some things to consider during the self-editing process:

What is the main theme of your book? Keep that in mind as you read through the content. If you come across a sentence, scene, concept, or conversation that doesn’t support that theme, consider cutting it.

What is the main lesson or moral of your book? When you find sentences or paragraphs that don’t tie in with the ultimate lesson or moral of the book, scap them.

Why use two words when one will do? Look for uses of the verb “to be” and the accompanying verb (usually an “ing” word) in your writing. Decide if you can make the statement with fewer words, yet keep the meaning. For example: She was beginning to feel that she would never get the answer she had been hoping for. Instead, try: She doubted that she would get the result she wanted. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. But give it a try.

Why repeat the same idea? Often you will be tempted to write a thought, and then reinforce it in different words. It isn't necessary to include both sentences - even if they are both brilliant sentences! Time to make a choice to use the words that clearly convey the message.

In journalism school, I was taught to “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” (KISS). But that doesn’t always work in authoring. However, when you separate your need to be wordy from your readers’ need to get to the meat of your book, you will inevitably find ways to cut the fat. Take it from me, you’ll be a happier, leaner author and you'll find that simple and to the point is much better than the alternative.

Happy editing!