Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Should Your Next Book Support Your Last?

I recently gave a presentation to a group of business professionals about how to leverage their book for their success. There was a good mix of entrepreneurs and corporate professionals in the audience; some were already authors and others were at various stages in the process of writing their first book. Following my talk, one author asked whether multi-published authors need to keep to one theme, genre or target audience when writing subsequent books. If, for example, one’s first book is about the joys and challenges of owning a home-based business and is targeted to solo-preneurs, should the next book be along the same lines and geared toward the same audience?
Authors are people too (believe it or not). As such, we are multi-dimensional. People have varied interests. A business owner could be interested in writing about business topics, but she might also have an interest in golf, the theatre, psychology, or gardening. Writing your first book should not type-cast you in a particular genre of writing. However,  consider why you are writing your books to begin with. Defining your why is critical to determining the results you expect from your book projects. 
If you are using your books to position yourself as an expert, it’s best to tie your books to a particular genre, subject, or interest. In this way readers will come to know you as an authority in a specific area. If, however, you are focused on positioning yourself as a published author and wish to sell lots of books, write on the varied subjects that interest you. Readers will likely come to expect good content and seek the insight you share in your books. Ideally, in either situation, your books will connect readers to you. All of this assumes that your books are well written and edited, professionally produced, and well promoted.
Think about it this way, some popular musicians and vocalists are well-known for performing a particular type of music, but occassionally they might mix it up, so to speak. A jazz musician might add a classical touch to his latest tune, or a hip-hop artist might include a hint of rock in one song. Either way, the artist is known for producing quality work, and the fan base eagerly awaits the next production. The same is true for authors.
Another thought for authors wishing to explore various interests is to include a common thread that links your books. Think about the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The books are targeted to entirely different audiences, yet they share a common theme. Or, consider author and President Barack Obama, whose first two books, Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope, were memoirs and his latest, Of Thee I Sing, is a children’s book. Okay, granted, he is the President of the United States and practically anything he writes will become popular. However, you also have the option to explore different genres, themes, and styles in your books, and to appeal to different audiences. Try it; you might like it.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Write Your Life: Buyers Buy; Sellers Don't Sell

Write Your Life: Buyers Buy; Sellers Don't Sell: "As an author, did you write your book to sell hundreds or thousands of copies? How important are book sales to you? If selling your boo..."

Buyers Buy; Sellers Don't Sell

As an author, did you write your book to sell hundreds or thousands of copies? How important are book sales to you? If selling your book is the primary reason you wrote it, stop reading this post now because the rest of it will offend you.

If you really want people to buy your book, stop selling it. You are not selling your BOOK you are selling yourSELF. You are an expert, sell that. Successful authors use their book as a tool to help them reach their ultimate goal, whether that is growing their business, demanding a higher retainer or hourly rate, being viewed as an expert, or achieving some other goal.

Compare positioning yourself as an author/expert to someone desiring to live a health lifestyle. The person who wants to be healthy for life has a greater chance of losing weight than someone who is simply trying to lose weight. Fewer pounds is a result and a benefit of a healthier lifestyle, which includes exercising consistently, eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding behaviors that could damage your health.

Similarly, selling books is a result and a benefit of positioning yourself as an author/expert, which includes doing speaking engagements, making media appearances, writing guest blog posts, developing strategic partnerships, creating unique systems and processes to help others, and engaging in online and offline branding efforts. These are the activities that AUTHORities focus on.

When you master these aspects of your business and branding, your books will sell. After all, did you write the book simply for the $24.99 sell, or did you write the book to build your business, upsell your assets, and advance your expertise? Think about it.

When your target readers know that you are the expert whose advice they seek, they will seek you and your book. Remember, buyers buy; sellers don't sell.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creative Ways to Start Your Memoir or Autobiography

“In the beginning ...” “Once upon a time ...” “When I was a kid ...” 

These great openings have all been taken. No author wants her book--especially the opening paragraph--to be cliche. So, how does an author write a unique opening for a memoir or autobiography? 
When writing about your life, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. Understanding what a memoir and an autobiography are can help. A memoir is the story of how a particular person, place, thing, experience, or event affected you. The readers discover your personality and the lessons you learned as they read about an impactful time in your life. An autobiography is the story of your entire life, although it might not necessarily be told in chronological order. Here, many experiences throughout your life are woven together to take the readers on a journey that ultimately leads them to a lesson or moral you have learned. 
Writing the opening of a book of any genre can be challenging. However, when you have a plan for your book, getting started can be much easier. Your plan will define the theme of your book, who the audience is, and what you hope the readers will get from your book. Once you’ve determined these three points, coming up with an attention-grabbing opening should be easier. If you still need some inspiration, here are a few ways to start your memoir or autobiography that are a slight variation on the usual:

Drama. Hone in on a dramatic moment in your life that relates to the theme of your book. It could be the day your father died, the moment you discovered that your lover ran off with your inheritance, or the time when your mother told you she never loved you. In drama, there is tension, disappointment, emotion, and sometimes suspense. These are the hooks that keep readers turning the pages.

Celebrity. Have you ever met a celebrity? Could your encounter with a celebrity be tied to the theme of your book? If so, begin with that story. Describe how you happened to meet the celeb, what was said, and how the encounter impacted you later in life.

Comedy. If something funny happened to you that is central to the theme of your book, consider opening with that scene.

Suspense. Readers like mystery and suspense. They like to imagine the scene, consider the characters, and figure out “whodunnit!” If your life includes a mystery or a suspenseful event that could be tied to the theme of your book, try opening with that story.

Historic event. Was there a particular event in history that shaped your life? Think about national or worldwide events that are etched into the memories of the people who were alive at the time. If that event impacted your life, it could have also had an effect on the lives of your readers. Including specific or popular references will help readers remember the event and recall where they were when it happened. 
There are many other unique ways to start your memoir or autobiography. Be creative and choose an opening that hooks readers and leaves then hungry for more of your story.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3 Ways to Know When NOT to Write Your Book

Once you get started, it’s hard to stop, right? Well, sometimes. Starting a book and pouring your heart and soul into it is like starting a relationship and giving it your all. It’s exciting at first. You can’t wait to make the connection and spend time alone together. You’ll rearrange your schdule so you can spend quality time together. You’ll even avoid your family and friends so you can be alone with your significant other.
But what if, at some point, you just can’t follow through with it; your book, that is? What if you get 150 pages into writing your book and realize you’re just not feeling it. What if, once you really think about it, you’re sure beyond a doubt that readers won’t connect with your content, or you realize that you have simply changed your mind about the direction of the book? 
There is a point at which you need to put yourself out of your misery and just stop writing that particular book. Maybe what you’ve written thus far was just an exercise to help you get in the mode of writing. Maybe the topic you chose was something you needed to get off your chest and it wasn’t intended to be the focus of a book.
Here are three ways you’ll know when it’s time to stop writing your book:

  1. You cringe when you think about writing. Journaling you can do. Writing a letter, or a blog post, or a short story ... you can do that, too. But the thought of writing another chapter of this book is killing you. Give yourself a break and let it go.
  2. You’re no longer connected to the content. What happens when you read what you’ve already written and it no longer moves you? Geez, if you’re not moved by the content in your book, it’s pretty likely that no one else will be. Give it some thought and if you honestly feel no love for what you’ve penned, drop it like a hot potato.
  3. The idea of quitting is refreshing. We've all heard the phrase, "Winners never quit and quitters never win." But, if your book writing process has been mentally torturous, and you actually feel relief when you think about quitting, then dump it. Cut your losses (time mostly) and move on to happier pursuits.
Notice there is no mention of what other people think of your book or your writing ability. Take no thought of the fact that there are other books out there with the same focus. Those are not reasons to stop writing. Instead, be in tune with yourself during your writing process and stay in touch with how you are feeling throughout the process. 
Becoming an author can be exhilirating, exciting and enjoyable when you’re writing about what interests you and what you know. Becoming an author can also be frustrating when you’re forcing yourself to write about a topic that you find uninteresting or a topic of which you have little knowledge. 
A word of caution: do not delete, trash, erase, shred, burn, or otherwise destroy what you have written. Trust me, those words, phrases, and concepts will come in handy at some point when you begin a different writing project. You might actually use what you’ve written for a blog post, essay, or some other project.
So there, you have permission from the Writer Extraordinaire to stop your writing project if it’s not bringing you the joy you thought it would. However, if you’re just feeling lazy and have a bit of writer’s block, go have an ice cream cone, then email me to request my free e-book, “Getting Unstuck.” It’ll do wonders for you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anita’s Top 5 Tips for Staying Organized

With so much going on in my life, it can be difficult some weeks to keep it all together. In any given week I might need to interview an executive for an article I’m writing, write the article, help a client create a book outline, review a client's book content, provide feedback on a book proposal, draft some snappy copy for an ad, and review content for my e-zine (which you should be subscribed to; if you’re not, sign up in the upper left corner of this page). And that’s only the writing projects. That doesn’t even include personal errands, calls with my business coach and my mastermind group, exercise, chats with my girlfriends, quality time with my sweetie, or that often elusive activity called rest. 
So, with all of that, you might be wondering how I keep all of my projects straight and still manage to enjoy my life. Here are a few tips that I use to keep from getting scatter-brained:
  1. Prepare: Someone once told me that “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.” When I play that quote over in my mind, I’m inspired to make time to prepare for the upcoming week so that when unanticipated things come up (and they always do), I’m already prepared for all of the usual items and can better manage the unexpected ones. For example, designate one day to consider your wardrobe, meal plans, meetings, presentations, documents, follow-up calls and other items you know are a part of your week. Prepare what you can for these activities so you don’t have to waste time thinking about it later. I actually review my calendar on Sundays and prepare my wardrobe for the entire week based on who I plan to meet with, the events I need to attend and any presentations I have scheduled.
  2. Clear the clutter: I’m what many people would call a neat freak. I’m baffled that neat people are called freaks when it’s the messy ones who seem totally freaked out to me. That said, your surroundings--car, home, office--are a direct reflection of what’s happening between your ears. When your mind is cluttered and confused, so will your environment be. So what comes first, clearing the clutter in your mind or that in your environment? Honestly, I don’t think it matters which you do first. But getting your surroundings as clear as possible of paperwork, laundry, dishes, and unused or unnecessary items can do wonders for helping you think more clearly. 
  3. Find a place: Looking for things is one of the biggest time wasters I can think of. It’s right up there with clearing spam emails and reading ridiculous Facebook posts ... but I digress. I like to have everything in a designated place so I don’t waste time looking for items. Review your living and work spaces and take a week or a month or however long it takes to designate a place for items. Clothes belong in the closet or drawer, not in a pile near the door. Papers belong in file folders or notebooks, not in a stack atop the desk or the kitchen counter. Make a place for your keys, wallet, purse, glasses, cell phone, and other often-used items and place them there when not in use so you’ll know where to find them when you need them.
  4. Systematize: There are certain activities that I do regularly. I’ve found that having a system saves time and eliminates the frustration of re-doing things. I have systems for placing follow-up calls, emailing new contacts, sending out my e-zine, scheduling meetings and several other tasks. Think about the activities you do regularly that could be systematized. Write down the order in which a particular task should be done ideally for optimal efficiency and results, and practice doing it that way each time. 
  5. Make lists: At any given moment I could be thinking about 20 things I should be doing. To help keep me from losing my mind trying to remember them all, I simply make a list. I keep a small spiral-bound notebook in my purse so when I think of something I need to do, I write it down and handle it in the appropriate time. Or, I use the voice record function on my PDA to record notes to myself of ideas, tasks or other items I’ll want to take care of at a later date. Try making lists of things you need to address such as projects, ideas, birthdays and anniversaries, events, and errands. Designate one day to record all of your to-dos onto one list for easier management. What’s important is to review your list regularly to ensure you address the items that need attention.
Please dont’t get the idea that every week is perfectly organized and flows smoothly for me. There are times when I have so many projects to manage that I want to scream, “Calgon, take me away!” However, when I take a breath and regroup to practice the above five activities, I find life to be much more manageable. 

By the way, I was recently invited to be a guest blogger on Organize to Revitalize, the blog of certified professional organizer, D. Allison Lee. Check out my latest post here.

So, tell me, what's your top tip for staying organized?