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!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Signing Tips

This past Saturday, I spent a glorious few hours at a table promoting my book, Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You’ve Been Wanting to Write, at the annual Decatur Book Festival. I was invited by my publisher, Booklogix Publishing Services, to be a featured author at their booth, and what a time I had! 

I love the energy of festivals and fairs; the people, the entertainment, the booths, the food. I just love it! Book events, however, can be taxing on an author. Whether a book signing or book festival, it can sometimes be difficult to get the most out of the event if you don’t go into it with a clear strategy and expectations. What do you want to accomplish? Do you know the audience that will be at the event? What is the overall cost to you? How will you measure your success? 

Unfortunately, many authors don’t consider these questions when they commit to doing book events. They think they’re going to show up, spread out their table linen, set out some books, and sell, sell, sell. Well, I’ve got news for you self-published authors; it doesn’t work that way. You must have a strategy for any appearance you make – whether it’s a speaking engagement, a media interview, a book signing, or a book fair

In my years as a marketing professional, I’ve coordinated dozens of trade show booths and appearances for authors, companies, and organizations, so I know what it takes to leverage your investment of time and money while onsite. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years:

Count the cost: Determine how much the event will cost you in booth rental, linens, signage, product (books), chachkis (giveaways), and most importantly, time.

Help me out: Be sure you’ll have some help while onsite. Depending on the size of the crowd, one person might be plenty, but in some instances you’ll need 2-3 people to help answer questions about your book, take payments, and more. Be sure your assistants know someting about you, your book, and your platform.

Speaking of your platform: Your appearance should be an opportunity to enhance, expand, or increase the visibility of your platform. You want to sell books, of course, but also be prepared to share about your bigger vision, whether that is your business or your cause.

Make the rounds: Arrive early, set up your table, leave your trusty assistant there, then visit the other booths. Introduce yourself, pick up their business card, and be cordial. You never know who might be a good partner, referral, or customer.

Stand up and stand out: For goodness sakes, get off your tush! Please do not sit down the entire tme. Stand up and greet people as they walk by, especially when they walk up to your booth. Nothing says, “Please don’t bother me,” like someone sitting behind a table.

An avid journaler and aspiring author
purchases my book, Write Your Life.
Grab them: Not literally, but come up with a short, catchy phrase or question to grab the attention of people walking by. At DBF, my grab line was, “Hi there; have you written your book yet?” You’d be amazed at how that stopped people in their tracks and at some of the replies I received!

Collect leads: Many authors hand out bookmarks, postcards, and business cards at their table, but few actually collect leads. This is one of my primary reasons for attending fairs and festivals. I want to be able to follow up with those who visit my table. Send a follow-up email to thank them for stopping by your table, add them to your ezine subscribers list, invite them to follow your blog, visit your website, or come hear you speak next week. You have to maximize each and every contact.

Measure success: Before you even arrive, decide how you’re going to measure the success of the event ... and please don’t let it be by book sales alone. Also consider how many leads you want to collect, important connections you want to make, booth and signage positioning for visibility, media opportunities.

Interviewed live on the radio from DBF,
"Write Here, Write Now"
with guest host Vanessa Lowry
Trade shows, fairs, and festivals are not for the weak-hearted author. It takes focus, determination, strategy, and stamina. So, the next time you sign up to participate in an event to promote your book, keep the above tips in mind.

Now, for those interested in how my “no labor on Labor Day” proclamation went ... well, I almost made it. On Monday, I slept in late, leisurely sipped my coffee, prepared a few personal things for the week ahead, washed a load of linens, unpacked my bag of stuff from the book fest, added some cool pictures to my vision journal, and even baked a batch of homemade chocolate chip pecan cookies (the best I’ve ever made, I might add). 

But then, the sky turned gloomy, it started to drizzle, and I got in a working mode. I love to work inside on gloomy days; for some reason, that kind of weather inspires me. So, I followed up on my leads from the book fest, reviewed my calendar for the month, returned a few emails, cleared away a stack of mail, and emailed an article to one of my editors. Okay, not too bad. I’ll just say that when you do what you love, it’s hard to turn it off. 

So, for all you entrepreneurs, when was the last time you took a full day off?