Friday, May 29, 2015

How Speaking Increases Book Sales

(Thanks to Jeanette Levellie for providing this post.)

You have something important to say or you wouldn’t be a writer. Whether you write novels to entertain or non-fiction to enlighten, your words have the power to change lives. And the more books you sell, the more scope you have for changing lives.

Although the majority of writers feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts at the keyboard, public speaking can help your writing career flourish and lead to increased sales. Just as you improved your writing skills, you can learn and grow in public speaking skills until you’re comfortable in front of a crowd.

I don’t consider myself an accomplished public speaker, but I love people and I love words. I take every opportunity to speak at a myriad of venues—civic clubs, church groups, even nursing homes. I ask God what each audience needs to hear, and pray that the exact people he wants to attend will be present to hear my message.

I may speak to a Rotary Club about the culture shock of moving from Los Angeles to rural Illinois or tell a group of senior citizens in wheelchairs that God still has a use for them. If I speak to a church group, I gear my message to a Christian audience.

I try to be transparent during my message to make people laugh or to help them relate to my foibles. I focus on how I can help them enhance their lives.

And I always read at least one chapter from one of my books.

I don’t make a huge commercial out of that aspect of my talk; I simply shine a light on my writing. After my message, I sell books at an artfully decorated table at the back of the room. If the crowd is large, I pre-arrange for someone to help me sell books, giving them a signed copy of a book as a thank-you gift.

I keep professional-looking brochures about my speaking and writing career on the table with the books, as well as freebies—colorful pens with my website address, a sample chapter from my first book in pamphlet form, and candy—so people will feel valued, and have a way to contact me later.

These speaking gigs have led to TV interviews, additional speaking gigs, and increased book sales.

—Jeanette E. Levellie has published hundreds of humor/inspirational columns, articles, greeting cards, and poems. She is the author of three books, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, The Heart of Humor, and Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers and Other Creative Types.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What an Acquisitions Editor Seeks

(an encore post by Nick Harrison, acquisitions editor at Harvest House)

I enjoy writing about writing—and talking about it. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy writer’s conferences. They’re a great way to fellowship with other writers.

One often overlooked aspect of a conference is the networking benefit. I’ll let you in on a trade secret. Once I know authors—usually those I’ve met at a conference—I feel more at home in evaluating their book proposals.

Sometimes I’ll meet aspiring authors at a conference, and despite their present lack of ability or focus, if I find myself meeting with a kindred spirit, I’m more likely to want to help them than if the aspiring writers are cold or unwelcoming. It’s just human nature.

Sometimes I’ll pursue the moodier writers if the writing is really good, and sometimes I’ll tell kindred-spirited authors that there’s no way I can help them, but not often.

The best author/editor combination is when editors “get” what authors are trying to accomplish with their writing and when the authors understand the importance of finding not just any editor, but the right editor.

In a recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly, they printed lengthy tributes to two deceased members of the publishing industry—one a well-respected editor and the other a noted agent. In both cases, I was struck by the tributes from those writers who worked with them.

They spoke endearingly of the deep friendship they shared, and, of course, gratitude for the help those friendships had in advancing their careers.

Almost all of the writers I edit, I also count as friends.

So in reality I’m not just out to acquire books, I’m also out to acquire writing friends. Friends who love to talk about writing and who hunger for the same kind of success I hunger for.

Really, such relationships are rare, but worth the search. I should know; one of those friendships for me has turned out to be Cec Murphey whom I met years ago at Mount Hermon.

All that to say that you really do need to attend at least one writer’s conference a year if you want to succeed. That’s the way you’ll eventually meet that rare editor who will light up with recognition when he or she meets you—a kindred spirit!

--Nick Harrison, Harvest House

Friday, May 22, 2015

Beware Using Online Quote Sources

(This is a guest blog by Bob Hartig.)

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

What a pearl of commentary on the value of life experience! Leave it to Mark Twain to put it just so.

Except it’s not Twain. Not exactly, anyway. It’s a misquote of the kind that proliferates online through quote aggregators such as BrainyQuote, Lifehack Quotes, and Goodreads.

These sites have their purpose. They are great resources for speakers who want to season their presentations with colorful quotes. But there are good reasons why you should never use them in writing.

For one, they’re notoriously inaccurate. Misattributions and misquotes are common. Many quotes have no certain source, as you’ll discover if you ever have to research them.

And you will have to research them if you’re going to provide adequate documentation. You know: endnotes or footnotes that give complete publishing information. Showing nothing more than a URL for the source isn’t sufficient. Does it really matter that much? Yes it does, if you wish to write responsibly.

Finally, there’s the matter of credibility. Quoting another writer implies that you’ve actually read his or her work. Endnotes with entries like “Lifehack Quotes, http://andsoandso” tell readers you’re not as literate as you first seemed, and an editor for a publishing house may reject your manuscript on the basis of poor documentation alone.

If you like to use quotes, then quote from books and articles you actually read. Record any excerpt you like in your own book of quotes, and include the author’s name, the book title and subtitle, and the page number. And be able to access your sources in order to provide full publishing information.

So what did Mark Twain actually say? Here are his exact words: “Uncle Abner said . . . a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful.”[1] Tom Sawyer is the speaker, and the book is Tom Sawyer Abroad. Good luck finding out any of that from any of the popular quote sources, though. You’ve got to go to the book.

* * * * *

Bob Hartig, a freelance writer and editor, served for fourteen years as the copy manager at Zondervan Publishing House before going into business as The CopyFox ( Bob is also a jazz saxophonist, a storm chaser, and the author of The Giant Steps Scratch Pad.

[1] Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad (Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2008; first pub. 1894), 116.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When Your Editor Wants a Rewrite (Part 3 of 3)

Think of rewriting or revising as an opportunity for you to improve. If you're given the opportunity to rewrite a page or a chapter, accept it as graciously as you can. How many people can go back to their work and make it better? You can and readers will never know.

Remind yourself that you're a writer who's learning and you'll never stop learning. I've published more than 100 books and I'm much better than when I started, or when I was on book 39. I'm still improving.

You may receive a suggestion that you're convinced is off or misses the point you want to make. Email your editor and explain your reasoning. (Never call unless you have permission to do so.)

A few times I've explained to an editor why I didn't agree. I've tried to do it rationally and not defensively. If I feel disquieted or angry over something, I know I'm not ready to respond. Only when I have resolved the issue inwardly, am I able to look at it impartially.

There is a time to compromise and a time to stand firm. You need to be sure you pick the right issues. Recently, an editor asked me about someone to write a children's book for their publishing house. I mentioned a man I like personally.

"He's too defensive," she said. "We tried working with him once. Never again."

And remember, like writers, editors talk among themselves. If you're difficult, the word gets around.

If you honestly can say, "The revision diffuses the point I'm trying to make," that's valid. When you can present your position rationally, that's usually enough. Or it may be the editor insists your wording is imprecise or misleading and wants to help you clarify. Try to read without bias. It's a skill you can learn.

Friday, May 15, 2015

When Your Editor Wants a Rewrite (Part 2 of 3)

Put aside your ego—and it may be difficult to do that. Whenever the edit comes back from my editor, I don't look at it for a day or two. I focus on preparing myself to be objective about the editing.

It's not easy to have some unknown person say, in effect, "This is dreadful," but we may need to hear that message. However, I've never had an editor actually write such words.

As I ready myself, I say to myself many times during the day, "I accept the editing objectively and dispassionately." At some point, I know I can do that and then I'm ready. I prepare myself to accept the worst criticism possible, and it's a relief to see that my worst anxieties were just that—anxieties.

It may help if you remind yourself that editors have their reasons for making suggested changes. They're not always correct, but they read your work with a fresh and objective perspective. Sometimes editors will raise a question I haven't thought of, and I'm grateful because it makes my book better.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When Your Editor Wants a Rewrite (Part 1 of 3)

This hasn't happened to me (yet), but it's not uncommon among authors. You might as well prepare yourself in case it happens. So here are a few tips for responding to the request for a serious revision.

* Respect your editor and her opinion. It's easy to tell yourself your editor wants to ruin your marvelous writing. Or you can tell yourself that you're a good writer—and that person is only an editor and he doesn't know good writing.

* Remind yourself that, like you, editors are professionals. They've paid their dues, usually by starting as a proofreader or copyeditor, moved to assistant or associate editor, and finally editor. Like you, they work hard and deserve your respect.

Within the publishing house, the rise or fall of an editor often depends on how well their edited books do. Why wouldn't they want to do an excellent job for you? If you don't like the final product, you won't be enthusiastic about selling it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 12 of 12)

Here are a few thoughts about relationships with editors.

* Editors cultivate reliable writers. They call on them when they have a project that they believe will fit their field of expertise. Most editors have a list (even if unwritten) of competent authors who also meet deadlines.

* Editors aren't looking for best friends. It may happen that you build a warm relationship with the editor outside of the field of writing. Immediately I think of two editors who have become close friends, but that's separate from our professional relationship.

* Focus on the professional relationship. One way to see that is when your editor leaves (and editors move around), the relationship often ends.

* You may not like this term, but you are like a salesperson. You offer a commodity (books and articles). If you leave publishing and go into another field, you probably don't stay in touch.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 11 of 12)

Let's try this from the other end. Editors make certain assumptions about the people they edit. And they'll tell you that some authors make their lives extremely difficult.

A then-famous singer spent five hours on the telephone yelling at her editor, telling her what a terrible job she had done and went through every page. I don't know the outcome except it was the only book the singer sold to that publisher.

* Editors assume writers are always learning—and never stop learning.

* Editors assume that writers look at the comments nondefensively, even if they disagree. Here's a sentence I tell new authors to memorize and repeat regularly: "I am a professional and I respond professionally."

* Editors assume you know they are criticizing a product and not the writer. You're not being criticized personally. The focus is on your work—a product separate from yourself.

* Editors assume you realize that every author is edited.

* Editors assume that the best writers welcome them as guides and helpers to bring in a different-and-improved perspective.

* Editors assume writers will grow through the editing experience. As you look at the editing, you can probably figure out why he cut or changed something.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 10 of 12)

When you work with an editor—any editor—the word to remember is together. Writers and editors work together to turn out a quality product.

Too often, I hear authors speak of editors as adversaries or say they want to "steal my voice."

Why would they want to do that? It's your book and you have to stand behind it. I usually hear that cry from defensive, insecure writers who aren't willing to be edited.

You may encounter an editor who "doesn’t get me," so break off the arrangement and work with one who does. If your publisher assigns an editor like that, it's all right to ask for a different person. But be sure that's the case and not your defensiveness.

Think about these things when you work with an editor.

* Assume your editor wants a quality product. You don't have to agree with everything your editor suggests, but you need to have the attitude that she wants to help you.

* Assume that your editor knows grammar, word usage, and style.

* Assume an editor wants to work with you; he wants to maintain a good relationship.

* Assume your editor is able to be objective enough to push aside personal prejudices. (If not, you'll grasp that quickly.)

* Assume your editor knows she is not the writer. Some editors forget they are only editors and try to remake your material to fit their personal tastes, but they're exceptions.

* Assume your editor has a broader view and knows marketing better than you do.