Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ten Traits of Successful Authors

(By Rob Eagar)

In my consulting work, I've coached over 400 authors at all levels, including several New York Times bestsellers. People often ask me what separates the successful authors from those who struggle. From my perspective, the following 10 traits make the difference. Review this list and see how many apply to you:

1. Successful authors write marketing copy that effectively answers the reader's ultimate buying question, "What's in it for me?"

2. Successful authors develop their own voice and look for ways to be contrarian. They don't try to make everyone like them.

3. Successful authors build a distinct brand that's memorable and helps them stand out from the crowd.

4. Successful authors err on the side of over-communicating with their readers, because they know it's a sin to under-communicate. Out of sight, out of mind.

5. Successful authors spend the money to create a professional website. Then, they spend their time on a few marketing activities that generate book sales and do them religiously.

6. Successful authors will attempt new marketing tactics. But, if something doesn't work, they shut it down and try something else. Yet, they never completely shut down and do nothing at all.

7. Successful authors never get on a stage or get in front of a microphone and attempt to "wing it." Rather, they practice out loud before giving a media interview or speech.

8. Successful authors build alliances with large organizations by helping to promote other people's material first. Their unselfish behavior opens the door for others to return the favor and provide access to new audiences.

9. Successful authors know that there isn't much money in books. They think beyond the book and create lucrative spin-off products, such as seminars, training, video curriculum, consulting gigs, movie rights, etc.

10. Successful authors never take a break from building their platform. Their energy level may ebb and flow, but they're always adding more people to their email list, speaking in public, pursuing media interviews, asking for referrals, etc.

Which of these 10 traits or behaviors do you need to implement today to be more successful?

(Used by permission and reprinted from Wildfire Marketing.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

What's Your Third Book? (Part 2 of 2)

(By Dan Balow)
Here’s how to determine your book three (because book two is comparatively simple):
  1. Accept your unique approach – I worded it this way intentionally to use the word “accept.” You know what your unique style is, but the creative lobe in your brain fights it. You are a researcher, an explorer, an encourager, and a forgiver you know who you are. It could be the exercise of your God-given spiritual gift in writing. If you know your spiritual gifts, you know your creative approach. Easier said than done, but not impossible. If your dominant spiritual gifts are teaching and encouragement, then this is your unique writing approach…to teach and encourage. Accept it, don’t fight it.
  2. Accept the fact you probably have one primary core message – this is actually quite liberating. Much of publishing is writing the same core message to different audiences. Once you accept you have one core message, accept the challenge of communicating the same thing to different people. The vast majority of authors will publish three or fewer books in their lifetime. Accept the reality your author-window is relatively brief and highly focused.
  3. Accept the fact you will be limited – unless you are a one-in-a-million writer (or self-published) you will not be known for writing novels, narrative non-fiction, cookbooks, text books, kids books, picture books and coloring books. Accept the fact you will be known for one thing…one type of writing.
  4. Accept input from others – Your first book was your idea. Probably number two was pretty much your idea. Others might heavily influence your third book. You need to make sure it fits with your unique approach and core message, but when publishing people and readers start suggesting a direction for number three, you might do well to listen. Accepting suggestions does not make you less of an author. It makes you a willing participant in communicating to others through the written word.
So, are you a professional writer (published or unpublished) or do you want to get a book published? There are more opportunities (and more agents looking for you) for the former than the latter.

Reprinted by permission. This first appeared on The Steve Laube Agency blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What's Your Third Book? (Part 1 of 2)

(By Dan Balow)

At some point, whenever I speak with an un-published author I will ask the question, “What is your third book?”

The purpose of the question is to elicit a response to get an idea if the author is interested in being a professional author or simply publishing a book.

Those are different goals entirely.

Agents mostly represent professional authors, not books. Agents are “in this” for the long term so we look for authors who are as well. You can understand how someone trying to get a book published with no plans or ideas for what happens next will find it difficult to find an agent, much less a publisher.

So, what is your third book? The question is intended to uncover your strategy. Your second book might be relatively easy to determine, but book #3 takes some thought.

The first time I encountered the implications of this was about 25 years ago when an author wrote a book, which sold pretty well. So well, in fact, the publisher offered a multi-book contract for subsequent titles.

The author could not deliver book two. For the life of them, they only had the one idea. They burned off all their thinking in the first book. Re-shuffling chapters and re-stating concepts from book #1 did not constitute a new work.

After some time, the book contract was cancelled and advance money repaid.

It was painful for everyone.

If the author and publisher had thought about a third book, they probably could have determined rather quickly there was no second book.

So how do you develop a writing strategy? First, you need to know what it is not.

It is not a test of your creative ability.

It is not a test of your writing ability.

It is not a test of your value of your message.

Developing an extendable writing strategy so you can write more than one book is a function of whether you know who you are and where your limits are drawn.

You know your own unique approach.

You have an audience in mind.

You have a core message in everything you do.

You’ve all heard something about developing a brand. One of the “dark” sides for creative people of developing a brand is the concept of intentionally limiting creativity. Brands are the creative boundaries you stay within.

You cannot become well known for something unless you are known for something.


It seems counter-intuitive, but creativity flourishes inside boundaries. Outside the boundary are random thoughts and confusing plots. Structure provides clarity for the author and the reader. It is similar to knowing the size of canvas you are painting.

* * * * *

Reprinted by permission. This first appeared on The Steve Laube Agency.

Friday, August 19, 2016

More Questions from Readers (Part 6 of 6)

Introverted and Extroverted Writers

6. Try online connections. If you have difficulty speaking in public, this could be a big, initial step toward promoting. You build confidence in yourself because you can hide in front of that monitor. Later, when you meet people you’ve contacted online, it’s easier to open up and build up even more self-confidence.

7. Send out press releases or letters of introduction. Follow up with a phone call (or have an extrovert do that for you). You probably do well on writing letters; now you need to develop the ability to make those phone calls.

8. Remind yourself that the more you promote, the more comfortable it becomes. Sheila Seifert wanted to teach at writers conferences, so she sent out publicity about herself to 50 conference leaders—and that was an immense stretch for her. One conference director invited her to teach. She did well and that opened other doors.

* * * * *

Finally, as an introvert, remind yourself of these three things and say them to yourself:
  • I am the best one to promote my book.
  • If I don’t promote my book, who will? My friends can help, but it’s still up to me. 
  • Promoting gets easier with practice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

More Questions from Readers (Part 5 of 6)

Introverted and Extroverted Writers

For you introverts, here’s more help.

4. Focus on your message (or book) instead of yourself. “My message motivates me to get out of my introverted comfort zone,” Jim Watkins said, “because I remind myself that the word message begins with me. If I feel that I have written something important and helpful, I have to market it, give radio and television interviews, and make personal appearances. No one else is going to champion my work or my perspective with the same passion and excitement.

“Being comfortable as a promoter has taken time and practice—and I'm still a certified introvert,” Jim admits, “but I have learned to be an extrovert in short spurts, such as thirty-minute interviews and hour-long talks. Then it’s back to my office or a hotel room to return to my default setting of introvert.”

5. Learn about promotion. “Part of what makes me an introvert is that I am self-conscious and afraid to embarrass myself,” said Jen Krausz, who emphasizes reading about promotion. “If I know what’s acceptable in the area of marketing, I’m more confident that I won’t make an embarrassing blunder.”

Read everything possible about promotion. Watch the experts and observe what they do that will fit with your personality. Ask a few extroverts for tips. You may be amazed at how willing they are to share their insights and techniques.

Years ago on a writers loop, at least ten people presented their best tips for successful marketing. As I read them, none of them fitted my personality. And I felt terrible for not liking them.

Then this thought hit me: They’re doing all those marketing activities but none of them are successful; I don’t do most of them, and I’m successful.

Read and listen. Accept what feels right to you.
Ignore the rest.

Friday, August 12, 2016

More Questions from Readers (Part 4 of 6)

Introverted and Extroverted Writers
Here’s more help for introverts to learn to market.

2. Align yourself with an extrovert. When you have an opportunity to do a booksigning or a speaking opportunity, get an extrovert to participate with you. With someone beside you who talks readily, you can forget your discomfort.

Choose your extrovert carefully, otherwise you may be overwhelmed and feel you can’t compete. You don’t want to hide. Ask your friend to help you open up so you can learn to be more comfortable. Let the other writer help you speak up.

3. Allow your extroverted friends to help. Why not? That’s not a big step for them. Want to teach at a writers conference? Ask a writer-friend to recommend you. If you can’t make cold calls to set up interviews or book signings, hire a publicist or find a friend who’ll volunteer. Let that never-met-a-stranger type pave the way for you.

When Judson Knight was a college student, he picked up a famous comedian at the airport and drove him to the college. On the half-hour trip, the man made no responses longer than three words. After Judson escorted him to the college auditorium, the comedian walked on the stage, slipped into his role as funny man, and soon everyone was laughing.

Someone else had set up the engagement for the joke teller. The comedian wisely functioned in a role he could handle.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Questions from Readers (Part 3 of 6)

Introverted and Extroverted Writers

Some extroverts can walk into a bookstore, a party, or a conference and hand out their business cards, bookmarks, or postcards with pictures of their latest book on them and breeze through the whole building. If that’s a natural for you, do it. If not, figure out what does work.

If you’re an introvert, instead of feeling guilty for not being able to function like extroverts, here are a few promotion tips that can help you catch up—and maybe bypass those people-persons.

1. Be yourself. You get into trouble when you try to behave like an extrovert. It’s not a natural role; you’re awkward, and it shows. Don’t try to be who you think you ought to be.

For example, I used to teach a study group. On occasion when I couldn’t be present, I had two substitutes. One time Gene* taught. His material was fine, but he tried to imitate my style by doing things he had seen me do. I got a laugh out of self-deprecating humor; Gene received dull stares. The reason was obvious: He was trying to be someone else and not himself.

If you try to imitate, you may fall into self-defeating behavior or stir up feelings of inferiority.

Consider what you do well with only a small stretch outside your area of comfort. As one inward-focused writer told me, “I can talk to an anonymous group.” Once introverts get in front of a crowd, they often switch into a different side of their personality. One man said, “I can do that because it’s impersonal. There is a sea of faces out there and I don’t have to talk to a hundred individuals.”

He also said that he has learned to handle media interviews because of the one-on-one nature. However, he sends the host a set of questions (and hopes the interviewer will use them).

Once you know who you are, 
Try to be the best you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

More Questions from Readers (Part 2 of 6)

Introverted and Extroverted Writers

Why, I asked myself, can some people promote effortlessly and others cringe? It helped me by considering the difference between introverts and extroverts. I’m aware that there are many issues involved, and I’m also cognizant that most of us can shift from one mode to the other, but let’s think of this as referring to our natural preference.

What I write below refers to the ideal introvert or extrovert. Most of us have some qualities of the other preference. I’m an extrovert, but my tree leans into the introverted yard.

Thus to use a simple definition, introverts find energy within themselves and are more comfortable when they can spend time thinking and feeling. They prefer to reflect before acting. Extroverts are energized by the outer world and prefer to communicate more by talking than by writing.

It works this way. Both types attend a party. After half an hour, the extroverts are still moving around, talking, and feeling stimulated. At the same party, introverts move into a corner with one or two people. They already feel drained and wonder how long it will be before they can leave.

If these are natural preferences, how does this affect the way the two personalities promote their books? Extroverts start with an edge because they’re naturals. Being outwardly oriented, it’s easy for them to talk about what excites them—their books. They also tend to develop networks easily and reach out to strangers at booksignings or conferences.

Introverts start at a disadvantage, because they’re not as likely to push promotional ideas, make cold calls, or gravitate toward strangers in the bookstore. Once they shift into their role of talking about their books or being interviewed, however, they can run alongside their counterparts.

More coming.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More Questions from Readers (Part 1 of 6)

Introverted and Extroverted Writers
Ruthie Denise asks a significant question: How does a shy person who can’t talk much write?

It may surprise Ruthie, but many writers tend to be introverted and often shy. They can’t readily talk about their writing and hesitate to ask questions.

If you truly believe you are meant to write and share your heart, you’ll have to learn ways to do it. Some of the best writing I’ve encountered comes from reclusive types who aren’t articulate in person and don’t fit well with large groups of people.

Write anyway. Books, magazines, and even attending writers conferences can be your way to publication.

If you’re asking about promoting your work, see my next blog entry.